Friday, 23 April 2010

Lead thieves target Over Kellet church roof

Over Kellet ChurchPolice are appealing for information after thieves stripped over £200 worth of lead from a church roof.

Thieves targeted Over Kellet Church between 8.00pm on 20th April and 7.00pm on 21st April. Lead was taken from the boiler roof attached to the church, before the thieves climbed onto the church roof itself and took lead from the windows.

Officers believe that a vehicle, possibly a flat bed wagon, may have been used and that the offenders took their own ladders to the scene.

PC Frank Aldred said: “The church is outside the village on a country road and it is possible that a passing motorist or walker may have seen something suspicious.”

A joint Anglican/Methodist church it's one of the oldest in the area, founded before 1215. The current Grade II listed building was mostly built in the 16th century and restored in 1864.

• Contact police on 01524 63333.


• Picture via www.lancastermethodistcircuit.org.uk

Lancashire's first Drinking Banning Order given to Lancaster man

Gareth GreenA local man has been banned from entering all pubs, clubs and bars in Lancaster, Morecambe and Heysham after being given the county's first Drinking Banning Order.

Officers applied for the one-year civil order to be placed on 30-year-old Gareth Green of Ashbourne Drive, Lancaster, after he committed a catalogue of offences while drunk.

Green is also banned from causing disruption to the reasonable running of drinking establishments and is forbidden to drink, or be drunk, in a public place. If he breaches the conditions of the order, Green is liable to a fine of up to £2,500.

"Green has committed a long list of offences over the past 10 years and every single one of them has been while he was drunk," commented Sergeant James Martin of Lancaster police. "He has been banned from the city's pubs under the PubWatch scheme for the past two years, but has breached this on numerous occasions.

"When drunk, he is argumentative and abusive. The order will help protect the public from Green's anti-social, and sometimes criminal, behaviour when he has been drinking."

"We applied for this DBO because it offers Green the chance of rehabilitation – the length of the order can be reduced if he goes on an approved course," Sergeant Martin added. "Unlike an ASBO, breaching a DBO cannot result in a prison sentence, and we believed that this was the best way forward to try to offer Green help and rehabilitation.

"We applied for the DBO with the support of the local PubWatch scheme, whose commitment to reducing alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour has assisted in the successful application for this order.”

The DBO includes all areas covered by Lancaster Magistrates ‘petty sessions' remit.

Drinking Banning Orders (DBOs) came into force on 31st August 2009. These are civil orders which can be made against an individual aged at least 16 if he has engaged in criminal or disorderly conduct while under the influence of alcohol and the court considers that such an order is necessary to protect persons from further conduct by him of that kind.

Offenders who breach a DBO will be liable to a fine not exceeding level 4 (£2,500). There is no custodial penalty for breach of a DBO.

• More information on drinking banning orders can be found at http://www.crimereduction.homeoffice.gov.uk/dbo001.htm

L

Which would-be MPs want to waste £140 million?

With the General Election on 6th May, local transport campaigners Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe asked the candidates in Morecambe and Lunesdale for their opinions on the Heysham M6 Link Road, to mixed response. If you're someone who thinks the planned Link Road is in the wrong place or who thinks the County Council could better spend over £140 million, then here's a rundown of their positions:

Geraldine Smith (Labour) has consistently opposed the road, and objected to the recent orders. She proposes instead improved public transport and a bridge at Luneside.

Chris Coates (Green) has consistently opposed the road, and objected to the recent orders. He proposes instead improved public transport and non-road building measures.

David Morris (Conservative) did not reply to TSLM's queries but has in the past supported the building of a Heysham M6 Link Road, and local Conservatives have always supported the scheme.

Leslie Jones (Lib Dem) did not replied either, but local Lib Dems have always supported the scheme and, in particular, 'the Northern Route'. (Mr Jones seems to be brushing over several of his beliefs in his election literature, including his support for a third nuclear power station at Heysham - despite the Lib Dems claimed Green agenda for government).

Nigel Brown (UKIP) calls for a referendum on the issue. Geraldine Smith conducted a thorough survey of opinion in the constituency in 2007, which showed that people were overwhelmingly against the scheme, but it was ignored at the public inquiry.

"Any new government must seriously consider spending cuts," says TSLM's David Gate. "This pointless, wasteful and unpopular £140 million scheme should be scrapped, and cheaper and more effective alternatives introduced instead."

You may feel that their views on the road will influence the way you vote at this election.

In other news about the Link Road, the date of the Public Inquiry has been announced as 12 October 2010.

Greens hit back at 'split' claim over High Speed Rail

Local Liberal Democrats have chosen the wrong target in their attempt to secure votes in the upcoming General Election, after falsely accusing local Greens of a 'split' on the proposed High Speed Rail Link.

Earlier this week, Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Lancaster and Fleetwood Stuart Langhorn - also leader of the Council - claimed there was division in the ranks of local Greens, after Councillor John Whitelegg criticized the High Speed Rail plans - but his claim of a split has provoked fury from the veteran campaigner for a better network.

Lib Dem Langhorn notes a key part of the Green Party Manifesto argues for a reduction in short haul flights and agrees, saying improving the rail infra-structure for the UK is vital. "In particular, it will help to secure the economic future of this part of the North West and improve our connectivity to the rest of the country," he says.

"It will be good for tourism on which so many local jobs rely. Lib Dems support investment in the railways as it will help to remove cars from the road and planes from our skies.

"Lib Dem plans also extend to an infrastructure bank to make sure the funding gets in place for such projects - both locally and nationally.

"I now question if the local Green Party truly supports improvements to our railways?"

Responding, Coun Whitelegg told virtual-lancaster he has repeatedly pointed out that High Speed Rail does not deliver reductions in domestic aviation or reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

He completely rejects accusations of any 'split' - and points out that the Lib Dems support for a High Speed Rail link panders to the smallest of number of rich rail users.

"This is based on international experience in countries like Germany, where a huge expansion in high speed rail has gone hand in hand with a huge expansion in domestic aviation," he points out.

"If Councillor Langhorn took the trouble to read what I had actually said, he would know that supporting rail services is very high indeed on my list of priorities - and the Greens. In the 1980s I chaired the Settle-Carlisle Joint Action Committee and fought an intensive six-year campaign to prevent the closure of this line and was 100 per cent successful.

"In several articles, I've argued for the application of a strict prioritisation of transport spending. The prioritisation should be (from most important to least important): local transport to create world beating walking, cycling and public transport facilities in cities like Lancaster and between Lancaster and Morecambe and serving rural areas; regional transport - rail links that assist tourism and shifts way from the car within 50 miles of a given centre such as Lancaster; inter-regional link links so that Manchester, Liverpool, Preston, Lancaster, Skipton and Leeds (for example) have new rolling stock and much improved services; and long distance rail links not involving high speed rail (such as sleeper services and services such as the German City Night Line)

"We also we need a clear planning system in the UK," he argues, "to make all of our cities splendid examples of economic, cultural and tourist hubs and not rely on a London-centric model.

"High Speed rail services to London come very far down this priority list and the case for spending £32 billion on this one aspect of rail travel has not been well-made by its supporters."

Read the Green Party's policy on Transport

• We couldn't find an immediate link to the LibDems Transport policy on their web site.

Forest cycling trip for women

A women only mountain bike trip to Grizedale Forest is being organised by Lancaster City Council’s Cycling Demonstration Town team.

Spaces on the ‘Introduction to Mountain Biking’ courses are limited: the course costs £20 and this includes return transport from Morecambe Town Hall, mountain bike hire and tuition.

There are two opportunities to take part, with trips taking place on Saturday 1 May 9am - 3pm (approx) and Friday 28 May 12.30pm - 6pm (approx)

The courses proved very popular last year and were highly recommended. "I would strongly encourage anyone to go on the Women on Wheels taster mountain biking course with Greg and Scott from Lancaster City Council," said one participant.

"Being a keen commuter cyclist I have wanted to try this for quite some time but at 60 years of age thought I might be a bit over the hill for this kind of activity. I tried it and it was absolutely fantastic - we had a brilliant day out in Gisburn Forest and I am really keen to have another go."

• To book, email celebratingcycling@lancaster.gov.uk or phone the Cycling Team, which is based in Morecambe Town Hall, on 01524 582392

War of Words over Councillor Allowances

Councillor Stuart LanghornLocal Liberal Democrats have condemned what they have misleadingly described as "expenses scandal" at Lancaster City Council. The debacle has led to the resignation of the Chair of the Independent Panel investigating the issue - but Conservatives, Greens and Labour councillors have hit back at the Lib Dem allegations.

A councillors working group is currently investigating how allowances to councillors should be paid. The Liberal Democrats have refused to take part, which was set up after a Labour proposal was passed which did not accept the recommendations of an Independent Renumeration Panel.

The panel had invited evidence from all councillors on their responsibilities and workload, but the LibDems claim only a few responded to the request. The panel chair, Alan Mercer, Professor Emeritus of Management Science at Lancaster University, made their recommendations in a report to the last Full Council meeting, recommending that the payment of allowances (not expenses, which the LibDems seem purposely to be describing them) should be reallocated away from funding party political posts and should instead be directed towards councillor who have increased levels of responsibility in the authority.

However, the overwhelming majority of councillors rejected the Independent Panel's recommendations and voted to set up their own working group. Since the meeting, Alan Mercer has resigned, stating that he had no wish to waste his time "a charade".

Speaking during the debate, Liberal Democrat Group Leader Stuart Langhorn spoke against the rejection of the Independent Renumeration Panel's recommendations. "We have seen the problems caused in Westminster when politicians start deciding their own pay levels," he argued. "It is wrong there and it is wrong of us to do the same.

"The council tax payer should not be funding party political appoinyments like group leaders. We have an Independent Renumeration Panel and we should accept their recommendations."

Referring to the working group, he added, "This group will not be open to the public - essentially they will do their deal of their own behind closed doors and then bring it to the council to approve it.

"The Lib Dem Group will have no part in such a process. We have already made it clear that we will not send representatives to the group. All councillors had a chance to make representations to the Indeoendent Panel and it is ridiculous to set up their own group just because they do not like what was said."

"It is a dark day for transparency in local politics," he added.

Councillor Roger MaceBut Conservatives, Green and Labour have hit back at the Lib Dem claims. "The misleading Lib Dem press release states it refers to Councillor expenses, but this is not true," Conservative leader Roger Mace told virtual-lancaster. "Allowances - as indicated in the Panel's title are in the nature of taxable remuneration - are not 'expenses'. To use the word 'expenses' is to imply that this is an extension of the issues which caused such trauma in our national politics. Such an implication is unfounded.

"The proposals in the report relating to abolishing remuneration for Councillors that take responsibility as Group Leaders and Administrators are not new," Roger explains. "They have been repeated annually for a number of years, and have not ever been approved by Council. An independent Panel is obliged to report to Council - but the panel does not have legal power to impose its recommendations.

"Local Councils throughout the country have remuneration packages that differ according to their individual circumstances, and Lancaster is like others in this respect.

"Far from being 'a cosy smoke-filled room' in which Councillor remuneration will be hiked up in a secret agreement, Conservatives will be arguing in the working group for a total freeze on the existing scheme of allowances," he added.

Councillor Mace also points out that it is not true that Labour, Conservative and Green Parties voted to set up their own working group. "The working Group is a Council working group - and no group is excluded from participating!"

No single group at Lancaster has sufficient voting power to guarantee that its ideas will be adopted by Council, so I cannot promise that there will be no increases in Councillor remuneration, but I can assure you of the way in which local Conservative Councillors will be arguing. It is inappropriate for City Councillor remuneration to increase at a time when City Council employees are facing job cuts and the other multiple hardships and restraints on pay that are associated with the recession.

eileen_blamire.jpg"Some of the proposals in the report greatly increased the remunerations of some members at the expense of others and particularly for the Leader and Cabinet Members," argues Labour Councillor Eileen Blamire. "To spend an afternoon discussing these and other obvious changes with over 50 people would have been ridiculous.

"This was the first report that suggested so many changes and many at the expense of the lowest paid Councillors. I resent the implication that trying to look at it in detail with others, ask questions and try to bring back a carefully considered report to Council in June is somehow not transparent. Could there be a General election going on?"

Councillor Jon Barry"Our group was split on whether we should accept the recommendations completely or whether we should tinker with them a bit," says Green Party councillor Jon Barry. "The majority was in favour of tinkering.

"The main issue I had with the recommendations was that the basic allowance for back bench councillors was frozen at just over £3,000 whereas increases were recommended for cabinet members and the leader. The leader's salary (on top of the £3000) went up by £5,000 to £16,000 and cabinet members' additional allowance increased to £8,000.

"My view is that we need to recognise the constituency work that bench councillors do and reward the leader and cabinet less," he adds. "In the Green group sumission to the panel, we wanted to see an increase in the back bench pay - and that this should be paid for by reducing the number of councillors."

Thursday, 22 April 2010

All quiet on the Morecambe front during drugs crack down

High profile raids last year have led to quieter streets in Morecambe, according to officers carrying out a drugs crackdown.

The on-going Operation Brisk is aimed at tackling drug dealing in the town – but its success last year, combined with the high visibility Operation Nimrod activity in November and December, has led to fewer dealers operating in the town.

Earlier today (Thursday 22nd April), officers were involved in the latest Operation Brisk clamp down. Patrols carried out 16 stop and searches during a two-hour period but no arrests were made.

A warrant was also executed at an address in Westminster Road, where a caution was given for possession of cannabis.

“Carrying out the operation, but not having to make any arrests, was very reassuring as it means our message that drugs won’t be tolerated in Morecambe is getting across," said PC Emma Armstrong of Morecambe Police.

“We would like to thank the local community for helping us with our battle against drug dealers and want residents to know that if they come to us with their concerns or with information then we will take action.”

PC Darren Rotherham, community beat manager for Morecambe’s West End, added: “Last year’s Operation Nimrod has had a really positive effect on the community and, added to the results we have had through previous Operation Brisk activity, has led to the streets being a lot quieter in relation to drugs and drug dealing.

“We won’t be resting on our laurels though and will be continuing with this kind of activity for the foreseeable future so that those who peddle drugs are not given the chance to blight the lives of Morecambe residents.”

£1,000 stolen from Morecambe gambling machines

crime_game_machines_031610.jpgPolice are appealing for information after approximately £1,000 was stolen from gambling machines in a Morecambe leisure complex last month.

Two machines in the bar of Regent Leisure Park, Westgate, were targeted on March 16, and another three in the arcade were also emptied.

Police have now released a CCTV still from the leisure complex and would like to speak to the man pictured in order to eliminate him from their inquiries.

Contact police on 01524 63333.

Local playground future is in your hands

(Updated, 23/4/10): Lancaster City Council’s Cabinet has agreed to go out to consultation on the future of a number of play areas in the district - and will spend money on two new play areas and keep one in Bulk Ward that had been earmarked for closure.

Cabinet members considered a report into the district’s play areas earlier this week (as we previously reported), noting that while the vast majority of the 79 playgrounds they maintain in the local area are in good repair, a small number of the city council’s low priority and older play areas require significant investment.

To ensure that the council continues to have a wide range of playgrounds in areas where they are most used, Cabinet agreed to go out to consultation on the future of 10 playgrounds.

These are: Arcon House, Ambleside Road, Barnacre Close, Church Brow, Crag Bank Field, Furness Street, Low Moor, Manor Road (Slyne), Skerton Cowshard (which will be relocated) and The Roods (Warton Village).

Members of the public who would like to have their say on the possible closures should contact their ward councillor or parish council. Details are available on www.lancaster.gov.uk.

The results of the consultation will be reported back to Cabinet later this year.

In addition to consulting on the future of 10 play areas, Cabinet agreed to spend £50,000 on a new play area in Heysham Village. A play area will also be built in Hala to replace the poorly equipped play areas on Abbeystead Drive and Hala Hill, which will both then be closed.

Cabinet also agreed that a number of other play areas should close without consultation, which are: Forest Park, Highgrove Close, Parliament Street and St Austell. All of these play areas are located close to other better play areas and the investment needed to upgrade them would instead be targeted to areas of greatest need.

Although initially proposed for potential closure, there's some good news for John O'Gaunt ward, where Labour Councillor Eileen Blamire raised concerns about closures: the play area at Gregson Road will remain open.

Cabinet also agreed to the development of a partnership approach with parish councils. This would see the city council provide some free maintenance work and regular safety inspections at 15 playgrounds owned by parish councils and a community group.

It's Our City calls Canal Corridor Conference

Campaign group It’s Our City will hold a conference in Lancaster later this year, to discuss the future of the Canal Corridor North site and how it might be developed.

After the current Centros scheme was rejected after a Public Inquiry, the group believes the most positive way to now move forward is to ensure that the local community is fully involved in any future decisions concerning how the site will be developed.

Local organisations such as the Civic Society and the Chamber of Commerce will be invited to participate in the conference, as will local councillors, SAVE and English Heritage, and Lancaster City Council.

“This conference is intended to be a forum where anyone and everyone, including people who supported the Centros plans, can have their say on how they think the Canal Corridor should be developed" explains group spokesperson Billy Pye.

"We urge all interested parties, including the City Council and Mitchells as well as the local community, to now come together to cooperate in order to identify an appropriate, acceptable and achievable vision for the canal corridor”.

The Centros application for the development - which focused largely on extnding retail space in the city - was refused at a recent Public Inquiry which Centros declined to attend. The council has claimed that Centros owes it costs for leaving them in the lurch but offers have yet to ensue.

Since then, Mitchells Brewery building has been listed after attempts were made to demolish it by the owners. Retention of this building is not compatible with the Centros proposal, which, as far as It's Our City is concerned, means the scheme as it stands is officially and finally pronounced dead.

Lancaster City Council is organising its own 'independently facilitated discussion’ about the area's future. It's Our City announced earlier this month that it would play no part in that consultation, feeling it would not be feasible to take part in this process for several reasons - but primarily because the process seems to be solely a means to amend the rejected Centros plans.

“The Centros plans were rejected at the public inquiry," explained IOC's Emilie Secker, "so we do not see any point in taking part in a process which takes these plans as a starting point. Instead, we should go back to the original 2004 development brief for the Canal Corridor, find out what local people actually want and need, and then find a developer who can deliver that.”

IOC also argues the process is not fully transparent, as evidenced by the continuing discussions between Centros and City Council, away from the process; and participation in the process, would not, the group feels, ensure influence over any future planning applications.

“The process we agreed to enter into before the outcome of the public inquiry was known depended on all parties acting in renewed good faith," says IOC's Tim Hamilton-Cox. "Regrettably, the council has failed to do this. It stopped the city centre conservation area review in its tracks last autumn; and has not resumed it even now when the malthouse in Mitchell’s brewery complex has been listed.

"The council issued two press releases after the inquiry outcome was known which gave the inquiry report the sort of spin which gives PR such a bad name. And, instead of opening up to new ideas on development of the site, the council persists in trying to get Centros back onside (whilst at the same time claiming costs against Centros for the company’s non-appearance at the inquiry) when it could have terminated the development agreement and started afresh.

"To continue this dialogue with the deaf is just to waste public money. The council seems stuck in a pre-credit crunch timewarp.”

The group has issued a big thank you to all the people of Lancaster who fought a long and determined fight to keep us out of "the hideous mess now being perpetrated by Centros on the sorry folk of Bury St Edmunds (where the new mall has struggled for tenants, even with sweetheart rent deals)) and Portsmouth (where work on the emptied site has ground to a halt pending new development agreements)."

"And, while we're at it, another big thank you to the thousands who, in the last month, campaigned to save the market and networked tirelessly with victims across the region to uncover the appalling scam threatened by ASCO."

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Vandals smash police cars

Police are appealing for information after five police cars were attacked by vandals in the local area – forcing valuable resources to be taken off the streets and putting community safety at risk.

A liveried van had its front windscreen smashed on Monday night, as officers were dealing with the death of a pensioner on Mainway, Lancaster.

Two police cars also had their side windows smashed while they were parked on George Street, Lancaster, in the early hours of Monday morning. Items left by the offender were recovered at the scene and have been sent for forensic analysis.

Then, two other cars were also damaged recently on Martin Street.

“Damage to police vehicles will not be tolerated," said Inspector Sheralee Duckworth. "Each time a police car has to be taken off the roads because it has been damaged by mindless vandalism then there is one less police car protecting our communities. The temporary loss of a police car can affect the safety of residents and, in the worst case scenario, could put lives at risk.

“There is also the cost to the tax payer to consider. The recent damage to our vehicles will cost hundreds of pounds to repair – a cost that comes out of law abiding residents’ pockets.”

“These offences will be investigated robustly, with the aim of bringing the offenders before the court," he added. "This will include uniformed and plain clothes officer activity, until the offenders are caught. We would, of course, prefer to use our resources tackling wider community issues so we appeal to those who know the identity of the people responsible to contact us.”

• Contact police on 012524 63333 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Animal Care seeks Open Day volunteers

4034.jpgAnimal Care's Open Day is just around the corner and the charity really need your help.

The Open Day will take place on Sunday 23rd May 2010 and will be held at the Sanctuary on Blea Tarn Road, Scotforth, between 11am to 3pm.

Volunteers are wanted on the day to set up stalls and run them, run the bouncy castle, walk dogs, bake cakes for us to sell on the day or anything else you think you can do to help.

7388.jpgIf you think you can help - and raise money to help look after dogs like 11-month-old Gypsy or cats like Mo, pictured - please contact Animal Care on 01524 65495

More information about Animal Care at: www.animalcare-lancaster.co.uk

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

General Election: Local Candidates List

Lancaster City Council has published the final list of candidates for the General Election for the Lancaster and Fleetwood and the Morecambe and Lunesdale constituencies.

Lancaster and Fleetwood

Gina Dowding - Green Party
Clive Grunshaw - The Labour Party
Debra Kent - British National Party
Stuart Langhorn - Liberal Democrats
Fred McGlade - UK Independence Party
Eric Ollerenshaw - The Conservative Party
Keith Riley - Independent

Morecambe and Lunesdale

Chris Coates - Green Party
Leslie Jones - Liberal Democrats
Mark Andrew Knight - UK Independence Party
David Morris - The Conservative Party
Geraldine Smith - The Labour Party Candidate (and current MP)

The General Election takes place on 6th May 2010.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Local Play Areas Face Closure

Lancaster City Council’s Cabinet will meet tomorrow (Tuesday 20th April) to discuss the future of playgrounds in the district - and several are earmarked for closure.

The council is currently responsible for maintaining playgrounds at 79 sites and, although the vast majority are in good repair, a small number of its low priority and older play areas require significant investment. With finances tight, some play areas seem sure to close.

To ensure that the council continues to have a wide range of playgrounds in areas where they are most used, Cabinet is being recommended to consult with local people on future play area provision. If Cabinet members agree, the results of the consultation will be reported back to them for a future decision on where future investment should be targeted. Ward councillors will also have input on any consultation.

Cabinet will also be asked to consider developing a partnership approach with parish councils. This would see the city council provide some free maintenance work and regular safety inspections at 15 playgrounds owned by parish councils and a community group.

As part of the proposed consultation, local people will be asked whether a number of play areas which are no longer fit for purpose should be closed, including sites at Abbeystead Drive, Ambleside Road, Arcon House, Barnacre Close, Carwood Gardens, Church Brow, Crag Bank Field, Forest Park, Furness Street, Gregson Road, Hala Hill, Highgrove Close, Manor road, Montrose Crescent, Parliament Street, Skerton Cowshard, St Austell and The Roods.

The Council points out that all of these play areas are located close to other, better play areas and the investment needed to upgrade them would instead be targeted to areas of greatest need.

"This whole exercise is about making the jam spread less thinly," explains Councillor Jon Barry. "That is, we want to be able to have good play areas that we can afford to maintain at a good level.

"It is not about saving money," he insists. "Capital expenditure is one thing, but we also need to spend money on ongoing repairs and safety checks. Many of the play areas on the affected list are a single item that needs money spent on it or there is an alternative new brand spanking play area nearby. For example, in Castle Ward, one of the play areas, Forest Park, is two rotting, wooden animals that nobody uses for playing.

"Not all of the playgrounds on the list will be closed and we will certainly be encouraging and providing assistance for community initiatives to provide funding for new play areas," he adds. "Green councillors have done a lot of this over the years (for example, at Coronation Field and the Pointer roundabout) and the Fairfield Asscociation has developed an excellent one at Fairfield Green."

"For my ward, I'm pleased to see the recommendations which place parish council and community group play grounds into the strategy and considered with the other playgrounds," Council leader and LibDem prospective candidate for Lancaster and Fleetwood Stuart Langhorn told virtual-lancaster. "Caton is currently raising money to replace an old parish playground."

While local taxpayers recognise the Council is being forced to make savings as budgets are squeezed thanks to reductions in funding from central government, some have challenged the council on its priorities - noting, for example, the millions spent on the currently stalled Luneside East development project.

"Luneside East is not really relevant," argues Langhorn. "The running of the playgrounds is revenue budget. With the pressure on the revenue budget over future years through reduction in central government grant and through the recent decision on the market the council is going to have to make some tough decisions.

"At least in this case we are consulting – and already some responses have said the plans are wise and allow for better play areas."

There is both a revenue and a capital budget for our local play areas. Jon Barry points out that the budget was increased by £40,000 this year as a one-off.

“Since 2006 the city council has invested £137,000 on improvements to 12 of the district’s higher priority play areas," notes Peter Loker, Corporate Director (Community Services)."We also plan to invest more than £100,000 in play areas in the next few years, which will include the building of two new play areas to fill gaps in the current provision.

“However, many of the older play areas are in locations where they are not well used and require significant investment to bring them up to a decent standard.

“It is important that our future investment is targeted towards those areas where it will do most good so Cabinet will be asked to consult with local people to find out where that should be.”

Despite the proposed consultation, the whole idea of closing playgrounds sits uneasily with many councillors.

"Bulk ward councillors are very concerned about the three closed play areas in the ward and want them kept open," says John Whitelegg. "We want to explore the possibility of so-called 'natural play areas' which are more adventurous and do not involve expensive equipment like that in Williamson Park that was imported from Sweden.

"We also want the council to be much more engaged with local communities and help them to prepare bids for external funds to access grants and we want much more discussion with children and parents," he adds. "Play areas need to be linked to the national agenda on healthy children, more physical activity and work to reduce obesity.

"The large number of dangerous roads in the area also means we need more play areas and not less so that children can access them without crossing busy ones."

Local Volunteers Awards Launched

Lancaster District Community and Voluntary Solutions have launched the nominations stage for the Lancaster District Volunteer Achievement Awards 2010.

Local people are invited to nominate individual volunteers under two categories; Volunteer of the Year and Young Volunteer of the Year, as well as nominating groups of volunteers. The annual ceremony celebrates the contribution made by volunteers and this year the event will be held in partnership with students from Lancaster and Morecambe College.

The deadline for nominations is Friday 14th May 2010. The winers will be announced on Monday 14th June 2010 at an event to be held at the Hexagon Theatre, Lancaster and Morecambe College between 4.00 and 7.00pm.

Visit the CVS website for a nomination form or contact hannahbland@lancastercvs.org.uk. For more details, tel 01524 555900 ex 26.

McGuinness fights hard to maintain top six position

MG_2564 JOHN MC GUINNESS.jpg


Local man John McGuinness put in a battling performance at Thruxton on Sunday when he finished ninth in round 2 of the Metzeler National 1000cc Superstock Championship. The Padgetts Honda ace fought his way through the pack from a poor start and the ninth place and seven championship points saw him maintain his sixth place in the Championship table.

With some 54 riders trying to qualify, trying to find a clear lap in qualifying was almost one of the hardest things to do and this was indeed the case in the first 30-minute session with John finding himself in 17th place, albeit just 1.2s off pole. In the second and final session, he improved his time by three quarters of a second to jump up to 12th but this didn't tell the true story as, again, his flying lap was hindered by backmarkers. When the ideal lap times were shown (adding together each riders' best section), John actually had the fourth fastest time so his true pace was actually more indicative of a front row start!

With superb weather bathing the Hampshire circuit, John was keen to make a good start in the 15-lap race and get away with the leading pack and he did just that pulling alongside the riders on the second row going in to the first corner. However, no sooner had he done this, then he got pushed on to the inside kerb and he had to ease off slightly and this was enough to see him drop back and he ended the first lap in 15th place. However, the Morecambe man knows plenty about racing motorbikes and he got his head down to slowly pick off the riders in front of him.

Fighting his way to the front of a ferocious eight-man battle for 11th place by lap 4, he then prompty pulled away from the group to hunt down the riders immediately ahead of him. By lap 10 he was up to ninth but despite his best efforts, his pace was identical to those riders in front of him and the gap stayed constant so he had to settle for ninth at the chequered flag, pleased with his efforts but slightly disappointed not to have been in the top six group.

Talking afterwards, John said: "I've got mixed feelings after today's race as whilst it was nice to fight way through the field, it's frustrating at the same time as I'm sure if I could have got a clean first lap under my belt, I would have been in the group fighting it out for the lead.

"The first couple of laps are becoming a bit of an Achilles heel for me and I need to dig deep and push as hard as everyone else because I know my race pace is as good as anyone else's out there - if I can nail those first two laps, I know I can repeat the results I was getting last year. It's a solid finish and I'm pleased to still be 6th overall but I know there's more to come.

"The bike was absolutely awesome and the team did a superb job once more so I'm determined to give them the result they deserve at the next round."

• The next round of the Metzeler National 1000cc Superstock Championship takes place at John's local circuit Oulton Park from May 1-3.


Report by Phil Wain. Picture by Glynne Lewis

Sunday, 18 April 2010

HANA Calls Public Meeting over Proposals for Heysham 3

Heysham Anti-Nuclear Alliance (HANA) is hosting a public meeting about plans for the construction of a new nuclear power station at Heysham. The meeting will take place at the Gregson Community Centre at 8.00 pm on Wednesday 28th April.

The focus of the meeting will be 'Heysham 3 and the local economy.’ Speakers include Dr Stuart Parkinson, Executive Director of Scientists for Global Responsibility, Dr Noel Cass of Lancaster University Environment Centre, Professor John Whitelegg of the Green Party and Managing Director of Eco-Logica Ltd and Maurice Pennance from the Heysham Anti-Nuclear Alliance.

In November 2009, the government designated 10 sites for proposed new nuclear power stations around the UK coastline. The 115 acre site proposed at Heysham includes Heysham Golf Course, Heysham Nature Reserve, and Ocean Edge Leisure Park.

"We believe that, in the transition to a low carbon economy, the future of electricity supply in the UK lies in a balanced mix of renewable technologies and conventional power generation technologies fitted with carbon capture and storage," argue HANA. "We believe that a combination of increasing energy efficiency measures and the development of a strong, innovative, renewable power generation industry can create more jobs, lower our carbon emissions, ensure security of supply and help protect and develop our beautiful environment for the tourism and leisure industries.

"Greater local economic benefits will be gained from these alternatives and increasing energy efficiency measures than could be provided by the nuclear industry."

HANA was formed in response to the limited and poorly publicised Energy Policy consultation conducted by the Government in late 2009. It is a working group for organizations and individuals opposed to the construction of new nuclear power reactors in the UK and aims to raise public awareness of the issues involved and to promote the viable alternatives that exist to the use of dangerous technologies involving radioactive materials that threaten both our environment and the health and well being of local people.

In addition to this public meeting, HANA is joining with the Lancaster and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (LCND) to commemorate the anniversary of the devastating Chernobyl nuclear reactor meltdown in the Ukraine in April 1986. At a joint stall in Lancaster Market Square between 12 noon and 3pm on 28th April, they will honour the courage and bravery of the workers who gave their lives to contain the disaster and remember the 336,000 evacuees who are still suffering major health consequences to this day.

Both HANA and CND members will be on hand to provide leaflets and information and to answer questions from the public.

• More info at: www.lancaster-district-cnd.org/HANA.html
• Email: hanamembershipATgmail.com