Saturday, 5 November 2011

Public Services under discussion as cuts continue to bite

“The impact of the cuts on public services in this district
is and will continue to be significant"
-- Council leader Eileen Blamire
As government cuts in public funding continue - with more on the way over at least the next two years - how can the district’s public services work better together to ensure they are able to keep on delivering the services that matter most to people?

This is one of the questions being asked in a series of discussion forums being held around the Lancaster and Morecambe district – and local people are being asked to get involved by submitting their own views and suggestions.

Public services provide millions of pounds worth of local services, including collecting and disposing of waste and recycling, providing hospitals and health care, educating our children and policing our streets. Many other organisations and individuals also provide valuable services to our communities.

But the impact of the recession and the Government’s priority of reducing the financial deficit means that there is less money to support those services and, at the same time, increasing numbers of people relying on them.

So far, the discussion forums have provided an opportunity for public services - including the City and County Council, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, GP Consortia,  Lancashire Constabulary and University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust - to meet with members of the community and partners to share those realities and invite views as to how to deal with the issues.

“The impact of the cuts on public services in this district is and will continue to be significant," notes Coun Eileen Blamire, leader of Lancaster City Council. “But this enormous challenge also presents an opportunity for us all - public services, voluntary sector, business, other partners and, importantly, individuals - to work together to re-examine what services the district needs and how they can be provided in the future.

"In many cases this will mean doing things different and will certainly mean closer working and co-operation between us all.”

Coun Geoff Driver, leader of Lancashire County Council, added: “We’ve all been greatly encouraged by the level and range of responses.

“It is clear that there is a real understanding of the issues we face and a real desire to work better together, as well as suggestions as to how this can be done.”

All the feedback will be shared with public sector partners who will use the information, both collectively and individually, to consider how best to use the resources available to support our district going forward.

• To get involved send your views and ideas by email to suggestions@lancaster.gov.uk or by post to: Jennifer Milligan, Communications, Lancaster Town Hall, Dalton Square, Lancaster LA1 1PJ.





Quake Up Call for Lancashire

(adapted from report on SchNews) On the same day that an anti-fracking protesters held a 'frack mob' outside the Shale Gas Environmental Summit in London organised by the Global Warming Foundation, two of the more intrepid anti-fra scaled a fracking shale gas rig in Lancashire, shutting it down.

Around 50 people showed up for the Frack Mob, most in costumes ranging from smart suits to chem suits, intent on naming and shaming the greenwash hawkers' conference.

Fracking/shale gas is being promoted as a green energy source, possibly because that's the colour of the flames that come out of the water supply in fracked areas.

(The GWPF, launched by former Tory chancellor Lord Lawson and Dr Benny Peiser in 2009, argues 'fracking' and shale gas exploitation is in the country's interest)

The actions coincided with the release of a report into the consequences of shale oil extraction near Blackpool earlier in the year which were halted after earth tremors. The report, commissioned by Cuadrilla, came to the same conclusion as the rest of us - that fracking is the 'probable cause' of the 50 seismic tremors in the area around their rigs.

Mark Miller, Cuadrilla's chief executive, tried desperately to put some spin on the report, claiming that 2.1 on the ricter scale isn't all that bad. Yeah, like, the 50 earthquakes we caused were only small, so what's the big deal?

"There's a certain level of seismic activity that can occur even with a truck going past a house," he said. Er, thanks Mike. Needless to say, his assurances haven't calmed the fears of Lancashire residents who experienced the tremors and even industry commentators say that now, even if the government decides there are sufficient precautions in place to prevent fracking-induced seismic activity in the future, the use of hydraulic fracturing will remain a controversial one, notably due to concerns over drinking water contamination and the importance of moving away from fossil-fuel sources of energy.

Colin Eastman, one of the climbers at the Merseyside site last week, said: "Conventional fossil fuels have begun to run out and the system is moving towards more extreme forms of energy like fracking, tar sands, and deep water drilling. The move towards 'extreme energy' is literally scrapping the bottom of the barrel, sucking the last most difficult to reach fossil fuels from the planet at a time when we should be rapidly reducing our consumption altogether and looking for sustainable alternatives.

"In the UK fracking for shale gas is planned alongside, not instead of, extraction of conventional fossil fuels like coal."

There are plans afoot for another 800 fracking rigs in the UK. Plenty of work for Frack Off (www.frack-off.org.uk) to be getting on with.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Heysham Wind Farm decision delayed

Lancaster City Council is waiting for the developer of proposed new wind turbines in Heysham to carry out further assessments before reaching a decision on a planning application.

Peel Wind Farms (Heysham) Ltd submitted a planning application in September for three wind turbines at Heysham Port.

Following this, the council carried out consultation with more than 35 organisations and in excess of 1,000 homes were offered the opportunity to comment on the application.

After receiving the consultation responses, a number of issues with the application have been identified that require the applicant to carry out further assessments, along with other work in liaison with adjoining landowners and other statutory consultees.

The Council says this additional work may take about six months to complete so the planning application will remain live, but will not be determined until the additional assessments have been received. 

Once the information is received, a report will be compiled and a date set for the application to be determined by the council’s Planning and Highways Regulatory Committee.

• Details of the application can be viewed online using the council’s Public Access for Planning system.  Visit http://planning.lancaster.gov.uk and search for application number 11/00816/FUL.  The plans, photomontages and other documents can be viewed by following the 'Associated Documents' link.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Morecambe Bay Shellfish beds closed after sewage concerns

Local shellfish beds have been closed after United Utilities' outfall pipe from Morecambe’s wastewater treatment works at Middleton became inoperable due to sandbank movement.

As a result an old outfall system, used as a storm overflow, is being used which means that screened, but untreated, sewage is being discharged into Morecambe Bay. The outfall is situated about a mile out to sea in the sea channel opposite Regent Road in Morecambe.

Lancaster City Council say their primary concern now is to ensure that the health and safety of the general public is protected and are warning  people not eat recently-harvested shellfish.

"We are working with the Health Protection Agency and the Environment Agency - who are the regulatory body for wastewater discharges - to closely monitor the situation.

"Following expert advice from the Food Standards Agency and Cefas (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science), we have taken the decision to close the mussel beds along our coastline as a precautionary measure."

Public notices have been posted at access points to the mussel beds to this effect. Anybody who has gathered shellfish from Morecambe Bay or the Lune Estuary since Sunday is advised not to consume them and to contact Environmental Health on 01524 582936 for advice.

The council is not aware of anything to indicate that there are any wider health risks to people using the shore and beaches in Morecambe Bay, although normal hygiene precautions such as hand washing are being advised.

Councillor Eileen Blamire, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “The wider effects of this incident both in the short and medium term are currently unclear and Lancaster City Council is calling on United Utilities and the Environment Agency to do all they can to speedily resolve the problem, which we understand may continue for some weeks.

“It is also important that a full and thorough investigation takes place into the causes of this incident and that there are appropriate plans and procedures in place in the future to ensure it does not occur again.”

Mutliated sheep found in Gressingham

Police are appealing for information after four sheep were found mutilated in woodland at Gressingham near Lancaster on Tuesday 1st November.

The sheep carcasses were found dumped about ten meters from the road by a member of the public in a small wooded area when going down a Rabbit Lane from the B6254 towards Gressingham.

Three of the sheep were male Mules, the other a Texel ewe. Two of the males had started developing horns. The animals had not been tagged. Their heads and skin had been left but their insides had been removed.

They are likely to have died overnight on Monday 31st October to Tuesday 1st November.

So far, police have been unable to trace their owner so it is not known if they’ve been stolen.

Community Beat Manager PC Antony Marsh said: “I would ask anyone that saw anything suspicious to contact the police. The sheep have likely been killed for their meat and the skinning appears to have been done by someone with experience and was probably not done at the scene.

“I would also ask people in the area to be vigilant, and to remind the public of the health dangers of buying meat from an unknown source.”

• Anyone with any information about this incident should contact Carnforth Police Station on 01524 63333

Can we do without banks?

Banks are discredited, say Lancaster's Green Party. They do nothing to encourage responsible
attitudes to money and ignore the needs of the poorest.  Is there any alternative?

That's the issue that will b discussed at a public meeting on Tuesday 8th November, at 7.30pm at Friends Meeting House, Lancaster.

Barbara Sanders of the Burnley Community Credit Union will be on hand to talk about how BCCU has developed into a viable alternative to mainstream finance for residents of Burnley.

Credit Unions originated in Germany in the 19th century for the purpose of assisting people to help themselves out of debt and poverty. They operate not for profit or charity but to serve their members. Each Credit Union is a separate autonomous organisation and manages its own affairs.

Over 500,000 people in the UK enjoy the benefits of Credit Union membership.

Credit Unions have been established in Burnley since 1989, although membership was restricted to residents of particular areas of the town. In August 2000 a significant breakthrough was achieved when the Registrar of Friendly Societies, who were responsible for regulating Credit Unions formally lifted this restriction. This meant that anyone living, working, or being educated in the Borough of Burnley became eligible for Membership of Burnley Area Community Credit Union Ltd.

The BCCU's aim is to provide a useful financial service to their members. So far over 1000 local people now save regularly with the Credit Union and they have granted hundreds of loans over the past ten years of service to their local community.

The income generated from these loans is given back to savers by way of an annual dividend, which means that money generated in Burnley is spent largely in Burnley and does not disappear from our local economy.

Perhaps this meeting might be the start of one in Lancaster?

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Morecambe Road crash prompts police appeal

Police are appealing for witnesses following a road traffic collision between a car and motorbike outside Lancaster and Morecambe College on Saturday 22nd October.

The collision took place at around 3.30pm on Morecambe Road when a green Peugeot 106 collided with a red Suzuki motorcycle.

It is believed both vehicles were travelling in the direction of Lancaster coming from Morecambe when the collision occurred.

It is unclear exactly what happened and so police are appealing for information but fortunately, the motorcyclist, who is in his early 20’s, only received minor injuries.

PC Bruce Irvine from the Road Policing Unit said: “We are still trying to establish the circumstances around what happened and so we would appeal to anyone who may have been in the area at the time to come forward and contact us.”

Anyone with any information can contact police on 08451 25 35 45.

Comdeian Mark Steel’s In Town

Comedian Mark Steel will make Lancaster and the quirks of similar small towns and cities the butt of his jokes when he appears at The Dukes on 3rd December.

Based on his award-winning Radio 4 series, Mark Steel’s In Town is a celebration of small town life in a country of cloned high streets.

Mark will reflect on different towns across the UK and delve in to their history, people and idiosyncrasies in what will be a bespoke stand-up show for Lancaster.

His observations on the small, sometimes forgotten, towns of Britain go right to the heart of British culture today, championing the very people who shape the places we live in now.

Mark said: “On the way to a show in Skipton, I noticed a road sign to a town called Keighley. So later, during the show, I mentioned this, asking the audience, 'Is that your rival town?' And the room went chillingly quiet, until one woman called out with understated menace, 'Keighley is a sink of evil'.”

“As everywhere hurtles along a route towards being identical to everywhere else, it seems any expression of local interest or eccentricity is becoming a yell of defiance. The elements of a town that make it unique are what make it worth visiting; they change a journey from being functional to being an experience. “

A comedian since 1982, Mark Steel regularly appears on radio and television and is a national newspaper columnist. His new book, Mark Steel’s In Town, has just been published to coincide with his tour.

Mark appears as part of the live comedy season at The Dukes which is recommended for anyone aged 16 plus. Completing the line-up on 9th December 9 is Arthur Smith.

• Tickets for Mark Steel are priced £15/£13. Concessions £2 off.  To book, please contact The Dukes box office on 01524 598500 or www.dukes-lancaster.org

Appeal for witnesses after baseball bat attack

Police are appealing for witnesses to come forward after a Morecambe man was attacked outside the Spar shop on Scale Hall Lane on 30th October.

The offence occurred around 12.10am on Sunday when an 18 year-old-man was knocked unconscious after being struck across the face with a baseball bat as he walked across the shop car park.

The victim suffered serious laceration to his face, a broken tooth and black eye.

Kieran Halsall, 19, of New Road in Lancaster has been charged with section 18 wounding with intent and two offences of criminal damage to car wing mirrors on Sefton Drive and Bowland Drive in Lancaster on the same night.

He appeared before Lancaster Magistrates Court on 31st October and was bailed by the court to appear again on 14th November 2011.

Police are appealing for witnesses to the assault and would urge anybody with any information to contact them on 01524 63333.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Join Morecambe Band in remembrance

Morecambe Brass Band is performing a special remembrance concert at the Platform in Morecambe.

On Saturday 12th November at 7.30pm these talented local musicians will be performing a traditional act of remembrance.

Tickets cost £8 for adults and £5 for children and are available from the Visitor Information Centres at Lancaster and Morecambe.

• You can also buy tickets over the phone on 01524 582803 and online at www.lancaster.gov.uk/platform-tickets 

For more events, concerts and shows taking place at The Platform see the latest brochure at www.lancaster.gov.uk/platform

M6 Northbound Closures Update

1430: Lancashire Police and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service are still currently at the scene of the incident which involved a spillage of waste solvent from a tanker which has closed the  M6 northbound between Junctions 29 and 31. (Southbound is open)

There is no immediate threat to members of the public, although a cordon is in place around the spillage while efforts are made to deal with it.

Police are working with the Highways Agency to put in place diversionary routes but we would advise motorists to avoid both the Northbound M6 and the diversionary routes if possible.

Junction 8 of the M61 is also closed to allow for diversions.

The diversionary routes are as follows:

• From the M6 at Junction 29 to the A6 London Road and onto the A59 Newhall Lane then onto the M6 at Samlesbury.

• From the M61 at Junction 8 to the A6 Northbound at Chorley then onto the A6 at Bamber Bridge and onto the A6 London Road at Preston and onto the A59 Newhall Lane and the M6 Northbound at Samlesbury.

M6 northbound closed at J31 after tanker spillage

The M6 Northbound carriageway is closed just before Junction 31 serving Preston and Clitheroe due to a tanker spillage.

All four lanes of the carriageway are closed and Police, Fire and Highways Agency are on the scene.

Police warn the road closures are likely to be in place for some time and are asking people to avoid travelling to the area if possible.

• Lancaster Travel Update site: www.traffic-update.co.uk/traffic/lancaster.asp

Monster Crab warning for Morecambe Bay beach combers



As if the all-to-real dangers of Morecambe Bay's tides and weather often isn't bad enough, now the Morecambe Bay Partnership is warning the public to be on the look out for monster crabs that look like they've come straight out of a 1950s B-horror movie.

The Chinese Mitten crab is no joking matter, though, according to Natural England: it's a highly invasive -- one of the world's worst invasive species, arriving here through a combination of escaping from ship's ballast water, hull fouling, live food trade and smuggling  -- and is damaging to both ecology and the economy.

A UK resident for at least three-quarters of a century, first sighted in the Thames in 1935, they're easy to spot as they're quite big, with carapaces up to four inches in size, with large furry front claws.

These monster crabs - which have been sighted in Cumbria - have caused immense economic and ecological damage, to unprotected river banks, blocking water systems, damaging fishing gear and competing with native species for food and habitat.In the right conditions, notes the Natural History Museum, the mitten crab multiplies and spreads at an astonishing rate and can even leave the water, cross dry land and enter a new river system.

Its phenomenal ability to disperse is of concern to scientists in the UK who say that because the crab could infiltrate many of the country's rivers they now need help recording sightings in the UK.

Beach clean volunteers, anglers, waterway workers, boating enthusiasts and nature lovers may be the most likely to come across these crustaceans, but anyone can record a sighting online or by telephone, email or text. 

Image provided by Natural England
© Natural History Museum
Although there have been no reported sightings locally so far, two females were found at Millom Pier in 2005 and local environmentalists hope this means they are no longer present. But the fear is they may be under recorded.

The good news is, there may actually a use for these devilish creatures: The Ecologist noted last year that they're considered very good to eat. So as well as being the size of a dinner plate, you might find them on it. The crab's gonads are considered a delicacy worth paying high prices for and celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, who featured mittens in an episode of Channel 4's The F Word last year, pronounced the flesh sweeter and more intense in flavour than typical crabmeat.

No legislation exists that allows mittens to be fished commercially, but the Environment Agency has a duty to regulate and improve fishing for certain species, including mittens, since the introduction of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill, which came into force in January last year.

In addition, a licensing and authorisation process is currently underway that from January this year requires anyone wanting to catch the crabs to obtain EA permission to do so. There are other area-specific agencies involved, however, including the Port of London Authority, which owns the Thames riverbed.


• Report sightings by text or picture message to 07806 938789 or online at www.mittencrabs.org.uk

• Further info on this page from the Natural History Museum: www.nhm.ac.uk/about-us/news/2011/september/help-scientists-record-invasion-of-chinese-mitten-crabs102396.html

RAFTS Biosecurity Invasive Species Programme

• The Ecologist: How to protect UK rivers from invasive mitten crabs, and eat locally as well!

• Morecambe Bay Partnership: www.morecambebay.org.uk

Monday, 31 October 2011

ASBO ban for shoplifter from Lancaster city centre stores

Shallane Forsythe
32-year-old Shallane Forsythe has been given as ASBO banning her from Lancaster’s shops following a campaign of harassment against workers in the city’s stores.

Lancaster Magistrates Court heard a catalogue of complaints against  detailing how she has subjected shop staff to persistent abuse and threats while trying to shoplift.

The city centre neighbourhood police team presented evidence to show that Forsythe would intimidate workers by shouting abuse at them in stores, or approaching them while they were with their children out of work.

Forsythe, of Marine Road West, Morecambe, would get male friends to join her in her harassment and also followed young female workers home once they had finished their shifts in a bid to scare them.

The anti-social behaviour order (ASBO), which will run for two years, prevents Forsythe from entering stores in Lancaster, including Sainsbury’s and the Kingsway retail park, between 8.00am – 9.00pm. It also prevents her from behaving, or making others behave, in a way which causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to another person.






Anti Social Behaviour Orders are civil sanctions designed to stop certain types of behaviour. They're put in place when it's considered that the offender has caused harm or is likely to cause harm or distress to others.

ASBOs, which last for a minimum of two years, can be placed on children as young as 10 years old. They are not initially criminal offences (though they can become so) and can impose certain restrictions on an offender.

PC Emma Gornall, Lancaster city centre neighbourhood policing team, said: “Forsythe has been a frightening presence when she has entered stores, glaring at staff, shouting abuse at them and even threatening them – all while they have been trying to go about their work.

“Lancaster is a safe place in which to live, work and visit and we want it to stay that way. We are committed to making sure the city is not blighted by the type of behaviour exhibited by Forsythe and will continue to use tactics such as ASBOs to rid our community of such nuisance.”

• More info on ASBOs at www.antisocialbehaviour.org.uk

Myths to come to life at local book signing

Waterstones King Street in Lancaster is supporting local talent this week, with a signing with Gareth Thompson, Kendal-based author of picture book The Sea Swallow.

The event takes place on Saturday 5th November from 11.00a.

Gareth Thompson worked in London as a music journalist before he returned to the North and caught the storytelling bug. He was inspired by the people and places around him. “This area has such history, much of it built on tragedy, yet there is a really strong sense of community here.”

He has three novels for young adults with Random House and this is his first picture book.

The Sea Swallow was published in July by the Lancaster-based charity, Litfest, and has been given free to thousands of school children in Wyre district. It features gorgeous illustrations by artist Hannah Megee that bring Gareth’s tale of adventure and magic to life.

“Waterstones are throwing themselves behind this book.” Says Tim Franklin of Litfest. “It’s gratifying to receive such strong support from talented booksellers who really know a good read.”

• For more information, visit www.wyreway.org/mythic-coast


Judge orders council to come up with market plan

(First posted: 28/10/11, Updated with additional information provided by Lancaster City Council, 31/10/11): Lancaster Market traders tired of uncertainty over the council's plans for the market building won a victory at the County Court last week, when the council was given until 12 December to present them with firm proposals for the building's future.

New leases being negotiated by the council included a disputed 'break clause' which could mean that traders could be turned out at short notice. Traders successfully argued under the Landlords and Tenants Act that the council's vacillation and uncertainty over the Market's future was creating an impossible business climate.

Lancaster City Council fell into a £567,000 deficit on Lancaster Market last year and this year's budget projected costs of £553,400. However, uncertainty over the future of the building has led to more tenants leaving while new tenants are hard to find, and a report presented at the last Council meeting in September projected that these costs might increase by a further £89,000. There are currently 24 businesses trading from the market.

Traders are hoping that the council will relocate all the stalls the ground floor of the market and find a single trader to take on the entire upper floor. The council estimates the cost of relocating stalls at £270,000 (see previous story) although the traders believe it could be done far more cheaply. For this amount you could buy an entire five-bedroom house with a garden, so the council must certainly be planning a pretty spectacular refit.

Who would take over the upper floor isn't known though. The council's last attempt to find a single trader led to the disasterous Asco debacle, in which council executives Mark Cullinan and Heather McManus doggedly argued to give the contract to a company already exposed as a rogue trader. The public furore became so loud that city councillors actually woke up, did the maths and put a stop to the deal. Shortly afterwards Asco went into administration, dragging several local businesses down with it. (See previous story from 17 June 2010 Asco: Council's response on Cushman & Wakefield contract).

While the Market is a popular cause the building's 99-year lease from Allied (Lancaster) Ltd is undoubtedly less popular. No-one else appears to want to lease the building or part of it from the council, and the financial instability of the arrangement deters traders, leaving the building half-empty. The rents traders could pay if they did fill it will not meet the cost of the lease. However, although the terms under which the council leases the building from Allied are shrouded in secrecy we understand that the rent cannot ever be renegotiated downwards, only upwards.

Badly Designed Building

The building itself is far from ideal as a market premises and this is partly why the reason why the market doesn't thrive, the other reason being that rents have tended to be higher than at other, busier markets. Comparing the layout with the more traditional, flat, grid layout, as at the Festival Market, or indeed as the original Lancaster Market was laid out, sightlines and access are poor, with stalls hidden away in corners and customers having to traipse all around the sides to reach stalls just a few feet away.

Frail elderly or disabled people must trail around the outsides of the building to get in at the one flat entrance off Marketgate - then go all the way back on the inside again to reach the lift (when it's working) - as the doors adjacent to the lift both open onto stairways. To get to the disabled loo in the next door car-park building you have to go all the way back around again. Ok if you're fit but not so good if you're a bit arthritic. Hauling yourself (or someone else) up that long indoor ramp with a wheelchair or a rollator is a challenge which few ever actually take on, so the upstairs cafes and food stalls have been for the fit and fast alone.

The overall layout seems designed to deter the elderly or disabled shopper, while the (expensive) private carpark has a separate lift, so if one lift or the other doesn't work you've had it. For pedestrians generally, it is far easier to detour around the market than to cut through it.

It seems a doomed proposition that the council should be being forced to pay a rent that is unrealistically high in the current economic climate for a badly designed building that offers only limited access to many of the elderly shoppers who might otherwise be its most frequent users. Its deadening, cul-de-sac ambience has never compared to the hectic bustle of the market it replaced, which offered direct and easy thoroughfares between the adjacent streets. How long can Lancaster ratepayers afford to carry this burden?

At its last full meeting the council deferred making any decision about the market until the next council meeting on 16th November. Now it will somehow have to come up with a plan to satisfy the County Court ruling and it's a tough proposition with no easy answers.

We do need a proper market. We have been needing one for over 20 years now. But tied to this lease, it's becoming increasingly unlikely that we will ever get one.

Added 31 October 2011:

Lancaster City Council has issued a comment to clarify the situation:

"The hearing you refer to was a case management hearing to decide how the case should proceed. The brief facts are that traders have asked the council to issue new leases. While the council has agreed to new leases being issued we have asked for a break clause to be inserted.

"The court directed that the council should provide details of its future plans for the market by 12th December in order that the terms of the leases can be resolved. In order for the court to determine whether the lease should contain a break clause it has to look at the Council's proposal for redevelopment.

The Council is due to discuss the market again on 16th November, ahead of this date. Members will discuss a number of options available to them for the indoor market and will receive a full report detailing the implications of each."

Real Ale campaigners hails Local Pub Week success, but urge more support for pubs

Ale campaigners outside the Golden Ball, Lancaster, during Local Pubs Week
“The local” is a valuable social asset but is under threat and needs your support. That's the message from The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) who marked Local Pubs Week in the Lancaster area with events celebrating the role of pubs in the life of the community.

“Community and Renewal” was the theme of the week in which Lunesdale CAMRA highlighted both the historical significance of pubs and local brewing and the struggle for survival currently facing numerous pubs. The branch marked the occasion with a public meeting and with visits to three pubs it describes as “local heroes.”

A meeting at Lancaster's The Borough celebrated the 140th anniversary of local pub company and sometime brewer, Mitchell's, and the 40th birthday of CAMRA, and called for action to help save threatened pubs.

The meeting was attended by three generations of the Barker family, owners of Mitchell's.

Speaking for the firm, Andrew Barker said that Mitchell's had been “part of the fabric of the community for 140 years. And our commitment to real ale is as strong as ever.

"For us, cask ale is king,” he said, with the company functioning as “effectively a free house chain with an excellent variety of ales.” The firm's acquisition of York Brewery was a natural development. “Getting back into brewing was inevitable as brewing is part of our heritage.”

Later in the week CAMRA members and supporters visited local pubs with dramatic stories of struggle and survival against the odds. The George & Dragon on Lancaster's quayside, winner of CAMRA's Most Improved Pub award, had been transformed from a nondescript, poorly supportted venue into a thriving community local by young landlords Ian and Kye Lloyd.

The historic and atmospheric Golden Ball, a remote venue on the Lune estuary which can be cut off at high tide, had been shut down by its former owners, but had been restored and reopened as a free house by inovative new manager, Steve Hunt. It now offered a choice of real ales and good food.

Final call was at The Smugglers' Den, Morecambe's oldest pub. Here, after seven years of building a community local selling great real ale, Chris and Sue Mason were quitting, effectively forced out by the crisis affecting the trade.

“Pubs Week shows that these are the best and worst of times," says CAMRA Social Secretary Julian Holt. "There's more good beer around than ever before, and some locals - the ones that have found the right formula - are thriving.

"On the other hand, nationally 29 pubs a week are closing, and countless others are just hanging on. This is a real crisis for local communities. Saving the pub should be the main priority for campaigners now.”

• Lunesdale CAMRA: www.lunesdalecamra.org.uk/home/index.php

Capture your baby’s personality in paint!

Local portrait artist Debbie Stubbs is just starting a very unusual business that should have real family appeal, and is the perfect gift for Birthdays, Christenings or Christmas.

Portrait paintings are usually for the rich and famous but Debbie recognises that every child is special and offers to paint you a unique and individual picture from only £45.

Debbie’s been painting babies for some time now. She initially began when her little boy was born pre-term at Lancaster Royal Infirmary. Unlike most mothers she was unable to cuddle and hold him, and so spent months in hospital watching and drawing him.

After a difficult time, thankful to expert care, her boy is now happy and enjoying nursery school.

Since then, Debbie says many mums have since asked her to paint their babies for them and all are delighted with the likeness and character that her paintings capture.

With increasing requests, Debbie is keen to paint more children using high quality oils and canvas she works from photos, which you can simply email to her.

Debbie originally trained as a theatre designer at Nottingham Trent University and has worked at the Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square and designed stage set and costumes for many fringe theatre productions. Previous employment has seen her career evolve in various roles: Arts Officer for both South Buckinghamshire and Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea; Arts Centre Director for Windsor and Cranleigh, for a seven year period.

“Children grow up so fast!" says the Lancaster-based artist. "Painting their portrait is really a long lasting way to remember and cherish the time”.

• Order your own painting in 5 easy steps – to see how visit Debbie’s new website www.babyportraitpainting.com or email info@babyportraitpainting.com. Debbie says she offers a 14-day or 7-day option for delivery

Heysham crash closes road, four men injured

Police are appealing for witnesses to come forward after four men were injured in a road traffic collision in Heysham this morning (Sunday 30th October).

The incident happened just before 9.00am on the A589 Heysham Road outside Tesco close to Heysham Avenue when a silver Renault Laguna, travelling towards Heysham Power Station, was involved in a head on collision with a Maroon Citroen Picasso taxi travelling on the opposite side of the road towards Morecambe.

Both drivers were trapped in their cars and were cut free by Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service. The air ambulance attended the scene but the casualties were eventually taken to Royal Lancaster Infirmary by land ambulance.

The taxi driver, a 61-year-old man from Garstang suffered an open fracture to his left leg. His passenger, a 43-year-old man from New York, was also injured.

The 38-year-old driver of the Laguna suffered head injuries and his 38-year-old passenger was the most seriously injured with a collapsed lung and broken ribs.

The road was closed for six hours whilst an investigation was carried out.

“An investigation is underway to establish the cause of the collision," notes Sergeant Lee Campbell from the Force Road Policing Unit, "but I would appeal to anybody that witnessed the incident that has not yet spoken with police to come forward.

"I would also appeal to people that saw either car being driven prior to the collision.”

• Anyone with any information should contact Lancashire Police on 08451 25 35 45.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Arkholme welcomes top blues player

Legendary British Blues Band “Paul Lamb and the Kingsnakes” are coming to play in Arkholme Village Hall on Saturday 12th November 2011.

Named UK Blues Band of the Year five times, the Kingsnakes are led by the great harmonica player Paul Lamb, who has played alongside Buddy Guy, Mark Knopfler, The Who and Rod Stewart – and was recently inducted into the British Blues Hall of Fame. The swinging Kingsnakes will be headlining an evening of live blues and boogie and will be supported by local blues pianist Boogie Bill Roberts and local bands The Swarm and Black Cat.

This is the second annual Blues night organised by the Lunesdale Music Collective, a group of enthusiasts from Arkholme (near Carnforth).

Organiser Phil Haygarth said “This is a fantastic opportunity to see a great act in such a wonderful, intimate venue. It will be a great night, so come and catch the Kingsnakes, described by “Rhythm and Blues” magazine as “one of our great British bands”.

Tickets are £15 per person in advance, and £20 on the door, and are available online.Accompanied under 12s are free. Details at: http://lunesdale-music.blogspot.com or email: info@lunesdalemusic.co.uk. Or from the following outlets: The Bay Horse Pub, Arkholme; and the Post Office, Arkholme

Students robbed in Lancaster street robberies

Lancaster police are appealing for witnesses to come forward after two students were robbed in two separate incidents as they walked home from a night out.

Both robberies took place within an hour of each other in the early hours of Saturday morning (29th October).

The first robbery happened between 1.30am and 1.50am on Dale Street when a 23 year old man was attacked from behind and punched in the face. The offenders rummaged through his pockets and escaped with his wallet, keys and phone.

The victim suffered bleeding to his nose and a sore jaw. He was treated at Royal Lancaster Infirmary and was discharged later the same evening.

The second incident took place a few streets away on Hope Street between 2.15pm and 2.45pm when a 19 year old man was approached by two men who asked him for directions.

The victim gave the men directions but he was then pushed against a wall and the men demanded his property. The offenders fled with his wallet and phone.

DC Sue Palmer from Lancaster CID said: “Due to the close timeframe and vicinity of these two robberies we do believe they are linked and an investigation is underway.

“I would appeal to anybody that was in the area at the time of either incident, who saw anything suspicious or indeed thinks they may have witnessed either robbery to contact police.

“I’d also urge people to take extra care in the area and if they are walking home in the early hours and where possible to always walk with a friend or in a group.”

Both offenders are men and are described as being around 6ft tall. The first man is aged around 20 years old with blonde hair, shorter at the sides. He was clean shaven and was wearing a blue hooded top, tracksuit bottoms and spoke in a local accent.

The second man had a round head and pale face. He’s described as being skinny and was wearing a black hooded top with large writing on the front and black tracksuit bottoms.

Anyone with any information that could assist police with their investigation should contact Lancaster Police on 01524 63333.