Friday, 13 April 2012

Million Jobs for Climate Change Caravan - a liveable future

Climate Jobs Campaign Leaflet
The One Million Jobs for Climate Change Caravan (see http://www.climate-change-jobs.org)  is coming to Lancaster on Thursday 24 May with a festival of events to explain its plan to persuade the government to invest £18 billion a year in sustainable electricity, transport and heating jobs. You can watch their short campaign video here.

EDF has scrapped its plans to build a third nuclear power station at Heysham, and Wyre Power has dropped its proposals for a gas-powered station near Blackpool.  The UK's old nuclear reactors are nearing the end of their lives. Increasing scarcity means that petrol and diesel prices can only keep on rising, forcing people and goods off the road.  The climate is already changing - yet another reason why we can no longer depend on the 'safety' of nuclear power and waste storage.  Where will power and fuel will come from over the next 20 years?  Going on as we are faces us with a time within 10-30 years when most of us will be spending periods shivering in the cold and dark, which will be a Very Bad Thing.

The main political parties are counting on traditional economics to fix everything and create 'growth'. This depends on a constantly increasing number of people making, buying and selling a lot of lifestyle products, despite the rising costs of materials, land and production. However the trillions of pounds pumped into banks to maintain an illusion of 'growth' keeps trickling invisibly away and more crisis bail-outs are inevitably in the pipeline. Cuts will get harsher and prices will keep on rising while common assets such as the NHS and pension funds are liquidated.

The world is changing faster than ever, facing a perfect storm of climate change, peak oil energy shortages and population growth. In 1960 the global population was 3 billion, now it is over 7 billion. Every five days the global population  rises by 1 million. Our government's current response is to build more housing on greenfield sites, make family planning less accessible, widen the separation between rich and poor, clamp down on social mobility and  increase surveillance.  And squabble over pasties.

History tells us flatly what happens to species and societies that can't adapt their ways to face new challenges. Prayer isn't enough.  Even Noah had to build an arc.  So let's hope that this new initiative from the Climate Change Campaign can make a start. The Million Jobs for Climate Change campaign aims to persuade the government to create national incentives for businesses that will help our society meet the challenges of both climate change and predicted energy shortages with new combined technology. It's an exciting and positive proposal and Lancaster is just one of many UK towns and cities on their tour that hopes we have enough taste for life to step up and make it work.

As well as the Million Jobs Climate Change Caravan in  Market Square there will be film screenings at the Dukes, a climate change business day for local sustainable businesses and students at Lancaster & Morecambe College, meetings, talks and social events.

According to the campaigners (download and read their pamphlet here), we need drastic cuts in the amount of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases we put into the air. This will take government regulation and international agreements. It will also take a lot of work - jobs. We have to build wind, wave, tide and solar power. We have to develop more efficient technology and products. We have to renovate and insulate our homes and buildings to make them as energy efficient as they can be. We have to provide a cheap public transport and haulage infrastructure. We have to fix our leaky water pipes and update water systems to meet changing rainfall patterns. We need to maximise local food production and minimise waste.  We have to develop 21st century training, careers and occupations for our millions of unemployed young people as they will have the worst of it to deal with.  Time is running out on us.

One local example of how we need to change our thinking is obvious. The hundred and fifty million pounds the government wants to spend on the Heysham - M6 link road would be better spent on sustainable public transport and haulage infrastructure. EDF no longer needs a new driveway to build their reactor and petrol will cost a prohibitive £5 a litre and rising by the time the proposed road could be built.   By then the world's population could be doubled. We have wind, tide, water, arable land and resourceful people. We need locally produced energy, nutritious food, clean water and warm homes.  We need useful skills and jobs and new technology. If we don't supply these things we may have to do without.

For more about the Million Jobs for Climate Change Campaign visit http://www.climate-change-jobs.org/ , where you can also sign their petition.

Visit the Lancaster Climate Change Caravan Group on Facebook for more about forthcoming local events.

Visit the Transition City Lancaster website to find out more about the local initiatives to deal with peak oil transition and  sustainable futures.

Download the 2009 report commissioned by the City of Bloomington, Indiana on local government strategies to manage energy descent and community resilience.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Freeman's Wood TPO Appeal - Asbestos questions?

Disturbed landfill strewn outside the site fence
The City Council Appeals Committee will hear the appeal against the Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) at Freeman's Wood at 2pm on Monday 23 April at Lancaster Town Hall. The appeal is being brought by the Property Trust Group, who own the land and have a potential proposal before the Council for a residential development there. However, as we reported in March, workmen have already uprooted and felled numerous trees while mining the site, which used to be a landfill waste site for the Storey linoleum factory. Masses of old linoleum waste and construction rubble have been unearthed and much of this now lies on land outside the site too.

We understand that the Council is still investigating possible breaches of the TPOs, and that the Environmental Health Service has visited the site to investigate the waste materials on the privately owned land. The Council has informed us that their investigation did not reveal any evidence of flytipping and we refer them again to our photographs showing the extensive quantities of waste and rubble strewn and piled on land and paths adjacent to the site.

We have asked the Council who is responsible for cleaning up the mess (presumably the people who made it?) and await their reply.

Unearthed waste at Freeman's Woods
Virtual Lancaster asked the City Council to confirm that there is no asbestos or hazardous waste contaminating the site. Asbestos was used widely throughout the old Storey factory, requiring comprehensive removal works back in the 1980s when the buildings were redeveloped.  Linoleum being a highly flammable product it is possible that asbestos-proofed packaging material may also have been used from as early as 1890. To our knowledge there have never been any reports of hazardous contamination on the site, but, since it was covered and planted, it has never been so substantially and deeply disturbed as has recently happened. We are still awaiting confirmation.

See previous stories:

Catastrophic damage to 'protected' Freeman's Wood - photos

and:  Coronation Field developer's next target?

See also http://www.inspectapedia.com/sickhouse/Asbestos_Materials_Regs.htm

Appeal after Lancaster schoolgirl is punched on a bus

Lancaster police are appealing for witnesses to come forward after a schoolgirl was assaulted on a bus.

The incident happened around 4.00pm on Monday 5th March on the number 40 bus between Forton and Galgate when a young girl approached a 16-year-old schoolgirl, dressed in her uniform, and punched her to the back after a brief verbal altercation. She then continued to shout insults at the victim.

The offender is described as being around 15 or 16 years or age with very long, dark brown straight hair. She was wearing jeans and ugg boots with a white t-shirt underneath a brown jacket and belt.

PC Simon Patterson said: “I would appeal to anybody that witnessed this incident or with any information about the person responsible to contact Lancashire Police on 101 quoting crime reference BC1201014.

• People with information can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at Crimestoppers-uk.org. No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Dukes Plays It Again as 'Casablanca' celebates 70th anniversary

The Dukes will be screening one of cinema’s most iconic romances on its 70th anniversary.

Casablanca (U) starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman will be screened at the Lancaster cinema on 30th April.

Casablanca is set in unoccupied Africa during the early days of World War Two.

American expat Rick Blaine (Bogart) runs a café where French police, black market criminals and Nazis are among the customers but when his long-lost love Ilsa (Bergman) appears with her Resistance leader husband, Rick is pulled into both a love triangle and a web of political intrigue.

• Tickets are priced £5.50(£4.50 concessions). To book, call The Dukes box office on 01524 598500 or visit www.dukes-lancaster.org

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Local school takes natural approach

Lancaster Steiner School is to run an open day at the end of this month, intended to what's seen as a growing lack of awareness of the natural world, which may damage children.

Recent research commissioned by the National Trust (PDF link) highlights that British children are exhibiting signs of a modern phenomenon called ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’. This is caused by a lack of engagement with the natural world and can lead to diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses among other symptoms.

Steiner education encourages active engagement with the natural world and the local school is inviting parents to an open day to find out more. 

"We welcome the National Trust report, as an active engagement with the natural world is an important aspect of Steiner Waldorf education," commented Denise Randall, Kindergarten teacher at Lancaster Steiner School. "In the early years, the young child is given every opportunity to play outside, to explore and make use of natural materials and to experience the outdoor as a familiar environment, full of wonder and possibility.

"Throughout the primary school years Steiner teachers look for opportunities to link classroom learning to the outside environment," she continud. "The study of house building and farming at age nine may involve the making of clay bricks or the hands-on experience of farming techniques.

"Chemistry lessons at age 12 may involve the building of kilns to make charcoal or lime; physics lessons may involve green-wood turning or practical engineering solutions that take children out of the classroom and into the natural world.’

Gisela Renolds, a parent, said: "I like the fact that screen entertainment (TVs and computers) are not thrust at children in the Steiner school, but that the use of stories, the celebration of seasonal festivals and a curriculum that includes botany, geology and animal study all support the appreciation of nature I would like to see in more children."

The National Trust commissioned lifelong naturalist Stephen Moss to produce the report Nature Deficit Disorder: Causes and Consequences. Moss is one of Britain’s leading nature writers. As the original producer of the BBC series Springwatch, author of numerous books including The Bumper Book of Nature, and father of five, he has a longstanding personal commitment to ensuring all children have the chance to form a connection with nature.

•  The open day will take place at the school on Lune Road, 2.30 – 4.30pm on Friday 27th April. Web: www.lancastersteiner.org.uk

Monday, 9 April 2012

Police Launch Motorcycle Safety Campaign

Lancashire Police have joined forces with the Lancashire Partnership for Road Safety and RideSafe BackSafe to launch a campaign aimed at reducing the number of motorcyclists killed or seriously injured on the county’s roads.

BikeWatch involves officers and volunteers from RideSafe BackSafe visiting bike meetings and dealerships to speak to riders and hand out road safety information as well as road policing officers carrying out enforcement activity on routes popular with motorcyclists which are known to be casualty hotspots.

Chief Inspector Damian Kitchen from Lancashire Constabulary’s Roads Policing Unit said: “Motorcyclists account for just one per cent of traffic on our roads but 21 per cent of fatalities. They are vulnerable road users who often come off worse in collisions.

“Last year alone, nine motorcyclists were killed in Lancashire and 526 injured – 180 of them seriously.

“Operation BikeWatch will focus firmly on safety, with a great deal of educational work being done by ourselves and partner agencies, but inevitably there will also be some enforcement activity in casualty hotspots.  We will be using a range of tactics including using our helicopter and officers on patrol to prevent and identify bad riders and drivers.”

Officers have issued the following advice to motorcycle owners as part of the campaign:

  • Be visible - make sure your headlight works and is on day and night and use reflective strips or decals on your clothing and on your motorcycle.
  • Dress for safety - wear a quality helmet and eye protection and appropriate, protective clothing.
  • Be aware - give yourself space and time to respond to other motorists’ actions and give other motorists time and space to respond to you.
  • Drive safely - know and follow the rules of the road and stick to the speed limit.

• For further advice, motorcyclists can visit think.gov.uk or ridesafebacksafe.org. They can also follow Lancashire Police on Facebook and Twitter for Operation BikeWatch updates.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Council warns on dogs, considers new controls

Lancaster City Council is having no messing in its bid to rid the district of dog fouling having launched an enforcement exercise to catch irresponsible dog owners failing to pick up after their dogs.

The local council is also consulting on proposals to increase dog control measures, replacing and extending powers under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005.

These powers are intended to help counter problems created by irresponsible dog owners, such as dog fouling, and aggressive or out of control dogs but some of the proposals, which include increased demands for dogs to be kept on leads, are proving controversial.

Dog mess continues to be a public nuisance as well as a health hazard in the district and the Councl says this winter saw their dog warden service stretched to the limits dealing with almost double the complaints compared to the same period last year.

The results of a survey to identify the worst times of day for offending was to confirm dog wardens’ suspicions that dog fouling occurred most often during early mornings and evenings.

Last month, an enforcement exercise was launched at a local dog fouling hotspot on Sandylands Promenade and targeting the times of the day dog fouling appears to occur most often.  Over three days, council staff carried out surveillance from an elevated viewpoint and relayed any sightings of dog fouling activity to other officers on the ground.

During the course of days one and two, 11 fixed penalty notices  for £80 were issued to offenders and by day three, every dog walker spotted by officers was cleaning up after their dog.

“People know it is an offence not to clean up, whether on the pavement or on the beach, in a park or public garden," said Sue Clowes,  Public health Team Leader. "It is the small minority of irresponsible dog owners who don’t clear up who continue to cause significant problems for residents and visitors to the area.”

Coun Karen Leytham, Cabinet member with responsibility for environmental health, said: ‘There really is no excuse for leaving dog mess on the ground when a poop bag can be put in any council litter bin or your grey wheelie bin.

“This enforcement operation on the promenade and beach has been successful and others will take place in other areas without warning.”

However, with so many hot spots to cover, Lancaster City Council is asking for your help to catch and take action against those dog owners who continue to litter our streets, cycle paths and recreation areas.

If you have any information as to the identity of any irresponsible dog owners on your patch, call the dog warden service on 01524 582935 or send an email to dogwardens@lancaster.gov.uk. All information will be held in strictest confidence.


Proposals to extend dog controls, which the Council is asking for views on, have had a mixed reponse. Councillor Jon Barry says that if the new orders mean that dogs have to be on lead on all of the district's cycleways then this will blight the lives of many of the responsible dog owners in the district. He also feels it will also mean that dogs will not get proper exercise and be more likely to be aggressive.

"I am a heavy user of cyclepaths in the district," Coun Barry explained. "My experience is that the vast majority of dog owners have their dogs under control and are extremely responsible in terms of avoiding conflicts with bikes.

"The current system is not perfect but the majority of the time dogs, dog walkers, cyclists and pedestrians exist well together - the key is that everyone needs to be aware of and have respect for other users."

"If this order is brought in it will mean that responsible dog walkers in places like the Crook O'Lune, Conder Green and many parts of the canal will be forced to not exercise their dogs properly and be punished for the potential activities of a minority."

"I welcome nearly every aspect of the new orders - but the restrictions on cycleways seems to be a step too far," he feels. "We need to educate cyclists and dog walkers to behave responsibly rather than imposing these restrictive rules.

"I think that the emphasis should be on dogs being under control rather than on a lead - although if people want to keep their dog on a lead then it is perfectly fine."

"As a cyclist, I would rather that dogs were off-lead than on a flexi-lead. I remember that only a few years ago, a young girl had a serious neck injury after cycling into a flexi-lead."

• Lancaster City Council is currently consulting on proposals to increase dog control measures in the district.  If you want to have your say, visit www.lancaster.gov.uk/dogcontrolorders for information.  This information is also available at Lancaster and Morecambe Town Halls and local libraries.