Saturday, 18 April 2015

Don't forget to register to vote!





Monday is your last chance to register to vote in both general and local elections.

Changes instituted by Labour and completed by the Tories mean you are not automatically registered to vote. This particularly affects groups like students.

You should also check that you are registered if you have done so recently. While reports we have received of voter registrations not yet being processed have been dismissed - one councillor has described them as nonsense - perhaps it's a matter of better safe than sorry, especially if you have yet to receive your Polling Card.

If you don't think it is worth turning out to vote, you may be interested to know that statistics gathered by the research company Survation indicate elections in the UK are decided by people not voting...

• Anyone not registered can do so at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

• Survation: http://survation.com/apathy-in-the-uk-understanding-the-attitudes-of-non-voters/

Friday, 17 April 2015

County Council continues Fracking Consultation for two more weeks

Fracking tanker at Barton Moss

Although today is officially the final day for members of the public to 'have their say' in Lancashire County Council's (LCC) consultation on two controversial fracking applications, County yesterday confirmed that, as they have not yet set a date for the hearings, they will continue to accept submissions from the public for "at least another two weeks", which would take us to Friday 1 May.

LCC's Shale Gas Development page here provides details on how to leave your feedback, either through an online form, or by email or through the post.

Cuadrilla's fracking applications
In June 2014 the council received applications from Cuadrilla to drill, frack, and test gas flows, with associated separate applications for environmental monitoring, at Preston New Road  (LCC/2014/0096) at Little Plumpton, and Roseacre Wood (LCC/2014/0101).

In January 2015 LCC's Development Control Committee decided to defer determination of the applications after Cuadrilla asked to submit further proposals intended to mitigate concerns raised by planning officers. See previous article: Lancs County Council defers fracking decision 8 weeks.

The new information was submitted on Cuadrilla's behalf by their longstanding partners, Arup, in March 2015. Where Air Quality is concerned it notes that pollution from gas flaring is not 'particulate matter' and not within the remit of the Council. It offers redrafted routes for the large numbers of tankers and other construction, maintenance, supply and waste removal vehicles servicing these rural sites.

Cuadrilla's relationship with Arup has been rewarding for them. In September 2014 Arup's Executive Chairman Sir Philip Dilley left them to become the Chair of the Government's Environment Agency. In January 2015, the EA granted Cuadrilla's applications for environmental permits for the two sites.

Consultation website links broken
The consultation on Arup's new information has run into some problems as the LCC website has apparently been going through an upgrade, which has meant that their Shale Gas page links to the information being consulted on no longer work. LCC have assured us they are working to restore them, and when they do you will find them on LCC's Shale Gas Development page here,

Links via the planning portal
'Advanced' users of the LCC website can find the new information relating to Traffic Management, Air Quality, Noise and Visual Impact via the online planning portal for the two applications at Preston New Road (LCC/2014/0096) and Roseacre Wood (LCC/2014/0101) (go to Attachments page 2 in each case).
It's also available at libraries in Lytham, St Annes, Ansdell and Kirkham, and at the offices of Fylde Borough Council in Lytham St Annes.

Following the consultation the council's planners will assess the new information and responses to the consultation before making recommendations to the Development Control Committee.

Rigging the consultation?
An investigation by Greenpeace revealed that "supporters" listed by pro-fracking lobby group the North West Energy Task Force, funded by the fracking company Cuadrilla, include, for example, an elderly care home in Yorkshire and a Welsh fishing resort.  Only 149 of the lobby group’s 343 small business supporters are based in Lancashire - less than half of the total, and just 0.3% of VAT-registered Lancashire business.  Only 14 are based in the Fylde, where Cuadrilla wants to launch the UK’s first full-scale fracking exploration project.

The Task Force’s listed supporters include the London-based trade body Oil and Gas UK and the Morecambe and Lunesdale Conservative Association. Several small enterprises also appear to have been signed up as supporters multiple times.

The 'Task Force' claimed that its “activities and views are independent of our financial supporters".  It
coordinated a recent joint letter from businesses to Lancashire County Council, urging it to approve Cuadrilla’s planning applications, under the headline “Lancashire business leaders to local council: ‘Give shale a chance.’”

But the list of businesses signed up to the letter includes an angling resort based in North Wales and a Liverpool-based events company that organises conferences for the shale gas industry.  Another signatory to the letter was a Derbyshire based company called PR Marriott Drilling Group, which Cuadrilla has previously identified as its main contractor for drilling wells. PR Marriott claims to be “the largest onshore deep drilling company based in the United Kingdom”.

Cuadrilla's PR company, PPS Group, is the company exposed in 2007 on Channel 4's 'Despatches' for their involvement in the Spodden Valley asbestos site development scandal in Rochdale. Their tactics were described as including: sending of fake letters in  favour of planning applications, attempts to infiltrate community campaign groups, bugging of private council meetings, the creation of 'secret dossiers' about councillors. The documentary alleged possession of a PPS Group document describing whether it could "bribe” or “bully" a London Borough Council.

Networking is important in business, and when heavyweight players begin to apply pressure through their placemen in networks such as the Blackpool Chamber of Commerce, in whose offices Cuadrilla have leased their Lancashire HQ, it can be awkward and potentially risky for local businesses to refuse them. Nevertheless, where fracking is concerned, 99.7% of Lancashire businesses appear to have done just that.

Eddie Izzard visits to back Labour candidates

Comedian Eddie Izzard was on the campaign trail in Lancaster and Morecambe yesterday with Labour party candidate for Morecambe and Lunesdale Amina Lone by the Eric Morecambe statue on Morecambe Promenade, and with Labour's candidate for Lancaster & Fleetwood Cat Smith in Lancaster City Centre.


"What about the workers!"
(photo copyright Jonathon Bean

Izzard with Labour's Amina Lone and supporters in Morecambe
(photo copyright Jonathon Bean

Funny enough to make a Cat laugh
Izzard with Labour's Cat Smith and supporters in Lancaster


Every campaign trail needs a baby....
Izzard and Labour's Cat Smith on walkabout in Lancaster City Centre



Review: Community Rail - The Bentham Line (Morecambe to Leeds)

The Bentham Line
Click here to see a larger version

Carnforth railway station on a cold wet Saturday morning held little attraction. The only ‘brief encounter’ was the aproned lady from refreshments kissing her other half goodbye on the opposite platform.

We were going to Leeds to collect a new (to us) vehicle. My other half was irritatingly excited. For him the day marked the end of a long quest. For me millions of motor magazines were in the recycling bin.

The short train arrived on time and we settled into an empty carriage. I had intended to doze off or read my book but as the journey progressed I underwent what I can only describe as some kind of railway conversion.

Running since 1850, the Bentham Line is now a voluntarily supported community rail link between the city of Leeds and the seaside resort of Morecambe, via the inspiring scenery of the Yorkshire Dales. If you get the chance, go… even for a few stops, just do it! Now!  Don’t wait for a fine day; the rain cleared for us after Bentham. There’s Ingleborough in all its glory; the vivid greens of the fields are lit with daffodils and primroses. Rivers flow in all directions; the scattering lambs are hilarious as the train rushes by. Pink cherry blossom, immaculate stone built farms, rabbits, pheasants, cattle - it's a revelation of northern rural life.

Remote cream and red stations contrast with the larger, more industrial ones and, once past Keighley, the landscape is definitely more urban. Still there are cyclists along the canal and football practices in full swing. I kept expecting Michael Portillo to wander through hugging George Bradshaw’s guidebook to his chest. Why isn’t this line included in one of his Great British Railway Journeys? I demand to know the reason. This is Lancashire and Yorkshire at their best.

The train was full when we reached Leeds. I would recommend this to locals and visitors alike. Just a word of warning; take refreshments and wrap up warmly.

Thank you to Leeds, Lancaster & Morecambe Community Rail Partnership and all the volunteers who support this amazing service. You can follow  @communityrailman on Twitter as well as visit the website  www.communityraillancashire.co.uk.

Formed in 1989 the Lancaster & Skipton Rail User Group (LASRUG) supports the passengers on the most rural part of the Bentham Line.  The group has gone from strength to strength, with a large loyal membership not only in the towns and villages along the line but across the country. LASRUG is a founding member of the Leeds-Lancaster-Morecambe Community Rail Partnership and a supporter of the Friends of Bentham Station.

Tickets for the Bentham line, which extends from Heysham Harbour to Leeds, can be purchased online via the LASRUG website at http://www.lasrug.btck.co.uk/, where you can also see the full timetable. The full return ticket from Heysham Port to Leeds costs £31. Intermediate journeys cost less.

Visit www.communityraillancashire.co.uk to arrange your day, have a walk or visit a market. Whatever you decide I am sure you will not be disappointed.

Moira Hallam
17.4.2015


Thursday, 16 April 2015

Missing Cat? Here's Some Useful Contacts...



Missing: Have you seen microchipped Ted, who's gone walkabout from Myndon Street, Skerton, to the dismay of his owners? If you have, contact his owners via the Bring Ted Home Facebook page.

Every Spring, local cats - male cats in particular - seem determined to drive their owners to distraction by going on a walkabout, sometimes, unfortunately, for good. Such disappearances prompt many a desperate search, some thankfully successful. 

Equally, cats turn up at homes happy to feed a stray - but also quite keen to reunite them with their real owners who have spent hours trying to find them.

With this in mind, as we have in the past, we're publishing some useful advice on what to do if you find a domestic animal (living or passed) that might be useful. This information is for owners of any pet, cats, dogs, bird or reptile...

If your pet has gone missing, here are some the first local organisations or vets to call or email to see if they have information or if the animal has been handed in to them:

Animal Care
Blea Tarn Road, Scotforth, Lancaster, LA2 0RD
Tel: 01524 65495 Email: adminATanimalcare-lancaster.co.uk
Web: www.animalcare-lancaster.co.uk

Wolfwood
Tel: 07931220094 Email: wildlife@wolfwood.co.uk
Web: www.wolfwood.co.uk



This cat was found straying around the Beech Street area of the Marsh in Lancaster. She is very thin and has been hanging around for the last four days. If you live in that area please could you ask around your neighbours to see if anyone is missing her? Sadly she is not chipped but she is safe in the care of Cats Protection. If she is your cat or you know whose cat she is please give them a ring on 01524 850112 so they can reunite her with her owners. Thank you.

Cats Protection
PO Box 179, Morecambe, Lancs, LA3 1WL
Tel: 01524 850112 Email: lancandmorecambecp@hotmail.com
Web: www.lancaster.cats.org.uk/lancaster

It's also a good idea to advise the three main local vets of your find:

Bay Vets
Baldrand House, Bowerham Road, Lancaster, Lancashire LA1 3AJ
Tel: 01524 32696 Email: info@bayvets.co.uk
Web: www.bayvets.co.uk/surgeries/lancaster.aspx

Burch Tree Vets
43 Gladstone Terrace, Lancaster
Tel: 01524 720002 Email: btvets@gmail.com
Web: www.freewebs.com/longleyandburch

Dimples
Units 4 - 5 Lake Enterprise Court, Ladies Walk, Caton Road, Lancaster LA1 3NX 
Tel: 01524 67777
Web: http://lancaster.lanesvets.com

There are also a number of Facebook groups you might want to try posting information about missing felines to: Pets Lost and Found in Lancaster, Morecambe and Heysham is at https://www.facebook.com/groups/227442313935932


The local Cats Protection group also has a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CatsProtectionLancasterAndMorecambe

There's also the cats-only Cats North West at https://www.facebook.com/groups/266634383437571/


In the event of finding a dead animal, Lancaster City Council says it should be left in situ, as they will collect it (Customer Services: 01524 582000). They will not collect a dead animal from a residence.

However, we have been advised that although the Council do log reports of dead animals, should anyone phone them, they do not however scan dead domestic animals for microchips.

UPDATE 20th May 2015: Six weeks after going missing and a huge local poster campaign and social media appeals, Ted turned up in Burton-in-Kendal, very thin and sunburnt but signed off by his vet. "We are beyond happy and he is so happy to be back home," say his owners. "I would like to thank everyone who liked and shared this page, who called me, who sent messages, photos and emails. I am at a loss of words."

M6 Junction 34 southbound sliproad overnight closures


Drivers using the southbound sliproads of Junction 34 of the M6 in Lancaster next week are being advised of five consecutive overnight closures as part of ongoing works for the Heysham to M6 Link Road.

On the evenings of Monday 20th through to and including Friday 24th April, between 8.00pm and 6.00am the southbound exit and entry onto the M6 will need to close to enable works on the Heysham to M6 Link Road scheme.

Diversion signs will be erected on the M6 prior to the junction on the southbound carriageway, its important drivers familiarise themselves with alternative routes, and plan their journeys ahead.

Costain Project Director, Andrew Langley said “A series of similar closures are going to be needed as we progress with the reconfiguration of junction 34, the traffic management is essential for schemes that tie-in to existing road networks.

During the closure southbound traffic on the M6 will be diverted to junction 33 at Galgate, where they will be guided to re-join the M6 north and return to junction 34 via the northbound carriageway and exit.

Drivers wishing to join the southbound M6 at Caton Road will be diverted north on the M6 initially to junction 35 at Carnforth, where they will turn around and re-join the motorway returning south where they can continue their onward journey.

“We are doing our best to combine work activities to maximise the progress within traffic management, especially closures. We ask drivers to pay attention to changes in road layouts and follow the signage” Andrew Langley added.

• Drivers are urged to check travel conditions before setting out on journeys. The Highways Agency provides live traffic information via its website www.highways.gov.uk/traffic, local and national radio travel bulletins, electronic road signs and mobile platforms, such as the iPhone. Local Twitter services are also available at @HAtraffic_nwest, @Heysham_Link

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Local Cinema Round-Up for 15th to 23rd April 2015 by peter@virtual-lancaster.net

For up to date local cinema links and day-by-day  listings of what's showing on local screens every week visit the Virtual-Lancaster Cinema Page. Read on for the weekly round-up, and reviews.

There are four new releases in our region this period. We have romance with A Little Chaos (12A); drama with Mommy (15); mystery with Child 44 (15) and the much awaited fantasy adventure Avengers: Age of Ultron (12A).

There is not a great deal of churn in other films. Only three movies have been dropped from the schedule viz Chappie; Into the Woods and Paddington. Also there is only film returning after an absence with The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. However, it is looking like Diverget Series: Insurgent and The Water Diviner may soon come to the end of their screening.

An event of note is the screening of an Avengers triple bill comprising Avenger's Assemble; Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age of Ultron. These are being screened at the Vue on the 22nd April. In addition, the Dukes are holding another of their Film Quiz nights on Sunday 19th April.

High culture this week comes with theatre and ballet. The former is represented by Stoppard's The Hard Problem, the latter by the Bolshoi with Ivan the Terrible.

Reviews

A Little Chaos
Director: Alan Rickman
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman, Helen McCrory
The film is set in Paris in 1862. King Louis XIV (Rickman) wishes to build a marvelous garden at the Palace of Versailles and so hires the famous landscape artist Andre Le Notre (Schoenaerts) to undertake the work. Le Notre advertises for an assistant and hires Sabine de Barra (Winslet), a talented and attractive woman with modern ideas on gardening. Sabine has something of a past (told in flashback) and must overcome the obstacles of her class and sex to function within the court. The film is a period romance with the sexual chemistry building between Sabine and Andre, while being opposed by Andre's scheming wife Francoise (McCrory). The performances are excellent and the film a delight of stunning gardens and costumes. An entertaining if somewhat unchallenging film.

Cinderella
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Certificate: U
Cast includes: Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Stellan Skarsgard, Richard Madden
Disney's re-telling of the story of Cinderella. Cinderella (James) finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother Lady Tremaine (Blanchett) following the death of her father. The film sticks very close to Disney's 1950 animated musical. Cinderella is rather 'sickly sweet' but this is offset by the malevolence of the character of Lady Tremaine. The movie has some comedy action and a good selection of special effects. There is nothing in here to offend and the movie will be loved by all.

Fast and Furious 7
Director: James Wan
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham
Dominic Toretto (Diesel), Brian O'Connor (Walker) and the rest of their associates return to the USA where they hope to find peace. However Deckard Shaw (Statham) is the latest villain after Don and the team as he seeks revenge for the death of his brother. The film is thus a sequel to the 2013 Fast and Furious 6 and it involves even more car chases and madcap action. The film suffered from the death of the actor Paul Walker during filming but this does not detract from the frenzied action. A worthy successor to this popular franchise.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2
Director: Andy Fickman
Certificate: PG
Cast Includes: Kevin James, Raini Rodriguez
Paul Blart (James) is a Mall Cop who takes a vacation with his teenage daughter Maya (Rodriguez) before she starts college. They go to Las Vegas to attend a Security Guard Expo. Though Blart is mocked by the Casino security staff, he uncovers an attempted theft and goes after the thieves. The film is a sequel to Paul Blart: Mall Cop which was released in 2009 and became something of a surprise box office hit. The movie is an example of that rather rare genre, a true family comedy that succeeds in entertaining young and old.

Seventh Son
Director: Sergei Bodrov
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Jeff Bridges, Olivia Williams, Julianne Moore, Ben Barnes
A fantasy movie set in the far past and based on the young adult fiction 'The Spook's Apprentice' by Joseph Delaney. Master Gregory (Bridges) is the last of the Falcon Knights and in the past he imprisoned an evil witch, Mother Malkin (Moore). She is now free and seeking to wreck an awful revenge on the earth. Gregory must train an apprentice Tom Ward (Barnes) who is the seventh son of a seventh son, in order that they can fight the dark magic. The movie has an A list cast with an impressive selection of fiends, monsters and epic battles. An extremely enjoyable caper marked with fine acting, but ultimately a rather forgettable movie.

Suite Francaise
Director: Saul Dibb
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Michelle Williams, Matthias Schoenaerts
Set in 1940 occupied France, this is a love story based on the unfinished 2004 novel by Irene Nemirovsky. French woman Lucille Angellier (Williams) waits for news of her husband who is a prisoner of war. A regiment of German soldiers arrive at their town and the soldiers are billeted in the French homes. In this way Lt. Bruno von Falk moves in with Lucille and over time the two fall in love. However the war ensures the course of the romance will not be smooth. This is a very competent production with excellent acting. It does not break any new ground and a more adventurous film may have made more of the material in Nemirovsky's novel. However as a sentimental romance the film works and is worth a trip to the cinema.

The DUFF
Director: Ari Sandel
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Mae Whitman, Skyler Samuels, Bianca Santos, Robbie Amell, Bella Thorne, Nick Eversman
The film is based on the novel of the same name by Kody Keplinger. Bianca (Whitman) is a high school senior who, at a party, finds that she has been given the label the DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) to her more popular friends Jess (Samuels) and Casey (Santos). She takes steps to challenge this designation by helping the star of the school football team Wesley (Amell) with his academic work in return for his helping her to re-invent herself. Yet she must face her nemesis, the mean label maker Madison Morgan (Thorne). This is an entertaining comedy albeit with some sexual references and crude language.

The Imitation Game
Director: Morten Tyldum
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rory Kinnear, Keira Knightley
A portrayal of the life of computer genius Alan Turing (Cumberbatch) who masterminded the cracking of the German Enigma code in the second world war and continued to develop computer theory at Manchester University. The film opens in 1951 with a robbery taking place in Turing's house. Thence the film explores Turing's life by flashbacks to his schooling and his life in Bletchley Park. The acting in the film is excellent with Cumberbatch giving a particularly good performance. However the film rather backs away from Turing's homosexuality and his subsequent suicide after his persecution by the British Government.

The Theory of Everything
Director: James Marsh
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox
A biopic of the early years of the world renown physicist Stephen Hawkins, based on the memoir 'Traveling to Infinity: My life with Stephen Hawkins' by Jane Hawkins. At Cambridge, Hawkins was an active young man who fell in love with literature student Jane Wilde. However, aged 21, Hawkins had an accidental fall and this led to his being diagnosed with motor neuron disease and given just two years to live. The film shows the marriage of Stephen and Jane and how she supported him and their children during the years of their marriage (they divorced in 1995). This is a beautiful film likely to leave the audience in tears. The acting is excellent especially Redmayne's portrayal of Hawkins and the movie shows the lighter side of Hawkin's character, his humour and his passion.

The Water Diviner
Director: Russell Crowe
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Russell Crowe, Isabel Lucas
Joshua Connor (Crowe) is an Australian farmer, water diviner and grieving father. He lost his three sons in the First World War Battle of Gallipoli and after a four years period he decides to travel to Turkey to locate their bodies. In doing so he comes to terms with the Turks as he finds obstacles to be overcome in getting to the battlefield. This is Crowe's first experience as a director and the result is a sombre but beautiful film, well acted and with a strong anti war message.