Saturday, 12 December 2015

The Really Heavy Greatcoat Review of the Year 2015


The Really Heavy Greatcoat by Virtual-lancaster's John Freeman and Lancaster-based artist Nick Miller was published fairly regularly for about 20 years in alternative Lancaster print titles such as On The Beat and Off the Beat and online on virtual-lancaster.net.

The strip's last regular appearance in print was in the now defunct Comics International, but Nick has recently published a number of RHG-inspired strips on the web platform Tapastic alongside his The Worry Man pocket cartoon. Sadly, both Skid Avenue and The RHG are on hiatus, as is Worry Man - he's a busy man doing stuff that pays (but always open to approaches for work).

John Freeman also works on comics by day - audio comics available on the ROK Comics app for iPad and iPhone and The Beatles Story - and reports on them in his spare time on downthetubes.net

When last seen in a regular strip, Kevin, the current owner of the Greatcoat - a talking garment with transcendentally dimensional pockets - was a student. He was clearly not postgraduate material so Nick and I reckon he's in a bedsit in Skerton, Lancaster somewhere, eking out a life on benefits...

If anyone ever offered to pay us to write it, it might still be running today - but Nick still creates an annual Review of the Year, bless him!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

• John Freeman's comic web site is at www.downthetubes.net
• More by Nick Miller at: http://teamsputnikblog.blogspot.com


Friday, 11 December 2015

Spotlight Club Celebrates 20th Anniversary Tonight - And Renewed Arts Council Funding

Steeve the Poet at Spotlight back in 2008. Photo: John Freeman 
It’s Open Mic night at tonight’s 20th Anniversary Spotlight Club at The Storey, which has just received the great news that it has successfully been granted two years funding from Arts Council England.

The first ever Spotlight was back in December 1995 – and to celebrate, this month's Spotlight is an Open Mic night that includes special guests Steeve The Poet and Mollie Baxter.

Steeve The Poet first appeared on the bill at Spotlight in March 1996 and soon became a big Spotlight favourite.

Mollie Baxter. Photo: Jonathan Bean/litfest
Mollie Baxter first appeared on the bill at Spotlight in August 1998 as a singer-songwriter and has since been a regular Spotlight performer as writer, musician, actor and compere.

This celebratory event includes music from The Low Countries, one of Spotlight's favourite bands. Primarily ElsD'hooge (vocals, accordion, melodica, glockenspiel) and Nigel Parrington (vocals, guitar, harmonica), they have been regulars at Spotlight in various guises since 2007.

The event is compered by Simon Baker, who first appeared on the bill at Spotlight in May 2003 and became a regular compere in December 2007.

Founded in December 1995 Lancaster Spotlight works in association with litfest.

• Spotlight Club: 20th Anniversary Open Mic Night Friday 11th December 2015 The Storey, Meeting House Lane, Lancaster (always second Friday of the month!). Doors Open 8.00pm (£5 / £3 students/unwaged/concessions ). Web: www.spotlightlancaster.co.uk 

Thursday, 10 December 2015

ENW's Goodwill Payment Scheme - and why power cut residents should claim it

If you lost power for more than 24 hours (which a lot of us in the Lancaster and Morecambe did) you can claim a one off payment from Electricity North West of £70.

You need to fill in a claim form called a goodwill payment from here.

Here is an example of what the team have been doing at CItizens Advice in filling in the form: date power went off - 5/12/2015, time power went off 22:30, date power back on 7/12/2015, Time the power came back on 5.30.

All in 24 hour clock and you must use : between the hour and minutes. Try and work out the total amount you were without power for some were 31 hours others were 36 or more.

It's been suggested by some people that we shouldn't make a claim from Electricity North West because the nice engineers worked so hard, but Virtual-Lancaster reader Michael Gibson has pointed out that ENW is the subsidiary of a Jersey based company established for tax avoidance purposes.

"The owners are JP Morgan," he notes, "an American bank fined billions for its role in the 2008 banking crisis, and Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

"In 2014/15 they had a turnover of over £500 million on which they made a gross profit of £300 million. However they paid their Jersey subsidiary and lenders £200 million in interest, which cut their profits and income tax considerably. They have £161 million in cash in the bank."

"They are a monopoly that we used to own that now sucks millions out of the country to wealthy investors overseas. They are also insured to the eyeballs.

"You owe them nothing."

Michael suggests claiming and giving the money to charity.

"If we all claimed and got £70 per household we could collectively donate £4.2 million to a charity of our choice," he points out - and he has some suggestions, too.

"Marsh Community Centre needs funds urgently to avoid closure," he notes. "The Dukes needs £3 million to repair its buildings. The Lancashire and Cumbria flood appeals need money.

"Or if you've lost out and want to keep it, do so. Help redistribute money from the rich to the poorer."

Work to switch customers back to the power grid begins tomorrow

Work to switch around 23,000 customers in Lancaster and surrounding areas back to the power grid  tomorrow (Friday 11th December) - but there will be short power cuts in the process.

More than 70 generators have been providing power to customers in the area since the River Lune burst its banks and flooded the main substation.

Repair works are still ongoing at the substation and once completed engineers will be onsite tomorrow evening working to switch customers back to the power grid and back to a normal and reliable power supply.

Customers will be switched back to the grid between 5.00pm-midnight tomorrow (11th December).

Mark Williamson, operations director for Electricity North West, said: “Engineers have worked day and night to repair the extensive damage at the substation and have made great progress over the last couple of days.

“We provided generators to ensure homes and businesses had power and tomorrow evening we will be able to start reconnecting all our customers back to the main grid and back to a normal robust supply.

“We are contacting customers in advance and we understand that there is never a convenient time to be without power, but this work is being carried out at the earliest time possible and will ensure customers are fully reconnected.

“We would like to thank customers for their continued patience this week, we know this has been a very trying time for people and the support we have received has been incredible.”

When switching customers back tomorrow they will experience a short power outage for up to 30 minutes. Engineers will be on site and power will be reconnected very quickly.

If customers experience a power cut longer than an hour between 5.00pm and midnight they must notify Electricity North West on 0800 195 4141 or on Twitter @ElectricityNW and engineers will be dispatched to investigate.

In Cumbria around 1,000 properties remain without power due to flooding and engineers have to do door-to-door safety checks on our equipment before being able to safely restore power.

This is an incredibly complicated coordination exercise as it needs customers to return to their flooded homes to get access but engineers are working as quickly and safely as possible.

• If you're already back on the grid there should be no loss of power. Most of Morecambe is on the grid. If in doubt try this fault checker site on the ENW web site - but we suggest you assume there will be power cuts unless you have been told differently by ENW staff direct, and don't start cooking a three course meal!

• All latest updates are being posted online at www.electricitynorthwest.co.uk, Twitter @ElectricityNW and on Electricity North West's Facebook page here


St Michael's Residents Meeting Tonight after flooding disaster




Flood defences at St. Michaels. Photo: Environment Agency North West via Twitter

There will be a residents’ meeting held at The Grapes public house in St Michael's village centre at 6pm this evening (Thursday 10th December).

Representatives from the emergency services and our partner agencies will be at the meeting to provide the latest information to residents who have been affected by the flooding.

Please note the meeting is not a press conference and the main purpose is to give residents an opportunity to ask questions and address any concerns or queries they may have.

Lancashire Police, along with their partner agencies, will continue to provide residents with regular updates as and when there are any.

For updates find Lancashire Police on Facebook | On Twitter @lancspolice | Web: www.lancashire.police.uk

Lancaster & Morecambe Floods: Advice for insurance claims

affected by the recent flooding in the United Kingdom
The British Insurance Brokers' Association has published advice for those affected by the recent floods and (as we previously reported) Lancaster City Council has set up a Business Recovery Centre in CityLab.

Insurance Advice to those affected by the recent floods and the many problems they brought in their wake includes:
  • Contacting their insurer or insurance broker and informing them before conducting any emergency repairs
  • Leaving dangerous work such as fixing the roof to professionals
  • Turning the power off, if safe, in a flooded home
  • Ensuring homes are safe and secure before leaving to prevent further loss
  • Keeping damaged items for evidence of a claim, including samples and photos of carpets, and receipts for any emergency work
Many business insurance policies cover damage to premises and stock, but loss of trading owing to interruption is usually only covered if firms have paid an extra premium as an add-on to their policy.

Council opens Business Recovery Centre

A Business Recovery Centre has opened in Lancaster City Council’s CityLab building in Dalton Square to provide help and advice to flood hit businesses to get back to normal operations as soon as possible. 

The centre will be open on week days from 10.00am to 4.00pm as long as it is required. Any businesses that cannot access the centre can access advice by emailing econdev@lancaster.gov.uk or telephoning 01524 582032.

Advice will be on offer from Lancashire County Council, Lancaster City Council, the fire service and other public agencies.  Included in the advice on offer will be access to business compensation schemes that may be available to those affected, how to dispose of contaminated food/equipment safely, and returning to normal business.

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service are advising local businesses to ring their local fire safety department for practical business support in regards to fire risk assessments within their workplaces. There will be a representative at the CityLab building and the department can also be contacted during office hours (9am- 4pm) on the following numbers - Morecambe 01524 230104 / Lancaster 01524 32311. 


What about the train tickets?

Virgin Trains, which operates on the West Coast Mainline, said that anyone who was unable to travel would be eligible for a refund, or could use their ticket at a later date. Those whose journeys were disrupted by more than 30 minutes would also be entitled to compensation.

Those passengers who booked their ticket through the Virgin Trains website for a specific train will receive their refund automatically, but others will need to fill out a form on the website.

Subsidised insurance scheme in the pipleline

A new scheme, known as Flood Re (almost 'Relief' but not quite:-)  has been agreed between the government and insurance industry and is planned to start in April.

Under the scheme, residential homeowners in areas with the highest flood risks should be able to shop around for insurance, because the extra risk involved will be passed from the insurer to the new industry body called Flood Re, which is sponsored by the government.

We hope to see a competitive new market for people living in flood-risk areas with more realistically achievable deals for low-income and single-person households.

Recovery Appeal Fund

Local people and businesses can donate to  the Community Foundation for Lancashire Recovery Fund’s Public Appeal online via a dedicated MyDonate webpage at https://mydonate.bt.com/events/lancsfloodappeal
Alternatively text LFLD15 and the amount you would like to donate to 70070

If you have been affected by the flooding in Lancashire you can apply to the fund now. Guidelines for funding and an application form can be downloaded or completed online at http://www.lancsfoundation.org.uk/

Lancashire Flood Recovery Fund Appeal launched

Photo by Lancaster MP Cat Smith (via Twitter)
A Lancashire Flood Recovery Fund Appeal has been launched by the Community Foundation for Lancashire.

The Recovery Fund’s Appeal will raise funds to  contribute to clean-up costs, emergency repairs, clothing, food and drink, heating and heating equipment,  childcare equipment and basic furniture, especially in North Lancashire.

It will directly support individuals  and families already struggling and vital community organisations and resident groups in the areas affected  by Storm Desmond.

Chancellor George Osborne has promised that the government would match up to £1m collected by the Cumbria Community Foundation to help recovery from the floods. So far more than £600,000 has been raised.

If you have been affected by the flooding in Lancashire you can apply to the fund now. Guidelines for funding and an application form can be downloaded at
http://www.lancsfoundation.org.uk/

Ground floor Council flats in Lancaster's Water Street, housing a number of vulnerable tenants, went a foot deep in water. We at virtual-lancaster can only offer the most heartfelt salute to those ground floor residents, some in poor health themselves, who prioritised helping their frail elderly neighbours rather than taking time to rescue their own most valued possessions. And to the 'lovely' unnamed gentleman who sat playing  'The Times they are a'changin'' on his guitar by candlelight to two  disabled ladies (one had already rescued the more elderly other to her own next door flat) while they were marooned on a bed waiting for the Fire Service to come for them.

A monumental cleanup has been underway, but many flood-hit residents throughout the affected areas who have lost so much of their most valued and essential belongings are uninsured.

Any help you can give towards getting them back on their own feet again will be vastly appreciated.

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam 

And admit that the waters
Around you have grown....


• Local people and businesses can donate to  the Recovery Fund’s Public Appeal online via a dedicated MyDonate webpage at
https://mydonate.bt.com/events/lancsfloodappeal | Alternatively text LFLD15 and the amount you would like to donate to 70070

Lancaster City Council to decide on combined authority



Lancaster City Council will decide whether it wants to join forces with other local authorities to create a Lancashire Combined Authority at a council meeting on Wednesday December 16.

Councillors will be asked to note the progress made so far and decide on whether they want to agree in principle to the Combined Authority and take part in a public consultation early in the New Year.

Coun Eileen Blamire, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: "Councils in Lancashire have been of the view for some time that we need to decide if we are able to take advantage of the opportunity to receive extra powers and funding from Central Government particularly in terms of the economy, skills, transport and housing.

“In any case a Combined Authority provides the opportunity for the city council to extend its influence on matters including transport and on how funds are allocated by the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).”

A combined authority is a legal body that means councils across a designated area, in this case Lancashire, can work together better and be more accountable to residents.

Individual councils would continue to exist, and retain their individual powers, but would work more closely together in a more structured way on the matters that affect the local economy.

If agreement is reached a formal consultation would start in January.

• For more information visit www.lancaster.gov.uk/combined-authority

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Local Cinema Round-Up for the 9th to 17th December 2015

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.

As a consequence of the recent storm and floods, the Vue is closed today (9th December), with the possibility of opening from tomorrow onwards. In addition, the full program for the Reel was not available at the time of this posting.

There are five new releases in our region during this period. We have romance with Carol (15); drama with McFarland (PG); and comedy with Sisters (15) and Tangerine (15). However the big event is the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (12A) due in the cinemas on the 17th December in good time for Christmas.

We have lost the movie Brooklyn but see the welcome return of Minions; Steve Jobs and the excellent The Martian.

Family entertainment abounds with Christmas with the Coopers; Hotel Transylvania 2; Inside Out; Pan; Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanut Movie and The Good Dinosaur. In addition we have an abundance of drama in Black Mass; Bridge of Spies; The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2; Spectre and The Martian.

Horror is represented with Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension; Victor Frankenstein and the somewhat tongue in cheek Krampus. For adult comedy see Sisters and Tangerine. For romantic drama Carol is recommended.

High culture during this period comes with the operas Cavalleria/Pagliacci and The Nutcracker.

Reviews

Bridge of Spies
Director: Steven Spielberg
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Tom Hanks, Amy Ryan, Mark Rylance, Austin Stowell
A cold war drama, based on a genuine incident. Rudolf Abel (Rylance) is a spy working for the Soviet Union who has been captured in the USA. He is to be put on trial and James Donovan (Hanks), an insurance lawyer, is given the job of acting as his defence. Meanwhile, a secret American Spy plane is shot down in Soviet airspace and the pilot, Francis Gary Powers (Stowell) is captured by the Russians and convicted of espionage. Neither America nor Russia want their respective officers interrogated by the other side and hence Donovan is tasked with organising a prisoner exchange. This is a fine spy drama, more dialogue and politics than action but it succeeds in building the tension. Both Hanks and Rylance give excellent performances and Spielberg masterfully created the ambience of the cold war period.

Minions
Director: Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda
Certificate: U
Cast Includes: Sandra Bullock, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan, Jennifer Saunders.
The film is both a spin off and a prequel to the Despicable Me franchise. The Minions have always existed on earth and the movie begins by tracing their evolution. They have the purpose of serving the most despicable of masters though not very successfully. The race finally retired to the Antarctic where they fare badly. Hence Minions Kevin, Stuart and Bob decide to seek a new master for their race to work for. In a villain convention in Orlando they decide to serve the super-villain Scarlet Overkill (Bullock) who is planning to overthrow the Queen of England. The film, using skits and Musical numbers follows this plot. The Minions were the best part of the Despicable Me franchise and so it is fitting that they have their own film. The movie is very entertaining, inoffensive and funny and will delight all ages. However this reviewer would have liked more minions and fewer super-villains.

Pan
Director: Joe Wright
Certificate: PG
Cast Includes: Hugh Jackman, Levi Miller, Amanda Seyfried, Kathy Burke, Garrett Hedlund
A prequel to the story of Peter Pan. Peter (Miller) is abandoned by his mother and brought up in an orphanage run by Mother Barnabus (Burke). He is captured by pirates and taken to the magical world of Neverland where he is forced into slave labour by Bluebeard (Jackman). Peter and his friend James Hook (Hedlund) manage to escape to the forest where Peter befriends the fairy Tinker Bell. The fairies fight and defeat the pirates and Hook becomes captain of the Jolly Roger ship. A rather bland and somewhat contrived movie.

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension
Director: Gregory Plotkin
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Chris Murray, Brit Shaw, Ivy George, Dan Gill
This is the sixth instalment in the Paranormal Activity series and it opens with a scene from Paranormal Activity 3. Ryan Fleege (Murray) moves into a new home in California along with his wife Emily (Shaw), daughter Leila (George) and his brother Mike (Gill). The two brothers discover a box of old VHS tapes filmed by a previous inhabitant of the property, starring two girls Katie and Kristi. These girls start to communicate with the current family by means of the TV set and various supernatural phenomena manifest within the house. Ryan brings in a priest to perform an exorcism, but things don't go to plan, leading to an unsettling conclusion.

Spectre
Director: Sam Mendes
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Christopher Waltz, Andrew Scott
The latest James Bond Movie. M engages in a political battle to keep the secret service, in the light of a plan by Max Denbigh (Scott) to replace the 00 program with computer surveillance. Bond meanwhile is trying to locate Franz Oberhauser (Waltz), the suspected head of the evil organisation 'Spectre'. The movie starts in Mexico during the Day of the dead celebrations and thence the action continues in London, Rome and Morocco. There are numerous over the top action sequences, car chases, a good assortment of scary villains and exotic love interest. However amid this harshness, the movie contains a good level of humour. Tension builds from the very start, though some of this starts to dissipate as the film progresses. This is James Bond from the classic mould and Daniel Craig delivers a great performance.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
Director: Francis Lawrence
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland
The concluding part of The Hunger Games series, based on the novels by Suzanne Colins. The movie continues from the previous film. Katniss (Lawrence) is recovering from battle, but she rejoins her comrades to bring the revolution to the Capital and President Snow (Sunderland). The Capital however is now peppered with booby traps awaiting for them. The film seems to move at a slightly slower pace than the previous instalments as there is a political element to the plot. Acting is very convincing, the special effects are spectacular and the plot has a good number of twists and turns. An excellent and emotional movie that provides a satisfying and worthy conclusion to the Hunger Games franchise.

The Lady in the Van
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings
A true story, adopted from 1999 West End Play of the same name and filmed on location in North London. In 1974, Miss Shephard (Smith) is a woman looking for somewhere to park after being moved on the council. Playwright Alan Bennett agrees to her parking her van (which is also her accommodation) in his drive for a couple of days. However Miss Shephard then lived in the drive for the next fifteen years and the film shows the relationship between Bennett and his nuisance neighbour. This is a warm, charming and thoroughly fun movie.

Victor Frankenstein
Director: Paul McGuigan
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: James McAvoy, Daniel Radcliffe, Jessica Brown Finlay
The film is a remake of Mary Shelly's classic novel Frankenstein, this time told from the point of view of Igor Strausman (Radcliffe). Igor is a hunchback clown in love with trapeze artist Lorelei (Findlay). He starts to assist the genius Victor Frankenstein in his experiments in immortality. Victor becomes increasingly obsessed with his work re-animating different organs and this brings them into conflict with the authorities. Finally they commence the construction of Prometheus, a human being. This is an entertaining film but it brings very little of novelty to the Frankenstein legend. A tolerable film that is rather low on horror but offers something by way of period romance.

Christmas at the Castle offers some festive cheer





It's been a turbulent time for people in the Lancaster / Morecambe area and further into the North West. But Lancaster Castle will definitely be open for a community celebration of 'Christmas at the Castle' This weekend 11th - 13th December 2015.

Lancaster Castle courtyards are free to enter, and on offer are Market Stalls, a Music Stage programme,Nativity plays, gift wrapping, face painting, street theatre, Santa's grotto - and an exclusive screening of the feature film 'Get Santa' (which was in part filmed at Lancaster Castle's A-wing), directed by Ridley Scott.

For more info visit:
https://www.facebook.com/events/914025062025039/

• For more information please visit the website - www.lancastercastle.com - or use the facebook event page

Business Recovery Centre set up after Lancaster floods


Business Recovery Centre has been set up to provide help and advice to flood hit businesses in Lancaster.

Based in Lancaster City Council’s CityLab building in Dalton Square, the aim of the centre is to help businesses get back to normal operations as soon as possible.

Advice will be on offer from Lancashire County Council, who are leading the recovery efforts, Lancaster City Council, the fire service and other public agencies.

Included in the advice on offer will be access to business compensation schemes that may be available to those affected, how to dispose of contaminated food/equipment safely, and returning to normal business.

The centre will open tomorrow (Thursday 10th December) and will be open on week days from 10am to 4pm as long as it is required.

Any businesses that cannot access the centre can access advice by emailing econdev@lancaster.gov.uk

The city council is also providing help for city centre businesses to recover by providing free parking in all city council car parks over two weekends in the lead up to Christmas.

Free parking will be available all day Saturday and Sunday on December 12/13 and 19/20 to help our district recover following the floods and power cuts.

This offer is available in Morecambe as well as Lancaster.

Coun Eileen Blamire, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “We’ve all been badly hit by the recent floods and power cuts, but businesses have particularly suffered.

"Not being able to trade on one of their busiest days of the year on the run up to Christmas has been devastating, let alone the damage that was caused to equipment and stock. The recovery process will take some time yet but this offer will go some way to helping in these difficult times.”

Morecambe's MP hits back at critics after floods







Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris has responded to critics of his work during this week's floods, who claimed he was nowhere in evidence during the disaster.

Some Skerton residents derided his perceived lack of presence online, pointing to Lancaster MP Cat Smith's work in her constituency. Some also emailed him direct to challenge his actions, while others sprang to his defence.

In his latest update on his official Facebook page yesterday, Mr Morris outlined his work over the past few days, making it clear what he has been doing to help. He has also refuted claims of inaction in emails to constituents.

"I have been in the area assessing flood damage which in Morecambe and Lunesdale was the Lune Valley. I was the first on scene yesterday morning to see the damage to the Loyne Bridge in Gressingham and I made sure that this repair was prioritised by the County Council as it is a vital route in the rural area," he outlined.

"I have also written to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to secure any funding needed by the County Council to repair our flood damaged roads from the Belwin Scheme which has been set up for this purpose.

"I am sorry to report that the electricity is still not on the mains supply but would like to thank everyone for their patience at this difficult time. I have been constantly speaking to Electricity North West for updates and am posting any new news as soon as I get it on both of my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I know many of you I have spoken to have said how useful this has been and I will continue to do this until power is restored fully across the constituency.

"Please use your electricity carefully at the moment as overuse could lead to loss of power as the substation work is still ongoing, and there may be need for planned outages this evening, however once these have been confirmed I will update you.

"Now that temporary power is back, or for those who have battery radio please listen to The Bay for updates. I cannot praise the team at the Bay enough for their commitment to the community at this time even though their own station is flooded. When I went on air with Cooky and Darren yesterday lunchtime people were dropping cards off of thanks, which is a real credit to the Bay team!

"Some of you are concerned that the effort is being placed just in Cumbria and I would like to reassure everyone that this is not the case. I am leading our cause and taking it to Ministers and the department to ensure that all the support we need to get our area back to normal is given quickly. I also met with Floods Minister Rory Stewart MP yesterday to ensure that he was fully briefed on the issues we have been facing in North Lancashire.

"Thank you again to everyone for your patience in this time, I know that Electricity North West are working around the clock to get everyone connected. Should there be any further loss to power I have ensured that hot meal and drinks vehicles are sent to all areas of the Constituency so that everyone who needs them can access them but I am hoping that the electricity will hold until they find a more permeant solution.

"In the meantime I am carrying out my role by ensuring that you are all kept updated but that Government is updated on what is going on in the area to ensure that we have at our disposal all of the resources we need."

Following Saturday's flooding and the continued disruption to the area, Mr Morris will be posting any updates from agencies as he gets them on his twitter account and Facebook Page.

Follow him on Twitter @davidmpmorris

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/davidmorrisml/

If you are in an emergency situation here are the numbers to call:

• Electricity North West 0800 195 4141
• Environment Agency 0345 988 188
• United Utilities 0345 6723 0723

• If you've seen either of our MPs out and about, why not let us know below? Who were your heroes and heroines during the crisis?




Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Power Restored to Most, But Residents Asked to Save Energy Where Possible

Engineers from Electricity North West have restored power to all areas of Lancaster affected by flooding to the area's main substation.

Some local faults affecting a handful of properties may mean that a number of customers remain off supply. The University of Lancaster, four commercial properties and a handful of homes are still without power.

Customers who have had power restored are now being asked to conserve energy where possible to reduce the risk of further outages.

Mark Williamson, operations director at Electricity North West, said: "We've now restored the vast majority of homes and businesses in Lancaster although we are aware of some affected by local issues that remain without power.

"The substation is back online but not yet operating at full capacity. That means we need customers to conserve power as much as possible until we can fully complete repairs on the substation. We will provide further updates throughout the day."

• For the latest updates follow Electricity North West on Twitter @ElecNW_News

Lancaster Police latest on Lancaster Flooding

Here's the latest from Lancaster Police on the situation in and around the town after the flooding.

So everybody is aware additional police officers remain on the ground in the Lancaster area to provide support to those affected by the power cuts and flooding.

However please remember to be patient with us if you call as Emergency Services are going to be very busy and will prioritise their attendance to emergencies where there is a risk to life, but rest assured we have resources on the ground working together to help those in need.

We ask that if you know of elderly and/or vulnerable people who have been affected by the power outage, please take a couple of minutes to check on them. If you feel that there is a risk to life, please call 999. If there isn't a risk to their life but you are worried about them being left in the property, please call 101 and log their information with the Police.

Further to this if you’re in emergency need and can’t get help from family or friends, Lancaster City Council is running a rest centre at Salt Ayre Sports Centre, Lancaster. Emergency plans are in place so that affected stations remain fully operational.

At present LFRS and the Environment Agency continue to work at St Michaels on Wyre to manage the impact of yesterday’s floods.

Updates available on their websites: Environment Agency flood alerts/ warnings https://flood-warning-information.service.gov.uk LFRS www.lancsfirerescue.org.uk / Twitter feeds @EnvAgencyNW @LancashireFRS/ floodline 0345 988 1188.
Live Flood Warnings - GOV.UK
flood-warning-information.service.gov.uk

Travel Advice

In relation to travel around the Lancaster, Morecambe and Carnforth areas; many areas are still affected and some roads remain closed.There may be issues with traffic lights due to the power outage so if you are travelling by car to check on someone please drive carefully.

Please do not ignore any road closed signs as we do not want you to become stranded and vulnerable. Traffic may be heavy and congested on the roads and St Michaels is still flooded for those living and travelling in the Wyre area.

For those using the buses I ask that you check the Stagecoach website as they have been posting updates on available services.

Unfortunately trains are off from Preston North bound due to the flooding and further issues throughout Lancashire and Cumbria. This therefore means no Trains are running into Lancaster.

All agencies are doing our best to get traffic and travel up and running but we appreciate your patience in the meantime.




Lancaster Floods Latest - Useful Links and Information Points






Here's a list of hopefully useful links and information points for those of you affected by the flooding that has disrupted Lancaster and Morecambe over the past few days.

Please note the situation is fluid and may change depending on engineering work etc. The Virtual-Lancaster team has been as affected by the floods as all Lancaster residents.

Power Supply

• Regular updates on power supply are being posted by Electricity North West on Twitter @ElectricityNW. For emergencies, please call ENW on 0800 195 4141

• Vulnerable customers can register with us to receive extra support during #powercuts. To register go to http://www.electricitynorthwest.co.uk/priority

Weather

Lancaster Weather via the Met Office

Emergency Services and Health

• If you were due to have an elective operation at RLI of WGH, call 01524 516095 to see if it is still going ahead. Please use the NHS 111 service if you urgently need medical help or advice but it's not a life-threatening situation. Read the full information about which services are running at each of our hospitals on Tuesday 8 December here

• Lancaster Police on Twitter @PoliceLancaster and Morecambe Police @MorecambePolice

• If you've been affected by flooding the Environment Agency have produced a useful booklet with information and practical advice. Download the PDF here

• Cumbrian fire stations have spent days rescuing people in the Floods. They now face closure. Show them your support by signing this petition

Food and Shelter

• If you're in emergency need and can't get help from family and friends, Salt Ayre Sports Centre is still open as rest centre with warm drinks etc.

Electricity North West also has food vans offering warm food in the area. Please check their Twitter page for locations.

Public Transport

Greyhound Bridge and Skerton Bridge are open

• Both the Millennium Bridge and Carlisle Bridgeare open for pedestrians

• Local bus services remain disrupted. For Stagecoach updates check this page on their web site - you'll need to enter your postcode: https://www.stagecoachbus.com/service-updates

Virgin Trains hope to resume mainline services, but bear in mind work is still being carried out and services are dependent on water levels in some areas. For the latest information check their Twitter @VirginTrains

• The Northern Rail Lancaster to Morecambe timetable is here. Services remain disrupted. Check the current status of services here and check their Twitter account for updates: @northernrailorg. Customer relations: 0333 222 0125


Schools and Universities


Several Lancaster schools are closed, please see this page on the Lancashire County Council web site for more information | Bay Radio also have updates on school closures on their website www.thebay.co.uk/news/school-closures

Lancaster University has postponed exams, tests and deadlines this week - students should await communication from departments later in the week. For more information visit their Twitter @LancasterUni

Teaching and assessments for most students has been cancelled until next term. Members of staff are asked to come into work as usual on Tuesday 8th December.

Medical students are asked to check their email for individual updates.

Exams, tests and deadlines for coursework due this week will be postponed and students should await confirmation from their department.
Postgraduate degree ceremonies will go ahead this week.

Students who are still on campus and able to get home safely should do so. When making arrangements to be picked up, please arrange to meet in a central area such as near Chaplaincy Centre, in daylight hours if possible.

Buses are currently running normally from the Chaplaincy Centre.

Cumbria University has, given the disruption to travel in and around Carlisle, Lancaster and surrounding areas, alongside the loss of power in Lancaster, reluctantly taken the decision to suspend teaching at Fusehill Street, Brampton Road and Lancaster until the new year.

However the campuses in Carlisle and Lancaster do remain open and staff will return today (Tuesday 8th December). Students who are able, and wish to use the on-site facilities, are invited to do so. There's a statement here on the situation

Council Services

• The recent flooding and loss of power in the district is having a major impact on all council services. More information here on the City Council web site. Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed that the Government will reimburse councils for the costs of addressing the flooding (see below).

Local Business

• Many shops and businesses have been affected by the flooding.

News Broadcasts

Bay Radio has its own generator and has posted numerous updates on the floods and power situation. Follow them on Twitter @TheBayOfficial

• In some parts of Lancaster, you can still reach BBC Radio Lancashire on 103.9 FM. 104.5 FM should be back now and you can get them on 1557 AM.

Lancaster Guardian | On Twitter @GuardianDigital

• Helen Pidd, the national Guardian's North of England editor is tweeting updates @helenpidd

MPs




Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed that the Government will reimburse councils for the costs of addressing the flooding, says Rory Stewart, Minister for Environment and Rural Affairs and MP for Penrith and The Border in a tweet yesterday. Let's hold the government to their promise.

• Lancaster and Wyre MP Cat Smith is on Twitter @CatSmithMP 

• Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris is on Twitter ;@Davidmpmorris

Charities

Age UK

Age UK Lancaster's office will be closed until further notice. Please call 0300 303 1234 for any enquiries. Web: http://www.ageuk.org.uk/lancashire/local-directory1/age-uk-lancashire-office---lancaster

National Trust

• Floods have affected many of National Trust Lake District places, here's an update as the National Trust assess damage

Community News Sources

The Lancaster Past & Present Facebook group has a lot of posts from residents on what's happening


• On Twitter, follow flood news using the hashtag #lancasterfloods



• Please check our Facebook Page for more updates and we'll also try and update our Twitter page @virt_lancaster Please note virtual-lancaster is run by volunteers and we are all affected by power cuts, but we're doing our best to keep you updated

Lancaster Power Cuts: Latest News


Electricity North West say they have been working hard to restore power to Lancaster homes through the night and if your supply is now back on they seem confident it will not go off again.

The company has also provided catering vans that will be at eight locations in Carlisle and Lancaster today from 8.00am. They will update with exact locations in the morning, so check their twitter page @ElectricityNW for latest information.

Here's the status of power restoration work early this morning.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Lancaster Power back by 0800 tomorrow?

Plans are in place to restore supplies to customers in Lancaster after supply went off again this afternoon.

Having assessed the damage caused by flooding that has resulted in further loss of supply at Lancaster, Electricity North West engineers have plans in place to begin the restoration of supplies from approximately 0800 on 8th December.

Additionally, they have secured even more mobile generation from across the UK which will be connected throughout the night.

Mark Williamson, operations director for Electricity North West, said: “Unfortunately power was lost to customers in Lancaster and the surrounding areas this evening due to unforeseen flood damage at our substation.

“We plan to begin to restore supplies from the substation tomorrow morning and we would like to thank our customers for their patience and support during what continues to be an enormously challenging time for everyone involved.”

19,000 customers in Lancaster are still being supplied by generators that were mobilised last night. Further generators will be mobilised tonight and all generators will be refuelled when required.

2,657 properties remain without power in Cumbria, where floodwater is restricting access for Electricity North West teams. We will provide a further update about Cumbria at 10pm.

Vulnerable customers, including some older or disabled people, or those with a medical dependency on electricity, can also sign up to the Priority Services Register by visiting www.enwl.co.uk/priority or contacting Electricity North West on 0800 195 4141.


Unforeseen flood damage causes power loss to Lancaster and surrounding areas

Electricity North West have issued another update on the power situation, after supply to 42,000 customers in Lancaster, Morecambe and Carnforth was lost at 4.00pm this afternoon.

"Colleagues had worked tirelessly through the night to restore our customers earlier this morning after floodwater breached flood defences at Lancaster's main substation just before 23:00 on Saturday cutting power to the towns.

"We have been working onsite throughout the day but unfortunately due to unforeseen flood damage at that site a significant fault has occurred," said a spokesperson. "We are calling for extra generators and engineers from across the country to help us to restore power to our customers.

"We are committed to getting customers back on supply as soon as possible but cannot yet confirm when power will be restored, but we will issue a further update at 20:30 hours."

Mark Williamson, operations director for Electricity North West, said: “Unfortunately power has been lost to customers in Lancaster and surrounding areas due to unforeseen flood damage at our substation.

“We are onsite and investigating the cause and we will update customers as soon as we find out more and again we would like to thank our customers for their patience and support during what continues to be an enormously challenging time for everyone involved.”

19,000 customers in Lancaster are still being supplied by generators that were mobilised overnight.

2,657 properties remain without power in Cumbria, where floodwater is restricting access for Electricity North West teams.

Flood defences at Kendal and Carlisle substations have held, protecting supplies to 110,000 homes.

Vulnerable customers, including some older or disabled people, or those with a medical dependency on electricity, can also sign up to the Priority Services Register by visiting www.enwl.co.uk/priority or contacting Electricity North West on 0800 195 4141.

For updates please visit @ElectricityNW, visit www.enwl.co.uk or call 0800 195 4141



Power Out Again For Battered Lancastrians

The power supply to 42,000 customers in Lancaster, Morecambe, Carnforth has been lost at 4.00pm this afternoon.

Power was restored to all customers this morning after floodwater breached flood defences at Lancaster's main substation just before 11.00pm on Saturday, cutting power to 55,000 properties.

Engineers are still onsite and are investigating the cause of the outage and will update customers as soon as possible.

Mark Williamson, operations director for Electricity North West, said: “Unfortunately power has been lost to customers in Lancaster and surrounding areas.

“We are onsite and investigating the cause and we will update customers as soon as we find out more and again we would like to thank our customers for their patience and support during what continues to be an enormously challenging time for everyone involved.”

2,657 properties remain without power in Cumbria, where floodwater is restricting access for Electricity North West teams.

Flood defences at Kendal and Carlisle substations have held, protecting supplies to 110,000 homes.

Vulnerable customers, including some older or disabled people, or those with a medical dependency on electricity, can also sign up to the Priority Services Register by visiting www.enwl.co.uk/priority or contacting Electricity North West on 0800 195 4141.

• For updates please visit @ElectricityNW, visit www.enwl.co.uk or call 0800 195 4141

Lancaster Police Issue Floods Update as foot bridges open but town shops remain closed

Photo: Morecambe Police

Lancaster Police are still working with all of their partner agencies to assist all affected by the weekend's flooding issues.

"At present shops in Lancaster City Centre remain closed with both Greyhound and Skerton Bridge closed to allow an inspection at low tide for damage caused by the floods", they say in a statement issued this morning.

"Travel between Lancaster and Morecambe is therefore not possible in a vehicle at present, however, both Millenium and Carlise bridge are open to pedestrians.

"Again though I must impress that Town Centre Shops are closed so only come out if absolutely necessary.

"Power is now being returned to most homes by generators located around the area whilst repairs are made to the electric sub station in Lancaster. In the meantime please check on elderly neighbours to ensure their safety.

"All emergency services remain dedicated to getting things back to some form of normality as soon as possible and we hope to provide more updates as to the ongoing works throughout the day.

"We thank you all for your patience and hope everyone is still okay."

• Lancaster Police on Twitter @PoliceLancaster and Morecambe Police @MorecambePolice

Despite the misery the floods have brought, even Morecambe Police are doing their best to cheer us up with tweets like this!


Power restored to homes after Lancaster floods - and other updates and useful links


Engineers from Electricity North West have restored power to 45,000 homes in Lancaster, Morecambe and the surrounding area and are continuing efforts to restore the remaining 10,000 later this morning.

Floodwater breached flood defences at Lancaster's main substation just before 11.00pm on Saturday, cutting power to 55,000 properties.

Engineers have been working in the substation since 111.00am on Sunday when it was safe to enter and start repairing damage caused by the water.

Steve Cox, Electricity North West Incident Manager, said: "While we still have a significant amount of work to do to fully repair the substation, our teams have worked round the clock and done enough to restore power to a large number of customers earlier than expected.

"Rather than wait any longer for the full repair and restoration of the site, we have chosen to provide power at the earliest opportunity.

"I'd like to thank customers for their understanding and their goodwill to our teams during what continues to be an enormously challenging time for everyone involved. We are immensely proud of the area and the people we serve in the way they have dealt with this incident."



Engineers will remain on site at the substation to continue additional repair and restoration work to equipment affected by the floodwater until all supplies are restored.

2,657 properties remain without power in Cumbria, where floodwater is restricting access for Electricity North West teams.

Steve added: "We will continue to work with the emergency services and our other partners in Cumbria to gain access to our sites and restore power to those still waiting to be connected as soon as the waters have receeded."

Flood defences at Kendal and Carlisle substations have held, protecting supplies to 110,000 homes.

Electricity North West is posting regular updates on its social media channels and has drafted in extra support to its contact centre to handle customer calls.

• Regular updates will be posted on Twitter @ElectricityNW. For emergencies, please call us on 0800 195 4141

Other News 


(Please note the situation is fluid and may change depending on engineering work etc. The Virtual-Lancaster team has been as affected by the floods as all Lancaster residents (this report is being posted from Malta by team member John Freeman!).

Please check our Facebook Page for more updates and we'll also try and update our Twitter page @virt_lancaster

• Halton residents: Electricity suppliers are hoping to restore power at some point on Tuesday.

• It's anticipated that both Greyhound Bridge and Skerton Bridge will be closed until at least 3.00pm on Monday 7 December for bridge inspections.

• Both the Millennium Bridge and Carlisle Bridge are now open to pedestrians

Several Lancaster schools are closed, please see this page on the Lancashire County Council web site for more information

• Many shops and businesses have been affected by the flooding.

• If you were due to have an elective operation at RLI of WGH today, call 01524 516095 to see if it is still going ahead.

• The recent flooding and loss of power in the district is having a major impact on all council services. More information here on the City Council web site

• Local bus services remain disrupted. For Stagecoach updates check this page on their web site - you'll need to enter your postcode: https://www.stagecoachbus.com/service-updates

Virgin Trains hope to restore train services from today, but work is still being carried out. For the latest information check their Twitter @VirginTrains

• The Northern Rail Lancaster to Morecambe timetable is here. Check the current status of services here and check their Twitter account for updates: @northernrailorg. Customer relations: 0333 222 0125

Lancaster University has postponed exams, tests and deadlines this week - students should await communication from departments later in the week. For more information visit their Twitter @LancasterUni | The Bay has a news report here

Useful Links


Lancaster Weather via the Met Office

Bay Radio has its own generator and has posted numerous updates on the floods and power situation. Follow them on Twitter @TheBayOfficial

Lancaster Guardian | On Twitter @GuardianDigital

• Helen Pidd, the national Guardian's North of England editor is tweeting updates @helenpidd

MPs: Cat Smith is on Twitter @CatSmithMP and David Morris is on Twitter @Davidmpmorris

The Lancaster Past & Present Facebook group has a lot of posts from residents on what's happening

• On Twitter, follow flood news using the hashtag #lancasterfloods

News Reports

Lancaster Guardian: Army drafted in to deal with Storm Desmond chaos

Lancaster Guardian: Firefighters say ‘serious underfunding’ is hampering flood response

• BBC News 6th December: Substation flooding leaves 55,000 Lancaster homes without power

• The Guardian: Army trucks used as ambulances after flooding cuts power in Lancaster

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Green Party set to Challenge Council's Plans for New Housing

Photo: Lancaster City Council
Does Turley's report on the Lancaster district's housing requirements – suggesting the area needs 13,000 - 14000 new homes between 2011 and 2031 - provide a compelling argument or do we need a truly independent review of its findings?

This will be the main theme of a public meeting, hosted by the Green Party, to be held in Lancaster Town Hall on Tuesday 8th December at 7.00pm, and comes ahead of their challenge to the findings at the next full Council meeting on 16th December.

Published in October, Turley's Strategic Housing Market Assessment report (PDF link)
updated the objective assessment of need for housing in Lancaster district, by considering the implications of the 2012-based sub-national household projections and the conclusions of the 2014 Review of the Employment Land Position for Lancaster District. Among other findings, the report suggests suggests a need for 553 dwellings per annum over the plan period from 2013 to 2031.

However, the report also suggest that scale would not support likely job growth in the district, and would only generate limited growth in Lancaster’s labour force based on prudent assumptions around commuting, economic activity and unemployment.

"Green Party councillors have been analysing the data and the assumptions which lie behind Turley's recommendation that the city council plan new homes," said Coun Tim Hamilton-Cox. "Whether it's the job-creation forecasts, the private house price and rentals evidence, or the employment rates assumed, the cumulative effect is: we just don't believe that the recommendation is based on a reasonable weighing of the evidence.

"We have to plan for growth, but just how much?”

“The amount of greenfield land being proposed for housing is unprecedented," feels Chair of the meeting, County Councillor Gina Dowding, "and has far-reaching consequences for distinct communities across the district, and for the environment.

"We owe it to our residents to be absolutely sure that planning for house-building on this scale is justified.”

“Green councillors are putting a motion to full council on 16th December to seek approval for an external review of Turley's report," Coun Caroline Jackson, who will also be speaking at the meeting, says.

"We favour a university-based specialist in planning, bearing in mind that Turley's principal business activity is securing planning permissions for developers.

"Other councils have sought third-party reviews of their housing requirement recommendations and we think that it's essential so that the council makes policy on the best thinking and evidence available.

"We want people to come along to the meeting and see what they think of the arguments. We really want the review to get cross-party support.”

• You can view all Lancaster City Council's current housing-related documents here on the City Council web site

Strategic Housing Market Assessment October 2015 (Turley Associates Independent Housing Requirements Study) - PDF Link

Lancaster Green Party