Friday, 15 January 2016

City Council Tries to Defend its plan to remove Market Square trees

Councillor Hanson: "I want to see trees in our urban areas and Market Square in particular"
Battling to defend its proposal to cut down Market Square lime trees in the face of mounting opposition, Lancaster City Council has issued a statement saying it would quickly move to plant new trees if a decision is taken to remove those in Lancaster’s Market Square.

That’s the message from Councillor Janice Hanson, the council’s Cabinet member for regeneration, but the statement also make it clear that the costs of maintaining the trees is one of the main issues driving the proposal, which is not supported by local councillors representing the ward, the Council's Tree Officer, market traders or many city centre businesses.

The city council’s Cabinet will meet next Tuesday to discuss the proposals, but campaigners will be trying to gather 200 signatures on a physical petition to ensure the proposal is debated by Full Council on Saturday morning in Market Square.

Lancaster Market Square. Photo: John Freeman

Over 1200 people have already signed an online petition against the plan.

“I want to assure people that I want to see trees in our urban areas and Market Square in particular," says Councillor Hanson.

“My view is that we need to take action because of the problems they cause, but we can also retain the benefits they bring by planting a more appropriate and manageable species.

“By doing this and reducing the number to three to four trees, which would be placed in planters, we can open up the beauty of Market Square while still benefiting from the colour they bring. They would remain a manageable size and we would also plant an additional seven new trees elsewhere in the district, meaning a net gain overall.

“Therefore, if Cabinet supports my proposals, we will move quickly to plant new trees because we do need them, but of a more appropriate number, size and species for Market Square.

The Council claims a particular issue with the current lime trees in the Square is that they are a haven for aphids that feed on the tree’s sap. They then secrete ‘honeydew’, a sugar rich sticky liquid, on to the new surfacing below, causing it to become slippery in wet weather.

But this is not the only issue – the trees also block out light from the Square and obscure buildings, the Council says. Cutting back and thinning is needed with increasing frequency to keep the crowns from buildings, to keep views through to business fronts relatively clear and to assure street lighting is effective.

With rapidly reducing resources due to Government cutbacks, this cost is unsustainable.

Removing the trees and having trees in planters instead would, the Council argues, also mean there is more space for seating, to permit more use for street cafes and for the Charter Market.

Campaigners argue the Market Square paving, installed as part of the Square Routes refurbishment of the city centre, was ill chosen and is slippery when wet even without leaf mould or other litter issues.

"Trees are not happy in planters," one objector responded to Councillor Hanson's comments. "No species will thrive in a severely restricted root zone. Trees in planters need watering in summer and annual feeding with compost.

"I have lived in Lancaster for ten years, working as a garden and landscape designer. In all that time I have never noticed honeydew from aphids under the limes in Market Square.

"We don't have an aphid problem.," they added. "We have an absence of birds and biodiversity problem. Is it chaffinches that gorge on aphids? My solution: Create square planted borders under the existing trees to attract more wildlife."


• You can download a copy of the physical petition form and get your friends to sign here then take it along on Saturday. If you can't get there, email Cherry Conovan on c.canovan1ATlancaster.ac.uk and she will organise collection of completed petitions.

You can sign an online petition here on change.org - but only the physical petition will count if you want to see the proposal debated by Full Council. Signatures are being gathered on
Saturday morning in Market Square. Over 1200 people have signed this petition.


Read our Open Letter to City Cabinet members about the proposal, challenging some of the claims made in the report

Read our report on the petition launch here

• All the documents relating to the proposal can be found here in the agenda for the Cabninet meeting next Tuesday, 19th January, but if you just want to read the proposal it's here and a background documents offering the views of named local councillors (who oppose the idea) and anonymous members of Lancaster BID who support it, that's here

Do You Think Cutting Down Market Square's trees is a Bad Idea?

Lobby your own City councillor

• Write to the City Council's cabinet members and tell them what you think. They're all Labour members (sadly, Labour voted to get rid of the trees when this was originally voted on).

• Eileen Blamire, Labour (Current Chair - can have casting vote if votes tied): eblamire@lancaster.gov.uk

• Janice Hanson, Labour (Vice Chair. Holds the portfolio for this decision, so she'll present & hold sway) jhanson@lancaster.gov.uk

• Abbot Bryning, Labour: abryning@lancaster.gov.uk

• Darren Clifford, Labour: dclifford@lancaster.gov.uk

• Karen Leytham, Labour: kleytham@lancaster.gov.uk

• Richard Newman-Thompson, Labour: Richard.newman-thompson@lancashire.gov.uk

• Margaret Pattison, Labour: mpattison@lancaster.gov.uk

• David Smith, Labour: dasmith@lancaster.gov.uk

• Lobby Lancaster's MP Cat Smith: 01524 566 551 or 01253 490 440 email: cat@catsmith.co.uk | Twitter @CatSmithMP

• Want to get a quick response from Lancaster City Council? Tweet and include the twitter handle: @LancasterCC hashtag #savelancasterlimes

• The Council's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lancastercc; there is already a discussion thread about the proposal on their Facebook page here

There is a Facebook group for the discussion about the trees here

• Complain to the council officer recommending and responsible for their removal direct, Mark Davies, Lancaster City Council's chief officer for the environment. Call him on 01524 582000 – ask for him specifically

Save The Market Square Limes: Residents Speak Out


Next Tuesday, 19th January 2016, Lancaster City Council's Cabinet will vote on whether to cut down all the lime trees in Lancaster's Market Square (see our latest news story on this proposal).

Watch the video to find out produced by Ray Turner to find out what the residents of Lancaster think of this: https://youtu.be/C4IBUJrlJhY.

Lancaster Market Square. Photo: John Freeman

Many are critical of the Council, which appears from responses to concerns about the proposal, in denial that the paving chosen to refurbish the Square itself is a slippage issue.

Although Lancaster's Market Square was paved with the same kind of stone used in other places, such as London's Trafalgar Square, that comparison is perhaps a misdirection given the amount spent on cleaning one of our capital's largest public spaces on a daily basis.

Campaigners will be collecting signatures on Saturday morning in Market Square to try and get this proposal debated by Full Council, not just the Labour Cabinet alone.

Lancaster city centre councillors, outdooor market traders, many local businesses and the Council's Tree Officer have outlined their concerns at the proposal and local MP Cat Smith has also questioned the idea in a letter to the Council's Chief Executive.

Over 1200 people have signed an online petition but physical signatures are needed to prompt a Full Council debate on the proposal, which has not been a matter of  public consultation, even though the lime trees have been part of the Square's make-up for 40 years.

• You can download a copy of the physical petition form and get your friends to sign here then take it along on Saturday. If you can't get there, email Cherry Conovan on c.canovan1ATlancaster.ac.uk and she will organise collection of completed petitions.
You can signan online petition here on change.org - but only the physical petition will count if you want to see the proposal debated by Full Council. Signatures are being gathered on Saturday morning in Market Square. Over 1200 people have signed this petition.

Read our Open Letter to City Cabinet members about the proposal, challenging some of the claims made in the report

Read our report on the petition launch here

• All the documents relating to the proposal can be found here in the agenda for the Cabninet meeting next Tuesday, 19th January, but if you just want to read the proposal it's here and a background documents offering the views of named local councillors (who oppose the idea) and anonymous members of Lancaster BID who support it, that's here


Do You Think Cutting Down Market Square's trees is a Bad Idea?


Lobby your own City councillor

• Write to the City Council's cabinet members and tell them what you think. They're all Labour members (sadly, Labour voted to get rid of the trees when this was originally voted on).


• Eileen Blamire, Labour (Current Chair - can have casting vote if votes tied): eblamire@lancaster.gov.uk
• Janice Hanson, Labour (Vice Chair. Holds the portfolio for this decision, so she'll present & hold sway) jhanson@lancaster.gov.uk
• Abbot Bryning, Labour: abryning@lancaster.gov.uk
• Darren Clifford, Labour: dclifford@lancaster.gov.uk
• Karen Leytham, Labour: kleytham@lancaster.gov.uk
• Richard Newman-Thompson, Labour: Richard.newman-thompson@lancashire.gov.uk
• Margaret Pattison, Labour: mpattison@lancaster.gov.uk
• David Smith, Labour: dasmith@lancaster.gov.uk

• Lobby Lancaster's MP Cat Smith: 01524 566 551 or 01253 490 440 email: cat@catsmith.co.uk | Twitter @CatSmithMP

• Want to get a quick response from Lancaster City Council? Tweet and include the twitter handle: @LancasterCC hashtag #savelancasterlimes

• The Council's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lancastercc; there is already a discussion thread about the proposal on their Facebook page here

There is a Facebook group for the discussion about the trees here

• Complain to the council officer recommending and responsible for their removal direct, Mark Davies, Lancaster City Council's chief officer for the environment. Call him on 01524 582000 – ask for him specifically.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Local Cinema Round-Up for the 13th to 21st January 2016

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 three new releases making it to the local cinemas during this period. We have boxing action with Creed (12), a tale of revenge in The Revenant (15) and a documentary on sheep farming with Addicted to Sheep (PG). Other than these the situation is rather static.

It looks likely that we are soon to loose The Lady in the Van but there are no other losses to report. In addition the excellent science fiction adventure The Martian is returning for one day only.

Drama abounds. There is western action in The Hateful Eight, science fiction with Star Wars: the Force Awakens, nautical adventure in The Heart of the Sea and the emotional drama The Danish Girl.

For comedy Joy and Daddy's Home are both excellent movies. More family oriented films come with Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts movie; The Good Dinosaur and Hotel Transylvania 2.

Reviews

Creed
Director: Ryan Coogler
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Michael B Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tony Bellew
Adonis "Donnie" Jackson (Jordan) is the son of former heavyweight boxing champion Apollo Creed. He is determined to become a fighter and looks up his fathers old friend Rocky Balboa (Stallone), who agrees to become his trainer despite problems of his own. Jackson gets a chance to prove his worth by fighting the world light heavyweight champion "Pretty" Ricky Conlan (Bellew). The movie closely mirrors the original Rocky with fighting underdog making good. However this is very much a film in its own right with Stallone and Jordan giving excellent performances, making for great entertainment.

Daddy's Home
Director: Sean Anders
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini
A comedy. Conservative radio executive Brad (Ferrell) marries Sarah (Cardellini) and tries to be a good step dad to her two children. However his wife's charismatic and musclebound former husband Dusty (Wahlberg) comes for an extended visit. Brad finds he must now compete with their real father for the affection of his step children. There is a real on-screen chemistry between Ferrell and Wahlberg as they vie with each other and this provides plenty of opportunity for gags and comedy set pieces. However some of the gags are rather predictable leaving a film that is genuinely funny but seldom hilarious.

In the Heart of the Sea
Director: Ron Howard
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Ben Whishaw, Brendon Gleeson, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy
A film based on a non-fiction book by Nathaniel Philbrick. It is set in the winter of 1820 when the whaling ship the Essex sets sail. Finding the local whaling ground is depleted, the ship ventures into the Pacific Ocean. Here prey is bountiful, but a massive sperm whale seeks vengeance against the hunters. It attacks the ship and the crew take refuge on a tiny island where they face the prospect of starvation. Hence they have little option but to take to the seas again to face the hardships and privations of an extended voyage to return home. This is a gripping film with convincing special effects and plenty of action, though somewhat lacking in suspense. An entertaining sea-fairing yarn.

Joy
Director: David O Russell
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Diana Ladd
A semi-fictional biographical comedy drama about a mop, or how Joy Mangaro (Lawrence) became a millionaire. Joy is a divorced mother with two children, living with her extended dysfunctional family who all depend upon her. In the early 1990s she invents and markets the Miracle Mop. This becomes a great success, selling on a TV shopping channel. Her grandmother Mimi (Ladd) is always supportive of her, and it is she who supplies the narration during the film. The movie has a strong cast and Lawrence provides an exceptionally strong performance. There are some laugh out loud moments during the movie though at times it seemed a little flat. A good, but not a great film.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Director: J J Abrams
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver.
The movie is set some thirty years after 'The Return of the Jedi'. The power vacuum left after the Empire was vanquished has been filled by the 'First Order' who start to control the galaxy with their stormtroopers. The movie tells of the adventures of Han Solo (Ford), Chewbacca and Princess (now General) Leia (Fisher) as they join new characters including Rey (Ridley), a scavenger, Finn (Boyega) a First Order Conscript and a spherical droid BB-8 as they battle the First Order led by the ominous Kylo Ren (Driver). This movie follows the style of the first star wars trilogy and, for this reviewer, was much better than the prequels. Old characters make a welcome appearance to supplement the newer heroes and villains. An excellent movie in all respects and the best Star Wars yet.

The Danish Girl
Director: Tom Hooper
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Ben Whishaw
The film is based on a novel by David Ebershoff and inspired by the lives of Dutch artists Lili Elbe/Einar Wegener (Redmayne) and Gerda Wegener (Vikander). Set in the mid 1920's Gerda is a portrait painter, but a sitter is late for an appointment. Hence Gerda gets her husband Einar to stand in for the missing female sitter. This has consequences. Einar has been harbouring a disire to become a female and the finished portrait attracts favourable attention from art dealers. Einar decides to permanently convert to his alter ego Lili Elbe and becomes one of the first people to received a surgical sex realignment procedure to change from a man to a woman. The movie follows both the artists as they come to terms with the change from Einar to Lili. A serious movie, well acted and well received that highlights the issues of gender reassignment.

The Hateful Eight
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Certificate: 18
Cast Includes: Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins
A mystery western set in Wyoming some years after the American civil war, and told in six chapters. A stagecoach bound for Red Rock picks up a number of passengers. These include John Ruth (Russell), bounty hunter, Daisy Domergue (Leigh) a criminal, Major Marquis Warren (Jackson) another bounty hunter and Chris Mannix (Groggins) the prospective sheriff of Red Rock. Due to a blizzard, the stage coach is forced to make a stopover at Minnie's Haberdashery and here the travellers meet a local hangman, a loner, a Mexican and a Confederate General. These eight must spend the night together. However, one of them is plotting evil and the night descends into violence and death. This is an excellent movie, stylish, well acted and with excellent dialogue. Tarantino slowly builds up tension and suspense during the first half of the movie, leading to a final climactic resolution.

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.

The Martian
Director: Ridley Scott
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig
A manned mission to the planet mars is aborted when the crew face a huge sandstorm. However astronaut and botanist Mark Watney (Damon) is left behind, presumed dead. Yet he lives and must now find a way to survive and contact Earth in the hope that a rescue mission can be mounted. The movie is based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Andy Weir. This is a homage to the ingenuity of man in desperate circumstances. The movie is visually effective, scientifically accurate and is well seasoned with humour. An excellent film that has received glowing reviews.

The Revenant
Director: Alejandro G Inarritu
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy
Set in Montana and South Dakota in the year 1823 and based on the book by Michael Punke, this is a tale of revenge. A party trapping for pelts in the American wilderness come under attack by native Americans of the Arikara nation. With most of the hunting party slain, the remainder escape. However one of their number, Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) is attacked and nearly killed by a bear. The remainder of the hunters split up. The larger group go back to their barracks whereas a couple of men including John Fitzgerald (Hardy) stay to look after Glass. However Fitzgerald tries to kill Glass and then abandons him to the wilderness. Against the odds Glass survives and is intent on revenge. The scenery in the movie is breathtaking and the action shots are stunning. The bulk of the film shows the tribulations of Glass as, wounded, he tries to return to safety after his abandonment. An emotional, well acted and very convincing movie.

Market Traders Back Campaign to Save Square's Trees, MP Cat Smith Questions Proposal

Lancaster Market Square. Photo: John Freeman

The campaign to save Lancaster Market Square's lime trees (#savelancasterlimes) from the chop is gathering pace, with Charter Market traders joining the protest against the idea.

Lancaster City Council's Cabinet will discuss a proposal to remove the trees on Tuesday 19th January at 6.00pm at Morecambe Town Hall - an idea which is being opposed by hundreds of local people, with nearly 1000 people signing an online petition in protest.


Cat Smith's letter to the Chief Executive of the City Council, challenging the proposal

Local MP Cat Smith has also written to the Council's Chief Executive Mark Cullinan, questioning the proposal.

Trees are an important part of our urban landscape, for health and aesthetic reasons," she commented in an online statement via her Facebook page. "I have asked the Council for more details about any safety risk they pose and for assurances that if the trees are removed they can be replaced appropriately with more suitable trees for our urban environment."

Campaigners have been told they now need 200 physical signatures for a petition that will be presented to the Council, a number that will mean the proposal will then have to be debated by full Council and not just the City's Cabinet. They will be collecting signatures on Saturday morning in Market Square. (You can download a copy of the petition and get your friends to sign here - then take it along on Saturday. If you can't get there, email Cherry Conovan on c.canovan1ATlancaster.ac.uk and she will organise collection of completed petitions)

Charter Market traders were canvassed this morning not one was in favour of the tree cull proposal by the Council's Environment Officer Mark Davies that will be presented at the meeting to remove the trees.

The proposal has attracted support from some but not all members of the business support group Lancaster BID, which is chaired by Paul Cusimano, owner of Joseph+Co, which has St Nicholas Arcades Manager Jerry North as its Vice Chairman and run on a day to day basis by BID Manager Liz Hickingbotham, who was a founding member of the Lancaster City Retail Group within the local Chamber of Commerce and Events & Marketing Assistant, Rachael Wilkinson.

Members of Lancaster BID that might have an interest in the look of Market Square include Elston Holdings Ltd, owners of Market Gate Shopping Centre.

The proposal cites £11,000 additional costs of cleaning the Square because of the trees as one reason for their removal and concerns at slippage, mainly caused by honeydew deposits, a sugar rich sticky liquid that aphids secrete when feeding on leaf sap. This drops and makes street surfaces beneath very grimy and, at certain times of year slippery in wet weather. In phone calls with residents, Mr Davies has claimed that the figure quoted would cover the cost extra four jet washes of the Square every week - even though the aphids that create the honeydew are active for just two months in the year.

On their Facebook page, the Council has said the cleaning costs are an estimate based on rising costs in tree care as the existing trees mature, as well as additional associated street cleaning.

Campaigners have countered "slipping issues", arguing that the paving used for the Square Routes refurbishment is the major issue and have asked that if these trees are culled, would others follow on the same basis. They have also offered alternatives to cutting the trees down.

"As a 70-year old who walks down Market Street frequently I want to say that the resurfacing is much better than the old surface - it is only slippery in wet weather when there are seeds or other detritus on it," said one VL reader on first hearing of the plan late last year. "The trees add greatly to the ambience of the area and should only be removed if they make it unsafe."

"The Council would do well to pay attention to research carried out in Lancaster," commented reader Andrew Walker, referring to Lancaster University research into how trees cut down air pollution.

"Here's an idea. If the leaves cause a slip hazard, sweep them up," added local business man David Chandler.

"I appreciate there are cut-backs to Council services but they find time to plant thousands of flowers on roundabouts, so I'm sure a quick sweep isn't beyond them."


You can sign the petition here on change.org - but only the physical petition will count if you want to see the proposal debated by Full Council. Signatures are being gathered on Saturday morning in Market Square

• You can download a copy of the physical petition form and get your friends to sign here then take it along on Saturday. If you can't get there, email Cherry Conovan on c.canovan1ATlancaster.ac.uk and she will organise collection of completed petitions.

Read our Open Letter to City Cabinet members about the proposal, challenging some of the claims made in the report

Read our report on the petition launch here

• All the documents relating to the proposal can be found here in the agenda for the Cabninet meeting next Tuesday, 19th January, but if you just want to read the proposal it's here and a background documents offering the views of named local councillors (who oppose the idea) and anonymous members of Lancaster BID who support it, that's here


Do You Think Cutting Down Market Square's trees is a Bad Idea?


Lobby your own City councillor

• Write to the City Council's cabinet members and tell them what you think. They're all Labour members (sadly, Labour voted to get rid of the trees when this was originally voted on).


• Eileen Blamire, Labour (Current Chair - can have casting vote if votes tied) : eblamire@lancaster.gov.uk
• Janice Hanson, Labour (Vice Chair. Holds the portfolio for this decision, so she'll present & hold sway) jhanson@lancaster.gov.uk
• Abbot Bryning, Labour: abryning@lancaster.gov.uk
• Darren Clifford, Labour: dclifford@lancaster.gov.uk
• Karen Leytham, Labour: kleytham@lancaster.gov.uk
• Richard Newman-Thompson, Labour: Richard.newman-thompson@lancashire.gov.uk
• Margaret Pattison, Labour: mpattison@lancaster.gov.uk
• David Smith, Labour: dasmith@lancaster.gov.uk

• Lobby Lancaster's MP Cat Smith: 01524 566 551 or 01253 490 440 email: cat@catsmith.co.uk | Twitter @CatSmithMP

• Want to get a quick response from Lancaster City Council? Tweet and include the twitter handle: @LancasterCC hashtag #savelancasterlimes

• The Council's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lancastercc; there is already a discussion thread about the proposal on their Facebook page here

There is a Facebook group for the discussion about the trees here

• Complain to the council officer recommending and responsible for their removal direct, Mark Davies, Lancaster City Council's chief officer for the environment. Call him on 01524 582000 – ask for him specifically.

Local Theatre Company Seeks New Blood for Morecambe Shakespeare Show

Poster art by Arfon Jones
Award-winning theatre company Attic Door Productions will be holding auditions for their production of The Tempest, which will be performed at The Winter Gardens Morecambe as part of Bard by the Beach - Shakespeare Festival  in April.

 Attic Door Productions is the theatrical arm of the award winning team at Little Gargoyle Ltd., who have already blazed a trail in the World of Murder Mysteries with their nights of dinner entertainment over at After Dark Murder Mystery. Their education department is making history in the world of
Wicked Workshops and at Attic Door they concentrate on staging exciting and innovative theatre for stage and beyond.

Previously, the team at Little Gargoyle has sold out the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 3 years in a row, won the best comedy show at Buxton Fringe (in 2010) and best International show at Hollywood Fringe (2011) and now they're back for more, with a production of Wind in the Willows also in the works for Summer 2016.

Bard By the Beach, running 22nd - 24th April 2016, will mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. Organised by Little Gargoyle Ltd., it's the very first Morecambe Shakespeare Festival celebrating the Bard's life and works and will include theatre, music, poetry, song, dance, art and a historical rennaisance market.

Performers and artists - who include the Rose Company, Regent Park Studios and The Rubbish Shakespeare Company as well as Attic Door Productions - will converge by the beach and bring the world's most famous playwright's work to life in a variety of exciting projects over a weekend full of events for all the family.

There will be two days with the opportunity to audition for The Tempest: Tuesday 19th January 7.00pm - 9.00pm and Sunday 24th January 2.00pm - 4.00pm

Auditions will be held at The Headway Hotel in Morecambe. If you want a time slot and more details of the audition piece then please email us at info@atticdoorproductions.co.uk.

The Tempest will be performed on 22nd and 23rd April 2016

• For more about Attic Door Productions visit www.atticdoorproductions.co.uk | Find them on Facebook | Follow them on Twitter @AtticDoorPro

• For more about the Bard by the Beach - Shakespeare Festival visit: www.bardbythebeach.co.uk

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Cannabis factory found at former Lancaster church




Cannabis with an estimated street value of £650,000 has been discovered at a former church in Lancaster.

Officers found in around 1000 cannabis plants in the main hall of the former St Michaels Church on Parkgate Drive around midday on Monday 11 January. The plants were spread over three storeys and divided into 12 growing rooms in the building which has now been partially converted into flats.

A 24-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of cultivating cannabis and is currently being questioned by police in Lancaster.

DS Martin Foley of Lancaster Intelligence Department said: “We know the misery drugs can bring to a community and we are determined to do everything we can to remove them.

"We rely on the public's continued support and I urge anyone with information or concerns to contact us."

• Anyone with information about drugs can contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111

Lancaster MP Cat Smith demands PM apply for EU flood relief funds

Cat Smith
Cat Smith, Member of Parliament for Lancaster and Fleetwood, has written to the Prime Minister demanding that he apply for flood relief funds from the European Union.

"Across Lancashire people's homes, farms, and businesses have been devastated by flooding,' she said, "but while government ministers have said they will do everything they can to help, the Prime Minister has not yet asked the European Union for much needed funds."

"In the past year countries such as Italy, Bulgaria, and Romania have applied to the EU Solidarity Fund, and received more than £40 million in support for similar circumstances. It really must be asked why the PM is dragging his feet in making an application, when the funds could do much to support people in the North West."

Labour Members of the European Parliament wrote to the Prime Minister in early December, after the Boxing Day floods, asking that he make an application to the EU Solidarity Fund. They continue to await a reply, or to see an application made by the government.

Market Square Trees: An Open Letter to Lancaster City Council's Labour Cabinet



Dear Lancaster City Council Cabinet Members

We have read the documents relating to the proposal to cut down the trees that you will be discussing next week (news story here) and we are hoping you will join with Councillors Dave Brookes and Nick Wilkinson, who represent the city centre ward, and oppose these plans.

We know we are not alone in being concerned by this proposal. Over 800 people have now signed an online petition: https://www.change.org/p/lancaster-city-council and the number is growing.

In addition a lot of people on social media are bemused by the lack of public consultation on this issue, and even more are puzzled that the proposal is in direct contravention of Lancaster City Council Tree Policy adopted in October 2010 which clearly states: "We will not prune or fell a council owned/managed tree to remove or reduce honeydew or other sticky residue from trees."

We feel that Cabinet is being backed into a corner on this with scare stories of possible legal issues if people slip in the Square on the basis, in part, of hearsay evidence. If so many people are slipping, then what's to stop them from slipping for similar reasons on other streets in the town centre and elsewhere there are trees, like Penny Street? Will they then be removed too?

Where would such a policy end? Would this mean the removal of the lime trees in Dalton Square for example?

We're also alarmed that all the concerns cited by members of Lancaster BID in the report are anonymous and that the "arboreal expert" is not named in the report.


We're aware Cabinet member Councillor Clifford has also cited his own eye witness account of seeing people slipping in the Square via Twitter. Council officers have defended the choice of stone used for the welcome Square Routes funded refurbishment on the Council's Facebook page, but the "aphid issue" described in the reports is not a year long problem.

Could it be that the wrong choice of paving was made? Has the Council got access to city centre accident reports from the Ambulance Services and how do they relate to the most active periods of "aphid infestation"?

Surely Cabinet cannot be considering the removal of the lime trees on the basis of hearsay alone?

In addition, the report mentions an additional cleaning cost of £11,000 a year if the trees aren't removed, but there's no indication of how that figure was arrived at. If the cost is so high, then surely the Council should be encouraging the use and hire of the Square Routes plinth which would help cover costs, instead of making it near impossible for organisations to use it?

The report on this matter also states that the trees should be removed because of a risk to "Roman remains". We haven't heard there were any Roman remains in Market Square (perhaps there are, but why weren't they found when the paving was being laid?) but we’re sure some councillors will recall that there is the remains of a very large underground public toilet, which we doubt has much archaeological value.

We’re aware of the aphid problem that affects lime trees and that some councils have considered (or indeed have) chopped them down wholesale, despite their value as pollutant absorbers. In 2005, the Daily Telegraph reported that some councils are proud of their trees and vowed to preserve them. John Smith, a council tree officer in Sheffield, which claims to be the greenest city in England, said: "Lime trees are a huge part of the Victorian heritage of Sheffield, there are huge swathes of them.

There are alternatives to cutting down the trees. Research by the University of Leiden suggests an alternative biological method for dealing with aphids given that the release of ladybirds (which has been tried) is not always effective because the adult ladybirds disperse quickly. Basically, it suggests the release of a natural flightless strain of the ladybird beetle Adalia bipunctata to reduce aphid-born honeydew beneath urban lime trees. The PDF is here.

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead offers this advice on aphid issues in its Tree Strategy Guidance: "Honeydew drip is caused by aphid infestations on some species of tree and can be an issue in respect of vehicles, glazing and paved surfaces. Honey dew is sugary water which the aphids extract from the tree. It's effects may be avoided by keeping soft ground directly underneath the crown spread of the tree. Where honey dew does fall onto smooth or high quality hard surfaces and vehicle parking areas, it can be easily removed with warm soapy water.

"Trees such as Lime and Sycamore that thrive in urban areas but are susceptible to aphid infestations, do however provide a positive benefit, as the sticky leaves collect and trap dust and harmful PM10s particles and so help reduce airborne pollution. Aphids are also an important source of food for birds and other wildlife." Their full guidance is here

To sum up, we are not only objecting to the chopping down of the trees. We are objecting to a lack of public consultation (counter to the Council's consultations on a lot of other things, like a new skate park at the moment for example); questionable arguments in favour of their removal; anonymous complaints based on anecdotal reports that lead me to question the choice of paving (even if it is the same paving used in London's Trafalgar Square).

We also feel strongly that with a bit of creative thinking and better use of the Square's new Plinth, at least some of the costs of cleaning could be recouped.

As we understand it, Lancaster BID already contribute to the cost of cleaning the town centre already.

We urge you to oppose the proposal.

#savelancasterlimes

Do You Think Cutting Down Market Square's trees is a Bad Idea?


Let the City Cabinet know. Cabinet Members contacts (all freely available on Council website via http://committeeadmin.lancaster.gov.uk/mgMemberIndex.aspx?bcr=1

They're all Labour members (sadly, Labour voted to get rid of the trees when this was originally voted on).

• Eileen Blamire, Labour (Current Chair - can have casting vote if votes tied) eblamire@lancaster.gov.uk
• Janice Hanson, Labour (Vice Chair. Holds the portfolio for this decision, so she'll present & hold sway) jhanson@lancaster.gov.uk
• Abbot Bryning, Labour. abryning@lancaster.gov.uk
• Darren Clifford, Labour. dclifford@lancaster.gov.uk
• Karen Leytham, Labour, kleytham@lancaster.gov.uk
• Richard Newman-Thompson Richard.newman-thompson@lancashire.gov.uk
• Margaret Pattison mpattison@lancaster.gov.uk
• David Smith, dasmith@lancaster.gov.uk

Primary school applications are about to close

Online applications - the quick, easy and secure way to apply for primary school places for autumn 2016 - are about to close at Lancashire County Council's website.

The online application system is open until 11:59 pm on 15 January 2016 for primary schools.

It is important to remember that parents of all children starting school need to submit an application form, even if the child has an older brother or sister at the school concerned.

• For more information, visit www.lancashire.gov.uk/schools 

Parents can also call our area offices on:

• 01524 581148 or 01524 581134 (north – Lancaster, Morecambe, Wyre, Fylde)

• 01254 220718 or 01254 220742 (east – Burnley, Pendle, Hyndburn, Ribble Valley, Rossendale)

• 01772 532191 or 01772 532190 (south – Preston, Chorley, South Ribble, West Lancashire)

Monday, 11 January 2016

Petition Protesting Proposed Tree Removals in Market Square Gathers Pace



(Updated 12th January): A petition launched to protest the proposal to chop down trees in Lancaster's Market Square has already attracted over 500 signatures since it was launched at the weekend - but it will take more than this to try to halt the plans.

As we previously reported, the proposal to remove the trees came after Lancaster City Council approached Lancaster Business Improvement District to consult with the businesses on their experiences of the trees situated in Market Square.

The City Council's Cabinet is due to meet on Tuesday 19th January, when we understand the removal of the seven lime trees is likely to be approved. The decision will be taken by Councillor Janice Hanson, Deputy Leader and Portfolio holder for Economic Regeneration, Planning.

Recommending the trees be removed, Lancaster City Council's chief officer for the environment Mark Davies' main argument for removal is that leaves make the the paving slippery (PDF link). He cites an additional annual cost for cleaning the square of £11,000, but there is no indication in the document as to the source or workings for arriving at that cost.

Neither is there any proposal that hiring of the Square Routes funded plinth for events could offset cleaning costs. (At present, the process for hiring of the plinth for commercial use is, unfortunately, labyrinthine, which may dissuade some interest in using it for promotions).

Many have countered that Market Square being slippery is actually the direct result of a poor choice of paving surface when the city was re-paved under the "Square Routes" project and many people have said they have almost slipped in lots of other places in town where the new stones have been laid.

Another argument cited is that removing the trees "would help safeguard any Roman archaeological remains beneath the ground that would be risked by tree roots.”

As any longtime Lancastrian knows, the only possible "archaeological find" in Market Square is the long-since closed public toilets, located in its centre.

The very idea of the trees being removed provoked outrage from visitors to our news pages when new first broke, the virtual-lancaster Facebook page and other Lancaster-dedicated social media outlets such as the 14,000-strong Lancaster Past & Present Facebook group.

Dave Brookes and Nick Wilkinson, the councillors for the city centre ward, oppose the removal of the trees, noted in a supplementary document to be presented at the Cabinet meeting (PDF link), but several local businesses, represented by Lancaster BID, appear in favour.

"My very strong preference would be for the existing trees to remain in situ," argues Councillor Brookes. "I understand that there will be a cost to maintaining mature trees in this most urban of settings, but I don’t think said cost is a valid reason to remove them. 

"In any case, cost needs to be set against the wide range of benefits that street trees provide, including summer shade, improved air quality, rainwater detention, aesthetic appeal, and an injection of life into what would otherwise be a fairly sterile environment, pigeons excepted."

Lancaster BID argues the trees have yet to grow to their full size (noting they are the same species as the mature trees in Dalton Square). An anonymous representative of the business group stated local retail owners had raised concerns about slip hazards but make no comment on the council's oft-criticised paving choice.

The Lancaster City Council Tree Policy, adopted October 2010 clearly states: "We will not prune or fell a council owned/managed tree to remove or reduce honeydew or other sticky residue from trees."

In his petition, local resident Ian Smith states:

Lancaster Council are planning to cut down the trees in the city's central square, citing health and safety reasons because of the secretions of aphids that live in the trees. However these trees are one of the most attractive features of the city centre and have been in place without causing harm for many years. We call on the council to rule out removing the trees and to find alternative solutions to this problem.

"I think it is the new paving slabs that are at fault in causing the slipperiness and not the aphids," commented Brenda Mitchell. "The stones have changed, the trees and aphids have not!"

"I'm against taking trees down as they were never a problem in the past," agrees Lois Lawton, "Yet since council have laid new paving it's lethal. Blame the paving not the trees."

Do You Think Cutting Down Market Square's trees is a Bad Idea?


Let the City Cabinet know. Cabinet Members contacts (all freely available on Council website via http://committeeadmin.lancaster.gov.uk/mgMemberIndex.aspx?bcr=1

They're all Labour members (sadly, Labour voted to get rid of the trees when this was originally voted on).

• Eileen Blamire, Labour (Current Chair - can have casting vote if votes tied) eblamire@lancaster.gov.uk
• Janice Hanson, Labour (Vice Chair. Holds the portfolio for this decision, so she'll present & hold sway) jhanson@lancaster.gov.uk
• Abbot Bryning, Labour. abryning@lancaster.gov.uk
• Darren Clifford, Labour. dclifford@lancaster.gov.uk
• Karen Leytham, Labour, kleytham@lancaster.gov.uk
• Richard Newman-Thompson Richard.newman-thompson@lancashire.gov.uk
• Margaret Pattison mpattison@lancaster.gov.uk
• David Smith, dasmith@lancaster.gov.uk

Lobby your own City councillor

• Lobby Lancaster's MP Cat Smith: 01524 566 551 or 01253 490 440 email: cat@catsmith.co.uk Twitter: @CatSmithMP You can sign the petition here on change.org

A petition on its own will not save the trees. What's needed is intensive lobbying of all those involved over then next week. Here are all the details:

• Complain to the council officer recommending and responsible for their removal direct, Mark Davies, Lancaster City Council's chief officer for the environment. Call him on 01524 582000 – ask for him specifically.

• Want to get a quick response from Lancaster City Council? Tweet and include the twitter handle: @LancasterCC hashtag #savelancasterlimes

• The Council's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lancastercc; there is already a discussion thread about the proposal on their Facebook page here

There is a Facebook group for the discussion about the trees here