Friday, 26 September 2008

Traffic Management Cheaper than Bypass, says expert

Concerned that vital Department for Transport appraisal guidance has not been followed in planning for the planned Heysham M6 Link road, and the fact that there is no clear statement as to what the costs really are, local campaign group Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe (TSLM) engaged a national transport expert, Keith Buchan, who works for transport planning consultants MTRU, to look into matters.

In his report (available from the virtual-lancaster website, PDF format), which is now being considered by the DfT, he concludes that vital appraisal guidance has not been followed and that a proper alternative package of transport measures should be prepared to compare with the Northern route scheme.

Lancashire County Council's proposal for the Heysham M6 Link was called in by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and went through a Planning Inquiry in 2007. It is now awaiting a decision from the DfT as to whether it can be entered into the capital programme for the North West region.

The original total scheme cost was £113m in 2002 prices, according to the Council's own Transport User Benefit Appraisal (TUBA). The original cost will go up to £142m in 2008 prices (assuming 6% p.a. construction cost inflation). The delay of three years in construction would thus make the £113m go up to £135m (2002 prices).

Mr Buchan, part of a team with a wide range of clients that includes British Gas, the Council for the Protection of Rural England, the Department of the Environment and Transport for London, argues there needs to be a clear statement of what the current costs really are and this almost certainly needs a new estimate to be prepared. He also says the Council would be better spending less money on congestion busting measures, not the Northern route.

The Council's arguments that the road will bring more employment are also disputed. The proposer’s figure of 6,000 new jobs was not supported by the Planning Inquiry Inspector who mentioned, but did not confirm, the figure of 600 in his report. If these figures were used, the cost per job would be £233,000, well in excess of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's benchmark of £27,000.

The Council has also not explained how Heysham expansion fits within national ports policy and rail policy and how it interacts with development at other ports.

In his recommendations, Mr Buchan says a proper alternative package should be prepared to compare with the proposed scheme including smarter choices in the economic appraisal; that an assessment of how the driver benefits would undermine the use of sustainable modes and smarter choices must be included; that the expansion of Heysham, and its relationship with other ports, needs to be undertaken as part of national policy and the need for ports to be rail linked; and a full assessment of the impact on carbon emissions in 2020 and their costs, and how the scheme will help or hinder in achieving the reduction target, must be prepared and included in the appraisal.

"A considerable amount of work on other measures has already been done by council consultants Faber Maunsell and proposals have been made in a £120,000 report, but the Preston based County Council stubbornly sticks to the £189 million Link road as its top prioritiess" says David Gate, chair of TSLM.

"The main purpose of the Link is to attract more heavy traffic to use Heysham port, but for most local people between town congestion is the main priority."

"It will come down to a question of priorities; no one in their right mind thinks that the taxpayer can afford both," says David Gate. "We believe that for half the price of the Link Lancaster and Morecambe could get the integrated transport solution that it deserves and we challenge the County Council to prove that we are wrong."

• Read Keith Buchan's report via (PDF)

City Council Rejects Fluoridation of Water Supplies - Again

Lancaster City Council has voted to tell North Lancahire Primary Care Trust that they do not want artificial fluoride added to the drinking water of residents in this district. A full report Can be found here on the Council web site (PDF).
"I think that people should have the choice as to whether they use fluoride and that it should not be used as a mass medication," said Coun Jon Barry, who proposed the motion to reject artificial fluoridation.

"I'm particularly concerned by the increase in fluorisis in children's teeth in areas that are fluoridated - and also by the possibility of more serious effects such as cancer and brittle bones in the elderly. I hope that the Primary Care Trust take notice of the City Council's decision."

Dr Paul Connett, who is vehemently opposed to fluoridation, recently visited Southampton to join campaigners there to add his voice to the consultation on plans to add fluoride to that city’s tap water.

"Fluoridation is an American crackpot idea from the 1950s,” he told the local paper the Daily Echo. "...“Fluoride causes health problems, damaging the bones and the brain.

"There have also been 23 studies done in China, India, Iran and Mexico showing fluoride lowers IQ levels in children. “

Findings by the World Health Organisation appear to show that the world's few 'fluoridated' countries have no greater tooth cavity reduction then the majority that abstain from fluoridation. In the USA there is apparently no relationship in a single state showing fluoridation reduces cavities.

This is not the first time the City Council has rejected plans for fluoride in the water, joining other councils such as Pendle and the Isle of Man. The Council passed an anti-fluoride motion at full council in July 2003 proposed by John Whitelegg.

Quite coincidentally, the Council has just voted to drop bottled water in favour of tap water at meetings!

Fluoride Alert (Anti)
Fight Against Fluoride (Anti)
UK Against Fluoride (Anti)
British Fluoridation Society (Pro)

Call for Mental Health Unit Plans to be Scrapped

Green Party County Councillor Chris Coates has called for Lancashire Care Trust (LCT) to scrap their plans for new mental health unit at Royal Albert fields, off Ashton Road in Lancaster, and to start the site selection process again.

The call came after a Task Group presented a damning report on the LCT public consultation to the County Council's Adult Social Care and Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, at their meeting on Tuesday 23rd September.

"This is one of the most damning reports on a public consultation exercise I have seen," commented Chris. "Lancashire Care Trust should go back and completely reconsider the location of the unit."

The Task Group report looked into irregularities concerning a public engagement exercise carried out by the Care Trust last year after Coun Coates passed on complaints from local residents. The Task Group report concludes by stating that given the shortcomings in the whole consultation process the Trust "should accept the need to review the degree to which the outcomes of the process are valid, and that if LCT maintains Royal Albert Fields as their preferred site, that there should be no implication that this preference is as a result of, or supported by, the engagement activity referred to in this report."

"The Royal Albert site is not the most suitable location for this new unit and the plans should be scrapped," feesl Chris. "I believe that the Trust should seriously consider extending their existing unit at Ridge Lea, especially since they have made considerable investment there in recent years. It is more sustainable to re-use a previously developed site than to build on green fields."

Five Stars for The Ashton

Lancaster's new Ashton Hotel, which opened back in July, has just received its official rating from Visit Britain and achieved the highest star rating, making it the only five star accommodation in the city.

The five bedroom hotel owned by former TV director James Gray, situated in a Georgian manor house near Williamson Park, is also the most popular place to stay on top travel web site Tripadvisor in the B&B & Inn category, as well as the top guest rated on

To celebrate the Hotel's succes the management have a special offer for would be guests; book a two night consecutive stay between now and the end of November and get a bottle of champagne in your room on arrival.

The offer is valid on direct telephone bookings and not to be used in conjunction with any other offer or late availability deal.

Autumn exhibition at Williamson Park

Williamson Park has announced the return of Andrew Stafford to the Williamson Gallery with his exhibition of new paintings.

The exhibition, which runs from September 28 to November 16, contains 32 paintings, mainly landscapes, but also portraits and still-lifes. The title, Points of View, refers to the artist's approach. The approach treats familiar scenes in an individual way, depending on weather, quality of light and local mood.

For example, Leighton Moss and Levens Park are seen in bright summer sunshine, while views across Morecambe Bay are rendered in conditions where the light varies during observation of spring-time showers and short July downpours.

The view across the River Lune, from Glasson Dock to Sunderland Point, is brought to life through the charm of the scene. The two portraits depict strong likenesses of the two sitters and reveal their individual passions.

A Full English Breakfast is painted naturalistically and is sure to get the mouth watering. Overall, Andrew Stafford achieves these effects by incorporating a range of both subtle colour changes and rich contrasts. Often, paint is applied expressively, reminiscent of impressionist techniques.

Andrew Stafford has been a practising artist since before he started at Hornsey College of Art in 1963. After graduating from Hornsey in 1967 and the Institute of Education (University of London) in 1968, Andrew taught art for 35 years in London and Lancashire, and for one year in America.

He has exhibited widely and his work is represented in many private collections.

Andrew’s speciality is landscape/townscape in which he usually incorporates figures to bring the pictures ‘to life’. He works in oils and acrylics on canvas and draws in pencil, pastels and coloured pencils on paper.

• The Williamson Gallery, which is located inside the Ashton Memorial, is open daily between 10am and 4.30pm.

Help bring about change an hour at a time

Do you have an hour to spare and skills that can be used to help others?

If so, why not share your time and talents with members of your own community by becoming a member of a Time Bank.

The Time Bank initiative is managed by the Lancaster District 50 Forward Project and is a way of sharing skills with neighbours and local residents, one hour at a time.

Whether you’re a genius in the garden, a dab hand at DIY, superb at sewing or knitting or can offer to do someone’s shopping or exercise their dog, by putting an hour of your time into a time bank you can get an hour of someone else’s time and skills in return.

Time Banks are already proving a huge success in Hornby, Caton and Brookhouse.

"I find time banks very helpful and friendly and have used them on several occasions," says Thelma Bennett, a Member of Hornby Time Bank. "I don’t have a car so I was able to find someone who could take me to a hospital appointment.

"Another time I needed help setting up my new computer. Someone from a time bank came to help me sort it. I've also had help with my garden."

Other Time Banks are going live on the 2 October, 2008 at Stanley's community centre in the West End of Morecambe and Lancaster and Morecambe College.

Lancaster and Morecambe College are launching their time bank by teaming up with Stanley's to help paint the centre and assisting with many other activities that follow.

Time Banks are free to join and for reassurance, all new members are required to submit two references and, for certain activities, their details for CRB clearance.

Information of what skills they can offer others and the skills they might be looking for in return are recorded on a computer so that members can be put in touch with each other.

There’s no need to make any long term commitments, it’s flexible to suit you and your needs and if you don’t wish to take back time from the bank you can simply donate your hours to be used by less able members of your community.

Coun John Barnes, Lancaster City Council’s representative on the 50 Forward Project Board said: "This is a fantastic way for anyone with time on their hands to give something back to their community. Time Banks bring communities closer together and make people feel valued and included.”

• If you live in any of the above areas and have the time to become a member of a Time Bank contact the Lancaster District 50 Forward Team on 01524 389581, by email to or by writing to Lancaster District 50 Forward, 6-4-1 Alston House, White Cross, Lancaster. LA1 4XF

Howden Jones at The Platform

Local musicians Kate Howden and Paul Jones will be playing at The Platform, Morecambe on Friday 17th October. Doors open 8pm tickets £10 from The Box Office 01524 582803.

"We’re now working on our sixth Album which is due for release that night," the pair told virtual-lancaster. "We will be joined by Laurence Canty on Bass, Andy Doherty on Fiddle and Jody Linscott on Percussion."

The paid are very popular so book early to be sure of a ticket.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Lancaster's Litter Problem not helped by Planning Laws

Yet another late night fast food outlet looks set to get retrospective planning permission next month from Lancaster City Council, even though concerns have been raised about the possibility that granting the license will add to noise and litter problems in the area.

The news comes just as Lancaster City Council has scored badly in a new survey into litter problems carried out by Keep Britain Tidy.

Lancaster Council's Planning Committee meets early next month (6 October) and among the applications is yet another to retrospectively grant the restaurant at 66 Penny Street, Lancaster pdf icon (PDF 15 KB) permission to operate as another fast food outlet with a license to stay open until 3.00am.

Local businesses have objected to the plans: the management of CityBlock strongly object due detrimental impact of the proposal on the amenities of the occupiers of CityBlock caused by late night disturbance. and also argue that the use would not accord with Policy S7 of the Lancaster District Local Plan. The owners of fashion shop Edwards have also objected, concerned at the loss of a retail outlet and increase in litter due to take away use.

But council staff have recommended supporting the application, arguing it would be difficult to sustain a refusal given the town centre location of the site, the other similar uses on this street, the recent appeal decision and the absence of any justifiable objection from statutory consultees.

News of the application for yet another fast food outlet in the town centre comes just as Keep Britain Tidy released the results of a two year litter survey which showed Lancaster scored poorly.

In the Extended Local Environmental Quality Survey, carried out over two years in every English local authority, half of England was found to have unacceptable levels of litter with Lancaster assesesed as 'Unsatisfactory' for both litter and detritus, but apparently doing well in the battle against grafitti and fly tipping, despite the problems highlighted recently in The Lancaster and Morecambe Citizen.

(The Daily Telegraph has published the reuslts so far in full, which is a good job as the Department of the Environment (Defra) seems to have forgotten its own accessibility guidelines and published them in a totally unreadable format).

Phil Barton, chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said the news that some 187 councils, which includes Lancaster, had unsatisfactory levels of litter was "unacceptable".

"The results of this report show that more needs to be done to tackle the problem of litter in this country," he said. "Clearly the levels of litter nationwide are unacceptable."

Keep Britain Tidy, which recently launched The Big Tidy Up - a month long litter blitz - to try to clean up the country, points out that fast food waste and packaging are one of several items often complained about, along with pizza boxes, cans, crisps and cigarette butts.

It seems Council guidance over planning means little can be done to stop more fast food outlets opening in town -- and further adding to the city's litter problems.

Read the planning application for 66 Penny Street, Lancaster pdf icon (PDF 15 KB)
View the Daily Telegraph listing of Councils scores on littering
Keep Britain Tidy

Girls should seize the opportunity of HPV protection

Justin McCracken, the Health Protection Agency’s Chief Executive, today urged parents to encourage their daughters to take up the offer of vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV) Types 16 and 18, the strains of HPV that cause 70% of cervical cancers.

Opening the annual Sexual Health of the North West Conference in Aintree, Liverpool, Mr. McCracken said that the HPV vaccination programme that is currently getting underway in schools will save hundreds of lives and spare thousands of women from investigation and treatment.

The vaccine is currently being offered to girls aged 12 and 13 in School Year 8 and to 17 and 18 year olds. Girls currently aged 14-16 will be vaccinated in a catch-up programme in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011. Therefore by the end of 2011, all girls currently aged up to 18 years will have had the opportunity of vaccination.

Mr. McCracken said: “Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women worldwide and approximately 400 people will die from it in the UK this year alone. If we achieve the anticipated uptake rate of 90% of eligible girls by 2011, and maintain that uptake rate into the future, we will eventually cut cervical cancer rates by three-quarters.

“The HPV vaccine is safe, proven and effective against 70% of cervical cancers. Together with the cervical cancer screening programme, the vaccine will prevent illness and save lives. Anyone who is eligible for vaccination is strongly advised to take it up.”

The conference heard that although sexually transmitted infection rates increased markedly over the past 10 years, there has been a recent levelling off of gonorrhoea, syphilis and new HIV diagnoses in line with national trends.

“There is strong evidence from the recent data that the safer sex message is hitting home and people are heeding it, but we cannot afford to be complacent over what continues to be a serious Public Health problem,” Mr. McCracken said.

“HPA North West, the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University and our Primary Care Trust partners are to be congratulated on the fact that this region has consistently achieved the highest number of screens for the National Chlamydia Screening Programme.

“That is something for you in the North West to be proud of, but we need to work even harder at encouraging young people to take up the opportunity of Chlamydia screening when it is offered to them. We need to get the screening figures up to national target levels and beyond, not just here but across the country. Only then will we fully understand the true scale of this often symptom-less infection that can have devastating consequences for individuals if left untreated.”

As the HPV vaccine only protects against the viruses that cause 70% of cervical cancers, it will still be important for vaccinated women to attend for cervical screening when they are old enough to become eligible for the programme.

• Information on Chlamydia and the other sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, is available on the Health Protection Agency website. Please access, then Topics A-Z for the respective infections and latest available data.

Alternative Lancaster Map Online

Whether you're newly arrived in Lancaster or already a resident of our thriving metropolis, the newest, latest and greatest Blue Map v4 of Lancaster is a brilliant resource for anyone looking for some of its hidden gems of alternative culture. The map is now available for download at

This is the fourth version of the blue map since the first one back in 1995, and it has been fully updated for 2008. Changes this year include a few additions, and sadly the removal of a couple more of the Charity Shops since the map's creators received information from Animal Aid that both Scope and Help the Aged fund testing on animals (in addition to British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research etc etc). This reduces the number of vivisection-free charity shops in Lancaster to Barnardo's, Oxfam, the Children's Society, the Samaritans and Cancer Care/St John's Hospice. (If you are avoiding animal-cruelty related charities it is worth taking note that although the local Cancer Care does not appear to fund animal testing, other branches do).

As always, the work is @nti-copywrite, so people should feel free to use the map for whatever you want, and more importantly to copy, modify and distribute it to all who may find it useful!

• The map is also available from (PDF)

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

One Planet Festival Planned

Lancaster's Town Hall will host the One Planet Festival between Thursday 9th to Sunday 12th October 2008, an event designed to highlight the issues surrounding climate change and to offer advice about practical action that people and communities can take to reduce their environmental footprint.

The festival will also be an opportunity to celebrate the diverse culture, produce and innovations of the Lancaster district.

The festival main event is a Sustainability Expo in the Ashton Hall at Lancaster Town Hall on Saturday 11th October showcasing sustainable lifestyles where local businesses, organisations and community groups will be exhibiting their sustainable products, services and projects. It will be an opportunity to buy local produce, find out about the latest renewable energy technologies and be inspired by existing projects and schemes across the district.

The Expo will be followed in the evening by climate change guru and author George Marshall in his one man show Carbon Detox the world’s 1st stand-up climate change show at the Dukes Theatre (

Other events include ‘Green Screen’, an environment themed film festival at the Dukes Cinema, carbon neutral music concerts at venues around the city, and a series of talks and workshops addressing the challenge of climate change.

The festival is being coordinated by LESS Climate Change and Energy Advice project with Lancaster district’s energy forum and is supported by the Dukes Theatre, Segen Energy and the city council’s festival innovation fund.

• To find out more about the festival and how to get involved visit or contact