Saturday, 4 October 2008

Centros Development Plans Savaged Again

As decision day approaches for the Centros planning applications for the canal corridor, two more prestigious national organisations have added their voices to the many already condemning the scheme.

The national organisation Save our Heritage (SAVE), one of the organisations that successfully campaigned to prevent the desruction of London's Smithfields Market buildings, is the lstest to raise its concerns about the plans and has produced a document “A Lament for Lancaster ” (graphics version requires Flash, text version here), highlighting their concerns.

"We are of the firm opinion that it is the wrong application for a sensitive and finely textured site," they say of the Centros plans. "SAVE is particularly concerned about the level of demolition, the scale and footprint of the proposed blocks and the failure to integrate the development into the existing historic fabric and street pattern. The current proposals will degrade two important conservation areas and damage famous views across the city."

The Centros' plans for a 100 million shopping area and other facillities, such as 'improvements' to the Grand Theatre and the relocation of the Muscians' Co-op, will require the demolition of historic buildings between Stonewell and the Lancaster Canal, including the former Mitchell's brewery complex and various former warehouses.

"It is our belief that the current proposals completely fail to understand or utilise the intrinsic qualities of this part of the city. Despite much destruction in the 1960s this area retains a sense of organic evolution, and benefits from an irregular street pattern, and a subtle, varied streetscape. Rather than build on these qualities, the current plans seek to destroy them.

“... This insensitive scheme would blight the city, damage its special character and endanger its long-term economic future.”

Also opposing the proposals is The Georgian Group, which argues the proposed re-development is heavy-handed and "the worst type of urban commercial redevelopment.

"The widespread removal of good modest traditional buildings within the conservation areas and other traditional buildings within the site should be strongly resisted by your authority," the Groupp urges. "The application documents appear too ready to rubbish and condemn these buildings. They could easily be retained and in the modern climate of sustainability they should be used as an asset by the developer and an inspiration for imaginative design and creative reuse.

" It is particularly sad to see what the developer proposes as a replacement – imported street patterns designed more by commercial rather than cultural values and alien features such as the pedestrian bridge which have no place or precedent in Lancaster.”

Last month, national chairty The Victorian Society also threw its weight behind opposition to the £100 million scheme, describing it as "heavy-handed".

"The plans as they stand would be a disaster for Lancaster," said Alex Baldwin, conservation adviser to the Victorian Society, the Lancaster Guardian reported. "They are heavy-handed and insensitive to the fine character of this part of Lancaster, with its historic alleys and yards."

Locally, opposers of the plans argue the Centros development will destroy the heart of Lancaster's shopping scene, cause traffic and pollution problems, and lead to the loss of historic city centre buildings. While Lancaster's own Civic Society has broady supported the scheme in its latest form, describing it as "an underused and unkempt area" of the city and improvements to the Dukes and the Grand as a positive aspect of the proposed development, some business organisations support the scheme, small shop owners and some managers of retail chains elsewhere in Lancaster are worried by what will happen if the scheme goes ahead.

When one small businesses on New Street closed last year the owners openly cited the possible development as one of the causes.

“I welcome these comments from such prestigious national organisation and their condemnation of this disastrous development," Bulk Ward Green Party councillor, John Whitelegg said. "They are saying no more than local people have been saying for some time but we are encouraged by such strong support.

"We hope that the planning committee when it meets on the 13th and 14th October to consider the planning applications will reject the Centros plans and allow us all to work together to produce a new plan that celebrates our fantastic heritage and builds on what is good about Lancaster.”

View the Centros planning application on the City Council
View all the opublic documents relating to the plans, including public feedback to the scheme (PDF documents)

(Despite the huge local interest in the scheme, on the dedicated Planning Applications section of its siet Lancaster City Council has not assigned the plans "Special Interest" on its web site! In addition, its local map for searching for planning applications does not work properly for all browsers, testament again to ongoing issues of accessibility for this part of the Council's web site. In terms of documents relating to the scheme iteself, many documents are not clearly labelled, including the Council's own Environmental Protection District Team memo of 24 May 2007 calling for "air quality assessment shall be undertaken to assess the implications of the development for local air quality and to determine the impacts of existing and post-development air quality on the intended use! prior to the commencement of the development" -- something we'd argue here should surely be clearly identified...

As with its own past assessment of shopping needs in Lancaster, certain information about the scheme and its impact on Lancaster and Morecambe does seem to get buried, either by bad planning or design...)

Friday, 3 October 2008

Only A Game?

This exhibition may be outside the Lancaster area, but it's bound to appeal to football fans acorss lancaster and Morecambe, which is why we've included it...

A ground breaking new exhibition exploring Europe’s love affair with the beautiful game is to open at World Museum Liverpool on Saturday 11 October.

Running from 11 October 2008 till 1 March 2009, Only a Game? is an interactive exhibition for the whole family, inviting visitors to plunge into the emotions of football inspired by a selection of prestigious artefacts, trophies and memorabilia from over 50 years of European football.

In collaboration with the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA), National Football Museum and National Museums Liverpool, the UEFA exhibition is making its only UK appearance in Liverpool; European Capital of Culture and arguably one of Europe’s great capitals of football.

All four of UEFA’s most prestigious trophies will be on display during the opening month of the exhibition representing a very rare occasion when the UEFA European Championship (EURO) and UEFA Champions League trophies will appear alongside the UEFA Cup and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in the same place at the same time.

Memorabilia from the National Football Museum will be featured in the exhibition, including shirts, medals and trophies from great European players such as George Best, Franz Beckenbauer, Bobby Moore and Petr Cech, and visitors can also discover the city’s own dramatic role in European football with special items on display from the Everton Collection and the Liverpool FC Museum.

Michel Platini, President of UEFA and three times European Footballer of the Year, said: “I am delighted that UEFA is bringing this exciting exhibition to Liverpool during its Capital of Culture celebrations, a city that loves its football and plays such a big role in Europe’s fascination with the game.”

Only a Game? ends with a question mark, encouraging the visitor to reflect on the social and cultural aspects of modern football and ask themselves questions concerning aspects such as the solidarity, success, participation, celebration, racism and integration associated with the game, and the emotions it triggers.

Lilian Thuram, official patron of the exhibition and winner of both the World Cup and European Championship with France, said: “Football brings people together across Europe. It speaks a simple language that everyone understands. Only a Game? shines a light on all the actors that play a role: fans, school kids, amateurs, as well as the professional players.”

Liverpool player Steven Gerrard said: "There is no city in Europe where football means more than it does to the people of Liverpool. So I think it is great that we are having a European football exhibition as part of Liverpool 08."

Steven Broomhead, Chief Executive of the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA), said: "The city of Liverpool and the Northwest region are known across the world for outstanding professional football so it is only right this exciting exhibition should come here.

"In the Northwest we are passionate about football and culture and both make a major contribution to the regional economy. I am delighted we have been able to work with our partners to bring Only A Game? to Liverpool."

Bryan Gray, Chair of the Liverpool Culture Company, added: “Sport is part of Liverpool’s heritage and football has helped to shape this city of culture, so it should be no surprise to see it feature so prominently in the Capital of Culture programme. We are delighted to welcome Only a Game? to the European Capital of Culture; I can think of nowhere more fitting for this thought provoking exhibition.”

Only A Game? runs at the World Museum Liverpool William Brown Street, Liverpool. Admission is free. Museum open 10am-5pm every day
Information: 0151 478 4393 Website

Thursday, 2 October 2008

In Review: Accidental Death of an Anarchist

The Accidental Death of an AnarchistFirst staged in Italy in 1970, Accidental Death of an Anarchist (Morte accidentale di un anarchico) is based on real events of the time in that country – in particular, the ‘accidental’ death of anarchist Giovanni Pinelli after a bomb exploded in the Agricultural Bank, Milan. The actual perpetrators turned out to be connected with the military and with mainstream political groups.

Deborah McAndrew’s thoroughly updated adaptation is, in some (but only some) contrast, set (characteristically for Northern Broadsides), in Yorkshire in 2008 (the bank is the Agricultural Bank of Bingley, which shows you just how up to date this performance is, given Bradford and Bingley’s days-old takeover). There are references to citizenship tests, ID cards, CCTV cameras, arms deals with Saudi Arabia, DNA testing – and, more pointedly, to Britain’s own scandal and tragic death of Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005, and the feeble verdict of police infringement of health and safety legislation.

So far, so serious. But Dario Fo accomplishes his biting satire about the system and the media through slapstick, farce, hugely exaggerated movements, costume, song (George Formby is there too), disguise upon disguise, witty self-referential comments from the actors, and being generally outrageous. The applause at the interval was notably enthusiastic, and Director Conrad Nelson is to be congratulated for bringing all this off with pace and smoothness. Satire through slapstick may not be everyone’s thing – which doesn’t mean you don’t find you are sitting there with a grin on your face. But Fo’s genius, like J.B. Priestley’s in the earlier An Inspector Calls, is to have a mysterious central figure – here, Michael Hugo’s ‘The Maniac’ – whose masquerading authority acts to reveal institutional corruption, cover-ups and worse.

The Maniac’s final diatribe against the British state is articulated in front of a chilling physical representation of what could plausibly have happened to the anarchist.

The cast appeared to be enjoying themselves hugely (including their occasional very funny stumbles and ad libs). Michael Hugo’s performance was a tour de force – though his Jim Carey-style characterisation of The Maniac was enjoyed by some of my companions more than others. Audience members will have their own favourite performances, but mine were from Matt Connor (Constables 1 and 2), and Neil Cable (the DCI), who both paradoxically managed to achieve being absurd and natural at the same time.

If you’ve never seen this play, do (it’s likely to be unlike anything else you’ve ever seen); if you have, go and see McAndrew’s and Connor’s production. As Connor writes, “this classic will remain popular for as long as authority is responsible for breaches of trust”. True – but it’s not an easy play to perform well. Northern Broadsides are to be congratulated for doing just that.

– Jane Sunderland

The Accidental Death of an Anarchist by Dario Fo runs at The Dukes (The Rake) until to Saturday 4 October 2008. Box Office 0845 344 0644 Web:

Time: 8 p.m. (plus matinee on Saturday at 2 p.m.) Tickets: Monday - Friday 8pm: £15 (£10); Saturday 8pm: £17.50 (£12.50); Matinee: £10.00 (£7.50); Schools: £7.50, one teacher free for every ten pupils.
Groups: 12+ save £1 per ticket, 50+ save £1.50 per ticket. Not valid
with any other offer. £5 bargain tickets:a limited numer of £5 bargain tickets are available for each performance. Please book on the day, in person, after 10am. Limited to 2 per person.

Web Links
Northern Broadsides Official Site
Review of Dario Fo’s Can’t Pay Wont Pay, performed recently by members of the Dukes Youth Theatre at DT3
Dario Fo information on the Noble Prize web site
Dario Fo "Notable Quotes"
OnlineReviewLondon Review of an earlier production of Accidental Death at the Donmar Warehouse, London
BBC News: Jean Charles de Menezes

Performances of Accidental Death of an Anarchist later this year...

• Wed 8 – Sun 12 October: Greenwich Theatre Box Office: 0208 858 7755
• Thursday 16 & Sat 18 October: Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond Box Office: 01748 825 252
• Tue 21 & Wed 22 October The Riverfront, Newport Box Office: 01633 656 757
• Fri 24 & Sat 25 October Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea Box Office: 01792 602060
• Wed 29 Oct – Sat 1 November Thoresby Park, Notts Box Office: 0844 586 5365
• Tue 4 – Sat 8 November: Liverpool Playhouse Box Office: 0151 709 4776
• Tue 11 – Sat 15 November: New Vic Theatre, Newcastle under Lyme Box Office: 01782 717 962
• Mon 17 & Tue 18 November: Lincoln Performing Arts Centre Box Office: 0844 8884414
• Fri 21 & Sat 22 November: Buxton Opera House Box Office: 0845 1272190
• Mon 24 – Sat 29 November: Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough Box Office: 01723 370541
• Wed 3 – Sat 6 December: Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield 01484 430528

Peace Campaigner to Speak in Lancaster

When the “Free Gaza” ship recently broke through Israel’s blockade of Gaza to deliver much needed medical aid, the passengers included committed activists of all ages, nationalities and professions. There was one, however, whose personal history made her a particularly remarkable passenger: Hedy Epstein, Holocaust survivor, human rights activist and dedicated campaigner against Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people.

Ms Epstein was invited to speak in Lancaster by the Lancaster Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which works to raise awareness of daily life for Palestinians living under occupation.

Hedy Epstein (née Wachenheimer) was born 15 August 1924 in Freiburg, Germany. In 1939, at the age of fourteen, Hedy left Germany for England as part of a Kindertransport group. Her parents and relatives were deported on 22 October 1940 to Camp de Gurs, a concentration camp in what was then Vichy France.

Although Hedy received letters from her parents for the next two years, all communication ceased after May, 1942 when Hedy’s family was sent to Auschwitz and she never saw her parents or relatives again. Hedy spent the rest of the war in England, but headed back to Germany afterwards to work for the American government. She immigrated to the US in 1948 and soon became an active campaigner for civil and human rights and social justice.

Some of her causes have included fair housing, abortion rights, and antiwar activities. As a peace delegate, Hedy journeyed to Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Cambodia in 1989.

Hedy Epstein has visited the Israeli Occupied West Bank five times since 2003, to witness daily life and to support Palestinians in their peaceful struggle against the occupation. She has participated in several non-violent demonstrations, together with Israelis, Palestinians & other internationals, in opposition to Israel's occupation of Palestinian land, the 25-foot high cement wall, and the demolition of Palestinian homes and olive orchards.

Hedy Epstein is a truly remarkable person and an inspirational speaker, who began speaking to audiences in 1970. Her topics include her Nazi Holocaust experiences, her work at the Nuremberg Medical Trial and her numerous trips to Palestine. Equally conversant in English and German, she has spoken in the US, Germany, and Austria to audiences of schoolchildren, college students, and adults.

Following her lecture there will be chance to meet her at a reception in the Cathedral Social Centre where Palestinian olive oil and other Palestinian fair trade goods will be available.

Admission to Ms Epstein’s talk is free; there will be a retiring collection in aid of the “Free Gaza” ships.

The Palestinian Solidarity Group, which was founded after one member returned from working with an international human rights group in the West Bank, organizes regular events including films, guest speakers and workshops. A day school held last summer enabled direct discussion with Palestinians in major cities across the West Bank through live video links. Regular fund raising nights are also held, most recently to raise money for "Medical Aid for Palestinians".

• For more information about this or other events at St Peter’s Cathedral, please phone the Cathedral Events Co-ordinator on 01524 384820

Hedy Epstein's Official Web Site
• For more information on the “Free Gaza” campaign and the “Free Gaza” ship, please go to
• For more information on the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, please go to:

More about Hedy
Before the Holocaust - Hedy's family in Germany before the Holocaust
The Concentration Camps - Hedy's family in camps in France and Auschwitz, after Hedy was sent to England
• The Nuremberg Trials / Medical Trial ~ Hedy's experience as a research analyst after World War II Holocaust History Project
A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Overspend Fears Over Bypass Plans

North Lancashire based transport campaign group Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe (TSLM) has written to County Councillors across Lancashire this week, advising them of the increased liability of Lancashire's taxpayers, and the hold on the county's transport budget for many years to come, caused by the rapidly escalating costs associated with the proposed Heysham M6 Link road scheme if it goes ahead.

Lancashire County Council plan to build a four-lane dual carriageway through the green belt to the north of Lancaster which covers just over five kilometres between the community of Torrisholme and the River Lune. The area includes the Lancaster Canal and the River Lune (both Biological Heritage Sites) and some hedgerows and many veteran trees are home to birds, including seven protected species, and bats, including five protected species, while otters swim in the River Lune.

The plans for the road call for an embankment 6.5 metres high at the western end, rising to 12.4m to cross the railway on the left of the picture above, with the road topped by lights 10 metres high. These lights would be on all night, so the 734 houses within 300 metres of it would be more than well lit.

To the east, the A6 would be diverted and raised onto drumlins with a flyover, and a large roundabout would replace pasture.

The estimated costs of the scheme, £87.7 million in July 2005, have now risen to £134.7 million: an increase of 54% in just three years. The Government, which has not granted any funding for the scheme, has stated that, if it did make money available, it would not fund further cost increases, or the cost of any complementary measures for congestion relief for the Lancaster and Morecambe district.

A package of congestion relief measures, including park and ride, public transport improvements and changes to one way systems, has been drawn up and costed at £96 million. No money has been earmarked for these congestion relief measures for North Lancashire, nor are there any initiatives under way to implement them.

"It goes without saying that money is tight at the moment, but Lancashire County Council (LCC) is determined to press on with a controversial road building scheme, which has consequences for the county's taxpayers and other transport projects in Lancashire, for many years to come," said David Gate, chair of TSLM. "If it spends the money on the road, it is very unlikely that the congestion relief measures will be implemented and Lancaster and Morecambe will continue to be log jammed.

"We believe that North Lancashire's congestion problem could be greatly relieved by
prioritising the integrated transport package that has been developed for the area, without resorting to building this road. The Link road would simply encourage more heavy goods traffic onto our roads to use Heysham port, and it would wipe out 173 acres of North Lancashire's Green Belt, and generate 24,000 tons of CO2 in its first year of operation alone.

"It’s time for the County Councillors to re assess their transport priorities, and give North Lancashire's congestion relief measures the go ahead. We fear that if they build the Link road there will be nothing left in the kitty to tackle our horrendous congestion, without placing an unreasonable burden on Lancashire's taxpayers and blocking other transport plans in the County.”

Many local residents are horrified by the plans and still hope to stop the road and to develop alternative solutions that will not damage the environment, but will provide first-class sustainable transport systems for the future.

The road plan has the support of several groups, including the County Council, arguing in favour of the link on a "Northern or Nothing" ticket, completely forgetting many politicians' previous antipathy to the Northern scheme when the Western Bypass was on the drawing board. (Skerton Labour Party was firmly against the Northern link at the time, and some Labour councillors representing the area remain unconvinced of its value).

The North West Regional Assembly (NWRA) has also backed plans for the link by putting it forward for a slice of £1.3billion being spent in the region and including in a list of the region's top transport priorities.

• Visit the Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe website