Thursday, 31 December 2009

Blue Moon Tonight


In case you don't know it, there will be a blue moon - the first in 20 years - at 7.15pm tonight which should, cloud cover permitting, be viewable here in the Lancaster area. Not only that, there will be a partial lunar eclipse with the deepest eclipse at 7.22pm.

This eclipse of the Moon is partial, so only eight per cent of the Moon will actually be covered by Earth's shadow. However, quite a lot of the moon will appear to change colour.

Sadly, a blue moon isn't actually blue.The name reflects the relative rarity of two full moons in a month and is linked to the saying "once in a blue moon." Most years on average have 12 full moons, with one appearing each month.

We're told that the whole event is deeply significant astrologically, if not astronomically. The National Geographic notes that the last time a blue moon appeared was on New Year's Eve was in 1990, and it won't happen again until 2028.

NASA notes that while we won't see a blue moon tonight, it is possible for the Moon to appear tinged by a blue hue, sometimes caused by fine dirt circulating in the Earth's atmosphere, possibly from a volcanic explosion. The above picture is of our Moon taken was taken in a dark blue morning sky. The bright crescent is the only part directly exposed to sunlight - the rest of the Moon glows from sunlight reflected from the Earth. The planet Jupiter is also visible along with its four largest moons.

(With thanks to Jessica Abrahams. Image: Vic Winter, ICSTARS)

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

"Help us find our missing puppy" £200 reward.

The James family in Skerton are having a sad Christmas as the children's 13 month old puppy, Jazz (see picture) went missing on 11 December.

Jazz is a Lhasa Apso / Shitz cross and she has a chip implant and was wearing a name tag when she disappeared. She has had a hair cut since this picture was taken. The two little James girls are missing their family pet so much that their Nana is offering a £200 reward for information leading to Jazz' recovery.

• Please call 01524 310275 or 07919993731 for any more info or if you think you may be able to help.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Council set to cut funding for volunteer groups?

Next month, the City Council will be asking the public about its 2010/11 budget where cuts of £1.053 million are planned (see news story) - and funds for the area's many voluntary organisations will be under close scrutiny to se if savings can be made.

“Voluntary work is vital but often invisible in our community, says Lancaster District Council for Voluntary Service’s acting chief officer Bill Livesey, who is asking everyone to speak up for our voluntary groups. "Many of our voluntary groups are running amazing services on a shoestring and we hope local people will show they value this work.

“Small grants go a very long way in the voluntary sector, cutting them only offers a false economy and will be creating a long term cost to Lancaster.”

Lancaster CVS’s snapshot survey of 219 member groups carried out in summer this year showed us that Lancaster area has over 13,400 volunteers, giving over 700,000 volunteer hours a year helping our community. If they were being paid, it would be the equivalent to £4,200,000.

Major budget cuts to local voluntary groups would threaten this – and would be a major loss for Lancaster. Even though much work is voluntary, groups still need some funding. For example to co-ordinate a large team of volunteers and ensure they have the training and support they need.

• For more information about the consultation contact Tel: 01524 582268

Lancaster District Council for Voluntary Service web site

Greens welcome Centros plan rejection

North Lancashire Green Party has welcomed the rejection all the Centros planning applications for Lancaster's Canal Corridor, describing it as "a very fine Christmas present."

As we reported yesterday, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government John Denham has accepted the report of the Inspector at last summer's planning inquiry into the Centros scheme and rejected all the planning applications.

"This is fantastic news and vindicates what hundreds of my constituents have been saying for the last two years," commented local Bulk Ward and Green Councillor John Whitelegg.

"We now need to move on and produce a plan that delivers a community vision for this site, celebrates our distinctive buildings and places and does not set out to make us a carbon copy of Basingstoke, Preston or Slough. This work starts today."

Bank Aid - Do They Loan This Christmas

A bunch of Wiltshire celebs turn up at the Frog Lane Studios expecting a free drink. There's not such thing as a free drink!

Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year to all our readers!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Council, Centros Statement on Canal Corridor

Following the announcement that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has announced that he has refused planning permission for a major new retail development in Lancaster (see earlier news story), Lancaster City Council has issued the following statement, which indicates Centros will continue to present its development plans for the Canal Corridor:

"The refusal... is primarily based on concerns about the evidence for removing some of the buildings on the site, and the amount of retail floor space in the early years of the scheme.

"Much of the council’s rationale for the scheme and its fit with strategic planning policies for Lancaster, the approach to traffic and highways matters, and its overall sustainability was accepted.

"The decision to refuse permission for the Canal Corridor North development by Centros follows a public inquiry earlier this year."

Coun Keith Budden, chairman of Lancaster City Council’s planning committee, said: “We are grateful for the careful consideration the inspector has taken over his very detailed report.

“While it is disappointing that planning permission for the scheme has been refused, the report and the Secretary of State’s decision give the council a clear position on the type of development which will be acceptable on the site in the future. The decision totally vindicates the council’s decision to appear at the inquiry and make the case for a positive steer about the development from the Secretary of State.

“All the parties who presented evidence to the inquiry accept that the canal corridor site is run down and in urgent need of regeneration.

“If we don’t, then we run the risk of falling behind other towns and cities in the north west.

“We will be studying the inspector’s report very carefully and will use its recommendations to work with the developer, Centros, and all other interested parties to bring forward a revised scheme to regenerate this run down and dilapidated site as a priority in the new year.”

A spokesperson for Centros commented: “Whilst the minister’s decision is a disappointment, it clearly provides a very positive framework for the redevelopment of this site.

“We will now consider the Secretary of State’s decision and the inspector’s report in detail and work with Lancaster City Council to devise a strategy to realise the successful regeneration of this important site in the heart of the city centre.”

Centros Development Plans for Lancaster Rejected


Plans for a massive shopping development in Lancaster have been thrown out by the Government.

The multi-million pound canal corridor development by Centros has been refused by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government following the public inquiry in the summer, in which the multi-million pound company refused to take part - leaving Lancaster City Council to pick up the bill to explain the plan to the Inquiry.

In his decision, the Secretary of State concluded that the application is not in accordance with the development plan or national development policy. "He considers that the proposal would contribute to the sustainable economic development of the city and surrounding area, and that it draws support from the strategic context, but concludes that the material considerations are not of sufficient weight to determine the application other than in accordance with the development plan.

"As the applications for listed building consent and conservation area consent are incidental to the application for outline planning permission, the Secretary of State also concludes that they too should be refused."

Both local and national organisations such as It's Our City opposed the scheme, set to open by 2012, which would have been anchored by a large department store. It also included a new home for the Musicians Co-op and improvements to the Dukes and Grand theatres, but those against the scheme argued it was the wrong kind of development for the area, favouring new housing, workshops for medium businesses and other smaller-scale improvements to the area, currently dominated by derelict buildings largely owned by Mitchells and Edward Street Car Park.

The Inspector's report shows that while arguments about the damage to existing retail in the area or increased traffic problems were not accepted, many issues raised by objectors were given due consideration and any future development proposals will have to take careful note of the report's conclusions.

"Those who were concerned about health issues will be happy to learn that the inspector roundly criticised Lancaster Council's lack of consideration for citizens health in their promotion of the Centros development given the parlous state of air quality management in Lancaster and high existing levels of air pollution," note It's Our City. "He said that no development generating extra traffic should be permitted until action is actually taken to improve air quality."

The Centros proposals for more shops ran counter to the City Council's own research undertaken back in 2006, which argued for two new food super stores for Lancaster and Morecambe, more quality shopping and careful consideration of "edge of town" retail developments (see news story).

It's Our City are clearly delighted by the news, thanking all who have stuck with the campaign against this scheme over the years.

"We're tremendously pleased with the decision by the Secretary of State to refuse planning permission to all of the applications submitted by Centros," say the local campaigners. "It's Our City has campaigned against the Centros plans for several years, on the grounds that they are completely inappropriate for Lancaster.

"We would like to thank all of those who joined us in our campaign to stop this development, including English Heritage and SAVE Britain's Heritage, and in particular all those from the local community who have supported us and who have made their opinions known both to Lancaster City Council and to the Secretary of State.

"This victory belongs to the whole community," they add.

"It's Our City now looks forward to working in partnership with Lancaster City Council, English Heritage and SAVE in order to find an appropriate way to develop this site. We also emphasize that any future development of the Canal Corridor must include the full involvement of the local community if it is to be successful. It's Our City have always maintained that this site should be developed.

"We are very hopeful that this can now be done in an innovative and exciting way, and in keeping with the heritage and character of our city."

The Council will now have to reassess their plans for the canal corridor north site in the New Year in the light of this decision, and of course the decision also leaves the fate of Mitchells Brewery hanging.

Read the full report by the Secretary of State (PDF)

Read the Inspector's decision (PDF)

Road Round Up: County Still Pursues White Elephant

Despite the opposition of local people and both Lancaster and Morecambe Councils, Lancashire County Council - already set to make swingeing cuts to vital services in the New Year - is pressing on with its plans to build the unwanted, expensive Link Road between the motorway and Heysham.

The deadline for objections to the Compulsory Purchase Orders and Side Road Orders for the Heysham M6 Link road has now passed. Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe tell virtual-lancaster that although they do not have official figures, they believe that the Government Office for the North West has received over 400 formal objections, against two letters in support. (View details of the original planning permission given for the road in 2008 here)

Opposition has been so strong that GONW is now seriously considering whether to call an inquiry to allow public scrutiny of many of the contentious Link road issues.

"Particular congratulations must go to Morecambe Town Council, who voted overwhelmingly (17-1) to send an objection," commented TSLM spokesperson David Gate. "They join our MP Geraldine Smith and Lancaster City Council, as the elected representatives of this area who oppose the Northern route scheme.

"Support for the damaging and destructive scheme comes only from County Hall in Preston," he added. "The new Lancashire County Council does not appear to have any original transport ideas of its own; it merely plods along pushing the old Council’s outdated road scheme."

Back in August, the County Council announced it was looking at trying to find savings of perhaps up to 142 million from its budget - 20 per cent of the Council's spending across the County. The Lancashire Telegraph reported their first task will be to find £16million in savings by February in order to achieve a zero per cent council tax increase in 2010/11, a key election pledge by the Tories, which was re-iterated by national Tory leader David Cameron on campaigning visits to Lancashire.

"Despite financial cutbacks to essential services in Lancashire, LCC is today continuing to spend many millions of pounds of public money on the Link road," notes David. "With the reality of financial cutbacks, surely that money could be better spent on more deserving services for the people of Lancashire.

"The Northern route dual carriageway would destroy 173 acres of our North Lancashire Green Belt, and its traffic would pump out an extra 23,500 tonnes of CO2 into our North Lancashire environment every year. All that devastation in the illusion that building an HGV road across the district will somehow regenerate the area."

LCC recently announced that the £140 million plan is going out to tender to large national construction firms. "The reality of the ‘regeneration’ is that the lion’s share of this public money will not be spent locally, but will fill the coffers of national and multinational companies," argues David, "and taxpayers will be saddled with a debt that is unknown, but huge."

David again points out that there alternatives to massive road building - but those in power at Preston seem to have simply ignored them.

"In 2007 traffic consultants Faber Maunsell developed an integrated transport package for the district, including changes to the one way systems, park and ride, public transport improvements and a bridge at Luneside. These are measures that would really tackle congestion in the district, yet no money is earmarked for them, and it is likely that, with the budget blown on the Link Road, there will be no money left for them.

"2010 will be another costly uphill struggle for LCC and its Link road plan; further public scrutiny is likely, and the chances of government funding must be receding when the country is in so much debt," says David. "We hope that a public inquiry will be called, and if it is, TSLM too will be asking for funding, to pay for the expert help that we shall need to present our case well."

Monday, 21 December 2009

Lancaster Pubs Fail Teenage Sales Test

Three Lancaster pubs and bars face licence interventions after selling alcohol to 15-year-old girls during a test purchase operation.

The teenagers were able to buy alcohol in three of the 17 establishments visited across Lancaster on Friday night. (18th December)

Lancaster pub owners aren't the only landlords in toruble: last Saturday, four out of 11 establishments visited in Morecambe and Carnforth sold alcohol to the test purchasers, who were working in conjunction with police and Trading Standards.

The pubs and bars will now face licence interventions, which means that staff who sold the alcohol will receive fines, while the licensee will have to go through a licensing surgery where they will be given advice on reviewing the way in which they tackle underage drinking.

“Despite high profile campaigns in the local media and participation in Best Bar None schemes, staff in some premises do not appear to be getting the message that they should be asking for identification," commented Inspector Kirstie Banks-Lyon.

“Selling alcohol to children in not only against the law but can also put these children at risk from harm.

“We will look to carry on with our enforcement of the legislation over the coming months and will take robust action against those who pay scant regard to their responsibilities when it comes to refusing sales to under-18s.”

WAG Launches Exhibition Appeal for Gregson

As part of 2010 International Women’s Day celebrations, Women at the Gregson (WAG) are hosting three art exhibitions to showcase the work of female artists and photographers.

The categories and venues for the exhibitions are:

A) Things My Mother Didn’t Tell Me (Dukes Theatre)

B) Women at Work and Play (Gregson Centre)

C) Women and Food (Whaletail Café)

International Women's Day has been observed since in the early 1900's, and takes place every year on 8th March.

If you would like your work to be considered for exhibition further information, together with terms and conditions and a submission form, can be obtained by calling into:
The Gregson, 33 Moorgate, Moor Lane, Lancaster or e-mail: OR

Friday, 18 December 2009

CCTV released following £27,0000 arson

van arson.jpgPolice have released a CCTV image after a Mercedes van was destroyed in an arson attack.

The green Sprinter vehicle, worth £27,000, was parked at Udale Speciality Foods, Schola Green Lane, Morecambe, at 7.00am on 1st November when a fire broke out in its front cab.

Police would now like to speak to the man pictured in the CCTV image in order to eliminate him from their inquiries.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact PC Tom Evans on 01524 63333 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

BBC's Nigel Jay Headlines Spotlight Club Tonight


Spotlight at the Storey - Lancaster's ace monthly writing and music night - is back this evening (Friday 18th December) with another top line-up of performers, including North West TV's Nigel Jay and musical comedy from Reginald Winters.

The Spotlight Club also starts earlier than previously, with doors opening at 8.00pm and its Open Mic session - where anything can happen on stage as newcomers and seasoned professionals take to the stage, perhaps for the first time or to test new material - starting at 8.15pm prompt.

Compered virtual-lancaster's John Freeman, tonight's line up, brought to Lancaster with support from litfest and local councils, is headlined by Nigel Jay, who became a familiar face on North West TV - to those glued to BBC news. He'll be reading from his first novel, And No Wings.

The novel sees Earth on the brink: global warming, climate change, environmental disaster, human catastrophe. Then suddenly something weird happens in energy-guzzling United States. It forces people to alter their lives. Maybe the whole world will follow suit. Maybe the planet will be saved. Who's behind all this? None other than the Lord God Almighty, stepping in to rescue mankind. A pity his loyal messenger, the archangel Gabriel - "Do I have to Boss? They're cretins" - couldn't be a bit more enthusiastic. Still, give him his head, if that's what it takes ... But will the plan work? Criminals, religious fundamentalists, corporate corruption. A maverick American President in election year. China, Britain, Spain, Africa. They're all wild cards. "Who'd be God?" muses the Almighty. "Yes, Guv", mutters Gabriel...

Also on the bill are poets Michael Durrant, whose work has recently appeared in Type magazine, and who dazzled with some naturalistic poetry sparkling with bold but telling metaphor back in June, according to Lunecy Review; the always-popular Antony Christie, whose second full length collection Of Love and Drowning will be published in January 2010; and Angela Martin, making her first appearance on the main Spotlight bill.

TrevMeaney_RegWinters.jpgMusic for the evening is provided by Reginald Winters, a four star sell out show at the Edinburgh Fringe festival with 'How To Survive A Zombie Apocalypse', and Kevin Wilkinson, whose new mini album A Little Light is now available for free download.

• The Spotlight Club: Friday 18th December, The Storey Auditorium, Meeting House Lane. Lancaster. Admission £4 / £2 (conc.). Doors open at 8.00pm with an earlier start time of 8.15pm for the Open Mic and Main Bill. Web Link:

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Justice at last for Carnforth road death victim?

Some five years after his death, a road maintenance company has been fined £65,000 after a motorist was killed on the M6 near Carnforth a victim of various safety failures.

Graham Campbell, who was travelling north at about 11.30pm on 8th May 2004, died after hitting an unlit contractor’s vehicle parked on the hard shoulder of the M6, just past junction 35 near Carnforth.

Cumbrian Industrials Ltd, of The Ridge, Chipping Sodbury, Bristol, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive in relation to the incident and appeared before Preston Crown Court on Tuesday 15th December. The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 for failing to ensure the safety of the public.

The court heard that Cumbrian Industrials was guilty of several failings, including inconsistency in the positioning of the traffic cones, between the hard shoulder and lane one, which caused uncertainty to motorists about whether the hard shoulder should be used.

Cumbrian Industrials, which employs just over 80 people nationally and had a turnover of some £42m in the UK in 2007, also failed to provide detailed drawings for a change in the layout of the traffic cones, after the original plans were altered, and the cones were not moved back into place after the white line between lanes one and two had been repainted.

The judge deferred his decision on what costs the company should pay in addition to the fine.

“Everyone involved in roadworks should learn from this tragedy and consider whether they are doing enough to prevent deaths and injuries," commented Joy Jones, HSE’s Principal Inspector for traffic management.

“Roadworks always need to be managed with great care to ensure the safety of both construction workers and road users. There should be clear signing and a consistent use of traffic cones.

“Motorway roadworks can be very dangerous places for both workers and the travelling public unless a high degree of control is maintained, and Cumbrian Industrials was legally required to make sure this was the case.

“The company should have carefully planned and co-ordinated the work of its subcontractors. A new route through the roadworks should not have been opened until the carriageway was clear of obstructions and the correct signs and cones were in place.

“We will not hesitate to take action against construction companies who fail to comply with the law.”

Over the past seven years, 11 members of the public have lost their lives in incidents relating to the construction and maintenance of roads, airfields and sports facilities.

• More information on construction safety is available at

Have your say on council spending

Lancaster City Council is inviting people to get involved and have their say on how it spends its money for the next few years.

The council has already set its priorities for the next three years, focusing on the social, economic and environmental issues of our district. However, with predicted reductions in government expenditure on public services over the next few years, local authorities are set to come under increasing pressure to make every single penny count and focus on the services that people most need and want.

On average, Council Tax payers pay £3.56 a week to Lancaster City Council. The council feels it is more important than ever that local people are given the opportunity to have their say on the services that are important to them and how it should be spending its budget in 2010/11.

"The council’s Cabinet has already reviewed and refocused the council priorities for the next three years and has collectively identified areas of spending that could be reduced for future years," explains Coun Stuart Langhorn, leader of Lancaster City Council. "The Cabinet would like your views on these as they will be crucial in determining how the budget is allocated. With taxpayers help, the council can make sure its resources are targeted to the areas where you feel will be of most benefit and provide the services that are most important to them.”

You can get involved by:

- Completing a questionnaire by January 8 2010 - pick up a copy from Lancaster or Morecambe town halls, council housing offices on Cable Street, libraries or complete online at

- Registering your interest in attending a workshop in Carnforth (5th January 2010), Lancaster (6th January 2010) or Morecambe (January 7 2010) - email or telephone 01524 582268

• Go to one of the town centre exhibitions that will be taking place at Carnforth Railway Station on 5th January between 4.00pm and 6.00pm, Market Square in Lancaster on 6th January between 11.00am and 3.00pm, and the Arndale Centre in Morecambe on 7th January 7 between 10.30am and 1.30pm.

People completing the questionnaire or attending a workshop will be entered into prize draws for food, drink, gardening, entertainment and keep fit vouchers, thanks to support from local businesses that include Booths and The Refreshment Room, Carnforth and NICE café, Lancaster.

• For more information, contact the council's consultation officer by email or telephone 01524 582268.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Lancaster Vigil Message to World Leaders: Make a 'Real Deal' for the World on Climate Change

A group of over 30 people held a vigil on the steps of Lancaster's old Town Hall on Saturday evening. Nearly 100 passers-by added their candles to send thoughts and hopes for a Real Deal on climate action in Copenhagen.

The vigil was organised by Transition City Lancaster and was also attended by two Lancaster City councillors, a Lancashire County councillor and Lancaster's Green Party Parliamentary candidate. They stood in solidarity with the people of the world, particularly in those countries already experiencing the worst effects of climate change.

Astrophysicist and world-leading economist awarded Honorary Degrees

bellburnellHonoraryGrads2009web.jpgProfessor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, one of Britain's most distinguished female scientists and a high-profile economist have been awarded honorary degrees by Lancaster University.

Professor Burnell - an astrophysicist who helped discover a new type of star - and Professor Brian Arthur, an economist who was one of the pioneers of complexity theory, were awarded their degrees by Lancaster University's Chancellor Sir Chris Bonington on 9th December.

As a PhD student at Cambridge, Professor Bell Burnell is an astrophysicist who has worked in all areas of the electromagnetic spectrum, observing new sources from radio frequencies to high energy gamma rays. She has been an outstanding leader of research both at the Open University, where for ten years from 1991 she was Professor of Physics, and then as Dean of Science at the University of Bath, a position she held until her retirement in 2004. She is an enthusiastic and committed communicator of science to the public and a champion of women in science.

Burnell was involved in the discovery of pulsars - highly magnetised dead stars that emit radio waves along their magnetic poles. This discovery opened up a new branch of astrophysics and was later recognised by the award of a Nobel Prize to her supervisor.

She has since received many honours and awards from American and British scientific bodies for her contributions to science. She has been President of the Royal Astronomical Society and in 2008 became the first female President of the Institute of Physics.

In her quest for further knowledge she has used telescopes flown on high-altitude balloons, launched on rockets and carried on satellites. As a high profile speaker and broadcaster she has done much to advance public understanding of science and provided an important role model to women considering a career in the field.

• Photograph courtesy Lancaster University

Greens Condemn New Nuke Plans for Heysham


It should come as no surprise to learn that Lancaster's Greens have condemned plans for a third nuclear power station at Heysham - and indeed, any new nuclear build in the UK.

Responding to a consultation at Lancaster Town Hall last month about Government plans to simplify the planning application process for new energy infrastructure, including new nuclear power stations, local Green Prospective Parliamentary candidate Gina Dowding has this week reiterated Green Party policy to oppose the building of new nuclear power stations.

The Green Party opposes the building of new nuclear power stations, arguing it is uneconomic, unsafe, and leaves future generations a legacy of highly radioactive waste, noting that the Health and Safety Executive recently said it could not recommend plans for two proposed new nuclear reactor designs because of wide-ranging concerns about their safety.

The New Civil Engineer, and national newspapers such as The Guardian, noted that the HSE, Britain’s main safety regulator, said in a report that it could not endorse the use of French and American designed reactors - the UK EPR developed by AREVA and Electricité de France (EDF) and the AP1000 developed by Westinghouse Electric Company (WEC) - because of wide-ranging concerns about their safety, noting much more “detailed work” needed to be done before they could be approved for use.

The HSE’s assessment work is due to be completed within a year and a half, but one industry expert suggested a delay of up to three years was possible.

gina_dowding_greenparty.jpg"The Government is using climate change as an argument in favour of building new nuclear power stations," notes Gina Dowding (pictured left), the Green Party’s candidate for the new Lancaster and Fleetwood Constituency at the next general election. But the government's own Draft National Policy Statement for Nuclear Power Generation (PDF) highlights climate change as one of the key risks to new nuclear power stations.

"Because they need to be built on coastlines or estuaries for cooling purposes, they will be at risk of floods, storm surges, rising sea levels and coastal erosion," Gina continues.

"The Government and the nuclear industry are still not dealing with the issue of storing radioactive waste," she adds. "There is still no facility operating anywhere in the world capable of disposing of this dangerous pollutant, so we don’t actually know it’s safe."

"The document highlights other negative impacts such as the ecological impact on Morecambe Bay, local water quality, and habitat and species quality. It downplays any risk to the human population in the District, suggesting that a ‘car park’ and some out buildings will provide enough distance between the reactor and local residents to mitigate against any adverse radiological hazard."

The Greens argue there are alternative power generation methods to nuclear. "Instead of spending millions on promoting nuclear energy as a solution to climate change, the Government should be legislating for energy efficiency, and facilitating the construction of proven safe renewable energy developments," argues Gina.

091128nuclear.jpgThe local consultation took place at the Town Hall between 26th-28th November. Visitors concerned about the new nuclear power station planned in Heysham were invited to read the 500+ pages of consultation documents before responding to the proposals.

Visitor Gisela Renolds said, "A cynic might suggest that the Government made the consultation this cumbersome to ensure as few people as possible engage!"

In response to Ed Miliband's announcement of ten proposed new nuclear power stations, Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, said, "Bypassing the planning system in this way is bad news for democracy and for the environment... A key democratic right is for the public to have a say on how their area is developed. Decision-making about where we get our energy from, and the long-term costs associated with nuclear, should be opened up to more accountability, not less."

The 10 sites deemed suitable for future nuclear plants are Heysham, Bradwell in Essex, Braystones, Kirksanton and Sellafield in Cumbria, Hartlepool, Hinkley Point in Somerset, Oldbury in Gloucestershire, Sizewell in Suffolk and Wylfa in North Wales.

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) said that safety of new rector design was critical.

“If nuclear power is going to play a part in delivering a secure energy future for the UK, it must be safe and that means construction will be to exacting standards," The Health and Safety Executive has helpfully highlighted areas of concern, allowing these issues to be rectified before the plans are completed in June 2011,” said CECA head of industry affairs Alasdair Reisner, according to New Civil Engineer.

“As we move towards this date, the Civil Engineering Contractors Association would encourage the reactor designers to call upon the skills and knowledge of the association’s members, to help them overcome any issues in relation to the buildability of the civil engineering aspects of the reactor design.”

(NB. Consultation photo has been doctored to display a synopsised screen message;-)

Flood Charity Pop Video Has a Local Bite!

It Bites 2008 bandpictiles-smaller.jpgUniversity of Cumbria film maker Russell Cherrington has joined forces with eighties chart-toppers It Bites to try and help victims of the recent devastating floods in Cumbria.

The band, who are from Egremont, have recruited stars from the rock and pop world to record a new version of their classic hit Calling All The Heroes.

The gathering took place on 4th December at Wetton and Downes’ studio near Milton Keynes, the legendary studios of King Crimson and Asia.

The aim is to raise funds to help with the relief efforts in West Cumbria and, apart from It Bites, the recording features the talents of John Wetton, of Asia, Geoff Downes of Buggles and Yes, H from Marillion, Jason Perry from A, plus Jem Godfrey.

The song and is being released as an EP, together with a video shot by Russell Cherrington from the Film and Television Department, of the Faculty of the Arts at the University Of Cumbria.

“As soon as I heard from Bob Dalton of It Bites that they were going to record an all star version of the 1980's classic Calling All Heroes I knew the University of Cumbria should be involved," explains Russell, who has produced videos for Japan, Peter Gabriel and Queensryche. “Charles Mitchell - the Dean of the Faculty of the Arts - pulled out all the stops to make this happen at University level.

“We put together a team of film and television production students and shot the video in Glasgow with Marillion, and in Milton Keynes at a Mansion Studio owned by members of Yes, King Crimson and Yes. The video is almost done and we are going to be involved in the charity concert too.”

• A charity concert for the floods is to be announced soon headlined by It Bites. For more info, check the band's MySpace page

Sunday, 13 December 2009

The Really Heavy Greatcoat Review of the Year 2009

Yes - a new Really Heavy Greatcoat! Longtime virtual-lancaster readers will know the Greatcoat strip was the joint creation of VL contributor John Freeman and top local cartoonist Nick Miller back in 1987 (more info here), and has featured in several print publications, local and international down the years. But what with other work commitments and the assumed demise of Comics International, where it was last appearing (the publisher now appears to be ignoring our emails for confirmation of this), the strip has taken a back seat to other things for the moment.

That hasn't stopped Mr Miller creating his now traditional 'Review of the Year' featuring some of the characters, and he's also created a smashing seasonal e-card which will also be published on virtual-lancaster very soon. Enjoy. Over, to you, Nick...


• More great Nick Miller and 'Team Sputnik' goodies at:

More Really Heavy Greatcoat strips and information

Friday, 11 December 2009

Changes to Christmas Refuse Collections

Lancaster City Council is suspending collections of green garden waste for the week of 21 - 26 December and will be collecting non-recyclable waste instead.

The change is being made to help cope with the extra non-recyclable waste that households produce at Christmas. Your collection dates may change to fit around the holiday (read on for new dates).

Recyclable waste collections will continue to alternate as normal. Although no additional recycling service will be offered the council will always collect extra recycling put out for collection.

Please ensure that all glass is inside the green boxes with yellow lids. Cardboard should be cut down into pieces no bigger than your recycling box lid and any extra paper, cans, card, textiles and plastic bottles can be put out in separate, clearly-labelled carrier bags.

There are also a number of changes to the days on which your non-recyclable waste will be collected.
Below are the changes throughout the festive period that will affect all households. These are shown on the collection calendar that was sent to you in June.

Usual day - Amended collection day:

Monday 21st December - Saturday 19th December

Tuesday 22nd December - Monday 21st December

Wednesday 23rd December - Tuesday 22nd December

Thursday 24th December - Wednesday 23rd December

Friday 25th December - Thursday 24th December

Then no change until:

Friday 1st January - Saturday 2nd January

If you have any queries regarding your refuse or recycling collections this Christmas please consult your collection calendar, email or call Customer Services on 01524 582491.

Information is available on the council’s website

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Conservation Area Conservation Consultation delayed

Lancaster City Council has decided to delay the start of its planned boundary review consultation for local conservation areas following legal proceedings brought by SAVE Britain's Heritage against Lancaster City Council, the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government and Mitchells of Lancaster (see news stories here and here).

Following the temporary injunction obtained by SAVE on 3 December 2010 to prevent the demolition of the Mitchell's Brewery buildings, an application for Judicial Review was made to the High Court by SAVE on 7 December 2009. As a result of such action, the Council says injunctive relief has been extended until such a time as the Judicial Review has been determined.

The City Council is now seeking legal advice on whether it is appropriate to start the public consultation exercise whilst Judicial Review proceedings are ongoing.

A further notice will be posted on the Council’s website once the consultation period has commenced.

The consultation period will not be reduced as a result, but will be extended accordingly and the Council has apologised for any inconvenience caused.

Morecambe Town Council Condemns Link Road Plans

Morecambe Town Council has overwhelmingly objected to link road orders issued by Lancashire County Council as it continues its plans to press ahead with the controversial and increasingly hugely expensive road scheme that would see a new road built between the motorway and Heysham port.

On Tuesday, the Council voted 17-1 to object to the plans for the highly controversial Heysham M6 Link road, objecting to the Compulsory Purchase and Side Road Orders and requesting a reconsideration of all of the issues by a government appointed inspector. The grounds mentioned were inconvenience, loss of amenities, environmental damage, and adverse effects on residents, flora and fauna.

"Recent flood events in Cumbria, only a few miles from the catchment area of our River Lune, show that we must be absolutely certain that all the calculations have been done correctly," argued Councillor Roger Dennison, "or we could create similar problems here. This scheme must be looked at again."

Morecambe Town Council joins a long list of opponents of the scheme, including the district’s MP Geraldine Smith, Lancaster City Council, Friends of the Earth and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, and Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe, who represent the majority of the residents of the district who oppose the damaging and destructive road.

The Council's objections come hot on the heels of the revelation that County Council planners have completely missed out an important step in the statutory planning process required for their Heysham M6 Link road plans meaning they will have to go back to the drawing board - literally - to come up with new plans, adding further cost to the much criticised scheme (see news story).

Councillor Geoff Marsland said that he had spoken to a representative of the Government Office for the North West, who confirmed that this was exactly the sort of objection to the road plan they would consider seriously.

"This scheme is being driven by Lancashire County Councillors from County Hall in Preston," argues David Gate, chair of local transport campaign group TSLM. "It doesn't have Council support where it matters, in the north of Lancashire. Up here, everyone wants integrated transport plans which would bring together Lancaster, Morecambe and the University, by tackling local congestion and improving in town transport measures.

"No one wants a lorry generating ferry link road, which destroys the green belt and produces 23,500 tonnes of extra CO2 a year, at twice the cost of the integrated transport measures."

The road would also not alleviate local traffic problems between Lancaster and Lancaster University, with 'rush hour' traffic becoming an increasing problem in term time, affecting commuters and bus passengers alike.

Coastline Plan Consultation Begins

nw_coastline_map.gifLancaster City Council has begun a consultation on management plans for the local coastline, working with North West England and North Wales Coastal Group, the Environment Agency and other organisations.

The aim is to plan the best way to manage our changing coast, now and for future generations and the Council is asking for local views to make sure that the plans are realistic, suitable and achievable through several channels, including a new web site, The closing date for consultation responses is 14th February 2010.

Our coastline is changing, as waves, tides, wind and storms move sand and sediment around the coast and estuaries, changing the way that the shoreline looks, works and protects our homes and towns. In addition, climate change will affect these processes and the Council argues it is important that they take action now to prepare for the future.

To help to deal with the consequences of a changing coast a long term Shoreline Management Plan to set out how our shoreline is managed is needed, to identify how to manage our coast over a long period of time. SMPs analyse the social, environmental and economic effects of different management regimes and the consequences on the protection of communities and land against coastal erosion and flooding.

“We are not able to protect all coastal homes, businesses, land and wildlife habitats from coastal erosion and flooding," explains Coun Jon Barry, Cabinet member with responsibility for the environment at Lancaster City Council, "but with help, we will know where these risks are greatest and set out effective ways to manage these in a sustainable way.”

SMPs provide evidence and guidance for Local Authorities, the Environment Agency and other organisations enabling them to plan the management of their coastline and incorporate these matters within the planning regime.

Pete Fox, Environment Agency North West Flood and Coastal Risk Manager added: “It’s really important that local communities work with the Environment Agency, Local Authorities and others to produce the Shoreline Management Plans and Coastal Erosion Risk Maps. This will ensure we all get the best possible outcomes for people and the environment in the area and beyond.”

• To have your say on the plans and find out more visit, and you can send your feedback by email via that web site or in writing to North West England and North Wales Coastal Group, c/o Mrs F Crayston, Blackpool Borough Council, Westgate House, Squires Lane, Blackpool FY4 2TS.

• Copies of the draft plan are also available for inspection at Morecambe and Lancaster Town Halls.

Warning over alarm company claiming to be working with police

Local residents are being warned about an alarm company currently cold calling in the Lancaster and Morecambe area.

Sales staff are contacting householders by telephone and falsely claiming to be working with the police, while offering numerous free gifts such as security marking pens. The company are then using high pressure tactics to make arrangements for their sales teams and installers to call at the address.

Jan Brown, crime prevention officer for the Lancaster and Morecambe district, said: “If anyone is approached by this company, they must not feel pressured into agreeing to business on their doorstep.

“Often what may seem like a bargain at the time can be found cheaper from alternative retailers and advice is available from the crime prevention office who can supply information about choosing a domestic intruder alarm for your home.

“Lancashire Police will provide crime prevention advice and security marking pens free of charge and these are available from the main police stations in the area.

“The crime prevention office at Morecambe police station also offers free crime prevention advice about any issue and we would encourage people to come and talk to us if they need any advice.”

• For further advice, you can either visit or call the Crime Prevention team on 01524 596988 or Consumer Direct on 08454 040506.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Link road planners sail into deep water

Lancashire County Council (LCC) planners have completely missed out an important step in the statutory planning process required for their Heysham M6 Link road plans meaning they will have to go back to the drawing board - literally - to come up with new plans, adding further cost to the much criticised scheme.

The County Council is required by law to provide a scheme under the Highways Act for the massive new low-level bridge over the River Lune, which is, at Halton, a navigable water. The Council has gone ahead with its Compulsory Purchase procedure without the necessary scheme, even though they were told by the Department for Transport that this would be needed.

The Government Office for the North East (GONE), acting on behalf of the Department for Transport, actually advised LCC's Solicitors in January 2009 that, if the river is navigable, then a scheme would be required.

"It seems that neither the lawyers nor the planners bothered to investigate whether the river is navigable at Halton," said David Gate, chair of local transport campaign group Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe. "Everyone in this part of the world knows that the River Lune is most definitely navigable on that stretch, and we have collected a large body of evidence and sent it to the DfT to prove the point. Several boat and canoe clubs have used this stretch of river for many years. Local people have rowed on the River Lune for over a hundred years."

In the face of this mass of evidence of navigation, the County Council will have no alternative but to make a scheme for the road bridge, submit it to the DfT for consideration and publish it for possible objection. As a minimum, TSLM believe this will add significantly to the timetable and the omission may also delay DfT consideration of a further public inquiry into the controversial £140 million road plans.

"The County Council has simply ignored the comments of government experts and gone full steam ahead with their plans," says David. "The planners from Preston have once again ignores local people. They have rushed to try and secure taxpayer funding before the Government implements spending cuts, but now they may have sailed their plan onto the rocks."

CCTV released after theft from car at country club

thurnham.jpgPolice have released a CCTV image after valuables were stolen from a car parked outside Thurnham Hall Country Club at 2.40pm on Friday 13th November, when its window was smashed.

Among the items stolen, worth over £1,500, were two cameras, an Ipod Nano and various books and DVDs.

Police would now like to speak to the people pictured in the CCTV image in order to eliminate them from their inquiries.

Please contact Lancashire police on 01524 63333 or Crimestoppers (anonymously) on 0800 555 111.

Morecambe landlady fined for flytip offence

Illegal Fly Tipping on Back Castle Lane, Lancaster, in March 2009

A Morecambe landlady has been fined after rubbish was illegally dumped in a quiet country lane in Lancaster.

Susan Stewart, the licensee of the Royal Hotel, Morecambe, was prosecuted by Lancaster City Council following a fly tipping incident in Green Lane, also known as Back Castle Lane, in March this year.

The council’s case, which was heard by Lancaster magistrates on Thursday 3rd December, was that Miss Stewart, who had recently moved from the Bath Hotel to the Royal Hotel, Morecambe, had waste that needed to be removed from both properties. Miss Stewart employed two men and a van to remove the rubbish, which was subsequently dumped in Lancaster.

Under environmental protection laws, anyone wanting to dispose of waste has a ‘duty of care’ and must make sure it is done so lawfully. If they employ a third party on their behalf then that person must hold a waste carriers licence.

The court heard that in this case Miss Stewart did not check that the people transporting the waste had a licence and did not receive a transfer note for the waste. She therefore failed in her duty of care and was equally liable for the flytipping.

She pleaded guilty to three offences and was fined £400 and ordered to pay £300 costs and £15 victim surcharge.

“The council is committed to maintaining the cleanliness of our district," commented Lancaster City Council’s Cabinet member with responsibility for cleansing and the environment, Coun Jon Barry. "Whether it's a case like this, or someone dumping a single bin bag in a back street, fly tipping is something that spoils the appearance of the area. Once a fly tip is identified it then has to be cleaned up and investigated, all of which creates a cost to the council tax payer."

• For more details about how to make sure waste is disposed of legally visit or call 01524 582491.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Christmas Club Cash Stolen

Local police are appealing for information after thieves stole packets of money destined for members of a Christmas club.

At around 1.25pm on Saturday, 5th December, a substantial amount of cash was stolen from a vehicle parked in Laureston Avenue, Heysham.

The money was contained in 25 separate large brown envelopes, which were inside a blue plastic tray.

Two men approached the rear of the vehicle while the owner was in the driveway, opened the boot and removed the tray and envelopes. Both offenders then ran off onto Emmaus Road, towards the children’s centre, before running onto Middleton Way.

They then got into a silver Audi, driven by a third male, near to Heysham Towers. All three then made off in the direction of Morecambe.

The two males who ran from Laureston Avenue are described as white, in their late teens to early 20s, of slim build and were both approximately 5’8” to 5’10” tall. Both were wearing dark coloured sports clothing and had their hoods up.

The driver of the Audi is described as in his late 30s to early 40s, of large solid build, with a pale complexion, and wearing a camel coloured suede coat and light brown baseball cap.

DS Steve Lloyd, Morecambe CID, said: “This incident will have affected a large number of people who were involved in the club and it will be especially hard for them as we are now nearing Christmas, when the money would have been greatly needed.

“I would urge anyone with information about this incident to get in touch with us.”

• If you think you saw these people or this vehicle or anything suspicious please contact Lancashire police on 01524 63333 (quote Log number LC-20091205-0811) or Crimestoppers (anonymously) on 0800 555 111.

Make Sure Santa is Your Only Intruder at Christmas

Home owners are being given crime prevention tips to make sure they don’t fall victim to crime this Christmas.

At this time of year, expensive presents are starting to be placed around trees – and can prove tempting to passing thieves. Opportunist thieves may take every opportunity to take advantage of a careless act, like your front door being left unlocked while you're upstairs - and take what they can.

Crime prevention officer Jan Brown, Lancashire Police, said: “Having bought all those wonderful presents, don't make it easy for someone to steal from your home.

“Keep them out of sight until last thing on Christmas Eve and if you 'hide' or store larger items such as bicycles in the shed or outbuildings, make sure they are very secure.”

Other tips for beating the burglars and keeping your home safe...

• Take the frame numbers of new cycles and the serial numbers of new electrical equipment for future reference. Remember, empty boxes left outside advertise that you have new goods inside - dispose of packing carefully.

• If you go out for the evening - make it look like someone is at home by turning on lights and the radio. Don't leave curtains open so people can see your decorations as potential thieves can see in.

• Be extra careful about locking doors and windows.

• As a fire precaution, don't leave Christmas lights on in the house whilst you are out.

• If you go away for the holiday period, use an automatic timer for lights and ask a trusted neighbour to watch your home.

• Don't forget to cancel newspapers and milk if you have them delivered and either redirect your mail through the Post Office or have your neighbour take mail into the house - unopened Christmas cards and mail are a sure sign that a house is empty.

Is This Your Cat?

image002.jpgDetails of this cat were submitted to on 1st December 2009.

The cat was found in Gloucester Avenue, Lancaster on around 16th November 2009.

'Pussykins' is approximately 1 - 2yr old DSH female with Green eyes (Black spot in left eye), White with Brown, Tan and White from eyes down to and including front paws and is now in the care of Animal Care, Blea Tarn, Scotforth, Tel: 01524 65495.

Click here for Found Cats on MyMoggy.Com in the Lancaster area

Click here for Missing Cats on MyMoggy.Com in the Lancaster area

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Naked Ambition? Your Opportunity to be Part of Hit Theatre Show

A hit at the 2009 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Nic Green’s Trilogy is coming to the Nuffield Theatre on Saturday 30th January - but to make it a success, Nic needs local women willing to bare all and join her in this celebration of womanhood.

Trilogy is a celebratory venture into modern-day feminism. Described by Lyn Gardner in the Guardian as “a strenuously choreographed… piece of participatory theatre that examines and celebrates what it means to be a woman in the 21st century, where we have come from and where we are going, Trilogy is angry, joyous, heartfelt, rigorous and radiant with hope. It makes you want to fling off your clothes and dance.”

Nic Green, who is based in Glasgow, is committed to creating hopeful and accessible art work with emphasis on the notion of making positive change, and empowering others to do the same. Her previous work has spanned solo and group theatre performance as well as community projects and interactive web-based endeavours.

Nic explains why she needs your help to bring this piece of theatre to life: “The first part of the Trilogy ends with a high energy, ensemble naked dance. It is a powerful and emotive moment, presenting the female body in an alternative, empowered way, and celebrating the difference and diversity between us. In the past we have had women of all shapes and sizes, abilities, ages and backgrounds and it has been amazing.”

If you’re feeling tempted, but still tentative, Nic is reassuring:

“I realise it's a big challenge (for many of us) to do a performance with no clothes on, but I can promise to approach this in the most sensitive way I know how, and you won’t be asked to do anything you don’t feel comfortable with. If you come to the first session (which we will do fully clothed!) you’ll be able to meet myself and the other participants and decide if you’d like to take part. By attending the first rehearsal you are not committing to anything and if you feel it is not for you then we will totally understand.”

A participant in Edinburgh described the experience of taking part as “the most liberating thing I have ever done.”

To find out more, join Nic for tea and home-made cakes on Mon 7th of December 2009 at Scott Gallery, Lancaster University from 3 to 4pm or at The Gregson Centre, Moor Lane, Lancaster between 5.30 and 6pm.

This will be a fun and friendly opportunity to find out a little more about the project and to chat to Nic about what it means to be involved. If you can’t make these sessions, or want to know more, contact Alice at the Nuffield Theatre on 01524 592994 or

Rehearsals will be every evening during the week of 25th January, culminating in the performance on Saturday 30th January. Tickets for the show on 30th January are £10/£7 from the box office on 01524 594151 or book online at

Friday, 4 December 2009

Mitchells Issues Statement on Brewery

Mitchells Brewery, LancasterLocal company Mitchells has issued a full statement via its web site and in notices posted at the Brewery itself on its reasons for wanting to demolish the old Brewery, outlining its support for the proposed Centros development. We publish the statement in full here: comment is of course more than welcome. You can download the full statement via this link on the Mitchells web site (PDF)

In recent weeks Mitchell’s of Lancaster has been criticised by several campaigning groups, including It’s Our City and Save, regarding the proposed demolition of our redundant old brewery buildings on Brewery Lane.

John Whitelegg, Leader of the North West (of England) Green Party and local councillor for Lancaster, has also been extremely vocal in his opposition to the proposed move to demolish the buildings.

Despite communicating with local media to explain why we have chosen this course of action we feel little balance has been given to convey our position.

Therefore, we would like to explain to you, the people of Lancaster, why we have, after careful consideration, decided on this way forward. As you would expect from a company rooted in the fabric of Lancaster for over 130 years, we are extremely proud and respectful of the heritage of our city. And as one of the city’s largest employers we are also acutely aware of the need for jobs for local people.

Therefore we would like to make the following points:

Councillor Whitelegg claims that "The demolition would be an act of unrestrained vandalism”.

• For over 130 years the custodians of Mitchell’s have undertaken their duties with a keen interest in the community and the environment. It’s preposterous to think that had the buildings any architectural merit the company wouldn’t embrace their heritage.

• The truth of the matter is that having worked closely with English Heritage, to assess the significance of the site, on three separate occasions, surveys have repeatedly proven that the buildings do not illustrate an important aspects of the nations social, economic or cultural history; they don’t have any important architectural design and they are not of a significant age to be considered a rarity.

• Three failed attempts to have the buildings listed clearly show that they lacked the special interest, in a national context, which is required to warrant the designation of listed status. Indeed English Heritage in a communication with the Department for Culture Media and Sport states that “The brewery itself is not of sufficient intrinsic interest to warrant listing.” This comment was made following the most recent assessment of the site in 2007.

• A fourth attempt to gain listed status, brought by members of the campaigning groups detailed above, will be yet another example of tax payer’s money being wasted. The condition of the brewery has deteriorated to such an extent, due to years of water ingress causing joists to rot and floors to collapse, that the company is extremely concerned regarding its Health and Safety obligations to members of the public and their employees.

• The demolition of the buildings will dovetail with the Centros redevelopment plans which will generate £3.5 million worth of business rates for the city plus additional revenues that will benefit local suppliers.

• Over 1,000 jobs will be created as a result of this development which will make a huge impact on the lives of local people.

We are also acutely aware of the potential dangers of the building as a result of indiscriminate vandalism, over recent years. Together with a number of attempted forced entries, we have to seriously consider our public liability.

Although we have taken all the appropriate measures to secure the site it hasn’t deterred such incidents despite the inherent health and safety issues within the buildings. As owners of the site we, the board, are responsible should any trespasser be injured. Should anyone succeed in entering the building the potential for serious injury cannot be underestimated, particularly when considering the age and condition of the building. This has also influenced our decision.

Irrespective of the Centros proposal we would still have concluded that the buildings had no future. Indeed the site has been taken out of the business rates band as it has been agreed that it has no economic use.

We feel strongly that our detractors would not be making a case for listed building status had the site been outside of the Centros development plans. Indeed there was no interest in the merits of the building in the immediate years after its closure, in 1999, and it’s no coincidence that it is only since the Centros development has been in the public domain that any interest has been noted.

We would ask the minority of people who are opposed to the demolition of the buildings to seriously consider the repercussions of their actions. Not only could they threaten the economic prosperity of the city, they may also be putting the lives and livelihood of local people at risk.

As a Lancaster company we cannot ignore the many benefits that the Centros development will bring to the city. They include:

• Up to 400,000 sq ft of retail and catering space

• Up to 179 town houses and apartments, including 25% affordable (up to 45 in total) providing homes for some 300 or more people

• A new public park and five other public spaces

• Improvements to both the Dukes Playhouse and the Grand Theatre

• New premises for the City’s unique Musicians Co-operative

• More than 1000 new long term jobs provided in retail, catering, leisure, maintenance, security and management, plus 600-700 short term building jobs created during the 2 year construction period

• 3 million pounds of highway improvements.

As a company we have to consider the interests of all parties, whilst our detractors do not.

As a company we want economic prosperity for our city, whilst our detractors, it would appear, do not.

If, having heard our side of the story, you support us in our efforts to improve the landscape and economic potential of the city, feel free to email your support to

Thank you

Andrew and Jonathan Barker Joint Managing Directors, Mitchells

Injunction Served To Try to Save Old Brewery

Mitchells Brewery, LancasterIn a dramatic turn of events yesterday the High Court in London agreed to the request of Save Britian's Heritage to issue an injunction against Lancaster City Council and Mitchells brewery to prevent demolition of the old brewery on Lancaster's Brewery Lane.

As we reported earlier, contractors had already begun clearance work on the site, the dismay of campaigners.

The injunction makes it very clear that any action by any party named in the injunction that contributes towards demolition will be liable for fines and imprisonment.

“This is fantastic news and I am absolutely delighted," commented local Green Party councillor John Whitelegg. "The case against demolishing the Brewery is solid and wide-ranging and the injunction has now been served preventing demolition until further legal arguments can be completed.

"It is also very regrettable indeed that it has taken the intervention of the High Court to produce this result when it should have been glaringly obvious to city council senior officers that this is something we should have done ourselves.”

Attempted Lancaster ATM Robbery - CCTV Released

greaves_spar_raiders1.jpgPolice have released CCTV images after raiders caused £900 damage to a shop while trying to steal cash from an ATM machine in Lancaster.

The three offenders smashed glass panels in a basement door to gain entry to the Spar shop on Greaves Road, Lancaster, between 11pm and midnight on 26th November, then tried to force the front off the ATM machine in the main part of the store but made off empty handed.

greaves_spar_raiders2.jpgPolice have now released a CCTV image of a man they would like to speak to in order to eliminate him from their inquiries.

• Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact Lancashire Police on 01524 63333 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Nuclear "Smoke and Mirrors" in Lancaster

091128nuclear.jpgLancaster Town Hall recently played host to some very clever nuclear smoke and mirrors from the Department of Energy and Climate Change in the form of a slick travelling exhibition promoting extensive new nuclear build at Heysham. But despite government assurances on display that arrangements exist or will exist for the long term management of radioactive waste generated by Britain's civil nuclear program, those claims have now been challenged by experts on the issue.

The government recently launched a consultation on the building of new nuclear power stations, which will run until 22 February 2010.

In a letter to the Secretary of State for Energy Ed Miliband, four senior members of the original Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) claim the government is going against recommendations made by their own committee of nuclear waste experts.

“We do not consider it credible to argue that effective arrangements exist or will exist at a generic or a site-specific level for the long-term management of highly active radioactive waste arising from new nuclear build," they argue.

“CoRWM was also quite clear that its proposals should not apply to new nuclear build - the main concern in the present context is that the proposals might be seized upon as providing a green light for new build, that is far from the case”.

Just to add to the government’s smoke and mirrors on nuclear waste, campaigners against the recently-announced expansion of nuclear energy argue there has been an undemocratic, unjust change to our planning system to push through the building of new power stations.

The Infrastructure and Planning Committee is the result of ‘streamlining’ the planning process, which means that issues like the unsolved nuclear waste problem, safety, health and environment will be excluded from the public’s input into decision making. In other words, community groups, individuals and Non Governmental Organisations could present conclusive evidence that Heysham is on a geological fault line but this would not be considered as relevant by the IPC.

The Infrastructure and Planning Committee was successfully lobbied for by the nuclear industry, which now wants to exclude even the recommendations from government experts.

“Nuclear Power is at the top of the polluting industrial food chain and to claim it as a solution to climate change is the most staggering lie," argue Radiation Free Lakeland. "We should remember that according to the military it was nuclear power that first blew a hole in the ozone layer – it would be like curing binge drinking by adding arsenic to beer”.

The experience of nuclear countries is that nuclear power does not stop the need for electricity from fossil fuels and it replaces renewables, not oil or coal, in the energy mix. In fact, there is evidence to show that to go nuclear is to increase use of fossil fuel: Nuclear Engineering International Nuclear argues France uses more fossil fuel per capita than the rest of Europe, despite being one of the countries at the forefront of new nuclear power station building in Europe.

Local campaigners against new nuclear stations are continuing the work of Duncan Ball, the former Sellafield foreman and jailed whistleblower who died earlier this year before he was due to be ‘compensated’ by the industry’s Compensation Scheme for Radiation Linked Diseases. He believed that the only way what he described as a "vicious nuclear juggernaut" would be stopped is by everyone of all backgrounds, all tribes to stand together and say a strong and loud "No" to new nuclear and "Yes" to all the diversity of life.

nuke_scarifice_zone.jpg• The government consultation will run until 22 February 2010 and responses are welcomed: there is more information on the plans here on the DECC web site, or send your views via email to: or to the address listed in the consultation document.

Radiation Free Lakeland web site

Photo: Satori (who says the on-screen message has been 'synopsised')

"Operation Nimrod" Success

The recent Operation Nimrod drugs raids across Lancashire have been hailed a success by officers, councillors and the communities in which they took place.

In the past four weeks, over 100 officers from across Lancashire Constabulary have been involved in eight ‘strike’ days, carrying out drugs raids in Lancaster, Morecambe, Heysham, Bolton-le-Sands and Burnley. The raids resulted in 46 people being arrested and charged with a total of 164 drugs offences related to the supply of heroin and cocaine in north Lancashire.

Officers swooped on the houses after months of undercover police work identified targets involved in the local drug dealing chain and all those charged are now being put through the court process.

“The purpose of Nimrod is to remove those that supply the hardest drugs - such as heroin and cocaine - off our streets," commented Superintendent Richard Spedding, whilst working with other agencies to help those whose daily lives rely on such drugs to kick their habit.

“Residents have been ecstatic at all the activity surrounding Nimrod and confidence in their local police has grown. We are seen to be protecting their communities and their children.

“Drug dealing, in essence, is high level anti-social behaviour and blights communities," he added. "Our activity also tackles crimes such as burglary and vehicle crime, which are committed to fund drug habits.”

Although the Nimrod raids have now finished, police will continue to combat drugs and drugs dealing.

“We will not win the battle against drugs until the market demand has decreased," Supt Spedding said. "In other words, whilst there are always those who are willing to take drugs, or are dependent on them, there will always be those who will supply them.

“We will continue to monitor the situation through our neighbourhood police teams and intelligence we gain from within those communities we have tackled. This will help us to identify any new dealers and then take action to remove them from our streets.”

Lancaster City Councillor David Kerr, who attended several of the raids in Morecambe, said: “The residents I have spoken to have been very impressed to see the police out in such numbers and doing what they want the police to be doing - targeting those individuals who are making their lives a misery.

“I think we need to realise that these operations are required to support our communities, and that without this support our communities would break down.

“Having been on these raids I have seen that it is not just a case of officers kicking a door down and arresting someone – it is about months of meticulous planning resulting in an improvement that benefits all those who live here.”

A spokesperson for Addaction, the organisation that works with officers to provide support and treatment for those arrested for drug offences, said: “Nimrod has brought a large number of people into treatment for their drug abuse – some of whom will be receiving treatment for the first time, while others may have relapsed.

“Getting people involved with treatment is important as in the long term it can get them off drugs and we are pleased at the co-ordination between the offender management team and the police during Nimrod.”

• Anyone with information about drugs dealing in their community are asked to contact Lancaster Police on 01524 63333 or confidentially to Crimestoppers on 0800-555-111.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Injunction Brought Against Mitchell's Demolition

Mitchells Brewery, Lancaster(Updated 8/12/09 to include Council statement): In a dramatic turn of events this morning the heritage group SAVE went to the High Court and obtained an injunction against the immediate demolition of the Mitchell's brewery building on Lancaster City Council and Mitchell's of Lancaster (Brewers) Ltd. Lancaster City Council had announced yesterday (2nd December) that it would do nothing to prevent demolition. Their letter coincided with evidence that demolition was already underway on the site. You can read the full text of the city council letter here.

Initially local residents concerned about the roof removal taking place were reassured that the work was simply removing asbestos from the building. The future of the building was scheduled for discussion at the City Council Planning meeting next Monday 7 December.

Neighbours kept an eye on proceedings in the interim and obtained evidence that nothing less than a complete demolition was being undertaken. Eventually the City Council explained that Mitchells had asserted that a demolition would not constitute 'development' and was therefore not bound to adhere to the planning process. The council was unwilling to risk the expense of litigation over the matter and therefore declined to intervene.

“The collapse of any pretence of effort on the part of the Council to prevent demolition is disgraceful," argues Bulk Ward and Green City Councillor John Whitelegg. "The Council knows full well that large numbers of local people object to demolition as do all ward councillors. The Council knows that bats are present in these buildings and a criminal offence is now being committed in disturbing bat roosts. The Council has initiated a review of conservation area boundaries and spent taxpayer’s money on this and demolition will render that exercise useless. It is hard to imagine a greater dereliction of duty on the part of a public body.”

Commenting on the Council's position on the demolition Mark Cullinan, Lancaster City Council’s chief executive, said: "Following expert legal advice the city council has determined that prior approval for demolition is not needed and we cannot therefore prevent the brewery from being demolished.

"A suggestion has been made that the city council could serve a Building Preservation Notice. However, again based on legal advice, the council has determined that this action would be ill-advised for a number of reasons, not least that the council could be subject to a compensation claim."

This morning, the heritage group SAVE went to the High Court and obtained an injunction against immediate demolition on Lancaster City Council and Mitchell's of Lancaster (Brewers) Ltd.

It says that the Council must "Not permit the demolition or damage of the building by others" and that Mitchells must "Not, whether by themselves or by instructing or encouraging any other person, demolish the building or permit it to be demolished, and [...] not carry out works preliminary to demolition nor to permit them to be carried out and [...] not damage the building nor to permit the building to be damaged."

"If you do not obey this Order you may be found guilty of Contempt of Court and may be sent to prison or fined or your assets may be seized.

"The claim for judicial review is to be issued and served on all Parties on or before Wednesday the 9th December 2009."

The injunction was also sent to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Locals who have been campaigning for sustainable development of the site lost no time in pointing out that despite its fiscal difficulties the Council recently budgetted approximately £60,000 to defend the unpopular Centros planning application for this site at its recent Public Inquiry. In the absence of Centros, who refused to attend, the council's case suffered an embarrassing collapse.

This morning, a number of demonstrators visited the site with the intention of physically preventing further demolition until the legal situation could be clarified. The injunction was served.

• Any sign of further demolition work can be reported to the police and also to lawyer Susan Ring of the firm Richard Buxton Environmental & Public Law. Tel: 020 8948 1135

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Stepping Stones Director Revisits Witch Children


In 2008 a Bafta and Emmy Award-winning Dispatches told the story of how children in Africa's Niger Delta were being denounced by Christian pastors as witches and wizards and then killed, tortured or abandoned by their own families.

The film, which prompted international outrage against a practice conducted in the name of Jesus, forced the Nigerian authorities and the United Nations to act.

c4_tv_witch_children.jpgChild rights legislation came into force making it illegal to brand children as witches and some pastors were arrested. Financial support also poured in to assist a small, Lancaster-based British charity, Stepping Stones Nigeria, providing the only safe refuge for hundreds of youngsters attacked after claims that they were possessed by the Devil.

In Return to Africa's Witch Children, which will screen on Monday (23rd November) on Channel 4, Dispatches reveals what happened to some of the children and church leaders who originally featured, and discovers that even now children as young as two are still being stigmatised as witches and treated as outcasts.

Stepping Stones Gary Foxcroft also returns to Nigeria and discovers that since his last visit the rescue centre that houses many of these children was the target of an attack. He also learns that the number of children living there has in fact risen.

Stepping Stones Nigeria works in partnership with local organisations in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria to build sustainable futures for some of the region's many disadvantaged children, including protecting, saving and transforming the lives of children who have been stigmatised as being 'witches'.

For more information on the documentary, an article by Gary and more, visit this page on the Channel 4 web site

• Stepping Stones Nigeria web site:
Tel: 0845 3138391 (Mon to Fri 9 - 5pm); Email:

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Brigstocke returns to The Platform

Marcus-Brigstocke.jpgOne of Britain’s finest comedians and broadcasters, Marcus Brigstocke, returns to The Platform in Morecambe on Friday 11th December with his hotly anticipated new show God Collar.

The award winning comedian is a firm favourite with comedy fans and God Collar promises to be as sharply observant and quick-witted as his much loved catalogue of work.

Marcus’s talent was noted early in his career in 1996 when he won the BBC New Comedian Award at the Edinburgh Festival. He's now regarded as a major comedy, writing and acting talent, performing stand up nationally to sell out audiences both on tour and on the well trodden comedy circuit.

BBC Radio4 has become something of a second home to him with regular appearances on The Now Show and Just A Minute and he has notched up an impressive list of TV credits including team captain on Argumental for Dave and host of BBC4’s The Late Edition and I’ve Never Seen Star Wars.

There is not much that hasn’t come under Mark's comedic gaze with blisteringly funny results – climate change, religious extremism, loans companies, immigration, the compensation culture, women’s magazines, not to mention his own personal battle against his middle class roots.

• The show will start at 8pm and tickets cost £15 from the box office on 01524 582803.

Police Seek Would-Be Handbag Snatchers

Police are appealing for information after a group of males tried to snatch two women’s handbags.

The ladies were walking along Bellevue Terrace, Lancaster, at around 7.50pm on Saturday 14th November when they were approached from behind by three males.

The group then started to pull at the women’s handbags but ran away after the pair screamed.

The offenders were described as wearing dark hooded tops. One was around 5ft 8 and had dark curly hair coming out from underneath his hood.

• Anyone with information is asked to contact DC Rachel Killinger at Lancaster CID on 01524 63333.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Consultation on Heysham 3 begins


Local consultations on a third nuclear power station at Heysham will take place later this month, after the Government announced Heysham is considered to be potentially suitable for a new nuclear power station, even though the site is on a fault line, a point which has been studiously ignored by the pro-nuclear lobby.

A local exhibition giving information about the draft Nuclear National Policy Statement and the assessment of Heysham will be held at Lancaster Town Hall from 26th - 28th November 2009. A public discussion will also be held on the morning of Saturday 28th November at the same location.

The Government is consulting on its draft Nuclear National Policy Statement and list of sites, including Heysham, around the country that might be suitable for new nuclear power stations and claims - despite wanting to rush the new builds through by bending planning laws - that it would like to hear the public's views.

The draft Nuclear National Policy Statement explains how sites are assessed, why the Government believes Britain need new nuclear power and the Government's policy on managing radioactive waste safely.

(The Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency are currently assessing two new power station designs: the UK-EPR designed by Areva and EDF, and the AP1000 designed by Westinghouse. More info here).

Response to the consultation will help set the framework for planning decisions on new nuclear power stations.

The pro nuclear lobby is convinced that the public is now more in favour of replacing existing nuclear power stations with new ones, to keep the same proportion of nuclear energy as a means to combat climate change. They are also playing the jobs card, pushing the building of new power stations as a means of reducing local unemployment.

To take part in consultation you can visit the local exhibition and record your comments; take part in this public discussion; respond to the consultation online, by post or at events; and read the documents at

• Visit for further information on location and timings and to register for the public session. Alternatively if you wish to register for the public session by telephone please contact 0845 004 8841.