Friday, 23 January 2009

It's National Rabbit Week!

National Rabbit Week starts tomorrow (24th) and the Hutches & Crutches Pet Centre in Bolton-le-Sands has been in touch to let us know they will be running a number of free demonstrations in store promoting rabbit welfare.

Take your rabbit along for free claw clipping, dietary advice and learn how to check for potential health problems (Please phone the centre on 727600 to make an appointment).

Hutches & Crutches is a pet centre with a difference. All of the animals in our care are 'recycled' pets. They all have their own stories and they are all looking for new homes.

"We are also running a 'Rabbit Raffle'," says Catherine Lange from the centre. "Tickets can be bought at Hutches & Crutches, with a first prize of a £30 voucher."

There will also be a discount on Burgess Excel products in store and money off vouchers while stocks last and the Centre are also offering 25% off all rabbit hutches throughout the week.

"Many of the rabbits in our care are picked up as strays so we are also offering rabbit micro chipping for £9.99," says Catherine.

Burgess National Rabbit Week ( runs from 24th - 30th January 2009
• Hutches & Crutches Pet Centre can be found at 1 Whin Drive, Bolton-le-sands, Carnforth LA5 8DB Tel: 01524 727600

• Photo © Charles M. Wrenn III

"Winter Vomiting" Advice Re-Issued

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) North West has repeated its plea to people with norovirus infection (winter vomiting) not to attend GP surgeries or hospital Accident and Emergency Units, to avoid the risk of passing on infection to more vulnerable patients.

The Agency is also urging people with the winter vomiting bug not to visit friends or relatives in hospitals or residential care homes and to stay away from work or school until they have recovered and been symptom-free for 48 hours.

“Norovirus is the most common cause of gastro-intestinal infection in the UK with up to one million cases recorded every year," says Dr. Ken Lamden from the HPA’s Cumbria and Lancashire Health Protection Unit. "It is particularly prevalent in the winter months.

“Norovirus infection is an unpleasant but short-lived illness from which the majority of people, even the frail elderly, will recover quite naturally in 12 to 60 hours without any treatment other than rest and the replacement of lost fluids.

"However, it is a highly infectious illness that spreads rapidly when introduced to closed environments such as hospitals, residential care homes, cruise ships, schools and work places.

“That is why we are strongly advising people with “winter vomiting” not to visit GP surgeries or hospital Accident & Emergency units. People with symptoms should stay at home, ensure that their personal hygiene is good, particularly hand-washing, and avoid contact with others.

“However, if symptoms persist the patient should ring NHS Direct for advice or arrange a telephone consultation with the family GP.”

• The NHS Direct number is 0845-4647.

Cash Boost for University of Cumbria

It's just been announced that Britain’s newest academic centre for learning, the University of Cumbria, has secured £26m over the next eight years, bringing hundreds of new jobs to the region.

The UoC has campuses and sites in Ambleside and Lancaster (formerly St. Martins College) and elsewhere.

The funding, confirmed by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA), is intended to transform the Cumbrian economy by encouraging graduate retention and helping people move to higher value employment over the next eight years – so the region can emerge from the global downturn stronger than ever before.

This continued development of Cumbria University is instrumental to driving the progression from Further Education to Higher Education in the region to 2017.

Some of the Univeristy's current funding has helped see completion of the St. Martins site's new Gateway building (pictured above), which has now been opened. The £9.2m building will include a 'one stop shop' for all student facing services where all questions, queries and concerns from students can be received and dealt with.

The £26.7m of NWDA funding follows £9.3m announced by the Agency in July 2007 ahead of the University of Cumbria’s official launch on 1 August 2007. This first phase of funding was aimed specifically at the development costs surrounding the creation of the University and ensuring it was ready to open on the first day of the 2007/08 term.

“I very much welcome this further investment for the development of the University of Cumbria," commented Prime Minister Gordon Brown on a visit to the region. "It’s a vital project that will help the region attract new jobs in the future so Cumbria can emerge from the global downturn stronger than ever before.

"It directly creates 530 new jobs over eight years and will support the creation of 340 new businesses and help the University to increase the number of students by 28,000 by 2017, vital for further unlocking the talent of this region. Our Higher education system continues to be internationally renowned; developing the University of Cumbria enhances this reputation.

"We need to continue to develop and keep young talent in this region," Brown urged. "It's critical to boosting the not only the regional economy but for the UK as a whole.”

• For more information about the University of Cumbria, please visit the website at or call 08080 024 024.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Get your hands on some special spuds!

We can all name our favourite potato-based feasts – hot salty chips, fluffy steaming baked spuds, or the first fresh salad ‘taters’ of the year. But how many varieties of the humble potato could you name?

Come along to the Friends’ Meeting House in Lancaster on Saturday 31st January from 12 noon for this year’s Potato Day and you’ll discover a huge range of potatoes that are anything but humble.

Potato Day is a free event run by members of the local community and it’s a hugely popular day each year, supplying people with a great selection of potatoes for planting. There will be around 30 different varieties of seed potatoes available to buy individually, including many heritage and organic varieties. It’s the best way to create a wonderful pick and mix selection of some of the tastiest tubers around!

If you’ve never grown your own spuds before this is a great place to start; and don’t worry – it really couldn’t be easier. Mary Hamilton, a self-confessed spud-o-phile, said: “Potatoes will be happy in a deep pot in your yard if you haven’t got a garden. And there’s really nothing like the joy of scrabbling for potatoes with your hands – it’s like finding buried treasure!”

The Lancashire Apple Project will also be there, handing out local variety apple trees that were grafted one year ago by volunteers. Most have been pre-ordered, although there may be a small number left looking for a good home. If you are interested, come along to find out more about this fabulous project.

As usual, the Potato Cafe will be serving up fabulous potato-themed food all afternoon and there will be potato-based activities to entertain the kids. So join the spud-inspired fun next Saturday for a lively afternoon inspired by our nation’s favourite root vegetable!

Honorary Alderman Dies

Honorary Alderman Arthur Briggs MBE, who was 101, has died.

Mr Briggs, was elected to represent the Bolton-le-Sands ward in 1973 and served until 2003.passed away on Monday (January 19) morning. He was 101.

Over the years he served on a number of committees and was mayor in 1987/88. He received an MBE in the New Year’s Honours in 2000 and in 2003 he was invested as an Honorary Alderman in recognition of his work on Lancaster City Council.

The funeral service will take place at Lancaster Priory at 10.30am on Thursday 29 January, followed by private interment.

Welcome Stories Reveal Lancaster's diverse community

A new web site, Welcome Stories, has just gone live, detailing stories from local people about their experiences of 'welcome and belonging' in the Lancaster and Morecambe District.

Over the next few weeks more stories will be added to the website, which has its origins in 2003, when local man Paul Speight commissioned a photograph to be taken of local residents on the steps of Lancaster Town Hall.

Paul wanted the photograph to reflect some of the diversity that he knew existed within our local population and around 80 people, of all ages, with many different heritages and from varied backgrounds, gathered to appear in the photograph. The photograph, together with comments from the participants, was made into a poster and became known as 'The Welcome Poster'.

In bringing so many people together who all had something to say about welcome and belonging, The Welcome Stories Project began, with the NCBI continuing the impetus to explore the ideas and themes raised.

A group of NCBI workers and trained volunteers went out onto the streets to ask people about how welcoming they thought our district was. The written responses, though often brief, reflected many different experiences and provided a lot of food for thought about how people develop a sense of belonging and attachment in an area and provided the inspiration for the current Welcome Stories Oral History Collection.

In 2007, NCBI were awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to gather up to 80 personal stories in the form of oral recordings around the themes of welcome and belonging. With more stories being added over the next few weeks, these are the stories that appear on the web site, reflecting the increasing diversity of Lancaster and Morecambe's community.

Visit the Welcome Stories web site

What Secrets are Our MPs Hiding?

Update: The Guardian reported today that Gordon Brown announced the withdrawal of a plan to keep details of MPs' expenses secret at Prime Minister's Question Time, following the collapse overnight of a bipartisan agreement between the prime minister and David Cameron.

On the 16th May 2008, the High Court ruled that MPs' expenses must be published under the Freedom of Information Act.

Tomorrow, MPs are voting to change the law to keep their expenses secret after all, just before publication was due and after spending nearly £1 one million pounds and seven months compiling the data, hoping to bury the vote behind the news about Heathrow's third airport.

Some MPs are claiming that they need to vote for this Order to protect their addresses, even though they already changed to law to do this.

As one protestor at the vote says on, "The fact that some disclosures so far have embarrassed MPs, and ministers and the Speaker in particular, is no justification for saying that, as one MP is quoted as saying 'MPs’ expenses should not be an entertainment show for the public.'"

In yesterday's inauguration speech, US President Obama said: "And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government."

Campaign web site, which enables you to easily contact and monitor the activities of your MPs in parliament, suggest that now is time to tell our politicians that this is the attitude we're looking for in our leaders.

The outcome of this vote will be prominently displayed on every MP's page until after the next General Election.

What can you do?
• Write to your MP to protest:
• Join
this Facebook group -- which already has over 6000 members -- and invite your friends and family
• Pick up the phone and call your local radio and TV news stations. This campaign now has huge coverage online, but says letting people know about this is urgent and they need to reach out as fast as we can.
Read more detail about mySociety's thoughts on this issue

UPDATE: Read MySociety's comment on Brown's climbdown, titled "Blimey. It looks like the Internet's Won"
"... This is a huge victory not just for transparency, it’s a bellwether for a change in the way politics works. There’s no such thing as a good day to bury bad news any more, the Internet has seen to that..."

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Council "Wastes Money" on Centros Inquiry

Green councillors have condemned Lancaster City Council's proposal to spend £100,000 on the Centros public inquiry into the canal corridor development (see news story) at a time when the Council is trying to save £1.7 million in next year's budget.

In agenda documents for a Cabinet meeting held earlier today prepared by the Council's Corporate Director, notes to the draft budgets state the proposed inquiry "will have substantial financial implications for the Council. Initial estimates are around £100K but given the timescales, this has not yet been built into the draft budget."

Coun John Barry proposed at the meeting that councillors should consider options that would include spending less money, but no councillors from any of the other parties would second the proposal.

The proposal comes as the Council continues to struggle with the fallout of £6 million losses from its investments held by Icelandic banks, the report noting some amounts will be recovered, but actual amounts and their timing are very uncertain, and this will vary for the different banks involved.

"The Council is in a budget crisis and has already cut services such as the Dome and the Youth Games and will soon be making proposals for much wider cuts in other services," says John. Yet at the same time, they are quite happy to pay expensive barristers thousands of pounds a day to defend a development that is unpopular and may fall victim to the credit crunch. It seems to me that councillors have lost sight of what their priorities should be."

"We have a large planning department and they should be perfectly capable of appearing before the inquiry - at no further expense to the taxpayer."

"The city council is sleep-walking into spending £100k on fat cat barristers and expert witnesses to bolster the flawed case for the canal corridor development at the public inquiry," added Bulk Ward councillor John Whitelegg. "Given the choice of spending this money on front line council services or barristers there should be no argument. We need the services and not the barristers."

View the full Cabinet Agenda and Documents
View the GF Capital Report Cabinet 200109, item 9 relating to the proposed costs (PDF)

In Review: Vivid Arts at Lancaster Library

It was very dark and very, very wet and miserable at 7pm last Saturday, 17th January 2009. A truly wretched evening. And I had no idea what to do.

Should I play chess with my computer? Go to the pub and listen to some bore droning on about football/ his play station/ how things were better in the past? Or converse freely and openly with my fish (except for the one that always turns its back on me when I make an appearance)?

Hang on! I remembered that there was a new event taking place at Lancaster Library: Vivid Arts.

Braving the elements, I made my way into town and with a large degree of scepticism, I entered the library to see whether this happening would be another cultural dump squib or another self-congratulatory affair. But what a pleasant surprise I got!

The first Vivid Arts happening, organised by Richard Davis (a Mancunian who was until recently involved with the arts’ scene of Manchester), was a striking event and much more sophisticated and professional than anything I have yet seen in and around Lancaster.

And also far less self-regarding.

The audience was a mixture of grown ups, children, teenagers and elderly people, as Vivid Arts – co-organised by Friends of the Library - is high quality and classy family entertainment. There was also ample room for people to mill about and mill about they did. When a particular act didn’t please one’s auditory or visual faculties, one was freely allowed to wander about and make conversation with other people freely milling about the library.

But what about the entertainment? Music was provided by Kris Foster with his unique songs and cartoons about Morecambe and transsexuals, and the band Dose with their rather idiosyncratic and very stylish electric folk sound.

Poetry and prose was supplied by the father and son duo Ping Pong (poetry set to incidental guitar music) and the Welsh writer Carys Davies (now resident in Lancaster) with a rather scary tale from her latest book Some New Ambush.

Dance (of which there was quite a lot and what can I say? It was highly professional, very entertaining and great fun) was provided by Turning Point Theatre Arts, who entertained the audience with, among other things, case studies of love, desire, being stranded on a desert island and a damning indictment of the current economic crisis (now that was fun!).

The Monopoly of Noise supplied the evening’s proceedings with experimental theatre.

Finally, I should mention that there was an all night photography exhibition entitled ‘Manchester 89 – 92 (Manchester is till alive- and London, New York and the rest are still dead)’ by Richard Davis. Portraits included Steve Coogan, the Stone Roses, New Order, Caroline Aherne, and the Happy Mondays.

Did I enjoy myself? Oh yes. All in all, I say hats off to Richard Davis! I truly am looking forward to the next Vivid Arts event. Thoroughly recommendable.

The next Vivid Arts event will take palce on Sat Mar 7 at Lancaster Library. More details on the organisation's Facebook events page.

Review © Humble Sam aka Jomar de Vrind, 2 Water Street, Lancaster, LA1 1HF
Web Link:

Standing Up To Hatred

Holocaust Memorial day

This year's local Holocaust Memorial Day Candle-lighting Commemoration will take place on Thursday 29th January 2009 at 6.30pm in the Peace Garden, Lancaster Town Hall. This year the theme of the event is “Stand Up To Hatred”.

“Hatred of others was one of the driving forces of the Nazi regime," explains Liz Neat of National Coalition Building Institute Lancashire, who are co-ordinating the event. "The hurt and damage caused by hatred, can have lasting effects on individuals, communities and whole countries. It may take the form of bullying at school, cruelty in the home, war or institutionalised torture throughout a whole country.”

The Day -- the anniversary of the date of the liberation of Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau -- primarily marks the memory of those killed by the Nazis both in the years before and during the Second World War. While Jews were the primary victims of Nazi hatred, others killed or persecuted include European Roma and Sinti (Gypsies), gay men and lesbians, the physically and mentally disabled, Jehovah’s Witnesses, political opponents, including trade unionists, and Soviet prisoners of war.

The Candle-lighting Commemoration will be followed by a talk and discussion at The Dukes.

“This year we are broadening out the scope of the event from commemoration of those who died in the Holocaust," says Councillor Catriona Stamp, one of the organisers, "and the important part that each individual can play in ending hatred in our local communities today."

Titled "Unspeakable Truths - Hatred and Justice in Chile since the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990)" the talk is being given by David Sugarman, Professor of Law, Director of the Centre for Law and Society at Lancaster University and will start at 8.00pm.

"The example of Chile helps us consider what can be done on an international scale to bring about justice,” says Catriona.

The Dukes is showing the critically-acclaimed film The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas on the 27th and 28th January.

Exhibitions about the Holocaust are on now at the Dukes and Lancaster Library, organised in conjunction with Holocaust Memorial Day.

• For further information contact NCBI Lancashire on 01524 383899 or email
The National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI) is an international non-profit leadership-training organisation, which has been working throughout the world to create productive teams and communities through eliminating discrimination, raising awareness and mutual respect and teaching practical skills to this end.
Holocaust Memorial Day web site
More information about The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas on The Dukes web site

Monday, 19 January 2009

Sainsbury's Expansion Proposed

Proposed design for Sainsbury's Lancaster. Image courtesy Sainsbury's.Above: What the revamped Sainsbury's store would look like from the car park. Image courtesy Sainsbury's.

(Updated 23/1/09): Sainsbury’s has begun a public consultation event to ask for views on a proposed extension to their Cable Street store in Lancaster which the supermarket chains says could bring over 20 new jobs, as well as a better range of goods.

The plans have been released in the week that the chain has also announced it intends to open a new supermarket in Morecambe, after completing a deal to buy Morecambe FC's Christie Park in a multi-million pound deal.

Designs for the proposed extension to the Lancaster store will be on display in the entrance area to the store where people can view the plans this week. Feedback forms are also available.

The proposals would see a small extension to the rear of the store and a two-storey extension to part of the shopfront to create around 13,000 sq ft of extra sales space, a new customer restaurant on a new mezzanine floor and around 25 new full and part time jobs.

The Lancaster Guardian reported the new 40,000 sq foot Sainsbury's in Morecambe, scheduled to open in spring 2011, is expected to create around 350 permanent jobs. The deal means Morecambe FC can now start work on their brand new stadium in Westgate.

Pictured above is a design for the new look store, as viewed from the existing car park. The new store entrance lobby can be seen underneath the ‘Sainsbury’s’ sign to the left of the elevation along with the additional storey to provide the mezzanine floor at the right hand end of the image.

Sainsbury's Lancaster store has been "over trading" for several years, meaning it is unable to keep up with demand from customers. Recent changes, which have introduced more non food items have also resulted in narrower aisles which are difficult to negotiate at busy times.

“Customers familiar with the Cable Street store will know that the store’s current size limits Sainsbury’s ability to offer a full product range," commented Jo Try who is Regional Development Executive at Sainsbury’s. "In addition, the store is in need of general upgrading and improving.

"To address this, and as part of an upgrading programme, Sainsbury’s is considering extending the store.

“A planning application has not yet been submitted and before it is, we want to hear the views of the local community and our customers.”

The proposed store extension would enable Sainsbury’s to stock a wider range of food and non-food products for existing customers.

“Sainsbury’s is still a food first retailer and a store extension would allow us to provide
our loyal customers with an even better range of food products," Jo continues. "The extension would also let us increase our non-food offer within the store.”

Sainsbury's is one of the oldest supermarkets in Lancaster, built on the site of the city's old railway marshalling yards. Its original building was opposed by supporters of the New Planet City youth centre run by the late Geoff Woodhead which operated from the old railway shed and, after planning permission was granted and the store built, there was some criticism of the supermarket chain after it failed to retain housing on the site per its granted planning permission.

• The plans will be available in the store for people to view this week. Anyone wanting more information on the proposals should contact Scott Royal on 0113 246 9243.
Sainbury's Lancaster on Sainsbury's web site

Story Updated 20/1/09

Hornby High Plans Under Review

New proposals to close Hornby High School, which are being fought by locals, will be discussed by Lancaster City Council’s Overview and Scrutiny committee later this month. The renewed proposals to close the school come just a year after the County decided not to proceed with plans to close it and Skerton High, after fierce opposition from parents and staff.

Lancashire County Council began a four week consultation on the future of the school in light of falling admission numbers earlier this month, after announcing proposals to close it on 31 August 2009.

On Wednesday 28 January, representatives from the county council will appear before the Overview and Scrutiny committee to discuss issues arising from the proposals, just before the county's consultation closes.

Writing on Hornby High's web site, Head Caroline Jackson describes the County Council's proposals as "unwelcome" while the Lakeland Echo reported earlier this month that parents of pupils at the school have hit back at criticisms, claiming that it provides an unrivalled environment for children with special educational needs, and offers a safe, secure environment for them to develop.

" There are no new reasons for doing so," she argues. "It is still a matter of finance and numbers only. Whatever the LEA suggests, we are still performing well. Government produced value added figures for 2008 put us in the top 20% of schools."

In its online consultation documents the County Council points out Hornby High School, which has some 142 pupils, is the smallest secondary school in Lancashire, and the number of children seeking places at Hornby has fallen in the last few years.

"Nationally, the government recognises that education is vital to our success and society," says County Councillor Vali Patel, cabinet member for schools. "In 2008 the government launched the National Challenge, and requires every secondary school in England to ensure that by 2011 at least 30% of pupils achieve at least 5 good GCSEs including English and maths. Performance at Hornby was well below this benchmark in 2008."

However, Jackson is confident the School "should easily exceed" its target when it comes to improving its English and Maths results this summer.

"The LEA gave us a budget for three years and a promise of time to overcome the negative effects of the last closure announcement and to establish and develop our Federation with Skerton Community High," she says. "They have now let parents and pupils down by their proposal to go back on this plan. For the children’s sake, we need to make sound plans to turn this seeming disaster into an outstanding opportunity for their education."

The meeting will take place at Morecambe Town Hall and starts at 6.00pm and members of the public are welcome to attend.

A campaign early last year to save the school from closure got incredible support from parents and local people with what was seen as an innovative proposal to form a ‘small schools’ federation’ between Hornby and Skerton leading the County Council to rethink its plans.

Link to Lancashire County Council's Consultation Documents
Responses to the consutation must be received by 30 January 2009
• Read a Report of a Meeting that discussed 2007 Closure proposals for Hornby and Skerton (PDF) (as HTML)
Read the school's official profile on