Friday, 30 January 2009

The Cartoon History of Arnside...

Arnside Educational Institute will be one stop on a tour of The Cartoon History of Here in April, a live-action cartoon created by Yorkshire poet, broadcaster and comedian, Ian McMillan and several times Cartoonist of the Year, Tony Husband.

Described as "a fast-flowing, rapid-rafting adventure", two top funny men reflect upon local stories, legends, rivers and romance, presenting poems and cartoons to go, offering comedy, cartoonery, poetry and improv in a hilarious live-action cartoon of the community starring its friendly folks, fantastic fortunes, dazzling ambition and tenderest moments.

Described as "The John Peel of poetry" by Alec Finlay and as "the hunter-gatherer of the spoken word..." on BBC Radio Cumbria, Ian McMillan hosts weekly hit radio show The Verb. He’s Yorkshire Planetarium’s Poet in Space, Poet-in-Residence for The Academy of Urbanism and Barnsley FC, Humberside Police’s Beat Poet, Yorkshire TV’s Investigative Poet and a regular on shows such as Newsnight Review, The Today Programme, Just A Minute and Have I Got News For You? His rip-roaring poetry shows are legendary. Cats make him sneeze. "‘He's one of my all-time heroes - he’s such a talented bloke, I could kill him" says Mike Harding.

Tony Husband, described by actor and broadcaster Griff Rhys Jones as "even funnier than me", is Cartoonist in Residence at The Lowry and a cartoonist for titles such as The Times, Private Eye and PR Weekly and whose latest book is The World’s Worst Joke. He's been awarded Strip, Gag and Sports Cartoonist of the Year no fewer than ten times by the Cartoon Arts Trust and won the 2005 Pont Award given in memory of the great thirties’ cartoonist for his depiction of British life. Tony also has a weekly strip in his local paper, The Tameside Advertiser, can be found in Who’s Who and says Ian makes him sneeze.

A Cartoon History of Here will be performed at the Arnside Educational Institute, Church Hill, Arnside at 7.30pm on Friday 24th April. Tickets: adult - £8, child - £4.50, family (2 adults and 2 children) - £19. The event is suitable for ages 9 and over, running time 80 minutes. Box Office: 01524 762254

Taxi driver's licensing appeal rejected

Magistrates have upheld a decision by Lancaster City Council’s Licensing Regulatory Committee to revoke a taxi driver’s licence after he letting down the tyres of a policeman’s fast response vehicle.

John Mayor, of 24 Brook Road, Morecambe, had his private hire drivers licence revoked by the committee last November, after they were told he had been given a Fixed Penalty Notice for driving in a bus lane by PC Brian Mills-Woods in September.

After he had been issued with the fine, Mr Mayor drove around the one way system in Lancaster, parked his taxi on Queen Street before walking back to the police vehicle. He then proceeded to let the tyres down on the fast response police vehicle that PC Mills-Woods was driving that evening.

PC Mills-Woods was only alerted to the fact his tyres had been deflated when he went back to his vehicle to collect more penalty tickets and noticed Mr Mayor crouching by the car and arrested him.

Mr Mayor appealed the revocation but yesterday, magistrates confirmed the committee’s decision that in view of his actions, Mr Mayor was not a fit and proper person to drive members of the public

“A licence issued by the council to a private hire driver is in effect the council’s seal of approval that the holder is a fit and proper person to drive members of the public," commented Coun Tony Wade, chairman of the Licensing Regulatory Committee. “Where we have evidence to the contrary we must take action.

“In this instance the committee was of the opinion that Mr Mayor’s reckless actions could have put lives at risk.

“Due to the seriousness of the incident there was reasonable cause to revoke his private hire licence and I am pleased that this decision has been upheld.”

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Lancaster MEP Brands Cannabis Law Change "Ludicrous"

The government's decision to upgrade cannabis to 'Class B' status has been branded as ludicrous by a Liberal Democrat MEP.

North West MEP Chris Davies said the change took no account of evidence, ignored the advice of expert advisors, and risked ruining the lives of thousands of young people.

Possession of cannabis will, from today, command a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment, although police officers will be invited to issue on-the-spot fines to first time offenders.

But Davies describes the policy as hopelessly confused and says it will prove ineffective. "Five years ago the Government followed the advice of its advisors that cannabis presented too few dangers to warrant its status and downgraded it to Class B. Since then its use amongst use young people has fallen by more than 20%.

"Now in the face of this success the criminal penalties are being raised against the advice of the Advisory Council on Drugs Misuse. It makes no sense at all!"

The MEP claims that cannabis presents many less dangers than alcohol, and he warns that the change in law will make criminals of individuals who have done no harm to anybody.

"Ten years ago more than 40,000 people were people arrested each year for cannabis possession, and a significant number were imprisoned," he said. "Lives were ruined for no good purpose. "Drugs policy in Britain is a farce. It puts huge sums of money into the hands of real villains, while branding decent people as criminals."

Davies has called for a reappraisal of government strategy, with drugs use being treated as a matter not for the courts but for public health.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Link Road Funding Agreed but Bypass Still Not Definite

Possible look to the Link Road flyoverLast Updated 29 January 2009

The Government this week granted the controversial Heysham M6 Link Road “Programme Entry” status in its bid to secure funding -- but no money has been earmarked for congestion relief in Lancaster and Morecambe and the scheme may still not get the go ahead if its costs rise significantly.

The Department for Transport announced that the £137 million proposals, greenlit after a public inquiry found in the scheme's favour last February, have gained the first level of approval for the project, to the delight of the County Council and other road supporters.

Main highway works, which will see the road carve its unwelcome way through green belt land north of Lancaster, are due to commence in 2010 with an expected completion date of 2014 -- but there are still several more stages for the scheme to complete before the County can start carving up the green belt.

Announcing the funding, transport minister Paul Clark said the road would be of particular benefit to freight traffic, confirming the arguments of those opposing the scheme that the planned road has little to do with easing road congestion in the area.

"This will bring much-needed congestion relief to Lancaster's historic centre, improve road safety and the local environment, as well as providing an opportunity to introduce better public transport," Mr Clark said. "The government is committed to investing in transport links, particularly when they help boost economic growth and regeneration."

County Councillor Matthew Tomlinson (pictured right), Cabinet member for sustainable development welcomed the news, which will see the construction of a 4.8km long two-lane dual carriageway all-purpose road with intermediate junctions and a combined foot and cycleway along its full length.

“I am pleased that the Secretary of State has awarded us Programme Entry status," the Labour councillor, whose hobbies include "walking in the Lakes" (but not, perhaps, around Lancaster's green belt) commented. Tomlinson, who reperesnts Leyland Central on the County Council, feels "This is very positive news for the M6 Link project and means that we can move forward with the plans for this worthwhile scheme.

“The county's team will be working hard to progress the scheme through the rest of the legal processes. Once complete the new link road should greatly improve the inter-urban road network in and around Lancaster and Heysham."

The announcement grants the scheme 'Programme Entry' status in line with the Department for Transport's local major scheme guidance approval process. This means the Department expects to fund the scheme, subject to costs remaining the same (which is doubtful) and the relevant legal powers being obtained.

Funding "Not Guaranteed"

Critics of the scheme, which has met with fierce opposition from those living near its planned route and others, point out that while programme entry funding would cover the estimated £133 million of the costs of building the road, it does not extend to any further measures designed to tackle in town congestion.

"This does not mean the bypass can be built and programme entry status does not guarantee funding," points out Green Party City Councillor and transport expert John Whitelegg (pictured left). "It can be withdrawn over the next few months.

"It took DfT over three years of discussion with the County Council to get to this point when it normally takes six months," he continues. "The DfT knows this bypass was not properly evaluated by County, is bad value for money, destructive and damaging to the green belt and the residents of Torrisholme, makes climate change problems worse and is unnecessary. The decision to grant programme entry is simply DfT cowardice.

"The DfT also knows that it will not fund the £6 million for the park and ride at Junction 34 and neither will County," he added. "It knows that that the cost will escalate even more than the current high of £137 million and that County will have to pay 50% of any cost increase and it knows that County will eventually have to drop the scheme. DfT would rather that County got the political flak for dropping it rather than ministers."

“The [funding announcement] does not cover Park and Ride (£3.5 million), or congestion relief measures, or future cost overruns," concurs David Gate chair of independent transport campaign group Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe. "The Government refuses to fund them, so the cash-strapped County Council must bear the cost, and who knows how many millions that will be?

"Lancashire's hard pressed taxpayers are now committed to a huge and unknown liability for the future.

“The County Council has pressed on with this scheme, in the face of opposition by the district’s MP Geraldine Smith, the City Council and the local public," David continued. "They know it won’t solve congestion, won’t bring jobs, but will increase pollution. Yet there are alternatives. An integrated package of transport relief measures has been drawn up, and is on councillors’ desks at the moment. It would tackle congestion more cheaply than the Link Road.

“We know the Department of Transport is not happy with this scheme. We have met them, and the officers knew that the submission was flawed and inadequate in several key respects. We’re disappointed they’ve granted programme entry, but they are adamant that County must pay its full share of any further cost increases, and there are likely to be many."

The scheme includes alterations to the local road network including existing junctions and some 23 major structures will need to be built including bridges over the West Coast Mainline railway, Lancaster Canal and the River Lune.

Pitfalls Ahead

“Pitfalls lie ahead for the Link plan before it destroys the Green Belt”, says Mr. Gate. “The County must get Compulsory Purchase Orders, with a possible public inquiry. Then they must get quotes from contractors, which may be over budget. And at each stage, the recession-bound Government has to give further approval. There’s still a very long way to go.”

Costs for new roads are infamous for rising rapidly after receiving first level funding such as that announced this week. The Campaign for Better Transport cites several, including the Carlisle Northern Route, which cost £170 million, its costs up 118% since programme entry in Decvember 2000.

Opponents of the bypass have long argued for alternatives to new road building and there's now evidence to show that that even small attempts at easing congestion do work. Lancashire County Council itself has been running a large scale project called “Travel Smart” to reduce car trips and increase the use of walking, cycling and public transport (more info here on the SusTrans web site). In Lancaster, this produced a 12 per cent reduction in car trips and a 16 percent increase in the sustainable forms of transport.

Next Steps

The next stages in the approval process are normally Conditional Approval (once the necessary legal powers are in place) and Full Approval (once final supplier prices have been secured).

With the County making budget cuts to many of its services -- the continuation of unpopular cuts to services such as local libraries and education it has been making for years -- funding the link road despite local oppositon is sure to raise more than a few eyebrows.

More about the Bypass scheme on Virtual-Lancaster
Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe web site
TSLM "Alternative Solutions to the Road"
Campaign for Better Trasnpsort
Sustrans "Travel Smart" Report
County Council statement on Programme Entry Funding
Department of Transport

Happy Birthday, Juicafe!

This weekend sees Juicafe, Lancaster’s smoothie and Milkshake cafe on Lower Damside Street, celebrate its second birthday. The cafe will be running special offers all weekend... and look out for the escaped banana in the city centre!

A lot has happened in the last twelve months for the popular cafe, but one highlight was surely its success in in the Finals of the British Smoothie Championships in London in December.

o-owner Indie represented Juicafe in the competition and after making it to the final twelve, she blended the opposition into submission and finished joint third.

"It was an amazing achievement," says co-owner Oliver Wilson-Fish.

The cafe's menu has gone through plenty of changes and development sine it opened, but Oli, clearly never satisfied with standing still, says further improvements are being made to a new menu coming out shortly. The cafe has also supported health and wellbeing events at Lancaster and Morecambe College and the University of Cumbria.

"The cafe now has a reputation in the city for quality and friendliness," says Oli, "with a chilled seating area great for families to spread out or for group of friends to meet up.

"Or, you can wile away an hour or two playing games and enjoying the wide range of quality smoothies, legendary milkshakes and finest coffee."

• For more info on Juicafe visit -- or simply head down to Damside Street and sample the wares!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Campaign Group Delight at Canal Corridor Plan Inquiry

News that plans for the development of Lancaster's Canal Corridor will go to public inquiry have been met with delight by campaign group It's Our City .

Folowing calls from both local people and national organisations, the Secretary of State has decided to hold a public inquiry into the Centros plans earlier this month (see news story).

Concerns about the scheme cited by the Government Office of the North West include the overall sustainability of the scheme, the impact it will have on traffic, the effect it will have on retail in the existing city centre and in other sub-regional centres such as Kendal, and whether the impact on conservation areas of the demolition of so many historic buildings can be justified.

“These are exactly the same concerns that we have over these plans," commented Cal Giles from It’s Our City, which has proposed alternative and supports community-led development in Lancaster. "We're delighted that all of these problems with Centros’s scheme will now be considered by an independent body”.

“It’s Our City has been asking detailed questions about all of these issues since Centros came to Lancaster," adds Emilie Secker. "Both Centros and the Council have, largely, failed to provide adequate answers. The public inquiry means that now they will have to."

It’s Our City web site:

Public's views sought on Conservation Areas

Brookhouse. Photo by Glyn Shentall. Used with kind permission. © All rights reserved.

Lancaster City Council has begun an assessment of its 37 conservation areas, beginning with those in Bolton-le-Sands, Brookhouse, Halton, Hornby, Slyne, Warton and Wray.

Many of the district’s conservation areas currently have no conservation area appraisal or one which is now out-of-date, but such appraisals are considered a useful tool for assessing the character of a conservation area. The more clearly that character or special interest is defined, the Council says, the easier it is to manage change without damaging that interest.

As part of the appraisal process the conservation area boundaries will also be reviewed.

The council wants to hear your views and will be holding drop-in events with council officers present to answer questions in each of the seven conservation areas. The events will take place during February to give local people the opportunity to view and comment upon the first draft and any proposed boundary changes.

All the events will be held from 4.30pm - 7.30pm at the following venues:

Tue 3rd February 2009: Bolton-le-Sands, Old Free Grammar School
Wed 4th February 2009: Warton, Church Hall, Main Street
Thu 5th February 2009: Slyne, Slyne Memorial Hall
Tue 17th February 2009: Brookhouse, St Paul’s Church Hall
Wed 18th February 2009: Halton, Halton Youth & Community Centre
Mon 23rd February 2009: Hornby, Hornby Village Institute
Tue 24th February 2009: Wray, Wray Village Institute

• Following the public consultation event, there will be a four week consultation period in which to view and comment upon the first drafts. The documents will be available on the Council’s website: (this page is not yet live).

Hard copies will be available to view at Lancaster and Morecambe Town Halls.