Friday, 13 February 2009

Sainsbury's Showcases New Store Plans

Sainsbury’s will be holding a public exhibition to showcase its plans for a new store at Christie Park, Morecambe and ask for feedback from the community before submitting a planning application.

The drop-in exhibition will be held at the Directors' Lounge at Morecambe Football Club on Friday 20 February from 9.00am to 7.00pm and Saturday 21 February from 9.00am to 4.00pm.

Representatives from Sainsbury’s and their consultants will be on hand to answer any queries. Information leaflets, including a freepost feedback form, will also be available.

Morecambe Football Club’s move to their new home at Westgate for the 2010-2011 season, along with Sainsbury’s acquisition of Christie Park, were announced last month (see news story).

The proposed new 40,000 sq ft Sainsbury’s foodstore would create around 350 new full and part-time jobs. Proposals include a customer restaurant in the store, recycling facilities and the full Sainsbury’s range of food and non-food products.

“It's still early days, and a planning application has not yet been submitted," commented Jo Try, regional development executive for Sainsbury’s. "Before we do that, we want to know what local residents and businesses think about our plans for Christie Park.

“I encourage people to come along and see for themselves and, most importantly, have their say on this exciting scheme, which will bring jobs and investment to Morecambe.”

• Anyone wanting more information on the proposals should contact Jeremy Fieldsend or Tom Arnold on 0113 246 9243.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Virtual-Lancaster Down but Not Out

The main is currently offline. Our hard working and fab technical team is busy shifting the sites to a better server and we fully expect to be back up and running later today, Thursday 12 February .

We apologise for any inconvenience.

MP Savages Government Plans for Post Office

Morecambe and Lunesdale MP Geraldine Smith joined other MPs in a heated debate on the future of the Royal Mail in Parliament yesterday, roundly condemning the Government's handling of the Post Office and continuing her strident opposition to its part privatisation.

Although noting the problems facing the Post Office, including its growing pensions deficit, Geraldine nevertheless experessed her delight at being able to have an opportunity to vote against the part-privatisation of the service.

"There is great strength of feeling about this matter," she commented during the debate, in part promoted by the findings of what she went on to describe as the "flawed" Hooper review of UK postal services.

"130 Members of this House, most of them Labour, have signed an early-day motion opposing postal privatisation, but the strength of feeling is not confined to Parliament. An independent public opinion poll recently found that 75 per cent of people who had heard of the possibility of Royal Mail being privatised opposed the idea. When respondents were asked about the possibility of foreign ownership, the proportion strongly opposing the partial privatisation of Royal Mail rose to 89 per cent.

Condemning plans for the part privatisation of the service, Smith added "...There has been talk of dinosaurs, but the only dinosaurs are those people who do not realise that privatisation is going out of fashion.

"We have had to rescue the fat cat bankers who got us into so many difficulties and we are nationalising the banks, so privatisation is not the British public's flavour of the month."

During the debate, she and others pointed to the numerous errors of judegment made by Government, PostComm and other bodies that have all contributed to the current problems facing the Post Office.

"There needs to be greater investment and modernisation," she acknowledged. "That can be achieved if Royal Mail starts spending the £600 million that it has already borrowed from the Government to modernise."

With angry comment from both sides of the house on the plans, the debate ended with votes in favour of a motion supporting any plans that would place the Royal Mail on "a sustainable path for the future" while recognising the current six day a week universal service obligation (USO) must be protected.

MPs also urged the govenment to address the growing pensions deficit, called for ongoing modernisation in the Royal Mail and a new relationship between management and postal unions.

It's clear that the Government's proposals for the Royal Mail's part-privatiation will continue to be opposed by many MPs, reflecting the public's anger at the plans.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Virtual-Lancaster Plugged on Diversity FM

virtual-lancaster contributor John Freeman was interviewed on Lancaster's Diversity FM this morning, the show repeated at 6.00pm tonight (Wednesday 11 February).

The interview is the latest by local writer Jomar de Vrind, the man behind Lune Fiction, in his "Imaginary Friends" series for the community radio station, which is based in the YMCA building on Cable Street.

Past interviewees have included the team behind the "Over the Sands" concert series and local writer and raconteur Pascal Desmond.

Complemented by some specially selected music, John talked about virtual-lancaster and the team behind it and his career as a magazine and comics editor and writer for Marvel Comics and Titan Magazines, and his current projects.

• You can listen to Diversity FM live on 103.5FM or via the station's web site:

Four Stars for the Midland

Morecambe's art-deco Midland Hotel has just been accredited as a four star hotel, following a review by Visit Britain, who award four star statuses to hotels which have an 'excellent standard throughout'.

"The Midland Hotel has been beautifully, meticulously, lovingly restored," the leading travel site for the UK notes, "and is an Art Deco-inspired tour de force with 44 modern 30s-inspired rooms, six rooftop suites, a top-notch restaurant and ultra-stylish bar."

"We think it's more than just excellent - it's an icon of the hotel world and something you should definitely visit!" said a spokesperson for the Hotel's owners, Urban Splash.

The Hotel has a special offer this month: two nights for the price of one on stays between Monday and Friday, see their web site for more details.

• Bookings & enquiries: 01524 424000
• Web:
Two For One Offer Page

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Carnival of Culture Returns

The Carnival of Culture is to return, with a meeting this Wednesday (10 February) at 7.30 pm in The Park Hotel pub, to discuss ideas about organising events to raise awareness about the public inquiry and explore alternatives to Centros' proposed development for Lancaster in a fun and creative way.

Some ideas for the next Carnival have already been developed but organisers are keen to get more people involved.

• Carnival of Culture Meeting, Wednesday 10 February 7.30 pm - The Park Hotel (corner of Prospect Street and St Oswald Street), Lancaster (Google Map)
• Web Link:

Questions Continue Over Centros Development

(Updated 18/2/09): Local development campaign group It's Our City has urged caution over to reports that the future of the £150 million Canal Corridor development for Lancaster proposed by developers Centros may be in doubt (see news story)

"The headline in last week's Lancaster Guardian posed the question, 'Is £150m development going to be scrapped?'" group spokesperson Emilie Secker notes. "... The only answer to the Guardian's question at this stage is -- maybe."

"Given the current economic climate and the outlook for retail in general it is conceivable that Centros may abandon the scheme altogether," she continues. "Centros have in fact put plans for a similar scheme in Portsmouth on hold, claiming that they will have to redesign that scheme in light of the current economic climate. The reality is that the Portsmouth scheme was designed to accommodate 80 shops and only three retailers had signed up for space in the new development."

Even where Centros developments are still going ahead, original plans for the scheme and the reality of what is being built seem to have diverged.

"In Bury, Centros are already building a new shopping centre, and as with the Lancaster scheme they had promised a seamless link between the new shops and the old town centre." (In Lancaster a 'bridge link' is promised to join St Nicolas Arcade to the new development. This is why much of Stonewell will be demolished under the proposals - see the official Castle View web site for details). "But a planned five metre wide link between the new and old shops has been reduced to a proposal to simply repave an existing two metre wide alleyway instead.

"This, according to Centros, is necessary as a result of the current economic climate.

"This does not bode well for the Lancaster scheme," feels Emilie, "and says something about the value of the commitments and promises Centros makes."

"It is possible that Centros will pull out of the Lancaster scheme," she continues, although the company is adamant that this is not the case, as the Guardian reported. "However, their refusal to confirm their appearance at the public inquiry may equally well be a tactic on the part of their professional propagandists to lull those who oppose the scheme into a false sense of hope.

"Its Our City urges all those who oppose the scheme to assume that the public inquiry will go ahead with or without Centros and to write letters now to the Planning Inspectorate to register their opposition to the scheme. For information on how to do this contact us at"

While Centros have yet to confirm their appearance, Lancaster City Council have set aside an initial £100,000 of council tax-payers' money to present their case for the scheme at the public inquiry.

"In these hard economic times, when the council is considering cuts in its own budget, which will likely include staff redundancies and cuts in services, it is a disgrace that they seem prepared to spend public money on defending a scheme in which the developer itself appears to have lost interest," says Emilie. "The city council should state now that if Centros do not appear at the public inquiry then they won't waste public money on fighting the case for them."

18/2/09: In a brief statement, Centros told virtual-lancaster that they had no comment to make at this stage on recent developments. "We will make a statement about the inquiry at the appropriate time," said Centros spokesperson Steve Bryson.

• Any correspondence concerning the Canal Corridor application should be sent to the Planning Inspectorate at:- The Planning Inspectorate PINS SAC(B)Room 3/17, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6PN. Their telephone number is 0117 372 8918 and fax 0117 372 8181.

It's Our City Campaign Site
Centros' Castle View Development Site
Council Regeneration Strategy documents on the council web site (PDF files)

One Show Spot for Lancaster Library

Lancaster Library, which has been challenging the traditional image of libraries for some time with its innovative outreach work such as music events, was featured on the BBC's The One Show last night.

The feature, fronted by Anita Rani, compared Lancaster's success at bringing in new users with the closure plans for libararies the Wirral, which have been met with fierce opposition from locals.

With 145 libraries shutting in the UK in the last ten years alone and many more facing closure, Anita Rani asked whether Britain is approaching the final chapter in the story of these beloved public spaces. Lancaster's success seems to offer a much brighter future for a vital pubic service.

The spot, which can be viewed on the BBC's iplayer service for the next seven days, included interviews with a range of Lancastrians on the streets of the city, and comment from the Library's Stewart Parsons, who has organised all the recent music events there.

The feature has prompted a huge response on the show's official web pages, with one librarian from Sussex echoing the views of many.

"Gone are the days when all one could borrow were books or long-playing records," they note. "Now most libraries are centres where local residents can borrow books, DVDs, CDs, audio books, computer games as well as using public access internet computers for browsing, study, work and IT education.

"... To lose our Public Libraries would be devastating and I can only think that the closures are being considered by people who are not frequent library users and who have no understanding of how important Public Libraries are to each and every community they serve."

Despite the popularity of libraries with local communities, the Lancaster and Morecambe area has lost several in recent years thanks to cuts imposed by the county council.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Uni Seeks Marketing Partner

Lancaster University has begun a search for a creative agency to to market its Management School, setting aside a budget of £300,000 to appoint an agency partner.

Duties for the successful firm will revolve around developing and executing “an integrated marketing communications and brand strategy” that will touch upon web design, PR and the creation of a range of "printed collateral", such as the Marketing School prospectuses.

The five-year contract will commence in August and run until 2013.

Applications for the task must be made prior to the end of March. Local ad agencies and PR companies may want to find out more from the University's e-tendering site Angela Wearden at