Friday, 3 April 2009

Potential Housing Sites Report Published

Lancaster City Council has published its most comprehensive assessment of housing opportunities ever undertaken across the district, initially identifying over 500 potential sites but narrowing those to just over 100.

Together, it's estimated they have the potential to accommodate nearly 7000 dwellings that could be built over the next 15 years in the area, as part of national and regional planning policy initiatives..

The Council says that almost all of these sites are in accordance with the council’s policy of urban concentration, which seeks to direct 90% of future housing developments to the main urban areas of Lancaster, Morecambe and Heysham and Carnforth. The report itself indicates that of the brownfield and greenfield sites identified, approximately 4,458 dwellings could be provided on brownfield sites between 2009 and 2024, whilst the suitable identified Greenfield sites could provide a total of approximately 2,537 dwellings. A further 3,827 dwellings could also be provided on three Greenfield sites -- Whinney Carr, Grab Lane and land off Bailrigg Lane, Lancaster -- although they would not be developed until post 2024.

(When Winney Carr was proposed as a potential site for housing a frew years back there was considerable opposition which successfully put paid to the scheme at the time).

Brownfield sites identified that could see development soonest include the Canal Corridor scheme proposed by Centros, offering some 179 homes, Kingsway (100, already being built), the controversial Halton Mills (176), the former Pontins site already in development (250 - almost 40 homes have already been built) and a number of smaller schemes schemes such as the former British Waterways building on Aldcliffe Road and the former St. George Church in Willow Lane, Lancaster.

Green field sites under consideration in the report include Litteldale Avenue, Heysham, land by Hest Bank's Coastal Road (offering some 75 homes), with the biggest greenfield site for early consideration at Moss Gate, Heysham, which was approved back in 2007.

The report, available online (PDF format), is just one piece of a much wider evidence base which the council must consider when planning for the future of the district.

The council commissioned consultants Atkins Limited in conjunction with Lambert Smith Hampton to assist it in identifying and assessing future housing opportunities across the district. The Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment investigated potential housing sites examining their suitability, achievability and availability for housing.

The first stage of the process involved identifying potential housing sites, identified through a variety of sources including a successful ‘Call for Sites’ exercise in the summer of 2008. Over 500 potential housing sites were identified. In line with the council’s approved methodology sites located in the Green Belt, areas of highest risk of flooding and sites covered by national designations were removed from the assessment and mall sites below four dwellings and 0.15 hectares were also excluded.

The remaining sites were then assessed in detail by the consultants, who amongst other things, considered whether sites were situated in suitable locations for housing having regard to service provision, neighbouring land uses and environmental and physical conditions; whether sites could be considered available examining access and ownership issues and, finally, whether sites could be considered achievable taking into account the costs involved in bringing the site forward for development.

Having completed the assessment it is now for the council to determine how to take the findings of the report forward in terms of the future allocation of sites and determination of planning applications.

The Council is keen to stress the report is just one piece of a much wider evidence base which they must consider when planning for the future of the district. Identification or exclusion in this report does not mean that sites will or will not be developed; the report is an evidence base document which must be read alongside other evidence base documents.

The completion of the assessment however means that the council can now start preparation of its Land Use Allocations Development Plan Document which will allocate and protect land for particular uses. A timetable outlining the production of this document will be available shortly.

• The final report, which follows several months of surveying and assessment, is available to view at

Music and Me

A music session for under fives and their parents/carers run in partnership by Lune Park Children's Centre and More Music, a community music organisation based in Morecambe's West End, has been launched.

These new weekly music sessions for children aged four and under, and their parents - funded by Youth Music's First Steps programme - offers an interactive hour of singing and instrument playing with a chance to learn new songs as well as covering the classic nursery rhymes

Each session Anni Tracy from More Music, which offers fun and informative sessions for all ages and abilities, leads the group through "hello" songs, finger rhymes, nursery rhymes, songs with actions, songs with instruments and props as well as bringing along special instruments for everyone to hear.

There will be a song bag including a CD, booklet, props and musical instruments available to those attending the groups with songsespecially recorded to match those covered in Music and Me sessions. Music and Me is a year long project which also offers training for people using music in Early Years settings as well as helping with transition between nursery and school.

Music and Me sessions are free and run on Tuesdays 10 - 11 at St Chad's Church Hall on Torrisholme Road and on Wednesdays 10.30 - 11.30 at Skerton Community Primary School.

• For further information and a copy of the brand new summer timetable call 01524 831997, email; or visit

Local Comics Creators Bid for Stardom!

Two Lancaster-based comic creators are pitching for a regular spot in a top selling British comic in a competition that will be decided by reader votes.

Paul Harrison-Davies and virtual-lancaster contributor John Freeman are among several nationally-recognized comics creators bidding for success in TOXIC, published by Egmont, which has just published its Crazy Comics supplement as part of the issue on sale in all good newsagents in the Lancaster and Morecambe area this week.

Readers will decide which strip deserves a permanent place in the comic by voting online for their favourite strips.

“I wouldn’t have a chance on X-Factor with my singing voice, but I reckon I can write a good strip,” says John Freeman, who wrote “Bovver Baby”, drawn by Paul J. Palmer, and “Bad Robots”, drawn by Paul Harrison-Davies.

John, who has written and edited comics for over 20 years, was delighted to work with Paul Harrison-Davies, who drew two of the strips for the title. “He’s a tremendous talent and it was smashing to work with someone you could actually sit down with in a café with for a change, and throw ideas around.” Most comics collaboration is done remotely and sometimes writers and artists have never met.

Having enjoyed reading from an early age, Paul Harrison-Davies, who also drew “Hoaxers” for the TOXIC Special, says he’s never forgotten the impact children's books and comics had on him, so much so that he started making his own. From early days self publishing comics using a photocopier he eventually got short comics accepted in small publisher titles such as Zombie Tales, and Best New Manga. Paul works in a bookshop and it's his dream to have a child come to the counter holding one his children's books.

John and Paul are in good company when it comes to comics talent in the area. “Lancaster and Morecambe are becoming a bit of a comics hotspot,” says John. “Green Arrow writer Andy Diggle lives locally, and we also have indie talents like David Hughes working here.”

• TOXIC’s “Crazy Comics” Special is being given away with the issue on sale now in all good newsagents including WH Smiths and ASDA. For more about John Freeman’s work visit For more about Paul Harrison-Davies’ work visit his blog at:

See how the vote is going for the Bad Robots writers!

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Citizens Advice Seeks New Volunteers

With the economic downturn biting, Lancaster Citizens Advice Bureau tells virtual-Lancaster seen a dramatic rise in the number of clients approaching them for advice.

"We've increased our opening hours and urgently need to train extra advisers and admin support volunteers," says a spokesperson.

Citizens Advice is the largest advice charity in Britain, working against poverty and meeting the information and advice needs of some hundreds of thousands of people each year across a wide range of advice categories. They also represent the public at social security appeal tribunals and more.

An information session for potential volunteers on Thursday 23 April at 5.30. This will provide
information about Citizens Advice locally and nationally, about the different volunteer roles and training available and about the commitment required.

• Anyone interested can email to book a place.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Council's Street Pride Scheme Extended

A further 22 areas which will benefit from Lancaster City Council’s ‘Street Pride’ cleaning scheme have been named, including locations in Morecambe, Heysham and Carnforth.

The Council is also launching a voluntary Street Pride charter" which residents will be asked to sign up to a drive to keep streets clean after 'Deep Cleaning' has taken place

Launched last year, the Council's Street Pride is a series of deep cleans in which a 'hit squad' of council workers moves into chosen areas to give them a thorough clean. The areas taking part have been chosen following nominations from members of the public through their elected councillors.

During the day, a range of services are carried out including street cleansing, grounds maintenance, gully emptying and minor street repairs.

“This is an excellent opportunity for the selected streets to have a thorough spring clean," commented Coun Jon Barry, cabinet member with responsibility for the City Council's Direct Services. "And once this is done, we very much hope that they will stay clean for a long time!”

Information pack detailing the scheme will be delivered to households along each of the streets in the week prior to the clean, which will include "a Street Pride charter" which residents will be asked to sign up to.

The charter is a voluntary agreement between the council and residents to maintain the appearance of the streets once the city council has finished the deep clean, with the aim of encouraging residents to take pride in where they live. (Let's just hope council workers collecting waste and recycling sign it too, eh?)

As an added incentive, households included in the Street Pride scheme are being offered the opportunity to have their unwanted bulky household items collected by Bulky Matters, the Council's waste collection service at half price, for bookings made in the week of the clean up.

Area/Week commencing

Chester Place, Lancaster: 6 April 2009
Slaidburn Drive, Lancaster: 20 April 2009
Appletree Drive, Lancaster: 20 April 2009

Percy Street, Lancaster: 4 May
Carleton Street, Lancaster: 25 May
Woodhill Lane, Lancaster: 25 May

Beeching Close, Lancaster: 8 June
Gresley Court, Lancaster: 8 June
Belle Vue Terrace, Lancaster: 22 June

Prospect Street, Lancaster: 6 July
Dale Street, Lancaster: 6 July
• Roundhouse, Lancaster: 13 July
Penny Street, Lancaster: 19 July
Salford Road, Galgate: 27 July
Chapel Street, Galgate: 27 July
Main Road, Galgate: 27 July

By-pass Road, Bolton-le-Sands: 10 August
Queen Street, Morecambe: 24 August

Eastham Street, Lancaster: 7 September
Westham Street, Lancaster: 7 September
Back New Street, Carnforth: 21 September

Eidsforth Road, Morecambe: 12 October
Clark Street, Morecambe: 12 October

• Area between cycle track and Scale Farm Road: 7 December

January 2010
Hunter Street, Carnforth: 11 January
McDonald Road, Heysham: 25 January
Connaught Road, Heysham: 25 January
Londonderry Road, Heysham: 25 January

February 2010
Denmark Street, Lancaster: 8 February
Gerrard Street, Lancaster: 8 February
Regent Street, Lancaster: 22 February

Monday, 30 March 2009

Centros Protesters due for Trial

Four members of Lancaster United, an opposition group to Centros’s now infamous canal corridor development, will begin their defence at Westminster Magistrates court on the 8th and 9th April. They face charges of aggravated trespass following a peaceful protest staged at the Centros offices in London last December (see news story).

The group say their defence will be based upon the fact that the development would contravene laws and policies on climate change and that the process by which it was approved was fundamentally flawed.

"The council continues to be a puppet for Centros and neglects its obligations to the people of Lancaster," the protestors said in a joint statement. "Throughout the planning process [for the proposed Canal Corridor development] the council repeatedly ignored concerns raised by citizens and a minority of councillors about the legality and viability of the proposal.

"It is outrageous that they are now spending £100,000 of tax payers’ money to defend business interests at a public inquiry, when Centros are financially unable to defend themselves. It’s a perfect example of the councils continuing bias preventing a fair and accountable decision making process regarding the canal corridor development."

"We didn’t intend to subvert the democratic process, we intended to save it," added Matt Wilson, 32.

"I raised the issue of climate change at the planning meeting back in October 2008," said Aurora Trujillo, 29. "Neither the planning officers nor the councillors responded in anyway to my concerns. We were left with know other options."

The four protesters were arrested after entering the Centros offices in London in December and locking themselves to one another to ensure they would not be immediately removed. They then proceeded to read out a list of questions about the proposed development that had not been asked by councillors at a recent planning meeting where outline planning permission for the development was given.

The protesters were not acting in the name of the Carnival of Culture, It's Our City or any other group campaigning against the Centros plan.

After the original protest, a Centros spokesman said “Our staff felt very intimidated by the seven who broke into the office.”