Thursday, 16 April 2009

Coates Picked as Green candidate for Morecambe

Green County and City councillor Chris Coates has been selected as the
prospective Green parliamentary candidate for the Morecambe and
Lunesdale constituency at the next general election. He now has the unenviable job of trying to bite into sitting Labour MP Geraldine Smith's majority.

Coates leads the 12-strong Green group on the City Council, having served as a local councillor for six years. He was elected on to Lancashire County Council in 2005 for Lancaster Central. A time-served carpenter, he now works as a freelance project manager on community based construction projects. He serves on the County's Lancashire Local - Lancaster District and other committees (more details here).

"The time has come for us to look beyond the bits of the area where we are strong and
take a Green message out across the whole District," commented Chris after the result of the ballot of local members for the candidacy was announced at a recent Green Party monthly meeting. "I look forward to the challenge of campaigning in Morecambe and the Lune Valley."

• The next scheduled meeting of the Lancashire Local – Lancaster District will be held in the Town Hall, Lancaster on Tuesday 21st April 2009 at 6.30 pm.

Official Opening of Quay Flood Defences Announced

Lancaster's Flood defence wall and new quayside pathway on St Georges Quay will be opened by the Mayor of Lancaster on Thursday April 23rd at 2.00pm. Everyone is welcome. (Meet at the Millennium Bridge end of the Quay at 1.45.)

This is part of wider St Georges Day celebrations taking place on the Quay on the day and over the weekend. In the evening on 23rd April there will be a talk in the Maritime museum by Dr Sam Riches entitled "An English Saint for English People? The reinvention of St George."

At the weekend there will be Family Craft workshops in the Maritime Museum on Sunday afternoon 26th April 11.00am -1.00pm & 2.00-4.00pm. And in the evening on the Sunday there is Live folk music in the Quayside pubs.

• See: for a local schools project on St George

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Centros Campaigners 'Not Guilty'

Centros protest in LondonFour protesters, charged with Aggravated Trespass after they held a 'sit-in' at Centros' London offices in December 2008 (see news story), were found Not Guilty last week at Westminster Magistrate's Court.

After a two day trial, during which the protesters read to the court a list of questions they had read aloud whilst in the offices of Centros, the District Judge said he was satisfied that the protest was peaceful and lawful.

“All we did was try to get answers to some questions that our councillors seemed unwilling to ask, like, how does this development fit with national and international laws regarding climate change," commented Matthew Wilson. "We've still to get those answers.”

"Obviously we're very happy about this verdict," said Rory Walker, one of the protesters, "and we're looking forward to another victory against Centros in June when their plans go to Public Inquiry."

"We've been acquitted," added Aurora Trujillo, "but we've still got the real battle ahead, to stop Centros turning Lancaster into one more Clone Town.”

During the trail, the court heard that at least one member of the Centros team had recently been made redundant, raising further questions about the company's position.

"Centros pulled out of Dumfries quoting the economic climate, they opened in Bury St Edmunds with less than fifty per cent occupancy of the retail units, and their Portsmouth development now looks like it will face at least two more years of delay," said Rebecca Smith, "and they're not even able to attend the Public Inquiry here in Lancaster.

"It's hard to believe Centros could make this happen, even if the council is irresponsible enough to waste tax payers money fighting the Inquiry for them.”

Asked by the Defence whether he was aware that the development in Lancaster had been called in for a Public Inquiry, David Lewis, Associate Director said simply: “Very aware.”

After the trial, Matthew Wilson said “We've been involved in the fight against Centros at all levels. We went through the planning process, handed out leaflets, helped with the Carnival of Culture, and then finally we took the fight directly to Centros.

"Hopefully this verdict will remind people that protest is supposed to be lively and engaged, because increasingly it feels like we're supposed to register our disapproval through a polite petition and nothing more.”

The Public Inquiry into the Canal Corriodor scheme is scheduled to run for three weeks starting 16th June and may cost local tax payers at least £50,000 as the Council defends the scheme. Centros will not be presenting their own case (see news story), leaving the Council to foot the legal bills in an effort to secure its go ahead.

The Council says it is not defending the applicant, Centros, but is defending the council’s strategic objectives in line with national and regional planning policy for the Lancaster district (see statement).

Heysham Nominated for Third Nuclear Station

Heysham is one of nine sites around the country under consideration for a new nuclear power station even though a geological fault line has in the past been cited as just one reason for no new building.

If built, the new station would join the existing eight reactors at Heysham. The BBC reports a month-long public consultation period will now commence. The government wants the first reactors operational by 2018.

Plans for new nuclear reactors across the UK have been in active discussion for over a year. Last January, The Independent on Sunday reported that the government had held at least nine secret meetings at Downing Street with the bosses of nuclear energy companies while it formulated controversial plans for a new generation of the power plants.

Since then, proposals for new nucelar power stations have gathered pace, with proposals from EDF Energyy, which now incorporates British Energy, for new nuclear building at Heysham the subject of public consultation in February (more info at here on

A third nuclear power station was considered some years ago, provoking huge local opposition. Concerns include the confirmed existence of a geological fault in the area, reported by the now defunct Citizen newspaper. A retired engineer from the plant told the paper it meant a third power station could never be built.

In 1996, British Energy dropped plans to build a gas-fired power station at Heysham, citing inadequate transmission capacity.

Heysham 1 is currently scheduled for decommissioning in 2014 but Heysham 2, which went online in 1988, is not scheduled for decommissioning until 2023. By 2018, when the government wants the first proposed new stations operational, the Magnox fleet and most of the newer advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGRs) will have come out of service, leaving the UK with just four operational nuclear stations.

Announcing the nomination in February, Paul Winkle, station director of Heysham 2 power station said that while the company’s new build focus is in the south of England where the need for new generating capacity is most urgent, EDF believed the Heysham site is a good candidate for new nuclear.

As part of the takeover of British Energy by EDF, the land at the Heysham and Dungeness earmarked for potential new build - but not the existing stations - will have to be sold to another company who would use it for a new nuclear station.

Also on the list is Kirksanton, Cumbria which is at the foot of Black Combe right on the edge of the Lake District National Park.

• More information on Nucelar Power Siting at

• Timeline for comment:

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Spotlight's Final Gig at The YoHo

After 13 years, Lancaster's Spotlight Club plays its final gig at The Yorkshire House this Friday, 17th April combining its usual mix of Open Mic, Performance and Music for one last outing at the brilliant pub venue in North Road.

From May the event moves to its new home at the purpose built litfest auditorium at
The Storey. In the meantime, however, it's business as usual with a great line-up for the final Yo-Ho gig!

Poet Mike Barlow made his first appearance at Spotlight in January 1997, since when he has gained increasing recognition as a poet. He was winner of the National Poetry Competition 2006 with his poem The Third Wife and has previously won First Prize in the Ledbury Poetry Competition 2005, and First prize in the Amnesty International Competition 2002.
"I have a pamphlet, Amicable Numbers, which is a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice," he says, "so I'll be reading one or two pieces from that, as well as some more light-hearted narrative perhaps, and some insights from a bargain box of assorted pronouns."

Mollie Baxter (pictured above) first appeared at Spotlight back in October 1998 since when she has made numerous appearances as a singer, writer, compere and comedienne. She was also the winner of the Spotlight Slam in 2002. "I'll be reading a collection of short prose," she says, "some funny, some serious, some cheese and onion, some coriander and lime."

Poet Julie Simmons has appeared at the open mic and taken part in Spotlight's Slam. She'll be making her debut on the Spotlight bill after attending a Spotlight performance workshop
about which she said: "I think I would benefit from it as it's difficult to entertain when speechless!"

Andrew Hurley graduated from MMU with an MA in Creative Writing, achieving a distinction.
"More and more I feel that everything influences my writing," he revrals. "Other writers, people, music, art, history, a supermarket, boredom, love, death, my children. Writing for me is a way of finding meaning in everything, trying to preserve moments in the exterior and interior worlds that otherwise might slip by."

The evening also features music from improvisational pianist and electronic keyboard player, Stephen Grew, something of an accquired taste but another Spotlight regular over the years. "Basically it's a bit like making a cake, a chocolate one maybe?" says Stephen of his music. "Find your technique stretch it, add water, shake it around for 20 years, in the oven of musical time, then add some more ingredients, maybe some chocolate, 70% maybe! Punctuation optional? Hundreds and thousands to sprinkle on top, when the cake is cool, offer it, for eating.

"I play solo a lot, day to day, considering the pieces, the improvisations as finished works, this is always my main mind set. So maybe I have done a thousand pieces over the last few years."

Andy Raven has appeared at Spotlight several times in recent years, usually alongside his fellow singer/songwriter Joe Spence. While Joe is away in India Andy, who is also front man of How's My Pop, makes his solo debut at Spotlight showcasing his own talents as musician, singer and writer of powerful songs.

Compered by Simon Baker, the doors open at 8.30pm, Admission £3/£2 (conc).

Council Seeks Scrutiny

Since 2001, Lancaster City Council has had a system has been in place to consider issues of concern to local people, known as the Overview and Scrutiny process. Now, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee wants your ideas and thoughts on areas that you think should be looked at.

Scrutiny is important to local democracy and exists to hold decision-makers to account and ensure that issues of concern to local residents and visitors are addressed.

What you might want investigation could be a problem in a local area, a council service or an issue which you feel the council, using its community leadership role, should take a lead in improving.

When the committee or task group considers an issue recommendations are made to the council, cabinet or other agencies, which can help to make real improvements to the lives of residents in the district. All meetings are open to the public and are mostly held at Morecambe and Lancaster Town

• If you think there is a particular issue that should be scrutinised, let them know by writing to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, c/o Democratic Services at Lancaster City Council, Town Hall, Lancaster, LA1 1PJ. Alternatively, email: or telephone 01524 582047
• Halls. Further details, reports, agendas and minutes can be found at