Friday, 5 June 2009

Conservatives Take Lancashire in Election

The Conservatives have ousted Labour from power in Lancashire - and the British National Party have taken their first seat on the County Council. The Liberal Democarts have gained four councillors and the Greens one, again in Lancaster.

The Consrvative Party's win ends 28 years in opposition since they lost power to Labour in 1981.

County Councillor Geoff Driver, leader of the Conservative Group, will formally take over as county council leader at the council's Annual Meeting on 25 June.

"I am delighted that the Conservatives have taken control after 28 years," he said. "Our policies are all about giving the county council back to the people of Lancashire. The county council is here for one purpose and one purpose only – and that is to serve the people of Lancashire."

Voting swing varied from division to division, but the average swing was 9 per cent from Labour to Conservative on a Lancashire-wide basis with turnout at 38 per cent.

The results of the European elections will be announced on Sunday.

State of the parties 2009 (2005 result in brackets):

Conservative 51 (31)

Labour 16 (44)

Liberal Democrat 10 (6)

Independent 3 (1)

Idle Toad 1 (1)

British National Party 1 (0)

Green 2 (1)

Full Results on the Lancashire County Council web site

BBC Lancashire County Council Results

Centros Development Inquiry: Inspector Squeezing Out Protestors?

(Updated 8 June): The upcoming inquiry into developer Centros' controversial development plans for Lancaster's Canal Corridor seems to be skewing in favour of the Council and the planners, even before it opens on 16th June.

Local campaign group Its Our City has been working very hard to prepare formal evidence for this Inquiry and to turn up and give it. Gathering evidence in support of their opposition - which includes concerns over traffic and transport, retail impact, tourism and more - has proven demanding because IOC witnesses will be cross-examined by a barrister whose job (paid for by local taxpayers) will be to try to undermine it.

Now, the group has been informed that the Inspector has decided to put IOC on last - effectively squeezing them for time and to giving them a maximum of one day for all this evidence.

"This is not enough and shows a lack of respect for the views of IOC and for the complexity of the subject matter presented by IOC witnesses," said a spokesperson. "We need two days and we asked for this at a meeting with the Inspector on 20th April.

"Our case will be damaged by this 50 per cent cut in the time we asked for and all we ask is a reasonable amount of time to get our points over."

In addition the Inspector has said that the City Council needs more time to present its case in support of the development. Clearly, the balance is already shifting in favour of helping those who want the development and hindering those who have a much clearer view of what will benefit all sections of the community.

Here at virtual-lancaster, we've tried to be even-handed about the plans for the Canal Corridor. We've presented links to the Centros web site and published its responses to news stories, although, we'll admit, our view is that this development is not what Lancaster needs and ignores the Council's own research when it comes to reinvigroating the City Centre and the impact the Centors development would have on retailers in Morecambe, as well as elsewere in the city.

In our view, the Council, as a development partner in the proposed plans, is effectively presenting the case for a developer who cannot even be bothered to turn up for proceedings (see Council and Centros joint statement), at a huge cost to local taxpeyers we can ill afford and now the system is working in its favour to put those plans in an even more favourable light.

It has allocated £50,000 to fight the public inquiry on the side of the developer, which has been condemned by the Green Party (see news story).

Centros decided not to take part in this Inquiry and yet it looks like, without even being part of it, its plans will have more exposure than the arguments against it. This is unfair, unjust and merely emphasizes how little those pushing these plans really care about the community it's trying to foist them on.

• Update, 8 June: The Planning Inspectorate has responded to the concerns raised by Its Our City - see news story

• If you agree that this is unfair, you need to write to Mark Southgate, Director of Casework, The Planning Inspectorate, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay Bristol BS1 6PN and very politely but firmly ask him to allocate the two day IOC needs.


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

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Promenade Drama at Lancaster Cathedral

david_varga.jpgFor one week in June Lancaster Cathedral will provide the setting for St Peter's Walk, an innovative performance based on the life and times of St Peter, the Apostle and early Christian martyr to whom the Cathedral is dedicated.

St Peter, who was crucified - upside down - by the Romans around 64AD, was left with the task of setting up the early Christian Church following the death of Jesus.

"St Peter was an interesting character", explains Caroline Hull, Events Co-ordinator at Lancaster Cathedral. "He definitely had his faults and he struggled with the same sorts of conflicts that most of the rest of us do, but he showed great strength and courage in the early days of the Church. Without his leadership the early Church would have been missing a crucial unifying force."

It isn't just the topic of the performance which is intriguing. St Peter's Walk is an 'experience drama’ which uses dramatic sketches, lectures, music, workshops and even an early Christian banquet to explore the legacy of the first leader of the organized Church.

According to Emma Rucastle, a Lancaster-based theatre director and practitioner, who has devised the show, "St Peter's Walk incorporates many different elements of performance, so there should be something for everyone to enjoy. It has been very exciting working with so many people to create what we hope will be a special evening's entertainment: fun, engaging, challenging and thought-provoking."

The evening is divided into a series of 15-minute segments each of which takes places in one of the Cathedral's many varied architectural spaces. Fans of promenade drama will recognize the basic format of the evening as the audience moves about the building during the show. However, St Peter's Walk differs from traditional promenade performances in that each member of the audience selects which pieces to see and the order in which he or she sees them. With as many as ten different options available each evening, each performance will be unique. Whether visitors want to learn about the women St Peter left behind when he decided to follow Jesus, how St Peter's shrine in Rome set the course for all later ecclesiastical architecture or what might have been served at the famous wedding feast at Cana, St Peter's Walk promises to be a truly memorable experience for all who attend.

• 'St Peter's Walk' will be performed nightly at Lancaster Cathedral during the week between Monday 15 June and Sunday 21 June; shows begin at 8pm and last approximately 90 minutes. Tickets (£10; concessions £8; 16 & under £6) are available each night on the door. There are matinees with reduced prices for schoolchildren. For more information, please contact the Cathedral Office (01524 384820;

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

McGuinness sets early TT pace

Morecambe's John McGuinness set the early practice pace at the Isle of Man TT races on Monday evening, topping both the Superbike and Superstock timesheets. Held in glorious conditions, the 14-times TT winner put in a flying lap on his HM Plant Honda Superbike and with a speed of 128.067mph he was just over 11 seconds clear of second quickest rider Adrian Archibald.

John then switched to his Padgetts Superstock Honda, the same machine that he uses in the British Championship, and put in two laps in excess of 123mph, despite a problem on the opening lap with his steering damper. He'd failed to change the settings for the lap so it was still set up for the short circuits although he could still lap quick enough, at 124.684mph, to go quickest in the class.

"It's been a good night and I'm well pleased with how the bikes are working," said John, speaking afterwards. "I had a good run round on the Superbike and it's working good, there's not a lot we need to change on it now. I'm still building up my confidence on the big bike and can be a bit sharper on the brakes and the like so there's plenty more to come."

"I went out on the stocker and had forgotten to alter the sterring damper after I last rode it at Donington but I managed to get two laps in. It was my own fault so I just took it steady through the sections where I knew it would be bad so to be fastest was very pleasing. There's a long way to go yet but we're in the ballpark and I just need to get out on the Supersport bike next to see where we are with that."

Practice continues this evening.

Picture by Mark 'Wally' Walters

LAWM's Last Night Ever!

After over three years of bringing the best of live music to Lancaster LAWM ( present their 50th and final ever night at the Yorkshire House on Friday 12th June!

The best has been left until last with the line up a who’s who of alternative folk. Headlining is cult American singer Diane Cluck of whom Mojo magazine said: “just a voice, a guitar and some of the most spellbinding of words you'll hear anywhere". She is very special. LAWM is delighted that one of their favourite singers of the last decade will headline the final night.

The bill also includes Alasdair Roberts - arguably Scotland's and Britain's most talented and interesting solo male UK folk performer (“a musical highlight of the year" The Times), the otherworldly and amazingly voiced Mary Hampton (Mojo folk album of the month August 2008), and with Lancashire’s best twisted folk ensemble Dan Haywood’s New Hawks, kicking off the night – the perfect send off for LAWM.

• Doors 8pm, Tickets - very few are left! - £7. The Yorkshire House, Lancaster. Tel 01524 64679. More info and advance tickets (strongly recommended as selling fast) from

Lancaster Gets A Haunting Tribute

Local TV Presenter Jason Karl and Adele Yeomans, authors for Lancaster-based publisher Carnegie Publishing are set to spend a spooky Spring in Lancaster city for the third title in their ‘Haunted Heritage’ series of books, to be published at Hallowe'en.

Well known as a face of paranormal television around the world, Jason has presented countless television programmes and series focussing on the strange and the unusual including Discovery Channel’s Ghost Hunters, Living TV’s Most Haunted and ABC’s (America) Diana – Spirit of a Princess’. For his next project, he's joined co-author and Tarot Specialist Adele Yeomans - owner of historic and haunted Mains Hall near the Fylde coast, to scout the Lancastrian landscape for all things ghoulish and ghostly.

The book will be a collection of true accounts of encounters with ghosts and spirits throughout the city and its villages within a ten mile radius. Already included are Lancaster Castle, a haunted autograph shop, and the strange tale of a roman ghost in a council house.

Jason, who lives in a village six miles out of Lancaster, said “Lancaster is such an historic and architecturally beautiful city, with so many lanes, ancient buildings and monuments I am sure we will find a few skeletons in the cupboards!”

Adele, who owns and lives in the haunted hall with her husband Roger, is used to dealing with the dead and has always, had a fascination with the haunted realms. She said “as a full time Tarot Consultant and now as a Ghost Hunter, I am looking forward to exploring the stranger side of Lancaster – we have already had some amazing encounters while writing this series of books, and we are looking for more”.

The paranormal pair are seeking stories of ghosts and hauntings from Lancaster, or anywhere within a ten mile radius for inclusion in the book. Hotels, public houses, private houses, shops, workplaces and more are all being sought for inclusion in what will be a ‘spirited’ read.

Anna Goddard, MD of Carnegie Publishing, based in Galgate, is enthusiastic about the prospect.

“We're very excited to be working on this third publication in the ‘Haunted Heritage’ series with Jason and Adele, the paranormal has an enormous and ever-growing appeal and Lancashire seems to be a rich source of strange events combining tales of the paranormal with local history”.

• The authors are now appealing to anyone who has seen a ghost, or had any kind of supernatural encounter in the area to contact them via email: or Those who do not wish to be identified can have their name altered to protect privacy.

• The book will be published at the end of October to coincide with the festival of the dead – Hallowe'en!

‘Plus One’ Commuter Challenge 2009 Launched

Are you a regular cycle commuter who fancies winning £200 worth of cycling gift vouchers?

Perhaps you're more of an occasional cyclist who wants to be in with a chance of winning a brand new bike?

Lancaster City Council's Cycling Demonstration Town (CDT) Team is inviting commuters and their colleagues to pair up during this year's Bike Week (13 – 21 June) and take part in its 'Plus One’ Commuter Challenge.

Registering for the challenge couldn't be easier. Simply visit to register you and your challenge partner's details and you will both be entered into the prize draw.

In addition to the main prize there's also the opportunity to win a corporate bike to work day for your organisation, a sports or relaxation massage, cinema tickets and every cyclist’s must have... cake!

Cycling to work is not only often quicker than travelling by car or bus but it's cheaper and certainly healthier too.

With a forecast for a great summer this is definitely the year to make that switch and get cycling to work.

The CDT Project Team can help with advice on routes, cycle training and even provide you with a bike buddy who will ride with you on your first day of cycling to work. Don't forget to ask one of your colleagues who already cycles to work for advice as they will already have solved many of the issues you think you might encounter.

• If you want to take part but don't have access to the internet call Matt Moran, Workplace Cycling Officer, on 01524 582616 for an entry form. All completed entry forms must be returned by Wednesday, 24 June.

Moorside opens its doors to a primary school experience

Moorside School, Lancaster is opening its doors for a day to give parents and children an insight into primary school life.

The open day takes place on Friday, 12 June from 9.00am until 3.00pm when everyone is welcome to explore the corridors, classrooms and extensive grounds of the school and see for themselves the teachers and children in action during lesson time.

Moorside School is set within 20 acres of land off Bowerham Road, Lancaster and can also boast the ability to offer its children a whole host of extra curricular activities both indoors and out, such as athletics, football, golf, rugby, netball, drama, orienteering, dance, music, singing and cooking.

Discover how the school caters for children from the age of 3 and how provision at the school starts at 8.00am and finishes at 6.00pm to meet the needs of working parents.

See its plans for the future and commitment to a truly excellent start to learning for the youngest children with redeveloped classrooms and specially designed outdoor play space for under 5s.

Find out for yourself how Moorside has made learning fun and how its pupils develop with confidence as they grow into bright, happy and responsible young people.

Parents can find out more about the school on the day when the Head Teacher, Len Guest and his staff will be on hand to welcome visitors and answer all your questions.

• For more information about the open day or to arrange a private tour, please contact the school office on 01524 66516

• Photo courtesy Catherine Gillin and used with full permission

Monday, 1 June 2009

Summer Road Safety Campaign Launched

Lancashire Police and the Lancashire Partnership for Road Safety launched their summer drink drive campaign today.

Police officers were out in force as part of a national crackdown targeting those who get into the car despite having had alcohol. The Partnership will also be carrying out a number of education and awareness activities.

On average 3,000 people are killed or seriously injured each year in drink drive collisions and nearly one in six of all deaths on the road involve drivers who are over the legal alcohol limit.

Last year's campaign saw the number of people who failed or refused a test drop to 4.6% from 5.5% in 2007 and it's estimated some 20,000 lives have been saved in the last 13 years thanks to central government drink drive campaigns. Now officers want that figure to decrease even further.

"Our previous joint campaigns over the past two years have been successful and we have seen our failure and refusal rate fall to nearly half the national average," commented Inspector Martin Bishop from the Road Policing Unit. "However, we are not complacent. One person drink driving is one too many.

"This summer's campaign will also focus on those who choose to take illegal drugs and drive. The consequences of this are just as severe and we are now in a position to be able to test people for drug driving.

"Weather experts are predicting a good summer and if they're correct, I'm sure we will want to enjoy the sunshine. However, if you are out drinking then you should leave the car at home. Furthermore, you must also remember that you may still be over the limit the morning after and we would urge people to think before they get in the car the next day.

"Our message is as always simple. Do not drink and drive and do not take drugs and drive. Although we take part in this national campaign every summer our enforcement tactics take place all year round."

"An endorsement for a drink-driving offence remains on a licence for 11 years helping make 'One for the road' socially unacceptable amongst the majority of Lancashire road users," added Said Linda Sanderson, Communications Manager for Lancashire Partnership for Road Safety. "However, the fear of killing someone whilst driving over the limit or being banned from driving has not hit home amongst the younger, inexperienced drivers. With the promise of a long hot summer, there will be plenty of opportunities to take turns and share the responsibility of driving your friends and family home safely by sticking to soft drinks.

"Working with popular drinking venues, we will be highlighting the dire consequences of driving whilst unfit through drink or drugs, remind people of the police roadside checks and encourage them to leave their keys in their pocket."