Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Council set to cut funding for volunteer groups?

Next month, the City Council will be asking the public about its 2010/11 budget where cuts of £1.053 million are planned (see news story) - and funds for the area's many voluntary organisations will be under close scrutiny to se if savings can be made.

“Voluntary work is vital but often invisible in our community, says Lancaster District Council for Voluntary Service’s acting chief officer Bill Livesey, who is asking everyone to speak up for our voluntary groups. "Many of our voluntary groups are running amazing services on a shoestring and we hope local people will show they value this work.

“Small grants go a very long way in the voluntary sector, cutting them only offers a false economy and will be creating a long term cost to Lancaster.”

Lancaster CVS’s snapshot survey of 219 member groups carried out in summer this year showed us that Lancaster area has over 13,400 volunteers, giving over 700,000 volunteer hours a year helping our community. If they were being paid, it would be the equivalent to £4,200,000.

Major budget cuts to local voluntary groups would threaten this – and would be a major loss for Lancaster. Even though much work is voluntary, groups still need some funding. For example to co-ordinate a large team of volunteers and ensure they have the training and support they need.

• For more information about the consultation contact Tel: 01524 582268

Lancaster District Council for Voluntary Service web site

Greens welcome Centros plan rejection

North Lancashire Green Party has welcomed the rejection all the Centros planning applications for Lancaster's Canal Corridor, describing it as "a very fine Christmas present."

As we reported yesterday, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government John Denham has accepted the report of the Inspector at last summer's planning inquiry into the Centros scheme and rejected all the planning applications.

"This is fantastic news and vindicates what hundreds of my constituents have been saying for the last two years," commented local Bulk Ward and Green Councillor John Whitelegg.

"We now need to move on and produce a plan that delivers a community vision for this site, celebrates our distinctive buildings and places and does not set out to make us a carbon copy of Basingstoke, Preston or Slough. This work starts today."

Bank Aid - Do They Loan This Christmas

A bunch of Wiltshire celebs turn up at the Frog Lane Studios expecting a free drink. There's not such thing as a free drink!

Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year to all our readers!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Council, Centros Statement on Canal Corridor

Following the announcement that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has announced that he has refused planning permission for a major new retail development in Lancaster (see earlier news story), Lancaster City Council has issued the following statement, which indicates Centros will continue to present its development plans for the Canal Corridor:

"The refusal... is primarily based on concerns about the evidence for removing some of the buildings on the site, and the amount of retail floor space in the early years of the scheme.

"Much of the council’s rationale for the scheme and its fit with strategic planning policies for Lancaster, the approach to traffic and highways matters, and its overall sustainability was accepted.

"The decision to refuse permission for the Canal Corridor North development by Centros follows a public inquiry earlier this year."

Coun Keith Budden, chairman of Lancaster City Council’s planning committee, said: “We are grateful for the careful consideration the inspector has taken over his very detailed report.

“While it is disappointing that planning permission for the scheme has been refused, the report and the Secretary of State’s decision give the council a clear position on the type of development which will be acceptable on the site in the future. The decision totally vindicates the council’s decision to appear at the inquiry and make the case for a positive steer about the development from the Secretary of State.

“All the parties who presented evidence to the inquiry accept that the canal corridor site is run down and in urgent need of regeneration.

“If we don’t, then we run the risk of falling behind other towns and cities in the north west.

“We will be studying the inspector’s report very carefully and will use its recommendations to work with the developer, Centros, and all other interested parties to bring forward a revised scheme to regenerate this run down and dilapidated site as a priority in the new year.”

A spokesperson for Centros commented: “Whilst the minister’s decision is a disappointment, it clearly provides a very positive framework for the redevelopment of this site.

“We will now consider the Secretary of State’s decision and the inspector’s report in detail and work with Lancaster City Council to devise a strategy to realise the successful regeneration of this important site in the heart of the city centre.”

Centros Development Plans for Lancaster Rejected


Plans for a massive shopping development in Lancaster have been thrown out by the Government.

The multi-million pound canal corridor development by Centros has been refused by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government following the public inquiry in the summer, in which the multi-million pound company refused to take part - leaving Lancaster City Council to pick up the bill to explain the plan to the Inquiry.

In his decision, the Secretary of State concluded that the application is not in accordance with the development plan or national development policy. "He considers that the proposal would contribute to the sustainable economic development of the city and surrounding area, and that it draws support from the strategic context, but concludes that the material considerations are not of sufficient weight to determine the application other than in accordance with the development plan.

"As the applications for listed building consent and conservation area consent are incidental to the application for outline planning permission, the Secretary of State also concludes that they too should be refused."

Both local and national organisations such as It's Our City opposed the scheme, set to open by 2012, which would have been anchored by a large department store. It also included a new home for the Musicians Co-op and improvements to the Dukes and Grand theatres, but those against the scheme argued it was the wrong kind of development for the area, favouring new housing, workshops for medium businesses and other smaller-scale improvements to the area, currently dominated by derelict buildings largely owned by Mitchells and Edward Street Car Park.

The Inspector's report shows that while arguments about the damage to existing retail in the area or increased traffic problems were not accepted, many issues raised by objectors were given due consideration and any future development proposals will have to take careful note of the report's conclusions.

"Those who were concerned about health issues will be happy to learn that the inspector roundly criticised Lancaster Council's lack of consideration for citizens health in their promotion of the Centros development given the parlous state of air quality management in Lancaster and high existing levels of air pollution," note It's Our City. "He said that no development generating extra traffic should be permitted until action is actually taken to improve air quality."

The Centros proposals for more shops ran counter to the City Council's own research undertaken back in 2006, which argued for two new food super stores for Lancaster and Morecambe, more quality shopping and careful consideration of "edge of town" retail developments (see news story).

It's Our City are clearly delighted by the news, thanking all who have stuck with the campaign against this scheme over the years.

"We're tremendously pleased with the decision by the Secretary of State to refuse planning permission to all of the applications submitted by Centros," say the local campaigners. "It's Our City has campaigned against the Centros plans for several years, on the grounds that they are completely inappropriate for Lancaster.

"We would like to thank all of those who joined us in our campaign to stop this development, including English Heritage and SAVE Britain's Heritage, and in particular all those from the local community who have supported us and who have made their opinions known both to Lancaster City Council and to the Secretary of State.

"This victory belongs to the whole community," they add.

"It's Our City now looks forward to working in partnership with Lancaster City Council, English Heritage and SAVE in order to find an appropriate way to develop this site. We also emphasize that any future development of the Canal Corridor must include the full involvement of the local community if it is to be successful. It's Our City have always maintained that this site should be developed.

"We are very hopeful that this can now be done in an innovative and exciting way, and in keeping with the heritage and character of our city."

The Council will now have to reassess their plans for the canal corridor north site in the New Year in the light of this decision, and of course the decision also leaves the fate of Mitchells Brewery hanging.

Read the full report by the Secretary of State (PDF)

Read the Inspector's decision (PDF)

Road Round Up: County Still Pursues White Elephant

Despite the opposition of local people and both Lancaster and Morecambe Councils, Lancashire County Council - already set to make swingeing cuts to vital services in the New Year - is pressing on with its plans to build the unwanted, expensive Link Road between the motorway and Heysham.

The deadline for objections to the Compulsory Purchase Orders and Side Road Orders for the Heysham M6 Link road has now passed. Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe tell virtual-lancaster that although they do not have official figures, they believe that the Government Office for the North West has received over 400 formal objections, against two letters in support. (View details of the original planning permission given for the road in 2008 here)

Opposition has been so strong that GONW is now seriously considering whether to call an inquiry to allow public scrutiny of many of the contentious Link road issues.

"Particular congratulations must go to Morecambe Town Council, who voted overwhelmingly (17-1) to send an objection," commented TSLM spokesperson David Gate. "They join our MP Geraldine Smith and Lancaster City Council, as the elected representatives of this area who oppose the Northern route scheme.

"Support for the damaging and destructive scheme comes only from County Hall in Preston," he added. "The new Lancashire County Council does not appear to have any original transport ideas of its own; it merely plods along pushing the old Council’s outdated road scheme."

Back in August, the County Council announced it was looking at trying to find savings of perhaps up to 142 million from its budget - 20 per cent of the Council's spending across the County. The Lancashire Telegraph reported their first task will be to find £16million in savings by February in order to achieve a zero per cent council tax increase in 2010/11, a key election pledge by the Tories, which was re-iterated by national Tory leader David Cameron on campaigning visits to Lancashire.

"Despite financial cutbacks to essential services in Lancashire, LCC is today continuing to spend many millions of pounds of public money on the Link road," notes David. "With the reality of financial cutbacks, surely that money could be better spent on more deserving services for the people of Lancashire.

"The Northern route dual carriageway would destroy 173 acres of our North Lancashire Green Belt, and its traffic would pump out an extra 23,500 tonnes of CO2 into our North Lancashire environment every year. All that devastation in the illusion that building an HGV road across the district will somehow regenerate the area."

LCC recently announced that the £140 million plan is going out to tender to large national construction firms. "The reality of the ‘regeneration’ is that the lion’s share of this public money will not be spent locally, but will fill the coffers of national and multinational companies," argues David, "and taxpayers will be saddled with a debt that is unknown, but huge."

David again points out that there alternatives to massive road building - but those in power at Preston seem to have simply ignored them.

"In 2007 traffic consultants Faber Maunsell developed an integrated transport package for the district, including changes to the one way systems, park and ride, public transport improvements and a bridge at Luneside. These are measures that would really tackle congestion in the district, yet no money is earmarked for them, and it is likely that, with the budget blown on the Link Road, there will be no money left for them.

"2010 will be another costly uphill struggle for LCC and its Link road plan; further public scrutiny is likely, and the chances of government funding must be receding when the country is in so much debt," says David. "We hope that a public inquiry will be called, and if it is, TSLM too will be asking for funding, to pay for the expert help that we shall need to present our case well."

Monday, 21 December 2009

Lancaster Pubs Fail Teenage Sales Test

Three Lancaster pubs and bars face licence interventions after selling alcohol to 15-year-old girls during a test purchase operation.

The teenagers were able to buy alcohol in three of the 17 establishments visited across Lancaster on Friday night. (18th December)

Lancaster pub owners aren't the only landlords in toruble: last Saturday, four out of 11 establishments visited in Morecambe and Carnforth sold alcohol to the test purchasers, who were working in conjunction with police and Trading Standards.

The pubs and bars will now face licence interventions, which means that staff who sold the alcohol will receive fines, while the licensee will have to go through a licensing surgery where they will be given advice on reviewing the way in which they tackle underage drinking.

“Despite high profile campaigns in the local media and participation in Best Bar None schemes, staff in some premises do not appear to be getting the message that they should be asking for identification," commented Inspector Kirstie Banks-Lyon.

“Selling alcohol to children in not only against the law but can also put these children at risk from harm.

“We will look to carry on with our enforcement of the legislation over the coming months and will take robust action against those who pay scant regard to their responsibilities when it comes to refusing sales to under-18s.”

WAG Launches Exhibition Appeal for Gregson

As part of 2010 International Women’s Day celebrations, Women at the Gregson (WAG) are hosting three art exhibitions to showcase the work of female artists and photographers.

The categories and venues for the exhibitions are:

A) Things My Mother Didn’t Tell Me (Dukes Theatre)

B) Women at Work and Play (Gregson Centre)

C) Women and Food (Whaletail Café)

International Women's Day has been observed since in the early 1900's, and takes place every year on 8th March.

If you would like your work to be considered for exhibition further information, together with terms and conditions and a submission form, can be obtained by calling into:
The Gregson, 33 Moorgate, Moor Lane, Lancaster or e-mail: OR