Friday, 31 December 2010

Love Morecambe Bay? Tell the Dukes why...

What do you love about Morecambe Bay?

The Dukes is asking locals and visitors to share their love for the beautiful bay to coincide with the opening of Quicksand, a new play inspired by its landscape.

Do you have stories about growing up on the bay or just love the inspiring landscape and Lakeland views?

Perhaps you fell in love while watching the sun set over the sands or remember taking part in a cross bay walk, fishing in its waters, or travelling around the bay on what must be one of the country’s most scenic train routes?

Whatever the reason for loving Morecambe Bay, The Dukes wants to hear from you. Special postcards where you can jot down your memories are available from the Moor Lane theatre in Lancaster.

Alternatively, you can email your comments or photos to or visit the Quicksand blog at

Memories and photos received will be displayed at The Dukes during the run of Quicksand and will be available to read on the theatre’s website.

Dukes director, Joe Sumsion, has already got the ball rolling with his particularly romantic memory of Morecambe Bay.

He said: “For me the bay is beautiful, inspiring and very romantic – and I have a lot to thank it for.

“In 1994 when I was out to impress Jilly, my new girlfriend, I brought her to Morecambe for the weekend. The sunset that Saturday, viewed from the Midland Hotel was wonderful.

"It must have been good – we soon moved to the seaside and were married three years later”.

Joe will be directing the world premiere of Quicksand, a story of forbidden love set on Morecambe Bay.

This co-production opens at The Dukes on 27th January and runs until 12th February before transferring to Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake from 16th - 26th February.

• For tickets priced £5-16, call The Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500 or

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Litter offenders pick up hefty fines

Three people have been fined for dropping cigarette butts in Morecambe Town Centre and ordered to pay a total of £510 by a court.

As part of a crackdown in June by Lancaster City Council, 75 people were issued with £80 fixed penalty notices for dropping cigarette butts and litter in the Lancaster district.

Melissa Tubbs, of Redruth Drive, Carnforth, failed to pay the fine. She did not appear in court and the case was heard in her absence. Tubbs was ordered to pay a £175 fine, £60 costs, and £15 victim surcharge.

Anthony Hellier of Palatine Avenue, Lancaster was also fined £75 and ordered to pay £100 costs and £15 victim surcharge after failing to appear in court.

Joanne Thorpe of Poulton Road, Morecambe pleaded guilty to littering and failing to provide her name and address, and was given a conditional discharge for six months and ordered to pay £70 costs.

Coun Jon Barry, Cabinet member with responsibility for the environment, said: “One of Lancaster City Council's key priorities is to make our district a cleaner and healthier place to live.

"We hope these cases show that we are more than willing to pursue litter offenders through the courts in order to keep our district clean and tidy.”

Anyone who drops litter is liable to an £80 on the spot fine if caught by a member of council staff, a Police Community Support Officer, or even a member of the public.

• Anybody who witnesses someone dropping litter should contact the city council’s customer service centre on 01524 582491.

Warm Up for Winter with LESS

People in Lancaster and Morecambe now have access to a new independent energy advice service to help them stay warm this winter, thanks to the Home Energy Service, a community project run by local sustainability organisation LESS.

The service offers free energy advice on insulating your home, accessing grants, feed in tariffs, local suppliers and home renewable energy options and aims to help people save energy, reduce their fuel bills and cut carbon emissions through a team of local volunteers who will come and visit you in your home and go through a survey on your energy use.

This information is then passed on to a qualified energy officer, who produces a personal report for the household with specific recommendations for saving energy.

The service depends on volunteers, and offers training, support and regular get togethers. If you would like a survey, are interested in training to be one of the volunteers, or have any other queries relating to energy, contact LESS on, or telephone 01524 66100 and ask for Peter or Kathy.

Peter Wiltshire, the Energy Officer for the service has lots of low cost energy saving tips for people, to help them stay warm and save energy this winter. His reports also contain lists of local suppliers and the services they provide, as well as potential carbon savings from implementing his recommendations. He is also on hand to provide advice more generally on specific energy issues within the home, and to discuss introducing renewable technology and its benefits- both financial and environmental.

Kathy New, the project coordinator explained "The project has so many benefits- we can help people to stay warm, save money on their fuel bills and reduce their carbon emissions all at the same time.

"Lancaster district has a higher than average number of people living in fuel poverty - that is people who spend more than 10% of their income on energy, and has also had a high number of people dying from cold in recent winters.

"Our project aims to help those people by encouraging them to take positive steps to insulate their homes and reduce their energy use.

"Walking round after a frosty night, you can really see which homes aren’t properly insulated, and all that energy - and money- is being wasted. Our volunteers know their local communities, and they can really help people on a 1-1 basis."

"So far I have attended three training sessions, all of which have been interesting," says Steve Clarke of his experiences as a volunteer, "and have carried out four household surveys, all with people I know well, which is a great confidence booster.

"In a few weeks’ time I expect to move on to survey the homes of people I don’t know.

"I think that the service has a great potential for good, both in helping financially the less well off in the district and in suggesting ways in which people can reduce their carbon footprint."

Next month (January), LESS will have access to a thermal imaging camera, and this will be used to pinpoint specific areas of heat loss both to the outside world and within the homes surveyed.

The Home Energy Service project is run by LESS, a community interest company aiming to promote sustainable solutions for people across the Lancaster district and is joint funded by the Energy Peoples Trust and a Charities Aid Foundation Trust. The project is modelled on a similar scheme currently running in Shropshire (see which last year recorded average savings of £380 off fuel bills and 29% off carbon per household.

• More information about the service, and other LESS projects can be found on their web site

‘Spare the hare’ and crack down on cruel sport

Police are working with farmers in Wyre to crack down on illegal hare coursing.

Officers will be presenting farmers with signs to place on their land, warning potential hare coarsers that locals will be reporting them to the police.

Hare coursing sees dogs pitted against each other while chasing a hare across rural land, with the winner being determined by its speed and agility. The sport was made illegal in 2005 with the introduction of the Hunting Bill.

The signs – which bare the slogan ‘spare the hare’ will be erected on land in Preesall, Garstang, Pilling, Nateby, Eagland Hill, Bleasdale and Caldervale.

PCSO Natalie Johnstone, Over Wyre neighbourhood police team, said: “Due to its rural setting, a lot of people come to this area to try and carry out hare coursing. Even with the permission of the landowner, this is illegal.

“Not only is hare coursing cruel and against the law," she added, "it also brings the added risk of additional crime with it – hare coursers are usually trespassing, can commit criminal damage and may also carry out opportunistic crime such as thefts or burglaries.”

Rural residents and businesses that are members of Lancashire Police’s FarmWatch scheme will also receive text messages urging them to report hare coursers.

PCSO Johnstone added: “The signs and the text messages will raise awareness of the issue. The more people that we have helping us keep an eye out, the better we can be at preventing crime in Wyre.”

• Anyone with information about hare coursing, or any other rural crime, should contact police on 0845 1 25 35 45. Dial 999 in an emergency.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Lancaster's Cycling Santa Treats Bike-It Schoolkids

Santa has been rounding off another successful year for 'Bike It' schools by delivering his presents by bike.

Santa was spotted recently cycling to local 'Bike It' primary schools including Skerton St Luke’s, Willow Lane, Moorside, Bowerham and Silverdale to deliver gifts to children who cycle regularly. He also gave tips to all the children on how to be seen when cycling in the winter.

Santa was accompanied by Bike It officer elves Annie Cousins and Kathy Bashford who were rounding up a busy school term of cycling activities.

The term’s activities included a Bike It Action Day at the Borough in Lancaster, where children cycled from Ryelands and Willow Lane Primary Schools to talk to staff from 13 Bike It schools about their successes.

Throughout the term, pupils from Bike It schools across the district have enjoyed Bike It breakfasts, cycle skills sessions on the playground and Pedal Power’s Bikeability courses, as well as bike maintenance classes, school and family bike rides, and bike repairs carried out by Dr Bike (aka Colin Stone).

Also this term increasing numbers of pupils from Carnforth High were cycling to school to get a stamp on their breakfast card to earn free breakfasts. Some of them also cycled together as a ‘bike bus’ from Bolton-le-Sands.

Skerton St Luke’s took part in ‘Wheely Wednesdays’ by cycling to school every Wednesday in order to enter a prize draw. The lucky winner was presented with a brand new bike.

Through creative initiatives like Wheely Wednesdays, the Bike It project is helping over 100,000 children cycle safely to school, with levels of car use at Bike It schools across the country falling by 25%, compared to the UK average where just 2% of children cycle to school. Cycling Santa agrees that the Lancaster Bike-it kids have been very good and deserve presents!

Bike It is managed by sustainable transport charity Sustrans, with support from Lancaster City Council’s Cycling Demonstration Town Project.

For more information visit

Local Labour Elect New Chair Ian Pattison

Morecambe and Lunesdale Constituency Labour Party have elected a new Chairman with strong local links to spearhead their campaign in the run up to the local elections in May.

Ian Pattison, 24 has lived in the West End of Morecambe since birth. He attended Morecambe High School and Lancaster and Morecambe College and is Vice Chair of the Governing Body of Sandylands Community Primary School, which he also attended as a child. He has a degree in History and Politics from Liverpool Hope University and now works for a Lancashire MP in his constituency office at Blackpool.

Ian has pledged to revitalise the local Labour party following the narrow defeat of former MP Geraldine Smith in the last General Election. He is determined to listen carefully to local people and will champion causes that are of concern to the mainstream majority.

"I'm really looking forward to being an active Chair," says Ian, "setting up campaigns across the district, and working collectively with colleagues in order to boost the number of Labour councillors on Lancaster City Council”.

Ian lists among his special interests the education of our young people. “I particularly enjoy working with the teachers and staff at Sandylands on the Governing Body, raising educational standards and improving the learning facilities at the school that gave me so many happy memories of my own childhood”.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Businesses urged to stay safe if closing over Christmas

Police in Wyre are urging local businesses to take some simple crime prevention steps if they are closing over Christmas.

Many businesses close down for up to two weeks at the end of the year and can become vulnerable if security measures are not in place.

Crime prevention officer Ian Lonsdale said: “Before leaving the property for the Christmas period, spend a little time thinking about security. Make sure all doors are locked and all windows are closed.

“If an intruder alarm is fitted make sure it is properly set and use timer switches to turn lights on as this gives the illusion that the property is occupied.”

He added: “Make sure any vehicles left on the premises are secure, with the keys removed - ideally take the keys off the premises. Gates should be locked using good quality attack resistant locks. If possible, pay regular visits to the premises to check that all is secure and report anything suspicious to the police.

“Crime is low in Lancashire and following these simple tips can help keep it that way.”

• For further advice, Ian Lonsdale can be contacted on 01995 607862 or via e-mail

Nightmare before Christmas for drink drive video blogger

Losing his place in the footie team, his licence, his job and his girlfriend – this has been a bad week for video blogger Robert Lancashire.

Fans of the Love My Lancashire Facebook page have been following Robert’s daily blogs since he was arrested for drink driving at the start of the month.

This week the fictitious character, who is being used by Lancashire Police to promote their annual drink-drive message, lost his driving licence – and is now suffering the consequences.

Robert’s exploits are also captured on a video blog. The latest entry sees the 21-year-old, played by UCLAN student Dominic Hedges, lose his licence for 12 months and get a £500 fine. The conviction means he has to pack in football as he can no longer afford the subs money, loses his job because he needs to be able to drive for work and gets the boot from his girlfriend Donna – who prefers to date someone who can drive.

The final video blog is due to be uploaded on Christmas Eve.

Superintendent Peter O’Dwyer, road policing unit, said: “The video blog is targeted at the 17 – 15 age group, who are most at risk of drink driving this Christmas, but we are finding it is being followed by people of all different ages.

“Everyone is aware of the serious consequences of drink driving – causing potential injuries or death, losing your licence or going to prison but people do not necessarily considered the smaller, yet still significant consequences such as carrying out daily tasks without a car and this affect that this ca have on work or relationships. All of these things are examined in the blog.”

• Follow Rob’s blog (and Dominic’s portrayal in the video clips) at or via the police website page

Scheme is key to tackling emergencies at your property

A special key holder scheme has been set up to help property owners react quickly to emergencies at their premises.

Lancashire Constabulary has set up an information database – called Keypoint – through which residents and business owners can nominate people who can be contacted by the police or other emergency services if an incident occurs at the address. This would include an alarm being set off, or in the event of gas leaks, burst pipes or similar.

These nominated keyholders can then go to the home or business to deal with the problem if the owner themselves is not available.

Keyholders can be members of staff, or a trusted friend or relative, and they should live no more than 20 minutes away from the address.

Iain Hamilton, the force’s head of contact management, said: “If the owner is not able to attend the property themselves in the event of an emergency then it is useful to have a named contact who the police can get in touch with.  This person should know how to turn off the alarm, know where the electricity, gas and water supplies can be isolated and will have information such as if there are any dogs, chemicals or other hazards at the property.”

He added: “This will lead to a speedier resolution to any problems at the property and will provide you with peace of mind.”

A small cost will apply for joining the scheme.

• For more information visit or email or call 01772 410107.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Treat yourself at The Dukes

Looking for that last minute Christmas gift which will bring pleasure all year round?

The Dukes, Lancaster, has the answer.

Now is the time to become a Friend of The Dukes or join the scheme for a friend or relative and receive 12 months membership for the price of 6.

Friends save hundreds of pounds on treats and gifts from Lancaster businesses as well as helping The Dukes to continue delivering top quality art for the region.

Brighten up January by treating yourself and saving money at the same time. Among the Friends New Year offers are a buy one, get one free ticket to see The Dukes homegrown production of Quicksand; a free ticket for any film at The Dukes cinema (excluding NT Live); half price wills courtesy of Joseph A Jones & Co solicitors; a £4.95 offer on any pizza or pasta at any time at Verdes in Lancaster; a free glass of wine with any meal at Quite Simply Food, Tuesday-Saturday after 7pm, and a free bottle of wine with each room booked at The Ashton in Lancaster.

Dukes Friends also receive priority information on events and programmes, invitations to season launches, and early booking opportunities.

Membership normally costs £5 per month or £60 annually but join in December or January and you will pay just £30 for the whole year.

• Download a form from, email or call 01524 598500

Motorists urged to clear all snow from vehicles before taking to the road

Local motorists are being urged to clear as much snow as possible from their vehicles before taking to the roads.

Recent wintry weather conditions have led to many vehicles being covered with snow and this can create a serious risk to both the driver and other road users if it is not removed before a journey commences.

Motorists are advised to –

  • Ensure that ALL windows are free from snow and frost
  • Remove snow from your roof and bonnet to avoid it later falling on to your windscreen
  • Clear away snow from your vehicle’s lights and then use your lights while driving in poor visibility
  • Make sure that snow has been wiped off number plates
  • Carry a bottle of water in the vehicle so that you can pullover and clear your windscreen if your wipers fail.

Inspector Martin Bishop, road policing, said: “It is vitally important that people clear away as much snow as they can before they set off on their journeys.

“If you do not do this, while you are travelling the snow on you roof and bonnet will start to melt and if you break suddenly it can fall onto your windscreen. The weight of the snow can prevent your windscreen wipers from clearing it away, so you are effectively blinded.

“Attempting to then break hard in these conditions is particularly dangerous and can lead to the risk of serious collision involving not just yourself but other road users.”

“Having snow on your roof is a potential danger, which you could be prosecuted for," he added. "You could cause a collision as result of not ensuring that you have visibility through all of your windows, or because snow from your vehicle has fallen onto your windscreen. We want people to prevent any such matters before we even have to become involved.

"Don’t take the risk of hurting yourself or others – take a few extra minutes at the start of your journey to ensure your vehicle is roadworthy and free from snow.”

Lancastrian Beats Freeze With Free Hugs!

Cold Lancastrians dodging through the Christmas shopping crowds today came across a warming sight in Market Street where Mari Winkelman was offering free hugs to all-comers.

"It's keeping me warm", she confided with a radiant smile, and gave me a lovely, gentle, soft hug. I could see what she meant.

And so could the steady flow of willing huggers who all came away glowing. Seconds later an elderly gentleman smiling from ear to ear came dashing back to her with a bag of sweeties that he pressed into her hand. She was thrilled.

A very happy Winter Solstice to all our visitors.

Monday, 20 December 2010

North West Fund for Businesses launched

The North West Business Finance Ltd - backed by the soon-to-close Northwest Regional Development Agency, the European Regional Development Fund  and the European Investment Bank - has announced it is ready to make investments from The North West Fund, which could help new local busineses create new jobs.

The North West Fund - the umbrella name for the six funds that are now available to Northwest businesses to provide debt and equity finance from £50,000 to £2 million to small and medium sized businesses based in, or relocating to, the North West of England to start, develop and grow - is a new £185m evergreen fund for North West businesses.

It's also one of the largest public sector funds of its kind in Europe and the largest in the UK. Between 2010 and 2015 the Fund is expected to create/safeguard almost 14,000 jobs and improve the economic performance of England’s Northwest with an estimated GVA increase of £700m.

Initially, £170m of The North West Fund will be allocated to six Fund Managers, who then have a mandate to invest their allocation into the specific product or sector they manage, before 31st December 2015. The £15m remaining will be available for further allocation and investment through to the end of 2015. Such further allocations will be made as investment needs become more apparent.

The North West Fund is made up of a £92.4m ERDF grant, making it the biggest ERDF project of the 2007-13 programme, and a £92.4m loan from the EIB. The six Fund Managers appointed have also been targeted with securing over £200m of co-investment capital from a wide range of sources including; finance angels, banks, pension funds, venture capital, private equity investors, and other private funds.

It's expected that this initiative will generate total funding in excess of £400m.

The fund managers, who include AXM Venture Capital, managing some £15 million for Digital and Creative projects and YFM Private Equity, managing £45 million of development capital, will operate 13 offices across the North West and, at peak, are expected to employ 48 professional staff based in the region focused on deploying and managing The North West Fund.

“I'm delighted that I can, at last, confirm that The North West Fund is open for business," said Andy Leach, Chief Executive Officer of NWBF. "Whilst it has taken longer than expected to establish, I believe that The North West Fund is now in a position to provide investment capital to a range of businesses across the region at a critical time. This funding will allow these businesses to deliver their own growth plans in, what continue to be, challenging economic times when the availability of alternative funding remains tight.

"Having worked closely with our six Fund Managers over recent months, I am confident that they have the requisite expertise and understanding of the region and their targeted sectors, to ensure that The North West Fund delivers an enduring legacy.”

The NWDA has been working for over two years on the development and creation of The North West Fund from drawing-board to launch and will continue to support it until the closure of the Agency in March 2012.

“The combination of the Agency’s expertise and knowledge has delivered a significant evergreen fund which will help hundreds of businesses to grow and is one of the major legacy projects the Agency is leaving for the region," feels Robert Hough, Chairman of the NWDA.
"The NWDA has worked extremely hard on this complex project over many months with various bodies in the UK and Europe to secure this vital fund for the Northwest. The North West Fund is an important initiative that will leverage hundreds of millions of pounds of private sector investment and, as an evergreen fund, will benefit businesses in our region for many years to come.”

• The North West Fund is now live and applications can be made on-line at . An event to mark the official launch of The North West Fund will take place in the New Year.

Cycle your way to fitness in 2011

Is your New Year resolution to get fit and shift those Christmas pounds?

Celebrating Cycling is offering all ladies the chance to dust down their wheels and cycle their way to fitness in 2011 with a free off-road women only cycling course for beginners and improvers.

The course takes place on Saturday 15th January at Salt Ayre Sports Centre from 12pm - 2pm and will be followed by an optional short bike ride for those who want to put their new skills into practice.

Bikes are available to hire but must be booked in advance.

Lancaster City Council’s cycling team is also running two free kids cycling courses on 29 and 30 December at Salt Ayre for all those lucky children who are getting a bike from Santa this year, and any other children over four who want to improve their cycling skills.

• Visit for more information and book your place by calling 01524 582392 or email

Be careful this Christmas – make sure Santa is the only one coming down your chimney

... or through your unlocked back door, or your open window.

Local home owners are being given crime prevention tips to make sure they don’t fall victim to crime this Christmas.

At this time of year, expensive presents are starting to be placed around trees – and can prove tempting to passing thieves.

Jan Brown, crime prevention officer for Lancashire Police, said: “Having bought all those wonderful presents, don't make it easy for someone to steal from your home.

Keep them out of sight until last thing on Christmas Eve and if you 'hide' or store larger items such as bicycles in the shed or outbuildings, make sure they are very secure.”

Other tips for beating the burglars and keeping your home safe -
  • Take the frame numbers of new cycles and the serial numbers of new electrical equipment for future reference.
  • Remember, empty boxes left outside advertise that you have new goods inside - dispose of packing carefully.
  • If you go out for the evening, make it look like someone is at home by turning on lights and the radio. Don't leave curtains open so people can see your decorations as potential thieves can see in.
  • Be extra careful about locking doors and windows.
  • As a fire precaution, don't leave Christmas lights on in the house whilst you are out.
  • If you go away for the holiday period - use an automatic timer for lights and ask a trusted neighbour to watch your home.
  • Don't forget to cancel newspapers and milk if you have them delivered and either redirect your mail through the Post Office or have your neighbour take mail into the house - unopened Christmas cards and mail are a sure sign that a house is empty.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Made in Lancaster announces new arts magazines, seeks contributors

Made in Lancaster, a collective of creatives sharing skills and offering peer support, has announced the launch of Back and Beyond, its flagship publication which will launch next May as part of the inaugural Made in Lancaster Festival.
The MiL team are particularly keen to receive submissions from those who live in or around the Lancaster area, or have links to it, past or present. (If you don't, but the originality or strength of your work smacks them between the eyes, you'll still be considered)

Full submission details can be found here on the Lancashire Writing Hub, but here are the highlights...
They're looking for 800 word or less items of fiction (you may send up to three pieces for consideration) and plan to publish one short story of up to 2,000 words per issue, but it needs to be a gem. (Send it as one of your three pieces of prose fiction).

Lancaster has something of a reputation for its poets and poetry is also welcome: again, up to three poems, open theme and form, should be submitted, which may be linked or stand alone.

Non-fiction, Life writing and Creative Essays of 400-800 words each are also welcome. "We're particularly interested in pieces that connect with Lancaster and surrounding area, explore creative practice, or concern cross-medium creativity," the editors say.

MiL would also love to hear from you if you are interested in being a feature writer. "We want rich, well-thought out profile, reviews and articles of 250-2000 words (As with the fiction longer article need to be exceptional) with a connection to the creative life or heritage of Lancaster and surrounding area."

Photographers and Illustrators are also a vital part of the planned mix. Send in up to five images and indicate whether you would also be interested in producing material specifically in response to writing that has been selected for inclusion.

Please note that it is unlikely MiL will be able to pay people for their work at this stage, but you will receive a free copy of the publications, be invited to their Launch Event and receive associated publicity.

• The deadline for submissions is Monday 14th February 2011 and should be sent by email to 

Full submission details on Lancashire Writing Hub

For full submission guidelines check out the Back and Beyond Facebook Page

Council backs new nuclear build as Heysham 1 gets 'extended life'

Lancaster City Council has backed the building of new nuclear power faciliities at Heysham - just as Heysham 1 power station has been granted a five-year life extension, meaning it can continue to generate electricity until 2019.

Earlier this week, Full Council approved a recommendation from Andrew Dobson, Head of Regeneration and Policy, supporting nuclear new build projects at Heysham "in principle subject to mitigation of any adverse effects".

Almost every councillor, except the Greens and two independents, voted in favour of the recommendation, even though the Liberal Democrats have a national policy opposing the building of new nuclear power stations.

Meanwhile, Heysham power station owners EDF Energy took the major step of extending the lifetime of Heysham 1 nuclear power station in Lancashire by five years this week. They also announced the life cycle of their station in Hartlepool would be extended.

The company says it has completed the necessary technical and economic evaluation that will see the plant, one of the area’s largest employers, continue operating until at least 2019.

“This is great news for all of us at Heysham 1 and for everyone in the local community," argues Ian Stewart, Heysham 1’s station director.

“The decision means we can continue to provide highly skilled jobs and bring major investment to the area. It also shows that EDF Energy recognises the professionalism and commitment of our staff in safely supplying low carbon electricity for more than 30 years.”

“The conclusions of the assessments are that it is technically feasible to extend the lives of the stations," says Andy Spurr, managing director existing nuclear EDF Energy, "and that they will be able to operate safely and profitably for at least an additional five years.

“Investment of circa £50m per station will be required over the next few years to support the extended lives of the plants, but the financial assessments show that there is a strong business case to invest in the plants to extend their lives.

“The station now has the green light to continue operations through to 2019, maintaining employment for over 1,100 people and providing low carbon electricity to around 1,500,000 homes around the country.”

The Council's backing for a new nuclear build at Heysham was spearheaded by Labour Councillor Abbot Bryning. Green Party councillor John Whitelegg argued in favour of an amendment opposing support, stating nuclear power was expensive and dangerous, high risk, usually over budget and usually delivered several years late and is associated with serious health risks (such as leukaemia).

He argued that the Council should instead should support wind and wave power and other renewable energy technologies, all of which, he feels, have far greater potential to create jobs and minimise risks - but his ammendment was lost by a large majority.

"All Labour, LibDem and Conservative councillors voted for new nuclear build,  as did all Independents with the exception of Councillor Joyce Taylor and Councillor Marsland," John told virtual-lancaster.

"I'm very disappointed indeed that Council has opted to support something that is intrinsically dangerous and high risk when there are many alternatives capable ofgenerating large amounts of electricity that are associated with trivial and insignificant risks.

"Nuclear power will not create the jobs or the attractive image that the district needs," he feels.

John also says he found it strange that Liberal Democrat leader of the Council, Stuart Langhorn, who was also a parliamentary candidate in the last general election spoke strongly in favour of nuclear new build. This seemed at odds with his apparent support for the LibDem anti-nuclear build position at the General Election in May, when the Party manifesto declared that plans for a new generation of nuclear power stations should be rejected, based on the evidence that nuclear is a far more expensive way of reducing carbon emissions than promoting energy conservation and renewable energy.

The Heysham station employs around 500 full time staff, as well as 150 full time staff from contract partners and the wage bill alone is an estimated £30m a year which goes into the local economy.

Heysham 1 has produced some 150 terawatt hours (TWh) of generation since first supplying the National Grid in 1983.

Commenting on the extension to Heysham 1's life cycle, Tim Davison, Senior Trade Union representative for Unite and National Joint Council Chairperson, said that staff within EDF Energy are delighted with the news.

Mr Davison said: "The announcement of the life extensions at Heysham 1 and Hartlepool power stations is excellent for all of the staff involved, both on and off the sites, who have worked so hard to achieve this result, good for the environment in providing low carbon energy and good for the UK economy in delivering security of supply in the energy market.

“In addition, the Trades Unions welcome the ongoing commitments given by EDF Energy today to continue with the major investments across the UK fleet to secure life extensions at all eight of the nuclear power stations.

“By providing the longer term security of employment of our highly skilled workforce which these life extensions bring will put us in good stead to retain, recruit and develop the staff and skills required to operate the existing fleet and to meet the requirements of the new nuclear build programme".

Thursday, 16 December 2010

City council launches e-petition scheme

Lancaster City Council has launched a new e-petitions service which lets residents petition the council on issues of local concern, providing a simple way for people to engage with the council.

It doesn't replace paper petitions, and e-petitions must follow the same guidelines as paper petitions, which must be signed by at least 10 people, and by people who live, work or study in the council’s area. You also have to register as a user on the Council's web site to send in a petition.

If your petition to the Council has received 1500 signatures or more (or 200 where it relates to a local matter which affects no more than two wards), it will also be scheduled for a council debate.

Online ways to contact and complain about your local council aren't new, or course. FixMyStreet offers an online way to report local problems like litter or broken lights, for example, and reports are routed to either the City Council (which doesn't tend to respond in detail) or the County Council (which does).

At national level the Number 10 petition web site became something of ridicule and, currently, is under review.

• Details of the e-petitions system and more information can be found at

View current petitions here

• Paper petitions can be sent to the Head of Governance, Town Hall, Lancaster LA1 1PJ.

Have a Spooky Christmas: an introduction to Haunted Lancaster

Local ghosts expert and author Ian Dale-Bell has just released Walking Ghostly & Gruesome Lancaster on iPad and for eBook readers.

Whether you live locally or plan to visit Lancaster at some point in the future, his local guide shows you some of the more interesting spots to look out for if you're a ghost hunter. Just like the many wonderful guided walks around the city, this book offers an illustrated pedestrian's guide that is easy to follow, offering information on places to look at and gruesome tales along the way.

The guide also includes plenty of internet links providing you with lots of extra information on local museums and places to eat and drink.

Here, he offers a introductory guide to Lancaster's spooky history...

The Romans came to Lancaster in around 55AD, and some of its historic streets have borne witness to pillage from the north, the Reformation, the War of the Roses, the Black Death, witch trials and many other traumatic events. It is, perhaps, no wonder that tales are told of restless spirits who still roam ancient sites and old buildings.

Of course, the site of the Castle and the Priory has been occupied from the very start of the settlement of Lancaster. Some of the oldest streets would have followed a path from the original fort to villages in the outlying areas; these would include Church Street and the road south to Preston. Underground springs originate from the hill upon which the castle is built, one follows the back of Church street and formed the old mill stream, another runs down to the River Lune and through the public house ‘The Three Mariners’ itself.

One theory of ghosts and spirits is that they are attracted to the electro-magnetic fields generated by features such as running water. Perhaps then it is no coincidence that some of the buildings near these underground streams are the location of some of these ghostly tales?

There are many gruesome tales to be told from this city’s sometimes-turbulent past. The Black Death swept through this land in the late 14th century and took many lives, the dead being buried on the moors above Lancaster, away from the population. Religious intolerance cruelly led to the horrific deaths of the Lancashire Martyrs, and Lancaster itself had so many public executions at one time that it was knows as ‘the hanging town’. Life was hard and a death sentence could be given for what now would be considered minor offences. Sanitary conditions were poor and life expectancy was short.

It is not wonder that ghostly and gruesome tales attach themselves to these ancient streets...

• You can buy Ian's book Walking Ghostly & Gruesome Lancaster for £2.99 from by PayPal. Purchasers buying this book will receive his other book, Exploring Paranormal Morecambe and the Surrounding Area free.

Warning Over Winter’s Effect On Local Wildlife

A blue tit. Image courtesy Lancashire Environment Record Network.
With the return of another cold snap so soon after snow and ice covered our region, local wildlife may be struggling to cope, warns the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside.

Our wildlife is amazingly hardy and adaptable and can put up with a pounding from the weather. But prolonged periods of cold, continuing for weeks or months at a time, or severe and sudden changes in the weather, can cause it major problems.

Last winter was a bleak one up here in our area. Snowfall before Christmas was unusual enough, but early January saw temperatures falling even more dramatically than the heavy snow that blanketed our landscape for what felt like months. It was very nice to look at, of course, but highlighted how important it is that we all make a special effort to look after our region’s wildlife again this time around.

Grazing animals, whether domestic sheep or wild hares, may not be able to get to the plants to feed because the ice. And the frozen ground prevents rabbits and hares from nibbling grass, making these plant-lovers stay at home, so predators like stoats and owls find it harder to spot and catch them.

There is also less food around in hedgerows and woodlands for foragers - leaves have gone, plants withered or covered with snow, hedges stripped of berries, and insects dead from the cold or stuck in frozen soil or ponds.

Not many of our mammals actually hibernate for long periods during winter, they simply prefer to sleep when it gets cold, occasionally emerging to see what food might be available. But when severe weather hits, it's much harder for mammals like badgers, hares, stoats and foxes to graze, forage or hunt for food: already we're seeing foxes being more bold and more active in broad daylight.

Putting out fruit, vegetables and meat (like dog food) in your garden will help them when other food is either covered in snow or the ground is too hard to dig into. Don’t leave out bread or milk for hedgehogs, but a shallow bowl of water will certainly help in times when ponds are frozen. If you come across buried food, make sure you leave it so that whatever buried it can find it again.

It can cause problems for some insects too. Those which are active in the winter, such as winter-gnats and minotaur beetles, can cope with periods of cold weather, but deep snow may prevent them feeding for weeks at a time.

Perhaps surprisingly, insects and other animals which hibernate usually do better in cold winters: they use less energy while hibernating, and are less likely to be disturbed and come out to look for food which isn't there. So, butterflies like the brimstone, peacock and comma, which hibernate as adults, and indeed, the other resident butterflies which spend the winter as eggs, caterpillars or crysalids, could benefit from this cold winter.

Likewise the mammals which do go into real hibernation, the dormouse and the bats, may appreciate the cold. Perhaps the most difficult circumstance for most wildlife is bouts of severe cold and snow, interspersed with warmer-than-normal conditions, which wake them up, only for the next cold spell to drive them back (or, in the case of plants, harsh frost might even damage the premature tender shoots).

If you'd like to help our wildlife cope this winter and in future winters, try the following steps:

- Put out nuts, seeds, fat and water for garden birds.
- Grow patches of tall grass in your garden to shelter butterflies.
- Don't cut back your herbabeous plants till the spring, so their hollow stems can provide snug hibernation sites for ladybirds and other beneficial insects.
- Provide insect homes for over-wintering lacewings and other invertebrates.

The easiest way to make a snug insect home is to take a bundle of bamboo canes or twigs, tie them together and hang somewhere in your garden. Alternatively, you can stuff dead leaves into a plastic bottle (with the bottom cut off and holes cut in the sides) or a plant pot and place or hang them somewhere damp. Either of these methods will give bugs in your garden a great place to hide from the harsh weather.

- Buy or make a hedgehog home for hibernating hogs.

A sturdy crate or box will provide a hedgehog with a great place to hibernate and stay warm and safe from predators. Kids will need help and supervision from a grown-up to remove partitions from crates, or to make a new box from plywood. Make sure you build a front door for the hedgehog to get in and out! You don’t need to line the box with leaves, they like to decorate their new homes themselves. When it’s ready, place the hedgehog home somewhere damp and secluded in your garden.

- Grow climbers like ivy to provide shelter for birds and insects.

- If you’re lucky enough to have red squirrels in your area, like birds, their main problem in snowy conditions can be finding food, so leaving out nuts will help them get the food they need when it’s in short supply elsewhere.

Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside web site

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Splash out on a quid-a-swim this Christmas

Lancaster City Council is inviting people to make a splash at their local pool this Christmas for just £1.

Quid-a-swim sessions have been available each week at Salt Ayre Sports Centre and the community pools in Heysham, Hornby and Carnforth since August.

The weekly sessions have proved so popular with those looking for a way of keeping fit whilst watching the pennies, the offer has now been extended to cover all public swimming sessions throughout December (lessons and fitness classes not included).

For information on quid-a-swim times at your nearest pool, visit or contact one of the council’s pools directly:

• Heysham Community Pool 01524 420763
• Salt Ayre Sports Centre 01524 847540
• Carnforth Pool 01524 734699
• Hornby Pool 015242 21119

Please note that the pools are closed from 25th - 28th December 2010.

"Real cuts to services" for Council as government cuts begin to bite

Lancaster City Council says it is carefully scrutinising the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement to determine its impact on the council’s budget and future service provision.

On Monday, the Government announced that the city council’s grant, which forms the majority of the money the council receives to run its services, is to be cut by 13.8% in 2011/12 and 10.9% in 2012/13.

“Because of previous Government announcements we had anticipated that our grant was going to be cut and, this does, as expected, leave the council in a challenging position," says Liberal Democrat Coun Stuart Langhorn, leader of Lancaster City Council.

“However, Cabinet has already started the process and is meeting regularly to draft a budget for consideration by Council.

“While many of the discussions are still in their formative stages, it is clear that  we will have to make real cuts to our services if we are to balance the books.

“We will be examining the budget carefully to ensure that all our services contribute towards the council’s priorities.”

The Council is considering a recommendation from Cabinet today to freeze Council Tax in 2011/12. If Council approves the recommendation the Government will provide additional funding equivalent to a 2.5% rise.

Taking this and the settlement into consideration, Lancaster City Council will have to find savings of £799,000 in 2011/12 and £1,934M in 2012/13.

This is sure to mean massive reductions in services and staff redundancies.

Cabinet will present its draft budget to Council on 2nd March 2011.

The Bear Around Your Neck: a chat with singer songwriter Nathanial Scott

Nathanial “Nat” Scott was 19 when he recorded At Lake Bury Me (released by local label Barnbox last year) with Barnbox’s Tom Diffenthal and Kriss Foster. Then dividing his performing life between Preston and Lancaster, The Bear Around Your Neck saw Nat and singer Megan Laura Whyte sharing his songs over acoustic guitar and Dylan-rack harmonica.

Citing inspiration from the likes of the late, critically acclaimed singer/songwriter Elliott Smith, Nat’s songs set their characters up against seemingly insurmountable forces (ghosts, time, gravity), inviting the listener into world of nocturnal bike rides, ghost lovers and spurred romance. Both congruent and precise, the EP sounds assured and yet vulnerable - like it could ‘break any minute’.

A year on from its release and by now relocated to Manchester, Tom Bramhall spoke to Nat about the record and some of his experiences playing music in and around the area. We touched on his relationship with the visual arts - Nat’s own contribution to the Barnbox design having added a charismatic dimension to both the label’s and his own output - in addition to some of his experiences living in the city.

Tom Bramhall: Nat, you've described your songs as sounding like 'brittle bones'. At Lake Bury Me sounds vulnerable and assured at the same time. I'm wondering how conscious you've had to be of these things? 

Nat: I wasn't really, I don't think. I just wanted the songs to be left as they were. My friend once said when he was watching me play, it looked like it could all go wrong, or 'break', any minute.

Tom Bramhall: When did you notice yourself start writing songs?

Nat: When I was about 13/14, It's hard to remember. Although I didn't start writing for The Bear Around Your Neck until I was like 15 or 16. Meg and I recorded the first songs for The Bear Around Your Neck on our high school results day.

Tom Bramhall: When did you decide to share them with other people?

Nat: Around the time we recorded the songs.

Tom Bramhall: You've got declared influences - fancy talking about them?

Nat: Yeah -- I like Elliott Smith, Bob Dylan... All that. A lot of the music I listen to is 'lyrically focused.' I just enjoy it more than listening to music that isn't. I don't know why.

Tom Bramhall: Do you read comics? 

Nat: I often used to, but not so much anymore, but I'm still really interested in the drawing style.

Tom Bramhall: Who painted the cover for the Barnbox CD?

Nat: Me. I like to do the covers myself.

Tom Bramhall: Are you still in touch with Barnbox?

Nat: Yeah, we're half way through the next E.P at the moment. Moving away has meant we haven't talked much, but that's natural I think.

Tom Bramhall: How did you come across one another?

Nat: I played a gig for one of their nights, and afterwards Tom Diffenthal asked if I wanted to record with them.

Tom Bramhall: So, any observations from a Wyre & Fylde man on living away in Manchester?

Nat: So far, it's been fast. I feel like I've been here a week. Size is a huge difference, as Lancaster is quite a small city. I was pretty apprehensive about it at first, and still am, I suppose.

Tom Bramhall: Are you playing at all?

Nat: Yes. There are a lot more places to play, so I've been playing around as many places as I can.

Tom Bramhall: What are the best and worst things so far about living in the City?

Nat: I think the best thing is the fact there are more venues, more musicians, and some friends moved here too. So I haven't been alone all the time.

Tom Bramhall: Are you working/studying out there?

Nat: I'm studying Illustration with Animation at MMU. It’s going okay.

Tom Bramhall: What's hot in Manchester right now?

Nat: I'm not sure. I've just pretty much kept myself to myself, and got on with what I enjoy.

Tom Bramhall: As someone who's performed live music in Lancaster - what would you say - if anything, distinguishes it from other towns and cities?

Nat: Lancaster has a large group of performers, in a smaller city, that all know each other, or know of each other. It's really great. Much more tighter knit than other surrounding towns or cities.

• Nathanial Scott writes and plays for The Bear Around Your Neck. ‘At Lake Bury Me’ was released by Barnbox Records last year -

• Tom Bramhall writes for po)))nies. A selection of recordings can be heard at

Liverpool man charged with Lancaster Post office robbery

30-year-old Eoghan McMullen of Pinehurst Avenue, Anfield has been charged with robbery in connection with a robbery at the post office on Cleveleys Avenue, Scale Hall back in October.

Two men, one of them wielding a hammer, threatened the postmaster and his wife at the branch, escaping with a substantial amount of money and leaving the couple extremely distressed but unhurt.

The police quickly released CCTV footage of the suspects after the incident.

McMullen has been remanded to appear before Lancaster Magistrates Court on 15th December.

Two woman aged 50 and 23 from Lancaster have also been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit robbery and are on police bail until 23rd February.

BBC Report 2nd October: Armed robbery at Lancaster sub post office

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Alternative Christmas Party at the Storey

Celebrating the recent re-issue of the original ‘stalk and slash’ movie and because adults deserve a party at Christmas time, Enigma Promotions are presenting Black Christmas, an exclusive party to be held at The Storey in Lancaster on Thursday 16th December.

The party will include a private showing of the Special Edition of Black Christmas, a 1974 Canadian slasher film directed by Bob Clark largely based on a series of murders that took place in Quebec, Canada around Christmas time. It follows a group of college students who must face a deranged serial killer lurking in their sorority house and stars Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea (best known for 2001: A Space Odyssey), Superman actress Margot Kidder, Marian Waldman, and John Saxon.

The party will also include close-up magic tricks, raffles, an ice-cream Buffet and charity auction.

Local artists have created works inspired by the film and these will be auctioned to raise money and awareness for the Help for The Heroes Charity.

"This Party will appeal to anyone who enjoys great atmosphere and the darker side of Christmas," say organisers.

• Tickets are £15 for a single ticket (admits one person and two raffle entry tickets), £25 for a single plus one ticket (admits two persons and three raffle entry tickets). For further information about the event and/or book your places please contact either Enigma Promotions on 07921 990295 or 07595 300232 or alternatively ask at The Storey 01524 509000

Lancaster's Christ Church nursery burglary target for second time

Christchurch School on Derwent Road (via Google Maps)

Police are appealing for information after a children’s nursery in Lancaster was targeted by burglars for the second time this year.

Sometime between 4.00pm on Friday 3rd December and 9.30am on Saturday 4th December, an offender or offenders broke into the Christ Church Nursery on Derwent Road, gaining access to the premises through a rear window using a child’s bench.

Once inside, they searched the property before making off with various items including a television with DVD player, a laptop, two cameras, a mobile phone and a quantity of cash.

This is the second time the nursery has been targeted since May this year. On that occasion a television and a laptop were stolen.

“This is a particularly heartless crime which is made all the more upsetting for the children and staff given the time of year," commented DC Sarah Cole. "I would ask anybody with any information about this incident to contact police.”

The playgroup opened in 1966 and offers services to up to 20 children at a time from a self-contained building situated in the grounds of Christ Church School.

• Anybody with any information should contact Lancaster CID 01524 63333 quoting log LC-20101205-1349 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Shop workers praised following teenage test purchase operation

The vigilance of shop workers has been praised after just one venue failed a police test purchasing operation carried out on off-licences in Lancaster.

Police, working in conjunction with Trading Standards officers and volunteer teenage test purchasers, carried out the test purchase operation on Saturday night, visiting 11 establishments across the city.

In the one off-licence which failed, the 15-year-olds were able to buy a bottle of wine without being challenged for ID but in all of the other stores the teens were asked for proof of age and sales were then refused.

The off-licence that failed to carry out the correct procedure will now face a licence intervention, where the licensee will have to meet with the police licensing officer to discuss how underage sales can be avoided in the future. The worker who served the alcohol has been given an £80 fine.

“Selling alcohol to children is not only against the law but can also put these children at risk from harm," says licensing officer PC Graeme Cheetham. “I was pleased to see that the vast majority of staff in off-licences that the teens visited were aware of their responsibilities and took action not to serve our test purchasers.

“We will continue 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.”

Police are now looking for teenagers to assist with future test purchase operations. Volunteers must be aged 13 – 16, must look their age and be willing to take part for around five hours on an occasional basis. Parental consent must be given.

Full training is given; volunteers are supervised at all times and will be collected from, and returned to their home addresses. Refreshments are provided and participants are provided with a small gratuity for their efforts.

• Please e-mail and with your name, address, date of birth and your parents name and contact number and a brief paragraph as to why you are interested in becoming a test purchaser.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Some Community Support Officers jobs saved for next two years

Trade Union UNISON has welcomed news that funding for Police Community Support Officers is to be kept for the next two years, after fears all of Lancashire's officers would lose their jobs early next year.

Police bosses made it clear that all PCSO’s would have been vulnerable to redundancy if the ring-fenced funding for them was to disappear employed by Lancashire Constabulary (see news story). The Lancashire Police Branch of UNISON had been served with a Section 188 Notice under the Trade Union Labour Relations Act 1992 back in October and has been campaigning widely since to retain current funding.

The original announcement provoked a storm of protest and some MPs were quick to challenge the plans to cut the officers, who provide vital community contact for the police.

“We are extremely happy today following the announcement in parliament to retain the funding stream," said Maureen Le Marinel, Branch Secretary of UNISON. It means that the majority of our PCSO colleagues will be safe from redundancy.

"I would like to thank my UNISON colleagues and all PCSO’s who have since late October been out lobbying Lancashire’s MP’s, Peers and Councils raising the awareness of what the effect will be.

"But most of all I would like to thank the communities of Lancashire who have backed our campaign and have taken action themselves by contacting their MP’s and signing our petition which has in excess of 11,500 signatures this is a fantastic result. Our campaign has seen a speech in the House of Lords by Lord Greaves, an Early Day Motion in Parliament, media coverage local, regional and national.

Let’s be clear," she added, "and leave no-one under the illusion that we believe that it is our campaign and our action with the support of our communities that has had a significant impact on this government and the Home Secretary taking the decision to keep the ring-fence."

Despite today's announcement, UNISON warned there was still more to do to try to ensure jobs were not lost, as the governments began to set out more details of its swingeing public spending cuts.

"This is the first stage of our campaign," says Maureen. "The second stage will be targeting Lancashire’s councils and other partners who ‘part fund’ some 170+ PCSO’s across Lancashire and we now want to see them make the right decision.

"If the external funding provided by local authorities, parish councils, schools and PCT’s is withdrawn then some PCSO’s will still be extremely vulnerable to redundancy and those areas were these either partly or fully funded PCSO’s work will lose the resource that they have fought with us to keep.

"So I would urge the public to ask their local authorities if their PCSO will remain or disappear and tell them they want them to remain.

"Our fight will continue but for now we welcome this news today.”

Lancaster cycle path assault appeal

Police are appealing for people to come forward with information after a man was assaulted on a Lancaster cycle path over the weekend (Saturday 11th December).

The incident happened around 12pm when the 19 year old Morecambe man was walking along the public cycle track off Morecambe Road close to Asda and the local college.

He was approached by three men who assaulted him with twigs and poured lager over his head before making off.

The offenders were walking a golden coloured dog and police are appealing to anyone that saw them on the cycle path to get in touch.

“Although the man was not injured during the assault, it was completely unprovoked and we would urge any witnesses or anyone with any information about the incident to come forward," says PC Rebecca Rooke from Morecambe Police.

Police believe it is possible the men may also have approached other people on the cycle path that day and are urging anyone with any information to come forward.

A 27 year old man from Lancaster, 20 year old from Lancaster and a 25 year old man from Morecambe have all been arrested on suspicion of section 39 assault and are currently on police bail.

• Anyone with any information about any of these offences should contact police on 08451 25 35 45 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Radio campaign offers help to domestic abuse victims this Christmas

A radio campaign is urging Lancashire victims of domestic abuse to seek help this Christmas.

The advert, which will receive airplay across the county, hears a young child speaking about how he likes to give his mother flowers at Christmas – but that the only way he can do this is to put them on her grave.

The shocking message, which highlights the potential deadly consequences of domestic abuse, also urges victims not to suffer in silence. The National Domestic Violence helpline is given, but victims are also told to dial 999 in an emergency.

“At this time of year, we traditionally see a rise in domestic violence, as families spend prolonged periods of time together and alcohol flows more freely," says Detective Superintendent Ian Critchley from Lancashire Police’s head of public protection. “We want victims to know that help is available – we will do everything we can to protect you and your family so that you are able to move away from a situation where there is the threat of violence. We will also work towards bringing offenders to justice.”

The advert is supported by the Lancashire Domestic Violence Partnership and are funded by Safer Lancashire, a partnership made up of community safety organisations which aims to make Lancashire an even safer place to live, work and visit.

Domestic violence is any threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between adults who are or have been in a relationship, or between family members. It can affect anybody, regardless of their gender or sexuality.

“Our message to victims is that they don’t need to suffer domestic violence in silence," says Helen Cooper, member of the Lancashire Domestic Violence Partnership. "Across Lancashire, all agencies work together to provide support for victims of domestic violence.”

• If you are suffering from domestic violence or abuse, or know someone who is, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247. Always dial 999 in an emergency.

• Safer Lancashire Board website:

Listen to the radio campaign

National Domestic Violence helpline

CCTV images released after attempted theft in Booths, Lancaster

Police have released CCTV images of two men they wish to speak to in connection with a theft from a supermarket in Lancaster last month.

At approximately 5.20pm on the 18th November, two men entered the Booths store on Hala Road in Lancaster and walked around the store, filling a shopping trolley full of groceries and alcohol.

They then appeared to attempt to leave the store without paying for the items, but they were disturbed by a customer and abandoned the trolley in the outside foyer, making off in haste from the store. The items, totalling over £300, were recovered.

“I am appealing for witnesses to this to come forward to help police establish the circumstances around this theft," says PC Simon Harrison, who is investigating the theft. "Despite the men leaving the items behind, it would appear at this stage that were going to attempt to leave with the items without paying for them.

“I would appeal for the men themselves, or anyone who recognises them to come forward and contact police so that we can discuss the incident further to establish exactly what happened.”

The two men police would like to talk to in connection with what appeared to be the attempted theft of goods from Booths, Lancaster last month.
The first man is described as being in his mid 50’s, of heavy build with a moustache.  He was wearing a black and white striped hat, a dark blue jacket, a yellow or green top and dark trousers.

The second man is described as also in his mid 50’s, of heavy build and clean shaven with glasses. He was wearing a light green cap with a dark green jacket over a light blue shirt with jeans.

• Anyone with any information about either offence should contact Lancashire Police on 08451 25 35 45 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Man stabbed in Lancaster, arrest made

Detectives have launched an investigation after a 49 year old man was stabbed in Lancaster.

Police were called to an address on Patterdale Road on the Ridge at around 5.45pm yesterday (Thursday 9 December 2010). On arrival, they found a man suffering from a stab wound to his chest.

He was taken to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary where he remains in a critical but stable condition.

A 20-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and is being questioned by detectives at Lancaster police station.

A cordon is in place while Crime Scene Investigators carry out an examination of the scene.

Bike registration scheme to help return stolen cycles

With one bike stolen every day in north Lancashire, cyclists purchasing new bikes in the area are being asked to register their details on a new database to help safeguard their property.

The move is one of a number of joint agency initiatives being launched across Morecambe and Lancaster as part of Operation Chainguard, aimed at reducing bicycle thefts in the area and increasing the ability to return a stolen bike to its owner.

Shoppers purchasing bikes at participating cycle stores will be asked to register their contact details, along with the manufacturer, model, colour, and frame serial number of their new bicycle. This information will then be stored on a centralised, secure database, which can be accessed by police officers should the bike then be stolen.

Current figures show that around one bike is stolen every day in Northern Division, which covers Lancaster, Morecambe and Wyre.

“Bicycle theft is not a unique problem to the area and happens across the country," notes PC Ben Hanley from Morecambe Police. "However, Lancaster and Morecambe are popular places for cyclists to get about by bike, both for commuting and for pleasure, so the theft of a cycle can be a real inconvenience for the owner.

"Unfortunately, the main identifying characteristic – the bike’s serial number – is rarely recorded or stored where police can have access to it. This means our ability to recover a stolen bicycle, and then return it to its rightful owner, is greatly reduced.”

“Operation Chainguard will see a joint approach to tackling bike crime in the Lancaster and Morecambe area," feels Rachel Scott, Lancaster City Council Cycling Project Co-ordinator. "The introduction of this DVLA-style registration database will greatly increase the chances of any recovered, stolen bikes being returned to their rightful owner.”

Local bicycle shops have pledged their commitment to Operation Chainguard and arrangements are being made for roadshow-style events to take place across the area. So far, signed up partners include Destination Cycles, The Edge, Oggy’s Cycles, Dynostart, Halfords, Leisure Lakes, Bay Bikes, Motormania with others to follow.

Operation Chainguard will also see a number of other measures being introduced to help reduce the number of bicycle thefts. However, cyclists can also take a number of preventative steps to help them becoming the victim of crime:

  • Bicycles should be locked away in garages or sheds when not in use – and if this is not possible then use a good quality lock and chain to secure the bike to something sturdy.

  • It's even better if you can use two locks on your bike, and wrap them through the frame rather than the wheels as these can be removed by thieves.

  • If you are out and about on your bike, always lock it up when you need to leave it – even if you are just nipping into a shop for a few minutes.

  • If you must leave your bike in a secluded area for any length of time, consider removing your seat and taking it with you – a bike without a seat is an uncomfortable prospect for a thief.

  • Don’t put off noting down your bike details – it could be the information Police need to reunite both cycle and owner. Distinctive marks, custom parts and additional graphics all help to identify specific cycles if stolen.

• If you've already got a bike then you can still register it. Just fill in your details at and they will pass them onto the Police.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Fire at Heysham 2 not dangerous, says director

Heysham power station has moved quickly to calm fears about a fire at the installation yesterday.

Heysham 2 power station called Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service to site at 10.00pm on Tuesday after smoke was detected in an electrical room in a non-nuclear area of the plant.

A spokesperson for the station told virtual-lancaster there was no effect on any operational plant and therefore, no challenge to the operation of the station. Along with the site's own fire team, Lancashire Fire and Rescue used thermal imaging equipment to confirm that the source was a failed bearing in a heater which has been isolated pending repair and the smoke dispersed.

Alan Oulton, station director at Herysham 2, said: "We immediately accounted for all staff and then the fire teams did their job in locating the source of the smoke. There was no danger to anyone on site and I would like to thank the efforts of the fire teams involved."

"Lancashire Fire & Rescue Service crews undertake regular training exercises with Heysham Power Station staff," added station manager Mark Hutton, Incident Commander from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, "and this, together with the comprehensive technical support available on-site, helped to ensure the incident was dealt with quickly and effectively".

Plea to look out for wildlife this winter

Robin on a bird feeder. Image courtesy
Lancashire Environment Record Network
Nature lovers are being asked to capture the wildlife in Lancashire’s gardens and open spaces to ensure our native creatures are surviving another harsh winter.

The Lancashire Environment Record Network wants Lancastrians to “catch” birds and mammals by noting them down as they seek food on bird tables, in hedges and on lawns and ponds.

LERN collects and maintains records of wildlife in the county and then passes that information on to individuals and organisations helping to protect Lancashire’s environment. The aim of all this data collection is to build up a picture of Lancashire’s wildlife and plantlife and the environment in which they live, but it cannot do this without the help of hundreds of residents, walkers, runners and anyone who spends time in their area, keeping an eye out for the wonders of nature.

Winter is an important time of year to help understand how our wildlife is coping.

“Many people worry about wildlife at this time of year and it is great to know that they put food onto bird tables to help them get through these tough winters we are experiencing," says LERN Communications Officer Alan Wright.

“Our job is to record the variety of wildlife that is active year round which can help check whether numbers are being affecting by this freezing weather. If you take a note of regular visitors to your garden and then contact LERN you are then helping wildlife a number of different ways.

A blue tit in a garden. Image courtesy Lancashire Environment Record Network

"Every January the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds run their Big Garden Birdwatch where up to 400,000 people take part, but we're keen to receive records from the public throughout the year."

LERN’s data is used by local and national groups who are investigating populations of various plants and animals. County figures are important as part of a national picture when it comes to assessing the health of our environment.

“By helping LERN you are actually providing information that could be used regionally, nationally and on a global scale," Alan explains. "Scientists are warning us that species are vanishing every day and we any data is vital to monitor the situation, so plans can be put into place to start to rectify the situation.”

He added that feeding birds and other wildlife over winter gives the creatures a vital source of nutrition to help through the freezing cold weather.

• LERN can be contacted by or by going to the website

• RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch:

Monday, 6 December 2010

Sleeping Beauty is Platform Panto

Panto season arrives at the Platform from 21st December, with a traditional tale of romance, comedy and good versus evil.

Sleeping Beauty will be presented by Fame Factory and the Robinson Read School of Dance who promise to bring this family favourite right up-to-date with music, dancing, some unexpected twists in the story and lots of audience participation.

Fame Factory pantos offer a fast moving, relevant and funny story and just like their other productions such as Aladdin or Cinderella, although each script is different there's always a happy ending, the villains always get their just deserts, the comic always hits a mix of comedy and pathos, the principal boy is a thigh-slapping hero and the dames are as outrageous as possible!
• Performances of Sleeping Beauty will take place on Tuesday 21, Wednesday, 22, Sunday 26 and Monday 27 December starting at 2.30pm.
• Tickets cost £7 adults, £6 concessions and £22 family from the box office on 01524 582803 or in person at Morecambe or Lancaster Visitor Information Centres.

Appeal after nightclub assault in Lancaster

Police in Lancaster are appealing for witnesses after a man was assaulted in a nightclub in the city.

At approximately 3.00am on the 28th November, the 20 year old man was in Toast nightclub, sat in a booth talking to a woman when he was approached by a man who punched him in the head before walking away.

The offender has been described as white, between 18 and 25 years old and of slim build. He had short cropped dark hair which was slightly longer on top and was believed to have been wearing a blue checked shirt.

PC Dan Mitchell from Lancaster police said, “This was a particularly nasty and unprovoked assault and I would appeal for anyone with any information in relation to this assault to come forward and contact police.”

• Anyone with information can contact police on 01524 63333 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Lancaster Anti-Cuts Protesters Pour Scorn on Lib Dems

They gathered yesterday, upward of a thousand of them, with their banners and placards and anti-cuts slogans, in a cold car park off a bottleneck in the Lancaster one-way system. Dozens of police, still caring passionately, in spite of their own employment and pensions troubles, turned up to cheer them on and keep them safe, bringing many horses to charm and entertain the children.

They were unionists and shopkeepers, teachers and care-workers, people worried about their pensions and their savings, people worried about their mortgages and their rent. Students worried about their debts and seniors worried about their pensions and services. Mostly strangers to each other and mostly surprised and lifted to see so many people. There were some great banners. "Lancaster Feminists are Coming to Cut Off Your Bonuses" got a lot of laughs. They practiced their chanting and there were repeated, delighted requests for the rude one about Nick Clegg.

And one man among them had come alone, to represent thousands. When he addressed the waiting crowds hardly anyone could see him and they had to strain to hear the bloke in the electric wheelchair telling them about cuts in disability benefits. But they had to listen because, he explained, disabled people had so little opportunity to be heard, struggling as they were with illness and incapacity. They faced cuts in housing benefits, mobility benefits and in services that few would be able to manage without, but they needed help to resist and fight for their lives. He knew they weren't the only group facing problems - he noted the presence of the Women Against the Cuts Group, but he was just asking people to care. "We do", the women promised him. "We will."

He got a warm cheer from the assembly, and then, with great dignity and flanked by banners, he wheeled toward the street. The crowd began chanting its slogans and marched out into the city streets, led by a smart honour guard of matching mounted police four abreast in their bright canary-yellow tabards.

They marched through the bright pre-christmas shopping centre to the cheering support of the masses, or at least their bemused momentary distraction from the business of completing task lists. The chant about Nick Clegg didn't fail to get a laugh, though it's not printable. They paused to boo at TopShop and BHS, owned by massive, massive tax-dodger Philip Green, a real scrounger on the state bending the cohabitation rules, who seems to have escaped the wrath of Daily Mail. If the taxes of the superrich were collected they would more than cover the savings expected from the these cuts to the poor and vulnerable, they shouted. And they sang to a conga beat "We won't shop at TopShop, we won't shop at TopShop, dah dah dah, dee-dah dah dah!" It didn't stop any shoppers but Rome wasn't built in a day.

It was a slow climb back up the A6 to Dalton Square. The battery on the wheelchair powered a stately progress. The crowd settled behind the pace of the lone wheelchair, and together arrived in the square. At which point the man driving it had to nip off in it round the side to the flat entrance while everyone else piled up the steps.

The speeches were brief and to the point. About banking charge rip-offs, tax dodging, and how the cuts would damage every layer of our wide community but benefit the obscenely wealthy. They came from unionists, feminists, students and people who were desperate and a warning. They had the same message: 'If you don't resist you will lose what you can't hold onto. Our only recourse is to speak up and do so immediately, repeatedly and more and more loudly until we are heard. Attacking the poor to save the fortunes of the super rich is not our only choice. People are worried about protecting their savings and pensions and they think that the cuts will save them. But it would be far cheaper to guarantee the savings of the many than to guarantee the astronomical debts of a handful of billionaires.'

'The Lib Dems have to vote in parliament on increased tuition fees on Thursday 9 December. To keep the coalition government stable they have to vote for policy that directly opposes their pre-election core promise of preserving access to education for all. That would spell the end of the Lib Dem party values and in the eyes of the public represents a moral and political crossroads for every Lib Dem MP. It's a test.'

More anti cuts protests are scheduled in Lancaster in the coming week as pressure for change is maintained. Check out the Lancaster & Morecambe Against the Cuts Website for up to the minute information.

This is not an impartial report, but it is a balance to the News International global media corps output. In addition, as only City Councillors from the Green Party turned up, it is a report on the views of a significant constituency. And we all made a promise to an old bloke in a wheelchair.

Comments are welcome.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Lancaster Protest March Against Cuts On Saturday 4 December

72% of the cuts being brought in by the Con-Dem coalition will come from women's pockets, claim a new Lancaster group 'Women Against the Cuts' who will be joining the protest march through Lancaster City Centre at noon tomorrow in their unions, community groups and side-by-side with a city unsettled by the proposed job losses and savaging of public services and benefits to the poorest and most vulnerable in our communities.

The march has been organised by Lancaster & Morecambe Against the Cuts, an umbrella organisation of trades unions, voluntary and community groups, to protest the unfairness of the outcome of the government's spending review which they believe is set to widen the gap between rich and poor and create a two nation state where unemployment, homelessness, destitution, lack of education and isolation will become the order of the day for those who don't or can't fight back for themselves and their families.

Students and schoolchildren who face loss of Education Maintainance Allowances for the poorest 16-19 year olds and a trebling of higher education tuition fees will be joining the protest in the lead up to their own Day of Action on 9 December when a vote on tuition fees will be taking place in parliament.

A Lancaster Feminist group has been tracking the effects on women of the cuts researched by the Fawcett Society, which reports to the government on the differential impacts of polices on women. Summarising this research, Lancaster Women Against the Cuts explain:

"Because of pregnancy and family care, women are still disadvantaged in the labour market and too many are in the part-time, low paid jobs that are always the first to go. Women rely on benefits twice as much as men do.

"Cuts in Child Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits, Child Benefit, Housing Benefit and pensions will disproportionately hurt women. The two most vulnerable groups have been identified as lone parents, 90% of whom are women, and women single pensioners.

"Women make up 73% of local authority services employees and 77% of the NHS workforce. Cuts to these services depend on the unspoken assumption that women will just be forced home to fill the gaps, taking on more and more unpaid care and domestic work to support the whole family’s caring needs. And our neighbours’ too, unless we want to watch them suffer.
The Tory / Lib Dem plans rely on women’s unpaid coping work at home and in the community replacing paid jobs.

"The quality of care services for all elderly people in this country is a national scandal but because women tend to live longer than men and women’s pensions are on average 60% less than men’s, older women are particularly vulnerable to cuts in care services.
Public services are not ‘charity’. They are our right!

"The annual deficit is £70bn - but the 1000 wealthiest individuals make £77bn in a year and £120bn of tax is dodged by the rich. Yet they are still fixing 72% of the cuts to the budget to come from women’s pockets. These cuts are stealing the progress made by women over the past fifty years and blighting the hopes of future generations of girls who will have to pick up what we leave."

"We’re not having this. We’re not here just to be exploited. We’re going to pull together and fight back in our workplaces and communities – everywhere!"

Visit the lancaster and Morecambe Against the Cuts website at

You can contact Lancaster Women Against the Cuts by emailing