Friday, 12 March 2010

Lancaster Market: Traders voice concerns

Lancaster MarketWith the future of Lancaster Market still in the balance, virtual-lancaster understands the latest meeting between City Council and traders did not go well last night, again prompting renewed concerns over its future.

Despite agreeing to involve bodies such as National Federation of Market Traders, the Chamber of Commerce and other relevant organisations, one trader reported online that the National Federation and other groups were only invited to yesterday's meeting on the same day - effectively ensuring they could not be represented.

"The meeting last night was not good news," another trader told virtual-lancaster. "The council did not make arrangements for the Federations to attend. They telephoned one in the morning and said we are having a meeting tonight... [which was] obviously not enough notice."

The Council needs to move fast in its negotiations with the traders or any plans to oust them from the Market could be hamstrung by the legal complexities surrounding another long-running issue between them - the issuing of leases.

At present, the Council and traders are embroiled in a dispute over leases for stalls that has been an ongoing for well over two years now. "We have a court case coming up to have our leases renewed at the end of April," says trader Colin Smith, "and as I understand it, if the Council don't have firm plans in place the leases will be granted as a matter of course.

"It's my personal belief that Lancaster Market would be full now if not for lease situation and also had it been run properly," he added in a post to the Save Lancaster Market Facebook group.

"... I know other traders have wanted to come in but have not been prepaired to risk investing without the comfort of a lease," he feels. "I'm also aware there are a number of traders already present in the market who would like to expand their busness."

Despite this, at the meeting last night Council representatives apparently suggested traders should not pursue lease renewal so that both sides would have more time to think about things.

"I would suggest that the council would only ask them to do this if they think the leases are going to be renewed via court," one angry trader told virtual-lancaster, who suspects that despite public claims to wanting to save the Market, forces within the Council are at work to continue on a path that would see its closure despite the huge public protest.

There also seems to be some confusion as to whether Council accepted traders acknowledgment of the proposal for all of them to move to the top floor of the Market building. Many say they are prepared to do this as soon as possible to speed up the handover of the lower floor to a single retailer.

Traders also seem bewildered about the Council's treatment of the issue and the proposal to close it on cost grounds last month, pointing out that they were quite prepared to pay more rent - albeit temporarily - to offset in part, some of the growing charges the Council is facing on the building.

"We offered to pay more as a temporary solution until things improved (aprox £80,000)," says Colin Smith. "What we needed were our leases renewing [over two] years ago then traders would not have left, some existing traders would have expanded and the new busnesses that wanted to come in would have. if the market was run properly I have no doubt it would be full."

Elsewhere, proposals have been made to move the Market: the Liberal Democrats (whose leader was behind the proposal to close the building) have now suggested the now listed Malt House of the old Brewery as a possible new location, while others have suggested the Town Hall.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

NWDA welcomes High Speed Rail link plan

high-speed-rail.jpgThe North West Development Agency has welcomed the news of plans for a High Speed Rail network in the UK, which the organisation says will benefit Lancaster and the rest of the North West when it is completed in the 2020s.

The plans call for the developing of a 335 mile 'Y'-shaped network would bring the West Midlands within about half an hour of London, and deliver journey times of 75 minutes or less from Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester to the capital.

Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis today announced proposals earlier today, proposing an initial core high speed rail network - which it's estimated could cost some £30 billion to build - linking London to Birmingham, Manchester, the East Midlands, Sheffield and Leeds, with trains running at up to 250 miles per hour.

Connections onto existing tracks would be included, allowing direct high speed train services to be operated to cities including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Liverpool as soon as the line opens. Further consideration will also be given to extending the network subsequently to these and other major destinations.

The first step in building such a network would be a high speed line from London to Birmingham, for which the Government has today published details of High Speed Two Ltd’s recommended route.

Full public consultation on that route, and the longer term strategy for high speed rail, will begin in the Autumn and detailed planning work will now also begin on the route options from Birmingham to Manchester and to Leeds to allow consultation on these routes in 2012.

“The NWDA warmly welcomes the government’s visionary proposals for high speed rail,' commented the agency' Chief Executive Steven Broomhead. "We know that by 2020 capacity in the region’s existing rail links to London and the South will be exhausted, whilst our motorway link via the M6 is heavily congested, so a new rail link is certainly needed.

"It makes sense to build the new link to modern high speed standards, reducing journey times to the capital and releasing capacity on the existing rail network for vital freight and local services.

"We know that places within a one hour travel time to London benefit significantly from its wealth and economic power and we can expect that Manchester, Liverpool, Preston and our other major centres in the Northwest will benefit significantly in the future from the economic stimulus and environmental benefits which high speed rail services would bring.”

“The time has come for Britain to plan seriously for high speed rail between our major cities," said Lord Andrew Adonis. "The high speed line from London to the Channel Tunnel has been a clear success, and many European and Asian countries now have extensive and successful high speed networks. I believe high speed rail has a big part to play in Britain’s future.

"Over the next twenty to thirty years the UK will require a step-change in transport capacity and connectivity both to promote and respond to long-term economic growth. However, this must be delivered sustainably, without unacceptable environmental impacts, and in line with the Government’s strategy to promote a low carbon economy."

The proposed routes are considered partly controversial: The Guardian notes the line will run through the Chiltern hills in Buckinghamshire, past picturesque villages such as Wendover, before arriving at an intermediate stop near Birmingham airport.

The Government has formed its proposals after consideration of a detailed report from HS2 Ltd, the company set up by the Government in January 2009 to investigate the case for high speed rail, who have also provided the estimated cost of £30 billion for the core 'Y' network -- but also found that construction costs for major projects in the UK are higher than for comparable projects elsewhere in Europe. As a result, Infrastructure UK - the body set up last year by Chancellor Alistair Darling to help ensure that publicly funded infrastructure is effectively prioritised and delivered - will work with the Department for Transport to consider whether and how construction costs can be reduced. Further work on HS2 Ltd’s cost estimates may be required following the completion of that work.

The Government proposes to secure the powers to deliver any high speed network by means of a single Hybrid Bill. Depending on the outcome of consultation and Parliamentary timescales and approval, this should allow construction to start after the London Crossrail scheme is completed from 2017 with the high speed network opening in phases from 2026.

More bogus callers steal cash from elderly

After an elderly couple were robbed by a bogus official earlier this week (see news story) police are now appealing for information about more heartless thieves who stole from three elderly women in Lancaster on Wednesday, using similar tactics.

Shortly before 3.00pm on Wednesday, a man knocked on a door in Gressingham Drive, Lancaster, and told the resident he was from the water board and needed to check her kitchen taps. As the pensioner came out of the kitchen, she saw two other men running out of the house.

About 40 minutes later, police were informed of three men claiming to be from the council trying to gain access to a house in Ashton Road because of water problems in the area. The owner had challenged the men and asked for identification and the trio then left.

At around 4.00pm, an 84-year-old woman in Park Square was visited by a man and a woman also claiming to be from the water board. The woman was taken into her kitchen while one of the offenders carried out a search of the property and then made off with £1,000.

The offenders were described as a female with short black hair, going grey, in her forties and of slim build, wearing black clothing and gloves and a white male in his thirties, of medium build, with combed back hair and wearing black clothing.

At around 5.00pm, an 86-year-old woman was targeted in Scafell Road. A man visited the property saying he was dealing with a water problem and then made the pensioner empty out her kitchen cupboards before asking her to run her upstairs taps. Meanwhile, the offender stole £150 before making off.

“These three crimes, and the incident where the men were denied access to the house, are potentially linked," says Detective Inspector Glen Oldham of Lancaster CID. "These are heartless crimes which have targeted vulnerable elderly people in their own homes.

“It's possible that the offenders have been using a blue Ford Focus ST 3, with the registration PE06 EXX, and if anyone has seen this vehicle I would like to speak to them.”

“If you have elderly parents, friends or neighbours please remind them about the importance of asking for and checking identification before letting people in to your homes," he added. "If someone calls at your home without an appointment, ask to see their identification, then close the door while you ring their employers to verify it. If they are genuine then they will not mind.

“If you have any concerns about someone who has arrived at your door unannounced then please contact the police.”

• Anyone with information about the burglaries is asked to contact Lancaster CID on 01524 63333 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

• There is a comprehensive guide to 'Distraction Crime' Prevention online at:

Download 'Your Security' booklet published by Help the Aged and Age Concern (PDF Format)

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Student dies after road collision

Police have re-issued an appeal for witnesses to a serious road collision on Cable Street, Lancaster, last week, which has resulted in the death of the pedestrian involved.

The victim, 20-year-old Akta Patel was originally from London but was a student in Lancaster.

The accident happened at around 3:33am last Friday, after Akta got off a private coach at the Sainsbury's bus stop near Greyhound Bridge.

She was then involved in a collision with a double decker bus, sustaining serious head injuries.  She was first taken to Royal Lancaster Infirmary and was then transferred to Royal Preston Hospital and, sadly, died yesterday after her life support machine was switched off.

• Police are asking any witnesses to the collision to come forward and contact PC 2514 Bain on 01523 63333 or 01534 596699

• virtual-lancaster extends its sympathies to Akta's family and friends for their loss

Burglars steal cash from elderly Lancaster couple

bogus_trafficlights-w.jpgTwo men posing as builders stole over £800 from an elderly couple after tricking their way into their Lancaster home.

The elderly home owner had noticed the males walking along Halton Road, late last Thursday morning (4th March). One of the men had beckoned him to the front door and then said that they were carrying out some work on a nearby property and needed to check the water supply.

The elderly couple were then made to clear out under their kitchen cupboards, but while they were doing this, one of the men went into another room and took around £800 in cash. The pair then left.

One of the males was described as a white male, of medium build and speaking with a Scottish accent.

“This was a callous crime which targeted two pensioners in their own home," commented Detective Inspector Glen Oldham of Lancaster CID. “I would urge anyone else who may have been visited by the pair, or who may have seen them in the surrounding area, to contact us.”

Doorstep crime can take a number of forms but is carried out by criminals who deliberately target the most vulnerable members of our communities. The average age of such victims is 78, according to Home Office research

Distraction burglaries involve criminals posing as genuine callers – they often claim to be from "the water board" – to gain entry into a person's home. Once inside, one of the callers distracts the homeowner, while another searches for money and valuable items to steal.

“It's important that you do not let unexpected callers in to your home," says DI Oldham. "Ask for identification, close your door while you check this with their employers and if you have any concerns then contact the police."

A variation of distraction burglary involves criminals posing as reputable tradespeople who offer to undertake repair work on a person's property. They do the work badly - if at all - and put people under extreme pressure to pay.

• There is a comprehensive guide to 'Distraction Crime' Prevention online at:

Download 'Your Security' booklet published by Help the Aged and Age Concern (PDF Format)

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

£5000 of suspected cocaine seized in Carnforth

Police seized suspected cocaine with an estimated street value of £5,600 after finding it in a car bound for Carnforth.

Officers from Morecambe’s targeting team stopped the car close to the M6’s Carnforth junction on Friday night as part of an ongoing operation to tackle anti-social behaviour in the town caused by cocaine abuse.

A 42-year-old man from Over Kellet was arrested on suspicion of possessing a class A drug. He has now been bailed pending the results of forensic tests.

“Issues have been raised about the problems that cocaine abuse is causing in Carnforth, particularly in relation to anti-social behaviour from users," notes Inspector Geoff Tagg from Morecambe Police. “We have an ongoing operation targeting those involved in the drug supply, while also offering those with drug habits the chance to get help.

“This was a significant seizure which will hopefully have a positive impact on the problems that law abiding residents have been facing.”

Motorists get Parking warning

Motorists who leave their vehicles on Lancaster’s Ashton Road are being reminded they will be fined if they park illegally.

Police have received a number of letters from drivers given tickets after parking on a section of the road that is now covered by a solid white line system

However, the fines have been upheld.

Police point out that Ashton Road carries a high volume of traffic and is a major bus route. Bevcause it's in close proximity to both Ripley High School and the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, it's also attracting many drivers looking for roadside parking.

In the past, motorists used to be able to park along this road. However, a number of serious accidents caused by vehicles having to cross the carriageway because of the way in which people had parked led to the intervention of the police, councillors and residents and the white line system was introduced.

Motorists cannot park on the double solid white lines, which includes a single solid white line adjacent to a broken white line. It is also dangerous to park on the crest of the hill. Those who do so will be issued with a fixed penalty notice either for unnecessary obstruction or contravention of a solid white line.

“Sadly, motorists still ignore the dangers and park on the crest adjacent to the twin solid white lines which prompts complaints to the police," comments Sgt Nigel Ralphson, of Lancaster's road policing unit. "If we ignored the issue, and a serious crash occurred, the organisation would have failed in its duty of care to the public.

“I would like to reassure those motorists who have received fixed penalty notices that any action we take is purely for road safety and casualty reduction purposes.”

Monday, 8 March 2010

Fake Oscar-nominated films seized in Morecambe


Local Trading Standards and police officers seized over 800 counterfeit DVDs at a Morecambe market last month – including several Oscar nominated titles.
Members of Morecambe’s Poulton neighbourhood police team also assisted Trading Standards in seizing around 250 items of fake designer clothing in the raid at the Sunday car boot-style market, held in the town on 28th February.

Among the DVD titles seized were recent cinema releases such as the Quentin Tarantino film Inglorious Basterds, the animated feature Avatar and other box office hits such as Wolfman, The Lovely Bones and The Fantastic Mr Fox. Counterfeited clothing brands included Henley, G Star, Adidas.

If authentic, the items would have an official retail value of around £20,000 - although many of the DVDs are not yet available in the shops.

Trading Standards are continuing their investigation into the sellers of the goods, who face possible prosecution in relation to offences under the Trade Marks Act 1994, which carries a potential maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment.

LibDems Shadow Minister rejects Heysham Bypass Plans for Rail

norman_baker_mp_libdem.jpgNorman Baker, the Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, is no supporter of costly, ineffective and environmentally damaging new roads like the proposed Heysham M6 Link -- and he has written to local transport campaign group Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe to tell them just that.

Mr. Baker, who is also MP for Lewes, says that government research, unearthed by the Campaign for Better Transport (PDF Link), shows that "the benefits forecast for new roads are not realised in practice... and that this has implications for all new road projects including the Heysham M6 Link road.

“Since 1997, the government has opened over 1,000 miles of new road (including widening) but only 27 miles of railway line," notes the Shadow Minister. "The Lib Dems want to encourage a modal shift towards greener modes of travel and this includes from road to rail.

"We would therefore invest in improving and expanding the railway network, in particular in High Speed Rail and line and station re-openings over costly, ineffective and environmentally damaging new road projects."

“TSLM is not party political, but we are encouraged by this response from a major political party," says David Gate, chair of the group. "The government research revealed by the Campaign for Better Transport was undertaken for the Highways Agency, and it casts major doubt on the value for money of road building.

"The findings coincide with warnings from the Department for Transport that regional authorities should expect substantial cuts in their transport funding."

The reports found that the overall traffic levels rose significantly as a direct result of opening each new road. Economic forecasts did not reflect the actual impact on local business, and any benefits were generally lower than predicted. CO2 emissions were higher than predicted, as were noise levels. Air quality was worse than forecast.

Two thirds of the roads studied simply moved the traffic congestion elsewhere.

At present, the Conservative-run County Council is pressing ahead with plans for the proposed unpopular Bypass between the M6 and Heysham. While TSLM opposes the Bypass altogether, suggesting alternative transport options to ease congestion, others who support a Bypass have previously argued the planned road is taking the wrong route.

The proposed route connects the already built length of the A683 Heysham to M6 Link, at its junction with the A589 Morecambe Road near Torrisholme, to a fully remodelled junction 34 on the M6 motorway near Halton.

The proposed dual carriageway road, at present estimated to cost £140 million, would cut across residential districts and destroy 173 acres of Green Belt farm land. It has been calculated that the Link would generate an extra 23,500 tonnes of CO2 per year from vehicle emissions and TSLM says is represents an attempt by the County Council to attract heavy goods vehicles to use Heysham as their ferry route to Ireland.

Morecambe and Lunesdale MP Geraldine Smith and both Morecambe Town Council and Lancaster City Council oppose the route, which will be the subject of another public inquiry in the near future after hundreds of objections were made to the plan. That will probably take place in June.

"In these difficult times, how can any political party justify spending £140 million of taxpayers’ money, when Government research shows that roads like the Heysham M6 Link do not solve peoples transport problems," says Mr Gate.

"TSLM would like to see less money spent more effectively on the Faber Maunsell integrated transport plan for the district instead."

Their alternative proposals include a call for a mix of Park & Ride - built into the cost of the Bypass scheme, but only if it goes ahead - the adoption of more Community and Freight on Rail, Quality Bus services, School, Workplace and Personalised Travel Plans, Car Share & Car Clubs and more.

Responding to the announcement of a Public Inquiry in January, Steve McCreesh, project manager for the M6 Heysham Link at Lancashire County Council, noted that "In total there are 18 statutory objections [to the scheme]. "(There were 19 but one has been withdrawn already), 14 letters of support and 463 non-statutory objections.

"Hundreds of these non-statutory objections are standard letters signed by the householder and are based on incorrect information," he claimed in an online posting on the County Council web site.

"This road is vital to the area it terms of relieving congestion and providing the chance for regeneration," argued Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation, County Councillor Keith Young in December. "It provides significant benefits to local communities, such as air quality benefits to Carnforth and flood relief to Slyne. It is a substantial investment in the area and I am determined to ensure the money is well spent."

Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe web site

Lancashire County Council web page about the M6 Link