Saturday, 10 April 2010

Luneside East: The Cost So Far

luneside-copy.jpgLancaster City Council has spent over £13 million on the stalled Luneside East development project to rejuvenate St. Georges Quay, virtual-lancaster has learned. It also faces the remote possibility that some £2.5 million might need to be refunded.

Luneside East is a large, mainly derelict brownfield site on Lancaster’s River Lune waterfront owned wholly by Lancaster City Council since November 2006, grossly contaminated by its previous uses. The vision for the project was that it would create a new quarter of the city with 350 houses in a mix of tenures, 8000 square metres of business space, new high quality open spaces and walking and cycling routes.

The Council described the development as "a landmark in urban regeneration and high quality design and be an exemplar in how development can be as sustainable as possible". But the £70 million scheme stalled in June 2008 when project partner David McLean Homes pulled the plug on plans for 327 apartments and homes, blaming the recession.

Earlier this year, the Lancaster Guardian reported the council had still not secured funding needed to kickstart the development.

A Freedom of Information Act request has revealed that the Council secured over £11 million in grant funding for the first public sector stage of the redevelopment, which involved a comprehensive land assembly, including removal of the operational gasholder in 2006 and a financial contribution towards strategic flood defence works by the Environment Agency. English Partnerships contributed £4,847,000, the North West Regional Development Agency £3,750,000 and £2,526,000 came from the European Regional Development Fund.

In total, spending on the stalled development outstrips funding from national and regional bodies.

The City Council says it has spent £13,219,500 on the project to date (as at the end of March 2010). This includes for all expenditures on the first public sector stage plus, since completion of this, expenditures to meet holding costs - for example, in maintaining effective site security.

The Council, which notes on its web site that it has long recognised that public intervention is required to bring about redevelopment of the site, admits costs exceed the total of grant funding and the Council has funded these directly. None of the grant funding secured and spent to date is for remediation and none is put aside.

With the project stalled, concerns have been raised that some of the funding for the redevelopment might be 'clawed back' by public bodies that have provided finance. The Council says legal agreements provide for all the external funding secured by the Council, but admits the ERDF element - some £2.5 million - is potentially at risk from clawback.

"Given the current economic climate and good reasons why the project has not progressed further there is no indication that this is likely," the Council says.

Web Links:

• Parliament UK | 2004 details of initial Luneside East Funding

Lancaster City Council: Luneside East Regeneration Project Information

• English Partnerships: 16/11/2005 | A major step forward for redevelopment of Luneside East

• Lancaster City Council: 2006 Press Release | Major Boost for Luneside East as the CPO Inquiry Closes

• English Partnerships: 29/09/2006 | Removal of gasholder makes way for major redevelopment

• Lancaster Guardian 7/1/2010 | Recession hits quayside plans

Labour top gun visits Lancaster

99d1b480-10dc-7084-6d63-3e9358787bf6.jpgWith the General Election expected to be a close run between all major parties - and with local Greens predicting a strong vote for their candidate, Gina Dowding - it's no surprize some top politicians are visiting the area to canvas for votes.

Last week, Conservative William Hague was the first senior politician to hit the local campaign trail, backing Lancaster and Fleetwood candidate Eric Ollerenshaw. Today, Health Secretary Andy Burnham will in Lancaster, visiting sheltered accommodation for pensioners at Ripley Court with Labour candidate Clive Grunshaw.

Burnham, who has been Health Secretary since June, has also been Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. He was a strong supporter of the Iraq War (but also backed a major investigation into its conduct), supports the introduction of National Identity Cards and backs major reform of the Houses of Parliament. notes he also supports equal gay rights and supported the introduction of student top-up fees.

As a minister, he had a good relationship with the health organisations such as the NHS Confederation, which backed his appointment, and he met with them regularly formally and informally.

He has been instrumental in health reforms such as 18 weeks and was an early proponent of the NHS Constitution as a way of reassuring patients and staff about reforms.

Burnham's Lancaster visit ties in with Labour's pledge to support the elderly with measures such as an increased state pension, Pension Credit and Winter Fuel payments, which the party claims have helped lift 900,000 pensioners out of poverty since 1997.

Labour has also pledged to introduce a National Care service which will provide everyone with affordable social care. Labour will provide free personal care at home for those with the highest need and free residential care after the first two years.

There's no doubt Labour has helped senior citizens over the last few years. As well as maintaining the Winter Fuel Allowance, Labour has also increased Cold Weather Payments from £250, and £400 for the over-80s, and are pledging to guarantee this higher winter fuel payment for another year, so
that nine million pensioner households will receive at least £250 this winter to help with their fuel bills.

While retirement is uppermost in the minds of many older people, Labour also wants to continue to make it easier for them to work if they want to and plans to conduct a review of the retirement age, looking at allowing people to retire later if they wish to.

Photo: Labour Party Publicity

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Cross and medals stolen in raid on Lancaster Vicarage

medals_theft280310.jpgLocal police are appealing for information after burglars stole a cross and medals during a raid on a Lancaster vicarage.

Burglars broke into the Priory Vicarage on Priory Close, Lancaster, between 5 and 9.00pm on Sunday 28th March and stole five gold Christian medals, worth £100 in total, and a large ornate jewelled gold coloured cross on a gold chain, worth £100.

The cross can be seen here worn by Reverend Newlands, on the left of the picture with the Right Reverend Nicholas Reade, bishop of Blackburn. (click the image or here for a larger version of the picture).

“The items taken were quite distinctive," notes DC Mark Greaves, Lancaster CID, "and I would urge anyone who is either offered these items for sale, or who may have seen something suspicious near the vicarage on that evening, to get in touch with us.”

• Contact police on 01524 63333.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Don't miss your chance to vote

Lancaster City Council is reminding people who have not yet registered to vote that time is running out if they want to make their mark in this year’s General Election.

The city council will be responsible for administering the election of new MPs for the Morecambe and Lunesdale and the Lancaster and Fleetwood constituencies on 6th May.

The deadline for applications to be included on the Register of Electors in order to be able to vote is 5pm on Tuesday 20th April. Anyone registered after this time will not be able to vote in the election.

If you’re not sure if you are registered to vote, call Lancaster City Council’s electoral services team on 01524 582905 who will be able to check for you.

Registration forms can be downloaded from, or by contacting the electoral services team.

You can’t vote if you’re not registered, and contrary to popular belief, you won’t be automatically registered even if you pay council tax.

Registering is particularly important for anyone who has recently moved home – if they do not register at their new address they risk falling off the electoral register.

20th April is also the deadline for registering for a postal vote. Voting by post is probably the easiest way to make your mark – for the vast majority of people it’s faster and easier than visiting the polling station.

To vote by post you must complete an application form. Email giving your name and address, or telephone the elections helpline on 01524 582905, to have one posted out to you.

Please remember to return the application form by 20th April to secure your postal vote for the elections. Postal votes will be sent out on 27th April, so if you are going away before that date, you could appoint a proxy to vote on your behalf.

• Anyone wishing to stand for election in either the Morecambe and Lunesdale or Lancaster and Fleetwood constituencies should contact the electoral services team on 01524 582905 for a nomination pack. The deadline for nominations is also 20th April.

Greens Call for "Clean Campaign" as Election Called

gina_dowding_greenparty.jpgWith the General Election announced for 6th May, Green Party candidate for Lancaster and Fleetwood Gina Dowding has joined her Party nationwide and issued a challenge to General Election candidates of other parties to sign up to a Clean Campaign Pledge.

Variations of the Pledge have been used in previous by-elections and local elections and have met with support from various parties elsewhere, such as Norwich (by both Green and Conservative candidates). They have also been used in elections in the US and Canada and other countries.

Candidates taking the pledge will commit to fight a clean, positive and honest campaign around the issues that concern local voters; o tell the truth about what we stand for and have achieved, and about what others stand for and have achieved; to refrain from personal attacks; not to mislead the public about who is likely to win and to make only honest and reasonable promises.

The Pledge also calls on those who sign up to be honest about public spending and to publish online details of all donations of more than £1,000, in line with Electoral Commission rules.

The Liberal Democrats have a national version of the Pledge (PDF format) which declares their candidates should never lie to the electorate or make statements about our opponents without evidence to support them.

"I have always believed in campaigning in a positive and informative way, based on my record and policies," says Gina Dowding, Green Party General Election candidate for the Lancaster and Fleetwood constituency. "I hope we can have a mature and respectful political debate in what is likely to be a close contest for the Lancaster and Fleetwood seat at this General Election.

"Clean election campaigning is an important part of cleaning up politics, but if elected as MP I also pledge not to abuse the expenses system, to retain my home in Lancaster, to hold regular surgeries for residents to raise issues with me and to respond promptly to communications from residents.”

"Public regard for politicians has never been lower, and it is crucial that we help regain the public's trust in politics," adds Jon Barry, the Green Party Election Campaign Team manager. "Honest and responsible campaigning by political parties is an essential part of this."

"Voters are tired of negative campaigning, of insults and innuendo," he continued. "Greens in this consituency will continue to campaign on the issues that matter to local people including the economy, health, education and climate change not on hypocritical and petty point scoring which is too often a feature of old-style election campaigning.

"We very much hope the other candidates will sign up this week to this pledge."

The Clean Campaign Pledge:

We, the undersigned, pledge:

• To fight a clean, positive and honest campaign around the issues that concern local voters.

• To tell the truth about what we stand for and have achieved, and about what others stand for and have achieved.

• To refrain from personal attacks.

• To make only honest and reasonable promises.

• To be honest about public spending.

• To publish online details of all donations of more than £1,000, in line with Electoral Commission rules.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Appeal following two fires at village school

Police are appealing for information after vandals started fires on twice at a village school.

Vandals set fire to a blue recycling bin at Yealand Church of England Primary School overnight on 7th March, causing £200 worth of damage. A second fire was started in another bin overnight on 13th March. Officers have and will continue to conduct discreet observations of the school in an attempt to identify and arrest the offender.

“Fortunately the damage was minor," says PC Tony Marsh, community beat manager for the area, "but if either of the fires had spread then the school could have been seriously affected.

“We are investigating the two offences. Officers from the Carnforth neighbourhood police team have undertaken increased patrols in the area, and are liaising with Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, to prevent this happening again and to apprehend the person responsible.”

• Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 01524 63333.

Kendal gets Wired to protect Business

While this is an 'out of area' event, we all know how many web and technical gurus live in the Lancaster and Morecambe area, so we thought we'd highlight the first Kendal Wired City Reconnected event will be held in partnership with Cobbett’s LLP and Kendal ICT Cluster Group. (If anyone knows about similar events in our two towns we're more than happy to plug them).

The event will be held at Brewery Art Centre, Kendal on Thursday 29th April starting at 6.00pm

The event will commence with a presentation from Susan Hall on Protecting Your Business IP - Avoid getting there! (Looking at stages and actions available to protect your business’s Intellectual Property by avoiding putting your business in the position of IP risk in the first place).

Defending your business against an intellectual property threat - whether an accusation that you have infringed third party rights or someone else's attack on your intellectual property - is neither enjoyable nor cheap. This talk runs through a number of low cost, pro-active strategies which businesses can adopt to minimise intellectual property risks and position themselves to cope better with such risks as do arise. It will include discussions of different types of intellectual property and the means of protecting it, as well as consideration of non-disclosure agreements, IP provisions in employee contracts, and practical protection of intellectual property in a work environment.

This presentation will be followed by "collaborative networking" facilitated by the Wired City Reconnected team

The Wired City Reconnected events are ‘collaborative’ networking events aimed at the digital, creative and ICT business interested in potential collaborations or the chance to share and exchange ideas. They're facilitated by Les, Fiona and Immy, who will provide a bespoke matching and introduction service prior to the event.

So whether your business has a current skills gap or you are looking to collaborate with others to meet new or current client’s needs, these events are for you. Wired City Reconnected events are all about making the best use of your time, through providing an invaluable networking opportunity.

• Book for places on at £12.50.....and free food and drink....

Monday, 5 April 2010

Strong start to 2010 season for Morecambe's McGuinness

John McGuinness at Brands Hatch on Easter Monday 2010

John McGuinness got his 2010 season off to a strong start at Brands Hatch on Easter Monday when he finished in sixth place in the opening round of the Metzeler National 1000cc Superstock Championship.

The Morecambe man was in fine form all weekend on the Padgetts Honda and was less than two seconds adrift of second place at the chequered flag with the hard earned ten championship points ensuring his 21st year in racing is up and running in fine style.

Carrying on from where he left off at the end of the 2009 season, John was on the pace immediately and third in free practice signalled his intentions for the weekend. First qualifying was slightly damp, with the track drying throughout the 25-minute session but a slight mix-up towards the end meant that John didn't get enough time on a dry rear tyre and he had to settle for 10th. However, second and final qualifying for his group was dry and a lap of 48.616s saw John leap up to third overall and and 3rd in the group. When the qualifying positions for the two groups were combined, John lined up in 5th overall and headed off the second row of the grid.

The rains stayed away for Monday's 24-lap race although conditions were still very cool and after being shuffled back a couple of places at the first corner, John completed the first lap in eighth place, a position he maintained until lap 7 when race leader, and team-mate, Glen Richards crashed out.

Up into seventh, John was slowly reeling in the five-strong group in front of him but overtaking opportunities around the Indy circuit were limited as always so it was very much a patient game for the experienced rider. However, with less than two laps of the race remaining, he moved by Richard Cooper to claim sixth and here he stayed for the final lap and a half to get his season underway.

"It was a strong ride and I felt that I was as quick as anyone else out there, it was just the first half a lap that was my undoing>" John commented after the race.

"I definitely had the pace to be running second but I was a little bit lazy away from the line and it was ultimately my track position that conspired against me. I closed up to the boys in front of me quite comfortably but finding a way by someone on this circuit is never easy and whilst a couple of the boys made slight mistakes, they weren't big enough to allow me to find a way by.

"I was a bit de-tuned when I saw Glen go down but I got back into my rhythm and stayed strong until the end of the race so it's a solid start.

"The opening round sometimes throws up a few surprises but I've got some decent points on the board already and the bike's mega so we're well placed for another challenge for the title."

• The second round of the British Superstock 1000cc Championship takes place at Thruxton, Hampshire on Sunday April 18th.

• Report with thanks to Phil Wain • Picture by Glynne Lewis

Strongman battle at Salt Ayre

A competition to find Northern England's strongest man under 105kg will take place at Lancaster City Council’s Salt Ayre Sports Centre next week.

Over 20 athletes will be battling it out over six gruelling events to be crowned Northern England's Strongest Man under 105kg. The events will include the ‘Deadlift’, ‘Double Van Pull’, ‘Farmers Walk’, ‘Log Lift’, ‘Medley’ and ‘Atlas Stone Loading’.

The top competitors will also qualify for England's Strongest Man under 105kg in June.

Last year's champion Stuart Hayes will be defending his title against some strong opposition including local lads Graham Hicks in his first competition and Salt Ayre lifeguard and gym instructor Kenny Cardwell, who last year won the under 90kg Olympic Dragon Strongman title.

• The events take place on 11th April at 11.30am - 3.30pm in Salt Ayre's sports hall. Spectators are welcome with tickets costing £2 for adults and children can enter for free. For more information, please contact Salt Ayre Sports Centre on 01524 847540.

Heysham Shell Oil Refinery - Witness Appeal

Paralegals Field Fisher Waterhouse are looking for people who worked at the Shell Oil Refinery in Heysham, Morecambe, from around 1945 to 1960.

"We are investigating a possible claim relating to asbestos exposure for a family," they tell us. "Any help or information would be very much appreciated.

"Please contact Rose on 020 78 614 624 or".

The Shell Oil Refinery covered much of South Heysham: some holiday makers at Ocean Edge Caravan Park remember it for its "eggy smell".