Friday, 16 April 2010

Closure fears for Homeless centre

The Lancaster Guardian: reports that Lancaster District Homeless Action Service (LDHAS) in Edward Street could close, leaving homeless people without a vital resource.

The Centre, which costs some £130,000 a year to provide services, faces a £40,000 funding shortfall after losing it City Council funding last year and a Lloyds TSB grant.

Figures from CharitiesDirect indicate the Centre has run at a shortfall, but its problems are now more acute. Unless it receives more funds from donations and other sources, the Centre may have to close - and Lancaster's homeless will have to find refuge elsewhere to get food, showers, laundry, help finding accommodation and take classes in basic life skills.

There is nowhere else in the district providing these kind of facillities for the homeless on a regular basis. The problems facing the homeless were dramatically highlighted by the Morecambe Visitor back in 2007, which reported how some were living in toilets.

Sue Widden, the centre's chair of trustees, told the Lancaster Guardian the Centre was busier than ever because of the recession, but talks have begun with its four paid employees about reducing their pay and hours to avoid redundancies.

If the centre has to close completely that would have "devastating" consequences for the city's homeless.

"When people come to LDHAS for help they are already homeless and in dire need of even the most basic elements of day-to-day living," she told the newspaper.

In data gathered for the City Council when it reassessed its policies on dealing with the homeless in 2007, research indicated there has been a consistent increase in the number of homelessness applications made to the Council since December 2000, with the number of new applications doubling over this time.

Lancaster District has a high rate of 1.9 acceptances per 1,000 heads of household, compared to the North West’s rate of 1.2 and a national figure of 1.5 (recorded at Quarter 3, 2002).

"Because the City Council is concentrating on the prevention agenda, a huge hole has opened up in the safety net of services available to homeless people," Sue Widden argues. "These homeless people will not go away, but without the support which they find at the centre they will become even more vulnerable to the difficulties which homeless people experience."

The homeless of Lancaster are not the only vulnerable group facing funding problems: Elm House, an informal drop-in centre in the centre of Lancaster catering for people of working age who are suffering, or recovering, from mental ill health, is also facing closure threat. A petition is circulating locally urging funding bodies - Lancashire Social Services and Morecambe Bay Primary Care Trust - to reconsider.

Read the full story on the Lancaster Guardian web site

• Can you help? Send donations to Homeless & Housing Centre Edward Street Lancaster LA1 1QH

Council's potential retail partner ASCO closes Warrington store

(Updated 22/4/10, quote from Anne Chapman addded): ASCO Supermarket Warrington, launched to great fanfare just five months ago and owned by the company approached by Lancaster City Council to take over the Lancaster Market building, has closed.

The Warrington Guardian reports the closure follows the issuing of a winding up order by a supplier claiming £25,620 for signage that has not been paid for.

ASCO took over a former Woolworths site in the town, but as we reported previously, was beset with problems, including making staff redundant within weeks of opening.

The winding up order, made by Evolve Group, based in Haydock, whose petition is due to be heard in the commercial court in Liverpool in May, would seem to be the final curtain for the supermarket.

Opponents of the City Council scheme to replace Lancaster Market with a single retailer - revealed to be ASCO, the company name at first kept secret - had warned of the company's unsteady history.

A huge campaign against the proposal, led by Market traders, saw the plans thrown out by Full Council earlier this month.

However, a huge number of councillors - including Conservatives and the Liberal Democrat leader of the Council, Stuart Langhorn, who is also Lancaster and Fleetwood's prospective candidate in the General Election - voted against the Green Party proposed rescue plan for the Market.

Had the Cabinet plan to partner with ASCO gone ahead unopposed, it appears the City Council would have been partnered with a company that is now in deep financial trouble, as many predicted.

"This is what we all feared would happen and I am not in the least surprised," said Green councillor Anne Chapman, commenting on the closure of ASCO's Warrington branch. "This confirms my view that it was right for the council to back the Green group motion to regenerate and improve the market.

"In the medium term, this is the best was to reduce the defecit and to keep people in work."

A spokesman for Asco said of the Warrington closure: ‘Sadly that is the case at the moment. It is a temporary situation only."

Concerns for missing Morecambe man

(UPDATE: Mr Perry has been found safe and well, this reports retained for archival purposes): Police are appealing for information after a Morecambe man went missing while on his way home from work.

Christopher Perry, 32, was last seen at his work place, Homemakers’ First Stop, on Euston Road, Morecambe, at around 5.10pm on Wednesday 14th April.

He told bosses and his partner that he was going to drop something off on his way home, but did not arrive at either address and has not been seen since. Friends, family and his work colleagues are now concerned for his welfare.

Christopher was last seen wearing his work uniform – black trousers and a navy jumper with a lilac shirt underneath. He is of medium build, with short cropped dark wavy hair.

PC Fiona McCafferty, Morecambe police, said: “Christopher’s family and friends are very worried about him and would like to know that he is alright. I would urge Christopher, or anyone who may have seen him, to get in touch with police so that we can put minds at ease.”

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Green Bid to win Lancaster and Fleetwood

Gina DowdingOn the eve of the launch of their Election Manifesto, the Green Party has announced it is standing a record number of Green candidates to fight the General Election - and confirmed Lancaster and Fleetwood is a target seat.

To promote the launch, the Green Party also revealed their new interactive election website, Only Green, and what the Party describes as a "revolutionary" new way to personalise the issues most concerning voters at this election.

With candidates in more than 300 constituencies, a spokesman said the Greens were "fighting to win" their first seat in the House of Commons.

Top targets are Lancaster and Fleetwood, where candidate Gina Dowding is hoping to challenge in the seat with the highest number of Green local/county councillors in the country, and Brighton Pavilion, where party leader Caroline Lucas is hoping to become the first Green MP; and Norwich South, where candidate Adrian Ramsay is leader of the official opposition in the City Council.

The Greens are now putting the finishing touches to their election manifesto under the slogan "Fair is worth fighting for", ahead of its official launch on Thursday 19th April.

Gina Dowding, parliamentary candidate in Lancaster and Fleetwood said: "More than 300 Green candidates will contest a UK general election for the first time ever. The Greens are expecting a real breakthrough at this election.

"Voters have become used to seeing Greens elected in large numbers in places like Lancaster and Fleetwood, so the normal squeeze of tactical voting no longer applies.

"These are places where members of the public have seen Green councillors in action locally over many years, pursuing Green Party policies then winning re-election and a steady increase in council seats.

"We don't underestimate the challenge, but these are places where the Greens are taking a stand and fighting to win."

Miners Strike photographer has new Lancaster exhibition


Influential photojournalist Don McPhee, one of the great photojournalists of the last 30 years, is the subject of a new exhibition at the University of Cumbria’s Alexandra Gallery on the Lancaster campus from Friday 23rd April until Friday 14 May (weekdays 9.30am until 4.30pm).

Don McPhee, who died in 2007, is renowned as one of Britain’s finest press photographers, and his work will be on show in a free exhibition entitled ‘The View from the North’. McPhee worked at the Guardian’s Manchester office for 35 years, famously documenting life in the North from political strife to everyday lives.

His most iconic image, above, was taken during the 1984 miner’s strike and depicts a striking miner wearing a plastic policeman’s hat staring down a row of policemen guarding the Orgreave coking plant in Sheffield.

"Don McPhee was one of the kindest and most generous photographers I've ever worked with," notes photographer Dan Chung in an online tribute written after McPhee died. "He was one of my photographic heroes long before I joined the Guardian. What I admired most were his great skills of observation - his pictures always managed to convey the true atmosphere of the north of England."

A talk by McPhee’s Guardian colleague David Ward will take place in room 123 of the Alexandra Building from 4pm on Thursday 22 April. In this illustrated talk, Ward will remember the 30 years he and McPhee worked together on big and sometimes ludicrous stories from the Guardian’s Manchester office.

Web Links

A Gallery of Don McPhee's work at The Guardian

A gallery of Don McPhee's best pictures for the Guardian with commentary from the paper's picture editor, Roger Tooth

Don McPhee Obituary | The Guardian

ManCubist: Don McPhee: a Manchester photography legend

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

County Council comfort on Link bridge backfires

The Environment Agency has given formal consent for the proposed new bridge over the River Lune at Halton that is part of the controversial M6 Link to Heysham - but although this has been welcomed by Lancashire County Council, campaigners against the proposed £140 million road say planners have failed to alleviate the fear of flooding for local residents.

The County Council claims extensive computer modelling has shown flooding concerns are ill-founded - but all the projections have done is show that while the new bridge may not cause new problems, it will not reduce the possibility of flooding, either.

“The permission has been given because we have been able to prove that the bridge will not make existing flooding problems any worse," says Lancashire County Council’s project manager for the scheme, Steve McCreesh.

“This is good news for us but I also hope it will mean residents in Halton can now feel more comfortable with the Heysham Link project.

“While the engineers cannot solve the flooding problem in Halton, at least residents now know that the proposed bridge, even under extreme conditions, will not make matters worse."

But campaigners have rejected the County's view, also arguing the building work will be both costly and intrusive for locals.

"This is no comfort to Halton residents, who are only too well aware of the power of the river in extreme conditions; everyone is concerned about debris causing blockage and flooding at this planned low level bridge," said Mike Jacob, a concerned Halton resident.

"Climate change has sparked unprecedented flood events: what would happen if Cockermouth-type rainfall fell around Shap and Tebay, the Lune's catchment area?"

“The bridge design presented at the time of the planning inquiry was a very conservative solution and even this was shown to only raise the water by a few millimetres during critical flood events," says McCreesh.

“As the detailed design of the bridge progressed we were able to make improvements. Even with a worst case scenario we have been able to show that the bridge will not cause problems.

"While the construction of the link road cannot solve the flooding problem in Halton, elsewhere, the proposed road will help solve problems," he claims. "An undersized drain, known as Slynedales Culvert, that runs down the A6 is the only outlet for water from the Slyne and Hest Bank areas. Because it is too small, water backs up and causes flooding around Hest Bank Lane. As part of the link road works, the culvert will be replaced with a larger pipe so helping to solve the problem.

“We were pleased that our engineers have been able to redesign the drainage on the link road to provide this additional benefit to the residents in Slyne. After meeting with the residents and the Parish Council the staff from the county council, city council and the Environment Agency were determined to work together and come up with a solution.

“Further works will be required up the A6 and in Hest Bank Lane," McCreesh adds. "These cannot be funded from the link road but we are working with Lancaster City Council and the Environment Agency to provide additional funding. The main cost is in replacing the culvert and that is included within the estimated cost of link road scheme.”

"Locals want an improved bridge redesign, but that would increase costs, making the £140 million pound Link road plans even more vulnerable to transport funding cuts,” counters David Gate, chair of local transport campaign group Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe.

“This is a big issue: why else would Lancashire County Council produce a press release which actually says nothing new about the risks?

"This is a multi million pound scheme, and all they can say is that the existing low level bridge plan will not make existing risks worse," he continues. "That does not look like value for money for the hard pressed taxpayer. Remember that local council taxpayers will have to pay half of any cost overspends, which are inevitable on a big road scheme like this."

TSLM believes that the Link road is an under-performing plan, which has been overtaken by financial and environmental events. TSLM would like to see it cancelled, and some transport budget money spent instead on integrated transport plans to tackle congestion between Lancaster and Morecambe.

Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe

Lancashire County Council M6 Link Page

Monday, 12 April 2010

Police close Bolton-le-Sands drugs den

Police have drugs den in Bolton-le-Sands

Police have closed the doors on a drugs den in Bolton-le-Sands, after Lancaster Magistrates granted the closure order last week.

Magistrates heard how residents’ lives had been made a misery by anti-social behaviour taking place in and around the property in Church Brow Close.

The 'crack house' closure order was granted after the local neighbourhood policing team, working closely with officers involved in the recent Operation Nimrod drugs raids and supported by staff from Lancaster Housing, gathered evidence relating to the behaviour of residents at - and visitors to - the property.

Complaints from those living near by included an excessive amount of people visiting the address at all hours, abusive and threatening language being shouted at them in the street and groups congregating outside, leaving residents feeling intimidated and afraid to leave their homes.

The property has now been secured and will remain closed for three months. During this time it will be an offence under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 to remain in or enter the property. Anyone doing so is liable to up to six months’ imprisonment or a fine of up to £5,000 or both.

Speaking after the order was granted, Sgt Scott Warburton said: "This is a real victory for local residents whose lives have been blighted by the disruptive and anti-social behaviour going on at this address.

“I hope that this sends out a clear message from the police and our partner agencies that such behaviour will not be tolerated and we will use the available legislation to take action against those making residents’ lives a misery.”

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

Transition Festival at the Gregson

transition_city_lancaster.jpgThis coming Saturday (17th April) will be a big day for community organisation Transition City Lancaster, which is hosting a big, open free festival at Lancaster's Storey centre on Meeting House Lane.

Aiming to help Lancaster make the transition from an economy with a high dependence on fossil fuels to a sustainable resilient way of life, this launch Festival will offer lots of practical things to achieve that aim – as well as music and more, along with talks/films on "peak oil" and climate change etc.

The Festival includes an evening performance by Howard Haigh and Lava, playing for a bit of a party at the Storey. Tickets are £5/4: to book in advance, call 01524 382431.

For more information and full programme information visit:, or check out the free newspaper that should have come through your door, which comes packed with plenty of interesting articles about all things green (definitely more interesting than the Reporter!). A detailed program is also available in PDF format here.

More events follow after the Festival. On Tuesday 20th April, at 7.30 in St Thomas Church on Penny Street, the organisation plays host to a talk led by Transition movement co-founder Rob Hopkins, also author of The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local ResilienceThe Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience. Tickets: £5/£3 to cover costs etc.

Then, on 1st May, from 10-4, there will be an all-day workshop for any and all local folks to start looking at a timeline to Lancaster in 2030. This is community based forward visioning stuff - led by Shaun Chamberlin, author of 'Transition Timelines' and the organisation hopes this event will again hopefully involve the wider public in some positive, practical local action. Cost: £8/5. Tickets may be spare on the door - but to be sure of a place please book online of the transition website.