Thursday, 27 May 2010

Food Waste Recycling on the way for Lancaster and Morecambe

food_recycling_lccw.jpgLancaster City Council is to begin fortnightly collections of Food Waste in August, in a revamp of its refuse and recycling schemes, detailed on new calendars now dropping through letterboxes across the district.

The introduction of Food Waste Collections - which will save an estimated £400,000 a year - has long been an ambition for the Council, which agreed the rollout in 2008, agreeing costs of just over £200,000 to run it a year, with about £150,000 in set-up costs in order to buy food waste caddies.

The national Waste and Resources Programme has been running a number of evaluation studies across the country for several years, working in partnership with both metropolitan and rural councils to see which schemes work best.

The launch of the scheme also pre-empts possible mandatory legislation to introduce better food waste disposal at a national level.

From 1st August, Food Waste Collections in the Lancaster and Morecambe area will aim to collect waste generated during the preparation of meals and any food that is not consumed, including food that is partly used or that would be thrown away, but does not include packaging materials. If people are in houses that already have green garden waste bins, collections will also be fortnightly, when the green bins are collected.

Like the plastic, paper and card recycling bins (whose service is also changing, see below), food waste will be collected from the front of properties. The Council says the 25 litre caddies are designed to store food waste without spillage.

The indoor caddies are being supplied by Mattussi and the outdoor caddies by Straight, who also have the tender for Oldham council, among others.

Food and drink waste is a big problem in the UK, but dealing it provokes fierce debate on the pros and cons. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs notes that estimates based on research by the Waste & Resources Action Programme in 2008 suggest the total annual amount of food waste is around 18-20 million tonnes. Reducing the amount of food waste that is created, and where food waste does arise, ensuring that it is treated in the most environmentally-beneficial way possible, is consider crucial if the UK is to reduce the greenhouse gas impacts of waste management, and meet obligations under the EU Landfill Directive to divert biodegradable waste from landfill.

The council says that over 25 per cent of household waste is food waste and if sent to landfill it produces harmful greenhouse gases as it breaks down. By collecting food waste separately it can be turned into industry standard compost which can be used on parks, in gardens and on agricultural land.

“Food waste is the final major commodity that we currently do not recycle. Diverting this away from landfill is important to drastically reduce methane gas being emitted from landfills," explains Coun Jon Barry, Cabinet member with responsibility for environmental services at the city council.

"By capturing this gas in purpose-built composting areas we can actually use it to generate electricity."

Councillor Barry notes there will be concern at the decision to adopt fortnightly collections.

"I argued hard when the original decision was made for this to be done every week but I lost the vote," he told virtual-lancaster. "However, given the cuts we will be experiencing in the next two years, maybe the two-weekly solution is better, given that it is a lot cheaper."

Waste Collection - Weekly or Fortnightly?

There is conflicting research on what form of Food Waste recycling is better - weekly or fortnightly collections. Research by DEFRA in 2008 indicated weekly collections were preferred by customers, but extensive research by WRAP (links below) seems inconclusive: while weekly collections were easier for people to get used to, over longer test periods the actual amount of waste put out in some areas appears to be higher where fortnightly collections were trialled.

Rodents and flies are a potential concern because they can transmit disease and under some circumstances might be attracted to waste as a food source. However, there doesn't seem to be much evidence to support claims that rodents or flies will necessarily increase with an alternate week waste collection, provided the waste is stored in an appropriate container.

Similarly, there is no evidence to indicate that any changes in numbers of flies associated with different collection patterns could give rise to effects on health. The location of waste, and the way that it is stored are the main influences on the risk of rodents being attracted to the waste (more on this here in a 2007 report to Sefton Council, PDF).

Overall, however, Food Waste Collection schemes seem to have been welcomed.

"Generally, they have been well-received despite initial misgivings," notes Jon Barry.

Oldham Council adopted weekly Food Waste collection last year, but will be merging its food and garden services from the beginning of June, to offer a weekly collection.

“The current system only allows citizens to recycle their food waste weekly and their garden waste fortnightly so the change to weekly collections is an improvement, Oldham Councillor Mark Alcock, Cabinet member for environment and infrastructure told the Oldham Chronicle.

Some councillors have objected to the whole Food Waste Collection Scheme. "The people in my ward are outraged by this decision," Keith Sowden said in 2008 after the policy was agreed. "They do not want stinking, rotting food sitting in their homes for two weeks."

"If people really wanted they could use the grey bin in the intervening week as this will get separated out in the new treatment plants but will form a compost that won't be of high enough standard to be used by, for example, households and will be worth less than the pure green or food waste compost," Jon Barry suggests. "Personally, I'd go for the two weeks and wrap any meat stuff up very well with newspapers."

Households will be receiving a small kitchen caddy: any food waste can be emptied into the caddy and when full the contents of the caddy can be emptied into the green garden bin for collection. Residents unable to accommodate a green wheeled bin will be delivered an outdoor caddy in which to store their food waste. This will be collected on the alternate week to the grey wheeled bin/orange sacks.

"The caddies are big versions of the small kitchen caddies that you get with the county council compost bins," says Jon, responding to concerns that these might be targeted by vermin. "They have flip lids that cannot be detached."

Plate scrapings, fruit and vegetables (raw or cooked), meat, mish and bones, rice, beans and pasta will all be recyclable under this new scheme, as well as Tea and coffee grounds, dairy products, bread, cakes and pastries.

Recycling Changes

The Recycling Boxes Collection Scheme is also being changed in August, following the opening of a new sorting facility in Lancashire which the Council says will make recycling easier and more convenient for local residents. It means that what we put in which recyling bin will be different.

• Green and Yellow Recycling Boxes will be for Plastic Bottle, Food Tins and Drink Can, Clean Foil and Glass Bottles and Jars

• Black and Red Recycling Boxes will be for Cardboard, Paper, Directories and Catalogues

Textiles can still be put out in carrier bags alongside your recycling boxes.

These changes will increase the amount of waste that can be recycled and make recycling easier for residents.

"The new recycling proposals will allow the council to save about £400,000 a year," says Jon Barry, "because we won't have to use as many vehicles to collect the different types of recyclables.

“Hopefully people will soon get used to the new arrangements," he continues, also outlining other improvements including ones that should mean less 'spillage' of rubbish when it is collected.

"The new arrangements for food waste and recycling mean we will be able to provide a more efficient service with much less potential for spillages (for example the large sacks [recycling staff currently use] won't be used from August," says Jon, "and recycling materials won't be sorted at the kerbside as they currently are.

"Under current arrangements staff are trained and are expected to pick up spillages," he points out. "But regardless of the system of collection, residents can contact our customer services centre to report any issues (01524 582491) and we will take the appropriate action."

The adoption of this new recycling regime puts the City Council ahead of the national Government, which was recently criticised for its vague ambitions on waste disposal. In April, the House of Commons Environment Committee has produced its report on the Government’s 2007 Waste Strategy, calling for major reform to the policy.

The report strongly criticised the previous Government’s disproportionate focus on municipal waste, which amounts to only nine per cent of the total waste to be disposed of, and highlights the Government’s failure to make provisions for commercial and industrial waste in the policy as a “key omission”. The Committee advised that the Government’s target to recycle 50 per cent of municipal waste by 2020 should be revised and that 60 per cent of municipal waste must be recycled by 2015.

DEFRA’s Commercial Waste Strategy issued in October 2009 was similarly criticised for its “vague ambitions”, which should be replaced “urgently with firm action plans”. Its proposal to ban all food waste produced by commercial and domestic kitchens from landfill sites is currently under consultation.

DEFRA has proposed that mandatory food waste collection should be introduced nationwide and that such food waste will be used for compost and or sent to congestion sites. Incentives may be provided to convert waste into energy. However, with the change in government and plans to cut spending in all departments, it is not clear at this stage if these plans will be curtailed as part of the overall £16 million savings the department has been already been asked to make this year, currently outlined on an 'changeover' DEFRA web site.

• More detailed information on the food waste recycling scheme will be delivered along with the caddies in July and can be found on the Lancaster City Council website

• Love Food, Hate Waste:

Waste and Resources Programme Evaluation Report Links 

•  Evaluation report - food waste collection trials (PDF, 2820 kb)
•  Case study alternate weekly collections (PDF, 106KB)
•  Case study high density housing areas (PDF, 213KB)
•  Case study low and medium density housing areas (PDF, 189KB)
•  Case study use of liners (PDF, 108KB)
•  Case study multi-occupancy housing (PDF, 162KB)
•  Case study communications.pdf (PDF, 233KB)

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Heysham High Students Win £250 at County Cook Off

Three Year 8 pupils from Heysham High School have won second place in the whole county with their credible culinary creations at the recent Chairman’s Challenge.

Jessica Cook, Charlotte Greenhow and Kelseigh Ashton (pictured) took part in a project to encourage family involvement in school life.

The students chose to look at comparing takeaway and pre-prepared food to home cooked food. They cooked a popular dish each week then, for the final week, the families were invited to enjoy their dishes.

They were shortlisted to County Hall, in Preston, and had to do a ten minute presentation to council members about their project. The performed so well and came in second, winning £250 to go towards running a cookery club at Heysham High School.

Hosted by the chairman of Lancashire County Council, the competition encourages pupils to think about being healthy and safe. Shortlisted schools have to make a presentation to the judges on their activities.

Pupils had to come up with creative ideas on being healthy and safe. Each school competing in the challenge received £50 to develop their ideas. The activities encouraged other pupils, parents and teachers to make healthier choices.

After completing their activities, they had to write up a case study and send it to the healthy schools team. These are shortlisted with successful schools invited to County Hall for the prestigious final.

The judging panel was led by the chairman, along with senior county councillors, school advisors, NHS representatives and young people.

Charlotte Western, Teacher of Food Technology and Assistant Pupil Progress Leader at Heysham High, said, “I am really proud of the students. They were a credit to the school; they worked really hard and really wowed the judges. Everybody had a wonderful day at County Hall.”

City Council revamps top staff structure

Lancaster City Council has agreed a new management structure which sees the creation of a new staff post, Deputy Chief Executive, which will be filled by internal appointment.

Heather MacManus, currently Corporate Director (Regeneration), will take on the role from 1st October after the new structure was finalised at a meeting of Personnel Committee last night.

Lancaster City Council says it decided more than a year ago to review its chief officer structure in the knowledge that the national economic situation would lead to a reduction in public service funding and public service provision.

The Council explains that the aim of the review was to put in place a senior management structure that would take the council forward during a difficult period, at the same time reducing expenditure on chief officer posts, to maintain front line services.

A phased approach has been taken which will generate savings in 2010/11 of £479,600 and an annual saving from 2011/12 of £620,000.

• The revised structure will be in place from 01 October 2010 and is as follows:

Head of Services
Regeneration and Policy - Andrew Dobson
Property - Graham Cox
Community Engagement - Richard Tulej
Financial Services (including Revenue Services & S151 Officer duties) - Nadine Muschamp
Governance (including Monitoring Officer duties) - Sarah Taylor
Health & Housing - Suzanne Lodge
Environmental Services - Mark Davies

Deputy Chief Executive - Heather McManus
Chief Executive - Mark Cullinan

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Suspected Class A drugs and cash found in raid on Heysham house

Police seized a quantity of suspected Class A drugs and £8,000 in cash after swooping on a house in Heysham.

Officers from Lancaster’s target team executed a drugs warrant at the property in Heysham's Mossgate Road on Saturday morning (22 May 22 2010)

A 40-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply Class A drugs and has been released on bail pending further inquiries.

PC Trev Walker, Lancaster targeting team, said: “Drugs have a terrible effect on local communities and the target team is determined to continue tackling this problem. Those who deal drugs in the area are a disgrace to Morecambe and Lancaster and those who run that risk will, in time, be caught and dealt with.

“Information from the public is absolutely vital for progress in the fight against drugs and I would encourage anyone with information regarding any kind of illegal drug, no matter how meaningless they think it is, to contact the police.”

• Anyone with information about drugs or drug dealing should contact police on 0845 1 25 35 45 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Alternatively, the target team can be contacted via

Pavilion Cafe opens in style at Williamson Park

Opening of the Pavilion Cafe at Williamson Park

Local families were in for a treat at the opening of the Pavilion Café at Williamson Park on Saturday.

The café re-opened its doors to show off the modern updated interior and brand new menu packed with delicious local produce. Free entry to the Butterfly House was available to twenty lucky families and many people took up the opportunity of a discounted entry fee to the butterfly house and mini beast cave.

Lancaster City Council’s Play Rangers were also on hand with their legendary water slide.

The celebrations started by Mrs Lathom, a renowned local baker, officially opening the café. The café now stocks many of Lathoms of Broughton’s specialities including mouthwatering treats such as banoffee pie and yummy cheesecakes.

The café menu has also undertaken a transformation and as well as something for the sweet tooth, there is something to satisfy the savoury palette. Local cheese producer Singleton’s are supplying the café with their products that are accompanied by pickles and relish from the Hawkeshead Relish Company.

• To see photos from the day and for more information about Williamson Park and future events, please visit

Pick up your free Cycling and Walking Map and enjoy the great outdoors

Cycling-Map-2010.jpgThe updated Lancaster and Morecambe Cycling and Walking Map is out now, showing all the routes across the district, including the rural areas.

Produced by Lancaster City Council, the map has been updated to include the new routes around Lancaster city centre.

Lancaster and Morecambe is one of 18 Cycle Demonstration Towns (CDT) across the country, aiming to increase cycling levels amongst locals and visitors alike. Since receiving this status, cycling levels across the district have risen by 25%.

It is hoped that the updated map, which is available from Lancaster and Morecambe Town Halls, visitor information centres and cycle shops, will encourage even more people to get on their bikes and show the rest of the country the cycling way.

• The map is also available online from or by contacting the Cycling Demonstration Town team on 01524 582392/582616 or

Appeal after £20,000 arson attack at car sales garage

Police are appealing for information after a fire caused over £20,000 worth of damage at a car sales garage on the outskirts of Lancaster and Morecambe.

Two officers on patrol spotted the fire at the Hargreaves Garage on the White Lund industrial Estate at 11.43pm on Monday (May 24 2010)

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service were able to quickly contain the blaze, but not before it has caused £20,000 worth of damage to four cars parked outside on the forecourt. A nearby warehouse was also damaged by the flames.

DC Tim Dodgson, of Lancaster CID, said: “I would ask anyone who may have seen anything suspicious in the surrounding area, prior to or just after the time of the fire, to get in touch with us.”

• Contact Morecambe CID on 01524 596525.

City Council, Centros, Mitchells and English Heritage partner on new Canal Corridor plan

After the recent Secretary of State’s decision on the Canal Corridor North development in Lancaster, Lancaster City Council, which owns much of the land and the other majority landowner, Mitchell's, English Heritage and development partner Centros have agreed, following initial discussions, to work in partnership to take the necessary steps to develop further the options for redeveloping the Canal Corridor site.

The Council has issued a statement saying the partners fully understand the role of preserving the city’s heritage assets and will now work collaboratively with all parties.

"Collectively, we need to deliver a development proposal which will ensure sustainable economic, environmental and social regeneration for the city.

"Whilst all partners are committed to working to this aim, the city council will also be working with all other interested parties and will be consulting with the communities of the district, to ensure the early redevelopment of this important site within the city."

Following the recent High Court decision that has now been made regarding the judicial review, the city council is now in a position to continue its work in reviewing the Conservation Areas.

This will assist in establishing the heritage values of the site that need to be taken into account in the development proposal.

Parents asked to assist in clamp down on underage drinking at Heysham beauty spot

Police are clamping down on underage drinking at a Heysham beauty spot that is being blighted by the youngsters’ anti-social behaviour – and are asking parents to help them.

Residents have again raised concerns that noisy youths congregating at Heysham Barrows, home to the ruins of St Patrick's Chapel and the stone graves of Vikings, are carrying out damage and leaving litter after going there to drink alcohol.

There have been problems before, reported by the police in their local In Touch newsletter (PDF) last year. Last month, the Lancashire Evening Post reported that firefighters had to put out fires on the Barrows that were believed to have been started deliberately.

Members of Heysham’s neighbourhood police team are now tackling the problems and are asking parents to assist them.

Officers will be confiscating alcohol and using ‘direction to leave’ powers to disperse groups that meet at the site – those that return within a specific time can then be arrested. Youngsters may also be taken home to their parents and could find themselves subject to a Youth Referral Scheme, in a bid to improve their behaviour.

“This is a beauty spot that is used by a large number of people but some of this alcohol-fuelled behaviour is spoiling it for those who want to make use of the site," says PCSO Chris Dyson, Heysham ward.

“We will be clamping down on this and are asking parents to help us too – do they know where their children are going in the evening? Do they know who is buying them the alcohol? Parents have a responsibility to make sure that their children are safe and aren’t causing any trouble.”

• Anyone with information about those buying alcohol for underage youngsters can report it to the neighbourhood police team on 01524 596986, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Bending Lancaster City Council to its will: The ASCO File

lancaster_market.jpgReport by Zoe Caldicott

Additional research by the virtual-lancaster team
Last updated to include comment from Council Leader Langhorn: 25 May 2010

How do private companies work behind the scenes to win council development contracts, even, perhaps, at the expense of local taxpayers' interests? virtual-lancaster has uncovered negotiations on the fate of Lancaster Market, saved in March 2010 by a Full Lancaster City Council vote from closure, that cast a disturbing light on the proposed retail partner, ASCO and its methods of operation.

ASCO itself was wound up on 17th May, despite a last minute offer to creditors to accept reduced payments of debts in order to continue operation, reported in trade magazine Crains.

The information virtual-lancaster has uncovered does not in any way imply that Lancaster City Council failed to follow normal procedures in their negotiations. However, these procedures appear to give preferment to arrangements founded on conflicts of interest which could have cost local taxpayers dear, especially in the light of ASCO's recent financial plight and wind up.

In the run up to the Council's decision on the future of Lancaster Market, Lancaster City Council contracted the Manchester-based branch of an American consultancy firm, Cushman & Wakefield, to find a single retailer to take over the lease of the market building.

Cushman & Wakefield subsequently proposed ASCO stores, then owned by Ted Ward, to be that retailer - a company for whom they had already been cutting deals with to secure 30 new sites including the former Marks and Spencer Simply Food halls across the country.

Based on publicly-available figures published by the Council in the Cabinet agenda for 23 March 2010 we believe Cushman & Wakefield received about £30,000 for advising the Council and its officers to deal with ASCO - despite publicly available information as to founder director Ted Ward's business history which has now led to him being banned from being a company director for 12 years. (We have asked the City Council for confirmation of this and have been told to expect a response in due course).

Had the deal gone ahead, Cushman & Wakefield would also have stood to benefit financially from any rebuilding of the Market.

It is believed the cost of reconstruction, converting the building for single retailer use, would cost at least £500,000, earning Cushman & Wakefield around £60,000 for design in the first two years alone. C&W therefore had the power to exercise substantial influence over which contractor was to perform the 'gutting' -- deciding how the £500,000 of taxpayers money would be spent.

Whilst most taxpayers would expect any design, project management or rebuilding work of this nature to be put out to tender, virtual-lancaster has learned that Lancaster City Council decided to apply rules to avoid this.

It is the City Council Corporate Director's decision to decide if competitive tenders need to be sought by following contract procedure rules. In this case, Lancaster City Council decided that Cushman & Wakefield were the only company who were able to provide this specialised service, and that no satisfactory alternative was available.

The Council have explained that because Cushman & Wakefield employ Gareth Colin Jones, a former member of staff from P&O Properties, part of Centreville, who originally commissioned the market, they have specialist knowledge of the building. According to Mr Jones, he is considered the ‘expert’ as he was in charge of the build and it was ‘only by chance’ that he was involved in this process.

However, there were many others involved in the build including Bovis Construction, the Building Design Partnership, and local firm Piningtons, so it is possible that there may be many other ‘experts’ who could have been satisfactory alternatives.

Contrary to claims circulating online, Cushman & Wakefield deny that they or any of their employees owned shares in ASCO.

"Cushman & Wakefield LLP has a duty of confidentiality to its clients and is not able to discuss its clients' matters," A J Bray, a partner in the company, told us. "Neither Cushman & Wakefield nor Matt Illingworth holds shares or have held shares in ASCO. Cushman & Wakefield operates a strict conflicts of interest policy as is required by RICS [Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors]. There is no issue of a breach of our conflicts of interest policy."

Cushman & Wakefield's local agent, Matt Illingworth, has also categorically denied owning any ASCO shares, but stated that he was acting as a retained agent for Lancaster City Council and ASCO stores concurrently.

"I definitely made Lancaster City Council aware of this," he told virtual-lancaster.

Illingworth previously worked for Donaldsons, who were commissioned to carry out an independent shopping survey for Lancaster City Council in 1998. Donaldsons then brokered the development agreement between Lancaster City Council and Centros Miller as preferred developer, again being, like Cushman & Wakefield, retained by both sides.

In addition to being retained as consultants to the Council in drawing up the Development Agreement their work for LCC also included providing the sole valuation for the council's landholding; whilst Donaldson's provided retail consultancy and letting agency services for Centros Miller on the Canal Corridor North site.

Asked about the relationship with Cushman & Wakefield, Cabinet member and Green Councillor Jon Barry, one of the few councillors to raise concerns about the proposed deal from the outset, says he was not aware that the consultancy firm was also working for ASCO Stores Ltd.

Will the proposed ASCO deal be investigated?

Despite considerable concern about the proposed deal, the Council's auditors have rejected appeals for investigation, prompting concern that the role of the district auditor has been perverted by the introduction of private sector competition into local authority auditing services and the establishment of a client/contractor relationship.

Green councillor John Whitelegg told virtual-lancaster he asked the Audit Commission to investigate the recommendation made by officers in favour of the ASCO deal at Cabinet in February.

"It's my view that it was poor judgment and irresponsible to recommend giving a huge sweetener to a near-bankrupt company with a credit rating of 3 out of 100," he told us, before ASCO was wound up. (0 is bankruptcy).

This credit rating information was not made available to cabinet members in February.

"The Commission passed my complaint onto the commercial company KPMG who are the Council's auditors and after several weeks KPMG has rejected my complaint saying it does not fall within their remit.

"I am disappointed."

Leader of the Council Stuart LanghornAt the meeting of full Council on 31st March it was even clearer that ASCO represented an unacceptably high risk to the taxpayer, John says, and yet the leader of the Council, Stuart Langhorn, repeated the original officer recommendation of 16th February.

(UPDATE 25/5/10: Councillor Langhorn, disputes this interpretation of the meeting, telling virtual-lancaster it is incorrect and that "no recommendation was made by me and the report contained no recommendations.")

"I do not understand why council officers could even contemplate making this recommendation when the available evidence was so heavily stacked against ASCO and when we are dealing with large amounts of taxpayers' money," Coun Whitelegg says. "No well-directed private business would have given this idea any house room at all.

"I find this deeply worrying, especially after ASCO closed down its only store in Warrington less than two weeks after the full council decision, leaving staff and suppliers unpaid."

virtual-lancaster has asked the City Council the following questions in the light of our research. We have been told to expect a reply in due course but decided that further delay in the publication of this story was not in the public interest.

1) When did Lancaster City Council contract with Cushman & Wakefield to find a trader to occupy the market hall?

2) What were the broad terms of the contract?

3) Can you confirm that Cushman & Wakefield was paid at least £30,000 for its services, as suggested by the publicly available documents presented to City Cabinet on 23rd March 2010?

4) Can you confirm that the contract now been terminated/completed and state what Cushman & Wakefield has been paid in total for its services under this contract?

5) How was the cost to the taxpayer of the 'white box' refit to be capped at £500,000?

Responding to our story, Council leader Stuart Langhorn again comments on the financial implications of retaining the market building.

"The context of my view is important – and that is the significant risk to the council tax payer of the district with the market as it is and continues to be. Indeed the position I took was to mitigate the risk – which was acknowledged to be great.

"The fact is that I was the one who moved the establishment of the task group to look at the market situation," he continues. "So, in terms, of placing checks and balances I did more than any other Cabinet member to get the issue discussed in a sensible manner.

"The original decision was made, and the decision to appoint Cushman and Wakefield, before I was Leader and no one on Cabinet suggested that there was an issue with them."

The Final Fate of ASCO?

If the murky world of now-wound-up ASCO and its business dealing were not already unclear enough, further information regarding ASCO's chief shareholder and former Managing Director Ted Ward has also come to light since the City Council rejected the proposal to close the Market and offer the building to a single retailer - revealed as ASCO in the Morecambe Visitor on 2nd March, but named by council staff in meetings with Market traders some two weeks earlier.

Companies House research reveals that Mr Ward has been banned in March for 12 years from being a company director on the grounds that he is unfit to undertake this role. This punishment was the result of his Blackhurst and Ward venture which ended in January 2010 in compulsory liquidation, the company owing just over £626,000.

If Ward was found to be controlling any of his other companies from behind the scenes, he runs the risk of being prosecuted and liable for all company debts under section 15 of the Company Director Disqualification Act 1986.

At least three companies supported Evolve’s successful winding up petition against the company: Hammonds of Kuntsford, a wine supplier owed £19,400, a cleaning company owed £4,000 and a refrigeration company owed £4,000.

Cushman & Wakefield's Matt Illingworth requested that Evolve kept the petition of out the London Gazette just before Lancaster Council's final decision. In doing so, this would have minimized any negative publicity for ASCO.

“Home Solicitors [who represent Cushman & Wakefield/ASCO] contacted our solicitors and said that they would give us a post dated cheque if we did not advertise in the London Gazette," Paul Davidson from Evolve told us. "Obviously, we refused and told them the money along with interest would have to be paid in full.”

“Matt Illingworth phoned me and wanted us to pull back," he added. "He said he would keep me updated on developments and would phone on a daily basis. That was the last I heard from him until I telephoned him. He was very cool with me on the phone and his response was that he hadn’t been in touch because I had gone ahead with advertising the petition in the Gazette, which I replied to him that was always the case and the only I would pull back is if we got paid in full.

"I found him to be very coy and defensive towards ASCO and the management - so much so, I commented to my Finance Director that I thought he was on the payroll of ASCO.”

Before its difficulties, ASCO had lined up several store openings in Formby (at the beginning of May), Newcastle Under Lyne, Huntingdon, Leeds and, in July, Doncaster.

Information received by virtual-lancaster indicates that Cushman & Wakefield believed they had agreed terms on Lancaster Market hall by the end of March, before the Full Council meeting rejected the plan - but they did not expect ASCO to take over the Market until June 2011.

In other news, Crain’s Manchester (subscriber access required) recently reported that Gavin Wall, who is Ted Ward's and ASCO’s legal representative, the Chief Executive Officer of Home Solicitors, was had been shot in the leg at his home address by two masked men only a month after opening his firm.

Wall is an ex-Wolstenholmes employee, a leading law company which, according to The Times, regulators closed down. Five solicitors were suspended after allegations of dishonesty and breaches of accounting rules involving hundreds of thousands of pounds of clients’ money.

Home Solicitors began working for ASCO on their first day of operation.

• Council Rules: (PDF)