Saturday, 27 November 2010

Petitioned MP Ollerenshaw Promises Public Cuts Debate

Cornered at his constituency surgery at Lancaster Library yesterday, Lancaster's MP Eric Ollerenshaw received a letter petition from local people protesting about unfair cuts to services and jobs.
To a considerable amount of good-humoured heckling, Mr Ollerenshaw said he had a different view and that he would speak at a public meeting to put his view forward and debate the cuts.

One protester wore a chicken costume - because they didn't think Mr Ollerenshaw would have the guts to face his constituents. Will he?

In the meantime a march and rally is being planned for Saturday 4 December, assembling in the Thurnham Street Car Park at 12 noon to march round and through Lancaster to rally in Dalton Square.
Further events are also planned.
More about all this at the Lancaster & Morecambe Against the Cuts website and Facebook group.

Lancaster Christmas Shelter: LDHAS Launch Appeal

Lancaster and District Homeless Action Services (LDHAS) are appealing for donations for their 24th Christmas Shelter in Lancaster for people who are homeless or in housing poverty over the festive period.

The Shelter will be open at St Thomas Church in the city centre from Friday 24th to Wednesday 29th December and will offer food and a safe and warm environment over the Christmas holiday. It is the only one of its kind in this area and relies on the generosity and Christmas spirit of the local community to provide this care.

Peter Williams, the Christmas Shelter co-ordinator told us, "We believe like many others that no one deserves to be cold, hungry and alone at Christmas.
"To help us make this Christmas special for our service users we need the community's support in donating time as a volunteer, goods and food. Donations of money are essential to enable us to provide the Shelter and help us to continue our work throughout the year."

To help raise funds LDHAS have organised a benefit gig at the Gregson on Sunday 5 December which promises to be a great party night of live music headlined by Redback, with tickets a mere snip at £5 (£3 concs).

LDHAS have also organised a number of collections over the coming weeks in local shopping centres, supermarkets and pubs and are hoping that amidst all the bustle of our festive preparations the people of the Lancaster & Morecambe area will spare a thought and a bit of cash to make sure that no-one has to be lonely, cold, hungry and without shelter on our streets this Christmas.

To donate goods or cash or to volunteer for the shelter or to help as a fundraiser visit the LDHAS website at for more information or phone them on 01524 842008.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Whirlwind Youth Theatre are Stepping into Narnia

Whirlwind Youth Theatre is stepping through C.S. Lewis' world-famous Wardrobe into the frozen waste of Narnia. Four children escaping from the Blitz as evacuees stay in old creepy house owned by professor Kirk and governed by a fierce house keeper called Mrs Macready. They discover a large old spidery wardrobe, full of fur coats, that is a door to the fantastical world of Narnia.

This is a an exciting new staging of Adrian Mitchell's adaptation and musical version of The Lion, The Witch  and the Wardrobe, being performed at the Storey Creative Industries Centre from the 9th to 11th December (with matinee on Saturday).

It's a production complete with fantastical masks and Elizabethan costumes that make this a visual and musical feast for Christmas. Ife Ackintunde, local DJ for Diversity FM’ Gospel hour is playing Aslan and a magical Father Christmas and the rest of the cast are local children from all over Lancaster and Morecambe. The youngest playing a ‘cruel’ and a mouse, is just five and started school this September and the oldest is 15 years, playing Mrs Beaver and Maugrim.

This production was first performed and written for the Royal Shakespeare Company and is one of the most beautiful adaptations, with music through out by Ballykissangel composer Shaun Davey.

The young cast have working extremely hard in their weekly youth theatre sessions and have had extra workshops in stage fighting, with Sam Khan who choreographs films and stage fight scenes all over the country, also in Mask Making and Puppets. There are even young musicians playing instruments during scenes and skilled dancers dancing.

"This has been a truly community affair as many of the parents have helped to sew the Elizabethan outfits, teach us Elizabethan war drumming and supply military drums and re-enactment swords for us to use," says Myette Godwyn.

Whirlwind Theatre is a different type of youth theatre, which runs every Saturday at the Storey Creative Industries Centre. It is inclusive (it is set up, with trained staff, so that children from mainstream and special school backgrounds can work together), and looks at theatre as a whole with design, writing, stage management, technical, music, directing, planning, as well as performance, seen as all equally important.

The young people work in an ensemble manner and know that they are all vital team members.

• Tickets for the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe are available through The Storey Creative Industries Centre at the main desk, card payments through a link on the Whirlwind Theatre Web site, or on the door. There is a bar/ cafĂ© at The Storey for refreshments during the evening.

Public sector leaders join forces in face of spending cuts

Leading figures from public sector organisations across the district - including Liberal Democrat Council leader Stuart Langhorn and Conservative County Council leader Geoff Driver - have pledged to work together to support local residents and businesses in these difficult times.

At a recent meeting of leading representatives from public sector organisations there was collective acknowledgement that the impact of the recent Comprehensive Spending Review announcements will result in a very different district in four years time.

Organisations, including Lancaster City Council, Lancashire County Council, NHS North Lancashire, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, Lancashire Fire and Rescue and Lancashire Constabulary have agreed that working together in public services is vital.

The group is already examining potential to increase shared working opportunities and this will include collectively exploring all opportunities to reduce costs to protect front line services delivered to people as far as possible.

As part of the joined up working there is a genuine desire to involve local people and hear their views to ensure the services offered within the district in the future most closely reflect their needs.

Commenting, Lancaster City Council Leader, Coun Stuart Langhorn said: “Residents and local businesses should be reassured that leaders in this district fully recognise the responsibility we have for their well being, particularly to people who are most vulnerable and know there is a genuine commitment from us all to come together for that purpose.”

Commenting, Lancashire County Council Leader, County Councillor Geoff Driver said: “It's important in these challenging financial times that organisations co-operate to take full advantage of the financial benefits of working together. There is only one set of Council Tax payers and those in Lancaster will be better off due to this initiative in which the County Council is playing its full part.”

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Mopeds stolen in Lancaster

An Aprilia RS Jorge Lorenzo replica motorbike  stolen from  Cavendish Avenue, Lancaster earlier this month.

Police are appealing for information following the theft of a motorbike and two mopeds in Lancaster, taken overnight between 10 and 11 November 2010 from the Marsh area of the city.

Sometime between 7.10pm on the Thursday and 8.20am on the Friday a blue Peugeot Vivacity scooter was stolen from outside a property on Milking Stile Lane.

The same night between 9pm and 8.30am a Sym Jet scooter which was parked on Cavendish Street was also stolen.

Finally, between 10.05pm and 12.30am, an Aprilia RS Jorge Lorenzo replica motorbike (pictured above) was stolen from a second property on Cavendish Avenue.

All three vehicles were locked with appropriate disc or chain locks.

PC Simon Harrison said: “If anybody has information about any of these thefts then I would ask them to contact police.

“I would also like to speak with anybody who may have noticed any suspicious activity in the Cavendish Street and Milking Stile Lane areas on the night in question.”

• Anybody with any information should contact police on 08451 25 35 45 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

500 School Students March in Lancaster Anti-Cuts Demo

Local school students rallied and marched in their hundreds today in Lancaster to protest against the cuts in education such as the abolition of the Education Maintainance Allowance (EMA), which helped teenagers from low-income families to stay on in education after age 16 to study A levels or do vocational training, which has been cut without consultation.

A National Student Day of Action was called for today as Further Education grants are cut, tuition fees are being raised, and the prospects of social mobility for reponsible low income families with an ingrained fear of debt are being sealed off by a government whose cabinet consists almost entirely of multi-millionaires.

About 500 students from local schools marched through Lancaster and rallied in Dalton Square. Ian Chamberlain, a local campaigner against the cuts, said "I was at the anti-cuts meeting last Thursday and we weren't aware that high school students were mobilising locally. It's great to see people autonomously organising and fighting against the unfair cuts. These students deserve a free education just like David Cameron and his cabinet enjoyed.

"Campaigns such as these are inspiring the whole community. The movement is growing and there is a sense of urgency. The coalition government ought to be very afraid.

"I overheard police officers saying they supported the students. 20% cuts to the police force had obviously brought things home."

Protests were simultanously held on the Lancaster University Campus and throughout the country. In London 130,000 students marched, many of them to the Lib Dem offices to protest about the party reneging on its pre-election promises not to raise tuition fees, which had won it a significant proportion of the student vote.

In fact the Lib Dems and their leader, Nick Clegg, have approved government plans that will raise the cap on tuition fees from £3,290 to as much as £9,000 per year.

Earlier in the week, severing his ties with democracy, Lib Dem business secretary Vince Cable had astonished erstwhile supporters by rationalising that commitments made to the electorate in the pre-election manifesto did not 'count' as the Lib Dems had not won a majority. He said they were now bound instead by the coalition agreement they had made with the Conservatives (who had also failed to achieve a majority).

Prior to the election both parties promised to retain the means-tested EMA, which they then cut almost immediately despite its being a lifeline for the very poorest students, aged 16-19.

Theatre, dance and comedy a-plenty coming to The Dukes

New drama set on Morecambe Bay, a heart-warming musical play, and the 25th anniversary of its outdoor shows in Lancaster’s Williamson Park are highlights of a celebratory spring/summer season at The Dukes.

The new season boasts some famous names too including comedians Mark Thomas, Milton Jones and Tim Key; a busy music programme; a youth dance festival; and more acclaimed National Theatre productions beamed live by satellite into the Lancaster venue.

The Dukes homegrown drama season begins on 27th January 2011 with the premiere of Quicksand, a new play by Ulverston playwright Zosia Wand.

Telling an unconventional tale of love lost and found, Quicksand is a moving look at relationships, family secrets and expectations which runs until 12th February.

The Rise & Fall of Little Voice
(24th March - 16th April) will have its first outing at The Dukes since its award-winning run in the West End last year.

This Lancashire tale of a shy girl and her obsessions with the great divas including Shirley Bassey and Judy Garland has been a winner on both stage and screen when it starred Jane Horrocks.

And from 3rd - 7th May, the Lancaster theatre welcomes back one of its former directors, Olivier Award-winning David Thacker, when The Dukes hosts Bolton Octagon’s production of The Price by Arthur Miller.

Summer 2011 will see The Dukes celebrate the 25th anniversary of its shows in Williamson Park.

Now the biggest outdoor walkabout theatre event in the UK, it attracts thousands of people to Lancaster each year. Merlin and The Legend of King Arthur will bring a magical touch to the anniversary run from July 8-August 13.

Music also plays a major role at The Dukes throughout the season.

Celebrate the Chinese New Year on 31st January with the Cantonese Opera Gala or, if you prefer your music closer to home, the county’s premier chamber orchestra -  Lancashire Sinfonietta -  will be performing new works for jazz quartet and orchestra on 30th April.

In his new show, Mouthtronica, acclaimed British beatboxer Shlomo presents a one-man musical mash-up on 19th February while The Dhol Foundation perform their magic mix of Indian Dhol-drumming, inspired by drum and bass, tabla, hip hop and bhangra on 10-11th May.

Groundbreaking Scottish mavericks Shooglenifty push the word traditional to its limits with their unique blend of dance vibes and roots music on 14th May, and The Dukes welcomes folk hero and raconteur Rory McLeod on 25th May.

Comedian Milton Jones
- at the Dukes on
16th March 2011
There’s plenty of laughs to be had during the season too.

Zoe Lyons goes Clownbusting on 23rd February;  Edinburgh Comedy Award-winner Tim Key appears on 4th March followed by "the weird bloke with the shirts from Mock the Week," Milton Jones on 16th March. Mark Thomas appears on 20th April  with his brand new show Extreme Rambling: Walking the Wall.

The Dukes dedication to dance continues with Verve Dance (19th May) and the Youth Dance Festival (20-21st May).

And among other touring drama highlights are Daniel Kitson’s theatre show,  The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church, on 18th February; Unicorn Theatre's The Day the Waters Came (9-10th March) which centres on the aftermath of  Hurricane Katrina; and Box Clever's Boxed Romeo & Juliet, a bite-sized version of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy from 7-8th April.

• To book tickets for any of the new season events, ring The Dukes box office on 01524 598500 or visit

Motorists urged to give thieves the cold shoulder

Make sure you give thieves the cold shoulder – that’s the message to motorists from Lancashire Constabulary.

The advice comes as a cold snap bites to deter motorists from leaving their cars unattended with the keys in the ignition and engine running while they defrost.

“It only takes a few seconds for a thief to drive away in your vehicle," says Inspector Martin Bishop. "Please don’t make it easy for them – ensure you stay with your vehicle whilst it is being de-frosted.

“We know from past experience that some car thieves specifically target vehicles that they see sitting on driveways with the engines running. As soon as the owner goes inside the house they take their chance and drive the vehicle away.

“Don’t give thieves an easy ride, ensure your car is locked and secure at all times.”

In the past, drivers have been prosecuted under the Road Traffic Act offence of 'quitting' which is when a person leaves their vehicle's engine running while they are not in it (See this news story).

• Further crime prevention advice can be found on the Lancashire Constabulary website –

Teenage test purchase volunteers needed to crack down on underage sales

Teenagers are being asked to help in the crack down on underage alcohol sales by signing up to be a test purchaser.

During operations run by police and Trading Standards, teenage test purchasers enter pubs and off-licences in the Lancaster and Morecambe area to see if staff will challenge them and ask for identification when they try to buy alcohol.

Workers who go on to sell the alcohol to the teens are fined £80, while the licensee has to undergo a police surgery, where they are reminded of their responsibilities when it comes to preventing underage sales.

Repeat offenders risk losing their licence to sell alcohol.

During the latest test purchase operation in Lancaster, which was carried out earlier this month, four out of nine pubs sold alcohol to the two 16-year-old female test purchasers.

Officers are now looking for new test purchasers to assist them in further operations. Volunteers must be aged 13 – 16, must look their age and be willing to take part for around five hours on an occasional basis.

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

PC Julia Whitehead, licensing, said: “Test purchasers are often teens who are interested in a career in the police force or similar.

“Selling alcohol to underage children is not only against the law but it can also put these youngsters at serious risk of harm, which is why it is important to carry out these operations and makes sure staff, managers and licensees are aware of their responsibilities.”

More details on becoming a test purchaser will be given out at a special information evening in the near future.

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

Nationwide appeal following Care Home fraud

Officers have issued photographs of two people they want to speak to in connection with bank card fraud following a theft at a Staffordshire care home earlier this year, believing the suspects may be based in another part of the country -  perhaps somewhere in Lancashire.

A handbag was stolen from an office in the care home in Uttoxeter on 21st April 2010 by a man who told staff he was selling products for a book club.

Soon afterwards the handbag’s owner, a 38-year-old woman from Cheadle, was called by someone purporting to be from the HSBC Bank, asking for her PIN number so they could cancel the card.

She gave them the PIN and, a short while later, her card was used to withdraw £300 from HSBC in High Street, Burton-on-Trent.

CCTV stills of a woman and a man who are believed to be involved in the crime have been released by officers. The pair used a pale blue Peugeot Estate which had a black roof.

PC Wendy Roberts, from Uttoxeter Police, said: “This was a particularly calculated crime which caused the victim obvious distress.

“We don’t necessarily believe that the offenders are local and there’s a chance that they may have been involved in similar crimes elsewhere in the country."

• If you recognise either of the suspects, call PC Wendy Roberts on 0300 123 4455 ext 00883 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Claughton Moor Wind farm plans revised, but still causing local concern

Community Windpower Ltd has announced their new plans for Claughton Moor Community Windfarm have been re-submitted to Lancaster City Council - but concerned locals have asked for more time to consider the proposal before it is re-considered by the Planning Committee.

The new plans reduce the company's original proposals from 20 to 13 126 metre wind turbines and include a new Environmental Management Plan and community benefits package for the local area the company hopes will persuade the Council to accept the revised proposal.

Claughton Moor Community Windfarm is proposed for Claughton and Whit Moor, approximately 10 kilometeres east of Lancaster and would stand alongside the existing Caton Moor Windfarm which has been present in the Forest of Bowland AONB for the last 15 years.

Lancaster City Council's Planning Committee unanimously rejected the original proposal back in March, after the application attracted dozens of objections from people and groups concerned about its potential impact on the landscape and the value of local homes. The site falls within the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is part of Claughton Moor County Biological Heritage Site.

Responding to the new plan, Hornby Parish Council has asked for an extension of the deadline for the submission of comments on the above application. "This is a highly contentious issue within the parish, and we will need to hold a public meeting before deciding how to comment," the Council says in its comments on the plan. "This will take some time to organise."

Objectors have questioned the resubmission, pointing out that the original plans stated 20 turbines were needed to make the project viable but now seem able to make it work with 13. Others remain steadfast in their previous concerns, raising environmental concerns, noise, worries about flood risk and potential harm to local wildlife.

The company says the original application submitted last year has been significantly revised and consequently reduced. The new proposal (ref: 10/01151/FUL) is for 13 wind turbines and would typically generate 39 megawatts (MW) of clean, green, locally sourced electricity.

The company claims electricity from the windfarm would annually power over 22,000 homes and would displace over 44,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year the windfarm is in operation. Development of the Windfarm would, they argue, also secure jobs and employment through the supply and construction of the windfarm
with an initial investment of £40million and a further £1.3million of local investment per annum.

Another major component of the proposal is the Environmental Management Plan which comprises of many and varied land management techniques to protect and enhance the natural environment and to ensure there is an overall net gain in terms of ecology and biodiversity.

The community benefits package has also been revised and will include the provision of a Community Trust Fund of £500,000 available to the four parishes of Claughton, Hornby-with-Farleton, Caton-with-Littledale and Roeburndale for educational, environmental and community projects. A Community Turbine would also be developed with the local communities, the profits of which would be transferred to another Trust Fund for local projects. There would be additional funding for environmental projects and enhancements and educational support including student bursaries, funding for school trips and an Educational Ranger. Energy efficiency advice and support would also still be available through BeGreen LowerLune.

“We have taken time to review the previous comments, undertake all the required additional survey work and conducted pre-application consultation with the Planning Department and key stakeholders to arrive at this redesigned proposal," says Senior Project Manager Mrs. Gillian Cropper. "The site is excellent in terms of wind speed, elevation, location, satisfaction of technical constraints and hence is an exceptional site to develop, adjacent to an existing windfarm”.

"Approval of the windfarm would maintain Lancaster District’s renowned position at the forefront of environmental issues with a significant contribution made in the battle against climate change and
would cement the Council’s commitment to the Nottingham Declaration on Climate Change."

The company is seeking a decision on its proposals by February 2011.

• To view the revised plans visit: or the full details and associated documents on the City Council Planning site

Lancaster City Council's web site has details of the original plan and comments here

Monday, 22 November 2010

Jingle bells keep Christmas shoppers safe

Shoppers are to be given their own set of Christmas jingle bells to keep their bags and purses safe while out during the festive period.

It is the fifth year that police in Lancaster and Morecambe have distributed the bells, which attach to a shopper’s bag and alert them if someone tries to tamper with it.

“At this time of year, the town centre areas are busy with festive shoppers and therefore there are increased opportunities for the thieves to target people and steal bags and purses," explains Crime Prevention Officer Jan Brown. "The bells raise the alarm if the bag is tampered with and hopefully will also act as a visible deterrent to thieves.”

The bells have been funded through a partnership between The Bay, St Nicholas Arcade, Lancaster, Marketgate Shopping Centre, Lancaster, The Arndale, Morecambe, Festival Market, Morecambe, and Lancashire Constabulary.

The bells will be available through shops in the above shopping centres and charity shops in the North Lancashire area, as well as at Bay radio reception on St Georges Quay, Lancaster.

Crime prevention staff will be in Market Square, Lancaster, for the Christmas lights ‘switch on’ on Thursday 25th November , where they will be distributing the bells to the public.

To protect yourself against purse or bag theft, you should:
  • Never leave your bag open or unattended, such as on the back of a shopping trolley or pushchair
  • Always make sure your bag is securely shut by using the fasteners provided
  • If your bag has a strap, wear it across your body with any flaps facing inwards
  • Never put your bag on the floor to look at something on shop shelves
  • If you do not have a bag, hold your purse or wallet close to your body or carry it in an inside pocket if you have one
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash
  • Only keep items in your bag that are needed
  • Keep your cash card separate from your chequebook

• Anyone with information or concerns about crime can contact police on 0845 1 25 35 45 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111’.

Sowden Suspended as Councillor

Councillor Keith Sowden, Lancaster City councillor for the Overton ward, will be suspended for a period of 28 days from today until 19th December and will be unable to perform official council duties, including ward work, during that period.

The suspension was ordered by a Hearings Sub-Committee of the council’s Standards Committee, after Councillor Sowden refused to apologize to fellow councillors for a series of insults he made in emails, or to undergo training as required by the sub-committee.

Coun Morgwn Trolinger who reported Coun Sowden to the Standards committee after receiving five emails she said were in breach of the councillor code of conduct.

Earlier this year, Councillow Sowden was told to send written apologies to Coun Chris Coates, Professor Paylor, a university professor he also criticised by email for his use of English in an email copied to all councillors after he protested at cuts to The Dukes funding, and all other city councillors.

Councillor Sowden is known for his outspoken views. He has objected to the recently-introduced Food Waste scheme, for example and micro-chipped wheelie bins the Council has never used.

In 2008, he had his membership from the Conservative group withdrawn after voting against the party after he "voted with his conscience" against plans to create Morecambe Town Council.

Both Councillor Coates and Professor Paylor said they had not been offended by the e-mails.

Although Councillor Coates supported the committee's ruling requesting an apology and retraining, he told local papers a "simple apology" would have been fine with him. 

Councillor Sowden, who is himself a university lecturer, described the original hearing as "a total waste of trees that have sacrificed their lives, and a large waste of money when we have got none".

• Should residents of the Overton ward need the assistance of a city councillor during the period of the suspension, they should contact Councillor Paul Woodruff, the city councillor for Halton-with-Aughton, telephone 01524 811770.

Standards Committee Case Summary 6th September 2010 - Councillor Keith Sowden (PDF File)