Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Really Heavy Greatcoat Review of the Year 2011

Older readers may recall The Really Heavy Greatcoat by John Freeman and Lancaster-based artist Nick Miller ran on virtual-lancaster after long service in On The Beat and Off the Beat, two other alternative Lancaster publications, for many years.

If anyone ever offered to pay us to write it, it might still be running today!

• More by Nick at:

• The Really Heavy Greatcoat Archive: 

Friday, 30 December 2011

Lancashire Police return offenders to prison

Almost 500 people across Lancashire wanted for recall to prison have been arrested and sent back to jail this year.

Figures show that from 500 people released to be supervised in Lancashire but who then failed to keep to their terms of their licence, there are fewer than 20 outstanding.

Earlier this week, wanted Preston man Daniel Billington, who has been wanted on a prison recall since February 2008, was arrested in Tenerife by Spanish police. Arrangements are being made for him to be brought back to the UK for him to be returned to prison.

“It has been a busy year for Lancashire Police in tracing and arresting those who have been released early from their prison sentence but have failed to comply with the conditions of release," notes Inspector John Clucas. "Our officers have worked hard to ensure those that choose to ignore these conditions are promptly brought back into prison to serve the remainder of their sentence.

“As with many things in policing we cannot do this without the help from members of the public, and friends and acquaintances of those who are wanted.  We just need that little bit of information in some cases that will lead us to the person who we are seeking to arrest.

“I know we will not reduce our efforts in 2012 and from the Lancashire Constabulary the message is clear, those who offend will be identified and where possible brought to justice, those who are punished will be expected to comply with their sentence, and those that choose not to will be dealt with accordingly. 

"I also would urge those who know they are wanted to come forward and give themselves up so they can start the New Year with a clean slate."

• Details of those wanted by Lancashire Constabulary are put on the Wanted section of the force website

Festive Fun in Lancaster!

Revellers enjoying the Free Reed Band at a ceilidh at the Gregson. Photo by Barrie Marshall

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Holocaust Memorial Day marked with special exhibition by local artist

Local theatre and cinema The Dukes has mapped out how it will commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day on 27th January 2012, with events that include an exhibtion by local artist Catriona Stamp.

Holocaust Memorial Day, which has run in the UK since 2001, provides an opportunity for everyone to learn lessons from the Holocaust, Nazi persecution and subsequent genocides and apply them to the present day to create a safer, better future. It's an opportunity to share the memory of the millions who were murdered in the Holocaust by the Nazis last century and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur in order to challenge hatred and persecution in the UK today.

This year, national organisers of the Day are asking people to consider what you see and hear around you, and to use your voices to speak up against hatred and discrimination. As part of that, they're inviting people to put pen to paper to create an original piece of poetry that reflects this year’s theme, Speak Up, Speak Out, which can be showcased at the UK event in January and on the HMD website.

At The Dukes, a special exhibition will be staged in the gallery from 9th - 30th January  and on 18th January , the cinema screens a film to coincide with this year’s theme.

Entitled (Dis)Placement the exhibition is by Lancaster-based artist Catriona Stamp who has been involved with the city’s commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day for 10 years.

A former Lancaster city councillor, Catriona has transformed maps into clothes as she explores how the intimate surroundings of place and clothing can affect and reflect identity with particular reference to Jewish heritage.

The resulting clothes will hang, as if on a line, empty of their owner.

Catriona collected European maps bought from a stall in Lancaster and from Carnforth Bookshop for the exhibtion, while others just arrived on her doorstep.

Catriona, who has also worked as a therapist and is interested in how people cope with trauma such as that experienced during the Holocaust and its aftermath says the use of maps for the clothes is intended to set up an initial enquiry in the viewers mind about the relationship between identity and place, asking the question – how rooted is anyone?

Catriona has had the idea of creating art from maps for a while – perhaps unsurprisingly, given that her first degree was in geography. She later took an art MA at the University of Central Lancashire and became a practising artist in the 1990s.

The exhibition text, following the roads or waterways, concerns both the culture and history of Jewish occupation, and eviction, since the 1400s to the present day.

Other events marking HMD include a screening of Oranges & Sunshine, which is being screened on 18th January. Directed by Jim Loach and starring Emily Watson, it tells the disturbing story of a social worker fighting for justice for a generation of children removed from their families, many settling in Australia.

On 26th January, young people from DT3, The Dukes youth specific space, will take part in a candlelight commemoration and celebration at Lancaster Town Hall from 6.30pm alongside NCBI Lancashire and More Music.

Students from Lytham St Anne’s College, a trust partner of The Dukes, will present a performance based on their recent visit to Auschwitz.

Young people involved in DT3’S Wireless Project plan to interview people at the event for a Diversity FM radio show in February.

• (Dis)Placement runs from January 9-30 at The Dukes gallery which is open from 10am to 11pm, Monday to Saturday.  Please call the box office on 01524 598500 to check opening times if you’re making a special journey as occasionally the space is closed to the public.

• Tickets for Oranges & Sunshine are priced £5.50/£4.50 concessions are available by phoning The Dukes box office on 01524 598500 or

• To enter the national Holocaust Memorial Day poetry contest, email your poem (no more than) 200 words to by noon on Wednesday 18th January 2012. In the subject line, write poetry competition. Please include your name, date of birth and contact telephone number in the body of the email. Full terms and conditions are on the HMD website.

University Society pledges support for murdered student's cause

Anuj Bidve, who was shot on Boxing Day. Photo via Facebook.
Lancaster University's Indian Society has contributed £500 toward the cost of returning the body of shot student Anuj Bidve to India.

The 23-year-old Lancaster University postgraduate student was shot dead in Salford on Boxing Day as he walked with friends near their hotel.

Four people, including two teenagers aged 16 and 17, have been arrested in connection with the shooting.

Hailing from Pune, India, Anuj was studying Microelectronics at Lancaster University. His father, Subhash Bidve, has appealed for help to bring his body back to Pune through Facebook.

A number of peace events are being planned to commemorate Anuj's life, including one in Mumbai and one in Salfor on Monday 2nd January.

In a statement, Mr Bidve’s family said: ‘Anuj was a loving son, a super caring brother and first and forever friend for many. He valued his relationships and put them over anything else. He was the first person you could call when in trouble. He could easily bring a smile on anyone’s face with his innocent jokes.

"Anuj loved to travel and loved his food. He loved to cook. He loved playing football. He enjoyed his life and is an inspiration for us to live life to its fullest.

"His passing will not only leave a void in our lives, but in the hearts of all those who knew him."

Despite the shocking event, authorities and University contacts of are anxious to point out that such attacks are very rare. Greater Manchester Police have said there is no evidence, as yet, to suggest the attack was either racially motivated or gang related.

"This incident is first of its kind and it does not represent larger population of England or Lancaster University," feels Sonakshi Saran, President of Lancaster University's Indian Society.

"This act should not cause us to worry about sending kids or relatives to study or work in England or Lancaster University... We have trust that justice shall prevail.

"Lancaster University Indian Society has decided to contribute £500 right now and more funds will be given as and when required."

Salford Peace March Information

Anuj Bidve Campaign Group (Facebook)

Goodbye to The BFG

There’s just a few days left before The BFG strides out of Lancaster and returns to Giant Country.

The Dukes 40th annual Christmas show – The BFG -  draws to an end on 7th January after a six week festive run.

Roald Dahl’s classic story itself reaches a milestone in 2012, the 30th anniversary of its publication. It was inspired by Dahl’s granddaughter Sophie, who went on to become a world famous model and TV presenter.

In a faithful adaptation of this most scrumdiddlyumptious story, The Dukes tells this heartwarming tale of friendship and bravery with a cast of new and familiar actors to the Lancaster theatre alongside amazing puppetry. Masses of fun and plenty of surprises are promised along the way.

• For tickets, call The Dukes box office on 01524 598500 or bok online via

Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Best of the Season to all our readers!

No snow this year, we suspect! Photo: John Freeman

Have a Merry Mithras, Jovial Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Good Excuse To Drink And Eat Too Much While Watching Wallace And Gromit On Telly Day - from all of us at virtual-lancaster!

Fairfield Association Gives Christmas Present to Lancaster

On Thursday 22nd December the Fairfield Association opened its new nature reserve,  FAUNA,  which is within 10 minutes walk of the railway station and Lancaster City Centre. People are now able to walk  along FAUNA’s new permissive footpath from the northern entrance to Fairfield Orchard (near the bottom of Sunnyside Lane) to the bottom of Cromwell Road (off Aldcliffe Road).

The path runs along one side of the new 15-acre FAUNA nature reserve, which the association has been working on since last Spring.

“We hope that the people of Lancaster will enjoy our Christmas present and use the new path, which is wheelchair-accessible, to watch FAUNA develop," said Oliver Fulton, organiser of the FAUNA project. "There are new ponds and scrapes, which have already started to attract wading birds and waterfowl, and last summer we seeded a field which we are turning back into a wildflower meadow – using seeds and green hay from existing local wildflower meadows. So it will be fascinating to watch the birds move in, and see what comes up in the meadow next spring and summer.”

The FAUNA nature reserve is on land leased at a peppercorn rent to the Fairfield Association for the next 30 years by Lancaster City Council, which is very supportive of the project. The Fairfield Association has raised £140,000 to create Lancaster’s latest nature reserve, which is funded by the City Council, Lancashire County Council, the Lancashire Environmental Fund, Community Spaces (The Big Lottery Fund) and Natural England, with help and advice from the RSPB and Lancashire Wildlife Trust.

Local contractors M D Hanafin and Sons of Milnthorpe have done an excellent job on the heavier work in very difficult weather conditions. There will be a more formal opening ceremony in the Spring, when the seats and notice boards are in place.

“Doing all the necessary hedge laying, establishing the ponds and putting in the footpath and fencing in very wet weather has made the area near the path rather muddy in places but the grass will soon grow back," enthuses Andrew Brennand, chair of the association. "We have put in a set of gateposts next to the path at the Fairfield Orchard end of the path, and they will be carved next Spring to match those in the Orchard.

"By then we should also have new information boards in place, a carved gatepost at the Cromwell Road end and some benches for people to sit on and look across the nature reserve.”

FAUNA will be maintained by the Fairfield Association volunteers who already maintain Fairfield Community Orchard and have spent the summer digging ragwort from the FAUNA fields, among other things. Ian Procter, the Volunteers Organiser said:

“We definitely need more volunteers to help us with our work. If you are interested, please phone me on 01524 65670 or email We’re a friendly lot and try hard to make newcomers very welcome.”

Plans for expansion
The Fairfield Association is also trying to buy fields next to FAUNA in order to extend the nature reserve. Mick Short, the Fields Project organiser, said:
“We put in a bid for the fields in September, using money which has been donated or pledged by more than 200 local people. Unfortunately, all the bids, including ours, were turned down by the owners. We are still hoping to buy the fields, as extending FAUNA would be wonderful for Lancaster. They will probably come up for sale again in the Spring. So if new donors or pledgers want to support what we are trying to do and add to the fund we have already created, they can ring me on 01524 63890 or email me at .”

The Fairfield Association will be running its regular wassailing event in Fairfield Orchard on Saturday 14 January, 3-5 pm. There will be a noisy procession starting at 3pm prompt, so bring drums or pans to join in. A bonfire, wassail cup and songs should warm you up after the trees are blessed. The John O'Gaunt Morris troupe will also be dancing.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Battery Eggs illegal from 1 January 2012

Chris Davies, Liberal Democrat MEP, has welcomed the Coalition Government's announcement that tough action will be taken to stop eggs from battery caged hens being sold in the UK.

As of 1st January 2012, eggs that are produced in battery cages will be illegal. It is estimated that up to 51 million eggs, or a nearly a quarter of all EU production, will not be compliant by that date.

UK producers have spent £400 million on meeting the new standards and Davies is keen to ensure that these farmers are not undercut by producers who have not upgraded their systems.

Davies said, "I welcome the commitment of the UK government to take tough action against those who try to sell eggs that do not meet the new EU standards.

"Farmers across the UK have spent millions to comply with the legislation and it is vital that we protect that investment.

"But tough action by the UK must be backed up by tough action from the European Commission.”

Davies has previously called for the UK to impose a ban on eggs being imported into the country that do not meet the standards.

He commented, “It is time to fight fire with fire.  The EU would never punish Britain for imposing a ban on importing these eggs.

“The only people who would be upset are those continuing to mistreat egg laying hens.”

Lancashire Police urge domestic abuse victims to come forward this Christmas

Lancashire Police are urging victims of domestic abuse not to suffer in silence this Christmas.
The force has launched a Christmas campaign aimed at tackling domestic abuse over the festive season, reinforcing the message that it is a crime and urging victims to come forward and contact police.

Police are keen to point out that domestic abuse isn’t just violence. It can be physical, emotional, psychological, financial and sexual. Anyone who is forced to alter their behaviour because they are frightened of their partner’s reaction is being abused.

Between 01/04/2010 to 31/03/211 there were over 28,000 incidents of domestic abuse reported to the police and in nearly three out of four cases the offender is charged and brought to justice.

This Christmas officers will be conducting visits to victims subjected to domestic violence last Christmas alongside independent domestic abuse representatives. Offenders who carried out domestic abuse during the last festive period will also be visited and warned.

Head of Lancashire Constabulary’s Public Protection Unit Detective Superintendent Ian Critchley said: “There is nothing more inexcusable than abuse carried out behind closed doors by so called 'loved ones'.

“Sadly every year over the Christmas period the number of domestic abuse incidents reported to us increases.

“On average a woman is assaulted 35 times before she makes her first call for help and we are working hard to bring this figure down. Victims of domestic abuse and their children have the right to live safety in their own home. They should be reassured that the abuse is not their fault and you they are not alone.

“I would also like to send out a message to perpetrators that we will do all we can to arrest them and bring them before the courts.

“Domestic abuse can devastate families and relationships and the police can offer protection and help to find safe accommodation.

“If you are ever in danger, call 999 and the police will investigate and protect you from harm.”

Burglary at Lancaster pawnbrokers

Police are appealing for information following a burglary at a pawnbrokers shop in Lancaster.

Officers were called to John Ramsden Pawnbrokers in Sir Simons Arcade just after 10.30pm on Tuesday 20th December.

It is believed the offenders somehow made a hole in the roof and climbed through it into the loft space, before accessing the shop itself. Once inside, they smashed a number of display cabinets and made off with a number of designer watches.

“I would appeal to anyone who was in the area on Tuesday evening who saw anybody acting suspiciously to contact police," asks Detective Sergeant Steve Craig. “I would also like to speak with anybody who thinks they have information which could assist this investigation.”

• Anybody with any information can contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.

Attempted robbery in Lancaster

Police are appealing for information following an attempted robbery of a man in Lancaster.

Around 8.40pm on Monday 19h December, an 18-year -old man from the city was walking along the canal footpath between Shaw Road and Moor Lane when he was approached by two men.

They forced him to the ground and while one held him down the other emptied his pockets.

The muggers searched his wallet but threw it back on the floor when they realised it was empty, before running off towards the Ridge Estate.

One of the men is described as being around six feet tall, the other one slightly shorter; both were wearing dark clothing, hooded tops and scarves around their faces.

Detective Constable Mark Greaves said: “Thankfully the man wasn’t seriously injured, but it could have been worse. We are keen to find the people responsible and would urge anyone with any information about this incident to contact police.”

Anybody with any information can contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Appeal following Morecambe street robbery

Morecambe Police are appealing for witnesses to come forward after a 53-year-old man was robbed in the street last Tuesday, 6th December.

The offence took place at 8.40pm on Ullswater Avenue, Morecambe when the victim was attacked as he returned to his car, after collecting money as part of his business.

The offender has rushed up behind him and grabbed hold of his bum bag, pulling it with force and shouting "Give me your money".

The man then escaped with the blue and grey bag containing over £1,000 in cash.

The offender is described as white, around 20 years old, 6ft tall and slim. He was wearing a hooded jacket.

“I would appeal to anybody that was in the area at the time that witnessed this robbery or with any information that could assist the police with the investigation to contact Lancashire Police on 101," asks DC Tim Dodgson of Lancastr CID.

A 22 year old man from Morecambe has been arrested on suspicion of robbery and possession of cannabis and is currently on police bail.

• People with information can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Free Reed Band and John Harper dates at Lancaster venues

Lancaster's ace folk group Free Reed Band will be performing a Christmas/New Year Ceilidh at the Gregson Centre (Moor Lane, Lancaster) on Thursday 29th December.

"We have secured the services of our good friend and superb Dance Caller, Fiona Rigg, for the evening," band spokesperson Tony Cooke tells us. "We start at 8.00pm and end at 11.00pm and it will only cost you £8 (£6 concessions) to get in and dance your socks off." You have been told...

John Harper

Kicking off the 2012 folk-wise, John Harper will be appearing at the John O’Gaunt, Lancaster on Thursday 5th January 2012. John is a regular Lancaster entertainer, who was playing at the Robert Gilow only l;ast week, and always dazzles everyone with his powerful renditions of British and American contemporary songs, his own compositions and traditional folksong. His gig at the Gillow completely zapped the audience with a wonderful, powerful performance.

While folk music has always been popular in Lancaster since the days of gigs at the Brown Cow in the 1970s, the number of live venues offering regular spots for the music has declined down the years. Sadly, there's no news as yet on whether or not the Gillow - still seeking a permanent landlord - will continue with live music in 2012, but hopefully we'll have some news on that front soon.

• More about John Harper at 

Rush Hockey storms into Salt Ayre

Salt Ayre staff Anna Simpson, Elliot Trafford, Tom Ball and Hannah Corless try out the new sport, Rush Hockey.
Photo courtesy Lancaster City Council
Lancaster City Council is inviting local people to try out a brand new game which combines elements of hockey with fun, fast and furious game play.

Rush Hockey is a new game for four to five players developed by English Hockey and is being trialled at a handful of sports and leisure centres across the UK.

It is hoped that if the game proves popular here, a district league could be created. Matches will take place at Salt Ayre Sports Centre in the winter and Happy Mount Park in the summer.

Although the new game is a great way to keep fit, the emphasis is on fun with simple rules, shorter games and smaller pitches.

Two special free taster sessions are taking place at Salt Ayre Sports Centre and open to anyone aged 16 and above who wants to try their hand at this exciting new game. No previous experience of hockey is necessary and all equipment will be provided for people who attend.

The free taster sessions will take place on Wednesday, 28 December from 12pm to 2pm and Monday 9 January from 7.30pm to 9.30pm.  There is no need to book to take part.

• For more details about the taster sessions, call Salt Ayre Sports Centre on 01524 847540 or visit

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Occupy Camp celebrates first fortnight with events

On Wednesday the Occupy Lancaster camp completed its first fortnight in Dalton Square. Tuesday night had already seen a gathering of local folk artists in a rousing session in the meeting tent. Tonight (Thursday) supporters are invited to bring food to share to celebrate two weeks of Occupy Lancaster and two months of Occupy London. More events are planned for the weekend (see below).

The Occupy movement is the stuff of folk songs itself.  Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street campaign for greater fairness and accountability in economics, signs at the Lancaster Camp refer to the vast concentration of wealth among the top 1% of income earners compared to the other 99%.

Two weeks in and despite the battering it has taken from recent winter gales the camp has taken shape. There is heat and electric light, two large tents decorated for the season for meetings, cooking and communal warmth and a hobbity scattering of smaller tents. There were about half a dozen people there, chatting, doing odd jobs, greeting passers-by who stopped to talk. A new sign had been laminated to proclaim the camp ban on alcohol or drugs. The two campers stapling it to an awning enjoyed a discussion over whether it is always ok to say 'no' so negatively. I recognised one as a care worker. A policeman dropped by briefly to say hello.

The Campers hold open discussion meetings, called general assemblies, every evening at 6pm to settle camp business and give out news. It is an interesting process to watch. As one person speaks, others shake their fingers upwards, signalling agreement, or downwards, to mean disagreement. Side discussions occasionally break out but are rapidly checked by the facilitator, who conducts the meeting and queues the people with points to make (they point upwards). It's slow, building consensus between such diverse people but the signalling clearly helps, good will holds and the cold motivates efficiency. On facebook it's more complicated and the camp now has two facebook sites, Occupy Lancaster! a group for discussion and issues, and Occupy Lancaster UK - Practical Support, which is restricted to the practicalities of camp logistics. Such as how the camp needs an electric oil radiator, if anyone can spare one.

The police have a standing invitation to contribute to the meetings and so far relations between camp, police and the City Council appear to have gone smoothly.  Lancaster City Council told Virtual-Lancaster: "Lancaster City Council together with Lancashire Constabulary are committed to allowing peaceful legal demonstrations. We will both continue to monitor the small encampment at Dalton Square and to provide community reassurance."

One camper tells me that a council official came by and explained why the park walls weren't up to the job of anchoring big tents in a gale, which, he added, was good to know.

The Occupy Lancaster Camp schedule of events for next few days is a follows:

Thursday 5 December:  7 - 10pm after the General Assembly. Celebrate Occupy's birthday. Dress nice (and warm) and bring party food to share.

Friday 6 December

8pm: Locality workshop/discussion.

Evening: Women's meeting: making spaces safe for women

Saturday 17 December:

11am Busking

12 - 1pm Yarn and Darn: Knitting, Crochet and all yarn crafts. Bring wool & other tools of the trade, some will be provided.

1-4pm. Parkour Workshop (free-running),  Art Workshop and Free Shop

3pm Consensus and Facilitation workshop.

Sunday 18 December:

12pm. Economics Discussion: what is the alternative..?

1-3pm. Family Fun:  Family/kids workshop, making flags; Juggling and circus skills workshop; Parkour/free running

Local University suports scheme to engage workers in improving business

Dr Michele Lawty-Jones, David MacLeod, Tim Viney and Barbara Davies

The University of Cumbria played host to a government Task Force in Ambleside this week, to showcase and discuss the success of an innovative leadership programme being delivered to leaders of small-to-medium businesses in the region.

The LEAD programme provides hands-on advice, expert coaching and practical support and concentrates not only on the business itself, but also on the development of the owner, encouraging them to engage with their staff to better the company and its success.

The new independent Employee Engagement Task Force was launched in March, with the am of ensuring that a range of practical opportunities are made available for organisations wanting to learn about engagement. It will share good practice, generate debate and offer support via a new website.

The Task Force is building on the report ‘Engaging for Success’ (PDF link), which David MacLeod and Nita Clarke produced in 2009 for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

David MacLeod, who works for consultancy Towers Perrin, and Nita Clarke, now deputy of thr Task Force, were commissioned to produce the ‘Engaging for Success’ report for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and featured the LEAD programme in the report as a best practice case study.

“Like most people, I didn’t use the term engagement to start with," said David of his interest in this area of business development, in an interview for the IPA when was working on the report in 2009. "The first period of my career was in managing a consumer brand, and consumer brands are critically dependent on their ability to innovate, and stay relevant.

"Trying to get innovation out of a bureaucracy is a big challenge, so the people aspects of innovation really struck me as central.

“Then I went to manage a business turnaround, and while all the analytics were right, it didn’t tell you what to do. And at heart, I think the organisation had lost confidence, and by losing confidence, it had lost engagement. So that was really fascinating.

"[Engagment] is not about work/life balance, although it might touch that," he explained. "It’s not about happiness, although it might touch that; it is about organisations performing, delivering better what they set out to deliver. The question is whether we are harnessing discretionary effort.

“It is not to be confused with HR – which is good stuff. Let’s have a good performance management system, let’s have a good recruitment process. But having a good marketing strategy is equally relevant to engagement. In fact, I’d say having a good, clear, strategy is as important as anything.”

"“People are at the heart of success for companies and organisations," argues vice chair Nita Clarke, "so whether or not the workforce is positively encouraged to perform at its best should be a key consideration for every leader and manager, and should be placed at the heart of business strategy. Where this happens the results are transformational. Spreading this message widely will be the key task of this new employer led task force.”

“This task force has my full support," commented Prime Minister David Cameron at its launch, "because I know that it will work to bring together two of my government's top priorities – delivering sustainable growth across the UK, and coming up with new approaches to help people improve their wellbeing.“

David MacLeod was keen to return to the region to see what progress had been made and the meeting at the university’s Ambleside site on Tuesday brought together representatives from the University of Cumbria, the Centre for Leadership Performance, Lancaster University Management School and LEAD delegates from around Cumbria.

LEAD graduate Barbara Davies, managing director of Gosforth Hall Inn explains:
“Having been in a managerial position for most of my adult life, with very little training, I was blinkered in my approach to staff, suppliers and customers.

“Now, through the various elements of the LEAD training programme, I have attained invaluable lessons on how to stop, stand back, think about and assess a situation, then address and monitor the outcome. More importantly I look forward to exciting challenges and don’t see them as problems.”

Another of the LEAD programme graduates, Tim Viney of Atlantic Geomatics, which is based in Penrith, feels the programme has enabled him to take a more holistic view of his business. “It has grown from employing 12 people to 16,” he says, “and I have achieved my objective of employing a dedicated business manager.”

“It has been great to raise the profile of Cumbria with the Government task force," added Dr Michele Lawty-Jones, Enterprise and Business Relations Manager at the University of Cumbria. "They were very interested to hear about the SME business base that is critical to our local economy and our local LEAD graduates who have benefited from working with the university.”

Comedian Mark Thomas to return to The Dukes

The Dukes 2012 comedy season begins in January with the welcome return of Mark Thomas and his new show, Manifesto.

After a sell out tour, three series on Radio 4, and a book, Manifesto is the show where the audience get to make the policies of the future as the awardwinning comic collects audience suggestions to make the world a better place, create heaven on earth, or just annoy the neighbours.

Ideas are then discussed and debated before the audience votes on the policy they feel best represents them, to create a manifesto.

Past policies voted for by audiences include: invade Jersey and shut down tax havens, there should be a gamble button on all ATM machines, and anyone found guilty of a homophobic hate crime should serve their entire sentence in drag.

Who knows what will emerge this time round?

Mark’s latest tour, which calls into the Lancaster theatre on 11th January, coincides with a new Radio 4 series of the Manifesto.

Mark was last at The Dukes back in April with Extreme Rambling, which toured to more than 40,000 people and was the first two-hour comedy show to be performed at Glastonbury. Mark was also the first comic to be nominated for an Amnesty Freedom of Expression Award for this show.

The Dukes spring 2012 comedy season also features Andi Osho with All the Single Ladies on 1st February; Stewart Lee’s Carpet Remnant World on 21st March 21, which has already sold out; Laurence Clark’s Health Hazard, 14th April; Henning When, No Surrender on 22nd April; and An Audience with Stuart Maconie on 4th May.

• Mark Thomas: Manifesto at The Dukes, Wednesday, 8.00pm 11th January. Tickets: £10. Box Office: 01524 598500 or online at Live comedy at The Dukes is recommended for anyone aged 16 plus.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Morecambe schoolboy mugged for his mobile

Police are appealing for witnesses after a schoolboy was attacked and robbed in Morecambe last Friday.

The incident happened on Friday 9th December at around 8.15pm on Ellesmere Road. The victim, a 15 year old local boy was walking home when he was approached by two men, who asked him if he had any money.

When he said he didn’t, so the offenders felt his pockets and located his mobile phone.

Initially, the boy managed to escape and ran up a driveway, banging on somebody’s front door to try and get some help, but the robbers followed him and dragged him to the floor and kicked him several times in the head before stealing his mobile.

One of the attackers is described as white, slim build, approximately 5ft 8/9 inches, aged around 16 years with spots all over his face. He was wearing a hooded top pulled up and dark tracksuit bottoms.

The other is described as white, smaller than the first man wearing a snood (neck scarf) up to his eyes and a hooded top pulled up.

“This is a vile and nasty unprovoked attack on an innocent schoolboy," said Detective Constable Gillian Topping, "and those people responsible need to be caught and brought to justice.

"The victim is recovering well but it must have been a terrifying ordeal for him. I would urge anyone with information to come forward and contact the police.

• Anyone with information is asked to call Morecambe police on 101. People with information can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.

Electronic Money Voucher "cold call" scam hits Lancashire

Residents who purchase electronic money vouchers are being warned about cold caller fraudsters intent on taking their cash.

Lancashire Constabulary and Trading Standards have received a number of reports of residents receiving unsolicited phone calls, where the caller offers the victim a lump sum of money. On occasion this has been an offer of a loan or informing the victim that they have come into some cash through a competition or inheritance. The caller then asks the victim to go to a shop and purchase an electronic money voucher, such as Ukash or Money Gram (both of which are legitimate schemes) in order to prove they can make loan repayments or to fund various taxes before they can be given their windfall.

Electronic money vouchers are widely by those who do not have, or want to use, bank or credit cards, but who wish to make purchases on-line. The victim is asked for the last 10 numbers on the voucher – this is the information that the fraudster needs to use the electronic money voucher for their own gain.

If the resident does not initially realise they have been scammed, the caller may make more phone calls and ask for more voucher codes – meaning the victim loses even more cash.

The scam has been carried out across the county, with a number of offences taking place in the Wyre and Blackpool area.

"The phone calls tend to originate from abroad, making it difficult to trace the offender," notes PC Carol White from Wyre police. "It is therefore important that we try to prevent these offences from taking place in the first place – one victim has lost over £500 from the scam.

"The offer being given by the cold caller differs from phone call to phone call, but the fact that they ask for the last 10 digits of an electronic money voucher is a recurring feature of this type of crime. In fact most electronic voucher companies advise you not to give out any part of the voucher code over the phone and to only use approved websites to avoid becoming a victim of fraud.

"Genuine organisations would never cold call, request an upfront fee or ask for personal or financial details over the phone. Any that do should start alarm bells ringing.”

• Anyone wishing to report becoming a victim of such a scam should contact Trading Standards in the first instance on 08454 04 05 06.

Morecambe dog owner fined after attack on warden

Lancaster City Council is warning dog owners to take heed of dog control notices after a local woman was fined for allowing her dog to attack one of the council’s dog wardens in Morecambe’s Regent Park.

Zoe Pickles of Cedar Street, Morecambe, pleaded guilty to a dangerous dog offence, having a dog in a public place without identification, and for having her dog off its lead in a designated dogs on lead area.

Ms Pickles appeared before Magistrates in Lancaster last week and was fined £150 and ordered to pay £100 towards the council’s costs, and £75 by way of compensation to Liz Akister, the council’s dog warden. 

She was also ordered to keep her dog, a Staffordshire bull terrier, on a lead and muzzled at all times when in a public place.

Ms Akister received injuries in October, when she approached the dog’s owner to inform her that the dog must be kept on a lead.  The dog jumped up and ran aggressively at Ms Akister, biting the underside of her right arm.

Ms Pickles told Ms Akister that the dog doesn’t like people approaching her, and that she didn’t think it needed to be on a lead, even though she had seen the signs saying dogs must be kept on a lead.  She had been sitting on a bench next to the children’s play area at the time of the attack.

“We hope that this sends out a strong message to dog owners," commented Lancaster City Council Environmental Health Officer, Sue Clowes.

"Failing to control your dog or keep it on a lead in designated places, particularly if it is known to be aggressive, is not only a serious offence that can lead to an expensive fine, but can also result in injury to other people.”

Homeless find room on the radio this Christmas

Dukes creative learning director Guy Christiansen with Shona Thompson
Photo courtesy The Dukes

The Dukes has teamed up with a neighbouring centre for homeless people to produce a special radio programme this Christmas.

DT3, which houses The Dukes Creative Learning Department in Moor Lane, is just across the road from the Edward Street centre run by Lancaster and District Homeless Action Service.

Over the last few weeks, homeless people have been interviewed about how music has affected and inspired their lives, have talked about their typical day on the streets and the staff have explained some of the changes currently taking place at the centre.

The result will be broadcast in a 45-minute show on Lancaster’s community radio station – Diversity FM – some time over Christmas.

The project has been led by Dukes creative learning director, Guy Christiansen and Shona Thompson, 17,who is in the final year of a work placement at DT3.

Guy said: “Shona had to do a project in her final year which she wanted to be about a social issue so she chose to focus on homelessness.”

The Wireless Project where young people can learn about producing radio programmes has been run at DT3 since 2010.

Recently, professional radio and sound producer, Lauren Walker, who has worked for the BBC, has been running the project along with a worker from the county council’s Young People’s Service.

A partnership has been developed with Diversity FM which involves young people producing an hour long programme which is broadcast on the third Monday of every month. They also make a programme for Boom Radio, Rock FM’s internet station.

Among the features they have created include experiences of international travel,such as a work placement in Ethiopia,to interviewing members of the Youth Council.

• If you are aged 16-19 and would like to know more about The Wireless Project which runs every Wednesday from 6.30-8.30pm, contact Guy Christiansen on 01524 598516.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Former Lancaster man wanted on prison recall

Police are appealing for information about a man who is wanted on prison recall.

Ronald Grimes, 34, formally of Green Street, Lancaster, was originally jailed for robbery in May 2004 when he was imprisoned for six years, having been convicted and sentenced at Preston Crown Court.

He was later released from prison on licence in April 2011 but has since breached the terms of that licence and has therefore been recalled to prison.

As well as being wanted on prison recall, he also is wanted for questioning in connection with an assault that happened in Blackburn in May 2011.

Grimes is described as around 5 feet 10 ten inches tall, with blue eyes and a Merseyside accent. He has four large scars on his lower left arm, and Chinese letter tattoos on both of his arms and a four inch scar on his right knee.

Although he is known to frequent Lancaster, we believe he has strong connections in Birkenhead and Netherton in Merseyside.

Detective Sergeant Paul Greenhalgh said, “We would ask the public, particularly in the Merseyside area to be vigilant and report any sightings to the police - any details could be crucial.”

• Anyone with any information can be passed to police on 08451 25 35 45 or alternatively, people can call independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.

Following in a Giant’s Footsteps!

Even giants have to do a spot of Christmas shopping as hundreds of people visiting Lancaster city centre have discovered.

When not entertaining audiences at The Dukes theatre, The BFG has been spotted in St Nicholas Arcades and Marketgate Shopping Centre…or at least his giant footprints have.

It’s rumoured he arrived in Lancaster from Giant Country by train as dozens of passengers have also  walked in his footsteps at the city’s railway station.

Six-year-old Oliver Stephens from Burton-in-Kendal couldn’t believe his eyes when he came across The BFG’s footprints in St Nicholas Arcades as he’s currently reading the Roald Dahl classic story.

The BFG, which is The Dukes 40th annual Christmas show, is currently delighting audiences young and old. The heartwarming tale of friendship and bravery features a talented cast, amazing puppetry, lots of fun and plenty of surprises.

The BFG runs until 7th January, 2012. For tickets, ring The Dukes box office on 01524 598500 or

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Appeal after woman is sexually assaulted in Morecambe

CCTV taken from a filling station
on Oxcliffe Road
Police are appealing for witnesses to come forward after a woman was sexually assaulted as she sat at a bus stop in Morecambe last month.

The offence is alleged to have taken place on Fairfield Road at Heysham between 6pm and 11.15pm on 19th November when a 26-year-old woman was approached by a man as she sat at a bus stop.

The man said hello to her before groping her breasts and trying to put his hand up her jumper. Fortunately, the victim fought him off but sustained a head injury.

Police have released a CCTV image of a man they are keen to speak with in connection with the incident.

PC Iain Arnott said: “This is an opportunist incident on a vulnerable young woman and I would appeal to people to take a close look at the CCTV image and if they recognise this man or have any information that could assist with our investigation please contact Lancashire Police on 08451 25 35 45.”

• People with information can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.

Don't let sneak thieves ruin Christmas, Lancaster police warn

Police are warning residents to make sure they lock their doors and windows this Christmas after a young woman’s insecure home was targeted by thieves.

The 20-year-old had her Hinde Street home in Lancaster targeted by burglars on 30th November after her back door was left unlocked. The thieves made off with a £200 television and a £300 notebook computer. They also took food from her fridge and dropped it over the kitchen floor.

"Leaving doors and windows unlocked means you are making it easier for thieves to target your home and your treasured possessions," Detective Inspector Martin Pearson, Lancaster Police warns.

"At this time of year, thieves know that many homes will have expensive presents being kept inside them. An unlocked door is almost an invitation for them to make an attempt to steal these items, which you have bought with your hard earned cash.

"Even if you are in your home, you should keep doors and windows closed and locked so that your home is secure."

Other tips for beating the burglars and keeping your home safe include -

  • Take the frame numbers of new cycles and the serial numbers of new electrical equipment for future reference
  • Remember, empty boxes left outside advertise that you have new goods inside - dispose of packaging carefully
  • If you go out for the evening - make it look like someone is at home by turning on lights and the radio. Don't leave curtains open so people can see your decorations as potential thieves can see in.
  • Consider fitting security lighting to the outside of your property and make sure hedges, fences and gates are in a good condition, with a strong padlock on where necessary.
  • If you go away for the holiday period, use an automatic timer for lights and ask a trusted neighbour to watch your home.
  • Finally, don't forget to cancel newspapers and milk if you have them delivered and either redirect your mail through the post office or have your neighbour take mail into the house - unopened Christmas cards and mail are a sure sign that a house is empty.

New figures suggest 'Bedroom Tax' could cost poor families in Lancaster up to £1015 per year

Plans to penalise social tenants living in homes deemed too large for their needs could cost families in Lancaster up to £1015 per year, new figures reveal.

The Government has previously estimated that 120,000 families across the North West will lose an average of £624 per year under the new social sector “size criteria”.

But analysis by the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, shows for the first time the true extent of the cuts faced by many families.

Based on cuts of up to 25 per cent of a family’s housing benefit that the Government is considering introducing in 2013, a household deemed to be under-occupying a three-bedroom home in Lancaster faces losing up to £20 per week of their housing benefit – or £1015 per year.

Such a household would be forced to choose between going into debt, struggling to meet payments by cutting back on essentials, or trying to move – even if no suitable alternative properties are available.

Under the current system, social landlords allocate families a home based on an assessment of their needs. This may mean that teenagers are given their own bedroom and an additional bedroom may be provided to young couples planning to start a family. Where a family is out of work, housing benefit covers the rent, which is far lower than in the private rented sector.

Under the new size criteria, a family may be penalised for “under-occupying” even where every bedroom in the home is in regular use. For example, benefit may be cut where teenagers have been given their own bedroom, rather than being forced to share. Separated parents will be penalised for keeping a “spare” bedroom for when their children visit. And foster parents will receive a cut even where their bedrooms are occupied by foster children, who for benefit purposes do not count as part of the household.

Anyone deemed to be under-occupying by one bedroom stands to lose up to 15% of their housing benefit and those considered to have two or more “spare” bedrooms – even if they are in use – will lose up to 25% of their benefit. Two-thirds of those affected are disabled, the Department for Work and Pensions has admitted.

Federation analysis, using new figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government, shows that the average social sector rent for three-bedroom properties in Lancaster is £78. This means affected families face losing between £12 and £20 per week – or between £609 and £1015 per year.

The under-occupation penalty, part of the Welfare Reform Bill, will hit 670,000 working-age families across the country when it comes into force in April 2013. The total affected is forecast to rise to 760,000 by 2020 as the state pension credit age increases.

Ahead of the Bill’s Report Stage in the House of Lords, scheduled to begin on 12th December, the National Housing Federation is calling on the Government to make the rules more flexible, to allow one additional bedroom above that permitted by the proposed criteria. Crossbench peer Lord Best plans to table an amendment to this effect but it will need the support of peers from across the political spectrum to stand a chance of making the statute books.

Jon Longden, lead manager for the North West for the National Housing Federation, said: “We have been deeply concerned about this bedroom tax for some time but these new figures show the damage will be far worse than previously thought.

“Hard-up families in Lancaster face penalties of up to £1015 a year simply because the Government have deemed their homes are suddenly too big for their needs.

“This will have disastrous implications for a huge number of people already struggling to make ends meet in the tough economic climate, including foster carers, grandparents, disabled people and smaller families.

Mr Longden added: “In the vast majority of cases, people will simply not be able to make up the shortfall themselves and could end up being sucked into poverty and spiralling levels of debt.”

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Police appeal following serious assault in Morecambe

Police are appealing for information following a serious assault in Morecambe.   

The incident happened at around 8:30pm on Monday 5th December at an address on Waterside Place.   

Two men have approached the house and gained entry to the property and have assaulted the 40 year old man in front of his own family, including his two young children. The victim sustained a broken arm during the assault after being attacked with a metal bar.   

The attackers are described as being in their late teens and one was wearing a balaclava and the other was carrying a knife.   

Detective Inspector Joanna Dent from Lancaster CID said, “I would appeal to anyone who has information about this incident to come forward and contact police.   

“This is a sickening assault on a man in front of his young children. It must have been a terrifying ordeal for the man and his family and an investigation is underway to identify those responsible.”   

Anyone with information is asked to call Morecambe police on 0845 1 25 35 45.  

People with information can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court

Police appeal following assault in Morecambe pub

Police in Morecambe are appealing for information after a man was assaulted at the King's Arms Pub on Marine Road.

The incident happened between 2.00 and 2.30am on 19th November. The victim, an 18 year old local man was attacked by another man and punched to the face and kicked. He received cuts and bruises and a fractured cheekbone.

Officers have searched CCTV and released images of a man they would like to speak to in connection with the attack.

PC Nicola Hayton from Morecambe Police said, “I would appeal to anyone who recognises the man in the picture to come forward and contact police. I would also ask anyone who witnessed the incident or has information that will assist our investigation to come forward.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Morecambe police on 0845 1 25 35 45. People with information can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.

Christmas refuse and recycling collections

Don’t forget to check your collections calendar as there will be changes to refuse and recycling collections over the Christmas and New Year period.

From Monday 26th December to Friday 6th January, all collections will be one day later than usual.

Christmas 2011

• Normal collection day: Monday December 26   Will be collected on: Tuesday December 27
• Normal collection day: Tuesday December 27   Will be collected on: Wednesday December 28
• Normal collection day: Wednesday December 28   Will be collected on: Thursday December 29
• Normal collection day: Thursday December 29   Will be collected on: Friday December 30
• Normal collection day: Friday December 30    Will be collected on: Saturday December 31

New Year 2012

• Normal collection day: Monday January 2    Will be collected on: Tuesday January 3
• Normal collection day: Tuesday January 3    Will be collected on: Wednesday January 4
• Normal collection day: Wednesday January 4  Will be collected on: Thursday January 5
• Normal collection day: Thursday January 5    Will be collected on: Friday January 6
• Normal collection day: Friday January 6    Will be collected on: Saturday January 7
Remember to recycle as much as possible this festive season.  Most of the additional waste generated at Christmas can be recycled including glass, cans, plastic bottles, Christmas cards and wrapping paper, and not forgetting your food waste.

Although no additional recycling service will be provided, Lancaster City Council will always collect extra recyclables put out for collection.  Additional paper, card, cans and plastic bottles can be put out in separate, clearly labelled carrier bags, but please ensure all glass is inside a recycling box.

If you need a collection calendar please visit or phone customer services on 01524 582491.

Christmas trees can be recycled at Keer Bridge or Salt Ayre Household Waste Recycling Centres, or can be cut down to fit into your green garden bin. 

Alternatively, St John’s Hospice will once again be collecting recycling Christmas trees during the weekend of 7 and 8 January, in exchange for a donation of £5 to the charity.  Collections must be booked in advance.  For more information visit or telephone 01524 382538.

Police appeal after man abused and assaulted

CCTV of a man and a woman police want to speak with in connection with an incident in which a man was racially abused and assaulted outside McDonalds, Lancaster, last month.
Police are appealing for information after a man was racially abused and assaulted outside McDonalds in Penny Street, Lancaster on Saturday 19th November 2011.

The 29 year old victim, who is Indian, was alone when he was approached by a man around 4.30am on Cheapside who shouted racist comments at him. When he  challenged the man he was punched to the chest and neck.

The offender has then made off towards Skerton where he has continued to shout abuse at the victim.

Police have released a CCTV of a man and a woman they want to speak with in connection with the incident.

"This is a completely unprovoked attack which has left the victim very frightened and upset," says PC Phil Ladlow. “I would urge people to take a close look at the CCTV image and if they recognise either the man or woman I would ask them to call police on 08451 25 35 45.”

The man is described as white, medium build, with short dark hair and wearing a black jumper.

• People with information can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.

Local residents launch community-shared Fibre Optic Broadband Company

Photo courtesy B4RN
Broadband for the Rural North, an exciting community initiative, initially across eight parishes of rural Lancashire, to deliver a world class hyperfast fibre optic broadband network is being launched at The Storey, Lancaster on 15th December.

Broadband has become essential for every sector of the community and increasingly important for our daily lives. Government and the large telecom companies plan to upgrade broadband to ‘superfast’ but not in many rural areas, where limited internet and mobile coverage affects businesses, homes and farms. The difficulty is reaching economic viability when private companies’ costs are so high and subscriber numbers are low.

Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN) plans to lower the costs, both in the building of the broadband network and to the end user, by using local contractors and the community.

“Farmers and local people have the skillset we need for this project,"says B4RN Chief Executive Professor Barry Forde. "They know the land and people, and have been offering to work for shares, which means the digging for the core network can start early in 2012."

A networking expert with many years experience of designing, building and operating high performance networks, the professor was responsible for the CLEO network which provides connectivity to over 1000 schools and public sector sites across Lancashire and Cumbria.

"We expect this [core newtwork build] to be completed in approximately three months, weather permitting, and then we will begin to connect the first users,” he added.

Phase 1 rollout map of the B4RN project
B4RN has been more than three years in the planning and development stage, aiming to bring a state of the art, fibre optic broadband connection to the rural communities long before most of the urban areas. Rural Lancashire plans to be a world leader in “hyperfast” and shares in the company will be available from 15th December.

B4RN’s plans are for a hyperfast broadband network fit for purpose far into this century. A 1 gigabit (1000Mbps) connection will ensure that any interaction with the Internet will be quick and easy. Television, films, cheap phone and video calls over the Internet, the ability to extend local mobile phone networks to cover black-spots, local security, telehealth and medicine applications - all will become possible. B4RN will be initially be providing the broadband connection and VoIP telephony, with further services to follow as the network rolls out over the coming years.

Barry Forde, B4RN Chief Executive, will explain the project and launch the share offer in the company at the event to raise the necessary capital required over the next few months. Representatives from the first phase communities of Melling, Arkholme, Quernmore, Abbeystead, Wray, Tatham, Roeburndale, Wennington and Caton with Littledale will be at the event as well as local dignitaries and celebrities.

B4RN is a community benefit company, owned by its shareholders. Income made will be re-invested in the service and spent within the communities the company serves. The shares are being made available under the EIS (Enterprise Investment Scheme) that offers 30% tax relief, with a minimum investment of £100 and maximum of £20,000.

A target of 662 registrations of interest were required for a green light and this was passed in just three months. The project moves one step closer to implementation with the launch of the Share Issue. “The phased network will be built by the community over three years for the seven phases.

"Now we have passed our target of over 700 registrations of interest in investment and taking a service at £30/month for 1Gbps, we can proceed to raise the capital required for Phase 1,” says Barry.

B4RN hopes to attract the support of local, national and international investors, whilst remaining a truly community-run business, bringing fast, future-proof, sustainable Internet access to the rural uplands, for this generation and those to come, leaving a lasting legacy for the area.

Christine Conder, a farmer’s wife and rural broadband pioneer, who successfully dug and installed the first rural fibre cable to her farm in Wray in 2009, knows it can be done and sums up the enthusiasm and ethos of B4RN,

“If we don’t do it ourselves then it will never get done, so B4RN is the answer, let’s all JFDI.”

The full business plan is available on the website, along with details of the pricing and payment structure for local residents and businesses. This includes bonuses of free install and connection for 12 months with a £1500 investment, three further free months for early bird investors, and payment in shares for involvement in the deployment of the project.

• Further information and share application forms will be available on the website on 15th December

Monday, 5 December 2011

Court Watch: man charged in connection with bus assaults

32-year-old Sherif Elsayed has been charged with six counts of sexual assault on a female following a police appeal last month.

Elsayed, a student at Chester University, appeared at Preston Magistrates Court on Saturday (3 December).

Police appealed for information after two indecent assaults on buses in Lancaster, both on young women believed to be students at Lancaster University, in early November.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Lancaster Cold Call Burglar gets four years

James Stovold
A burglar who targeted an elderly woman days after being released from prison for an earlier offence against her has been jailed for four years.

James Stovold, of Windholme, Lancaster, has also been handed a CRASBO which will prevent him from cold calling at people’s homes to try and carry out building or maintenance work.

On 27th July, 28-year-old Stovold called at the Beaumont home of a 78-year-old woman who suffers from dementia and after gaining access to the address told her that she owed him money for work that he had done on her house. Stovold had in fact not carried out any work and a maintenance man who was legitimately in the property became suspicious and contacted the police.

Officers quickly established that the caller at the property was Stovold as he had previously targeted the pensioner and had only just been released from prison for the offence.

At a previous hearing at Preston Crown Court, Stovold pleaded guilty to burglary with intent to steal. Appearing on Friday for sentence, Stovold was jailed for four years. He was also given a 10-year CRASBO which bans him from calling at private dwellings uninvited in order to secure or carry out building repairs or maintenance work. It also prevents him from contacting his previous victims. The conditions will come into force when he is released from prison.

Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Constable Sue Palmer, Lancaster CID, said: “Stovold saw an opportunity to prey on a vulnerable woman who he had already stolen from and who he knew he could take advantage of. His intentions were brazen and callous. Fortunately the quick thinking of a man who was legitimately working at the property prevented this from happening.

“The sentence handed to him should act as a deterrent to other criminals and also provides protection to the elderly members of our community.”

Local Councillor welcomes Disability Living Allowance changes

Local Councillor for Harbour Ward Ian Pattison has hailed the decision to preserve the mobility element of Disability Living Allowance.

The mobility element of DLA currently amounts to £51 per week and ensures approximately 80,000 people across the country with a large proportion in the Lancaster and Morecambe area are given the additional support that they need to live a comfortable life.

Labour Party Councillor Pattison joined local disability campaigners earlier this year on a mass rally of the Hardest Hit by cuts to disability benefits in Manchester. Campaigners are concerned about the impact of the Government’s welfare reforms on their independence and benefits.

“I have been working with campaigners in Lancaster and Morecambe and we intend to launch a Hardest Hit campaign here in the district to press the Government into keeping services and funding for the most vulnerable," he said. "The mobility element of DLA is a lifeline for disabled people in Lancaster and Morecambe and ensures that disabled people have the opportunity to lead independent lives.”

“This u-turn by the Tory-led Government shows that their policies simply need to be thought through and planned out with more consideration for the people that will be affected. The Low Review which has proved that the Government’s plans to scrap the mobility element of DLA would critically reduce the ability of disabled people to have control of their lives.”

The Government confirmed to MPs that the plans to cut the mobility element of DLA would now be withdrawn from the Welfare Reform Bill.

“It is crucial that the most vulnerable people are protected from Government cuts," Councillor Pattison added, "and I will be working to make sure provisions and services for disabled people are maintained.”

Friday, 2 December 2011

University of Cumbria’s financial plan ahead of schedule

The University of Cumbria Board met this week and approved the financial statements for the 2010/11 financial year which sees the university’s financial plan ahead of schedule and its Vice Chancellor bullish about the future of the institution.

Building on last year's surplus the university has again achieved an operating surplus of £6.6m and an overall surplus after exceptional items of £9.4m.

This follows the completion of a number of cost saving measures including prudent management of budgets within various departments, restructuring of faculties and services as well as streamlining management systems and processes. The ambition of the plan is to ensure the university continues to operate in surplus year on year while starting to invest in estate and IT to enhance student and staff facilities and technology supporting the university as it moves forward with its strategic ambitions over the next phase of development.

“The financial plan that was put in place gave us a solid platform to invest in our future," notes Vice Chancellor Professor Strike. "There are still many challenges ahead with the changes in the fee regime for 2012/13 however I believe that the University of Cumbria is in good place to face these new challenges and continue to build on the successful turnaround of the last 18 months.

"Despite the significant financial challenges and major change programme to support the turnaround of the financial performance, our staff have continued to focus on our core business," he added. "As we witnessed at our graduation ceremonies last week our students continue to deliver great achievements that build on our national and international reputation.

"Interest in studying at the University of Cumbria continues to be high, this year's National Student Survey saw us improve student satisfaction in almost all categories compared to last year's results and our reputation for delivering high quality degree programmes has been acknowledged through our latest Ofsted reports and Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education assessment.

"With such good foundations to build on, and working together, I am confident that the University of Cumbria will go from strength to strength whilst maintaining the student experience, the quality of our academic programmes and continuing to meet the needs of the communities which we serve."

• The full set of the financial statements can be found at:

Eat out safely this Christmas - look before you book!

Lancaster City Council is encouraging everyone making plans for festive gatherings to check the hygiene rating score of your restaurant, hotel or pub.

With Christmas fast approaching, plans are being made for celebrations with family, friends and work colleagues and the council advises that when checking out the menu it’s wise to check out the food hygiene rating as well.

Good food hygiene is getting easier to spot these days since the recent introduction of the National Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. Restaurants, pubs, hotels, (as well as cafes, takeaways and other places that sell or serve food) are now being rated from 0 - 5 on their hygiene standards when a food hygiene inspection is carried out by Lancaster City Council.

It’s easy to check out the ratings by looking them up online at:

Christmas party goers can also look out for the distinctive green and black stickers that businesses are encouraged to display at their outlets to tell their customers the rating they were given.

“When dining out, you’ll choose to go to a place where you like the food and you know you’ll have a good time," says Coun Karen Leytham, Cabinet member with responsibility for environmental health. "It makes sense to look before you book and check out the food hygiene rating as well.

"Nobody wants to have their Christmas festivities ruined and as far as food hygiene ratings go there’s safety in numbers - so it’s good to know.”

The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is not, the Council is keen to point out, a guide to food quality. When the business is inspected by Lancaster City Council, the food safety officer will look at how well the business is meeting the law on food hygiene. This includes how hygienically the food is handled in preparation, cooking, cooling and storage; the condition and structure of the building including cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation, equipment etc, and how the business manages and records what it does to make sure food is safe.

Any business should be able to achieve the top rating of ‘5’. If not, local authority food safety officers will explain to the person who owns or manages the business if improvements need to be made; what they are and how they can achieve a higher rating.

• As the Scheme is still relatively new, not all food businesses will have a rating yet and will therefore not be listed on the website:

M6 Junction roadworks

The Highways Agency has been in touch to advise that there will be a full night time closure of the southbound exit slip at Junction 33 of the M6 between Fleetwood and Lancaster while permanent barriers are installed.

The closure will be in operation from 8.00pm on Saturday 10th December until 6.00am on Sunday 11th December.

There will be a fully signed diversion in place during that time.

Animal Christmas Fair this weekend in Morecambe

If you don't already know, Animal Care's Christmas Fair will be on Sunday 4th December at the Platform, Morecambe between 11.30 to 3.30.

If you can get along and support their efforts to rehome and help animals abandonned through no fault of their own, the charity would be very grateful.

Monies raised will help keep Ant (above) and sister Amy fed, who came to Animal Care last July, when they were just a couple of months old. Sadly, they did find a new home and left the sanctuary for a couple of weeks but had to return as their new family no longer wanted them!

"Since they have come back no one has shown any interest in them which is such a shame as they really are a couple of complete and utter cutie-pies," say Animal Care. "They are very friendly and love getting lots of cuddles from anyone they meet and they are also very playful and love chasing around after their toys.

"Ant is probably the most forward of the two and Amy is a little shyer, but not much! They would make a great addition to almost any family and they are keeping their little paws tightly crossed that their new family finds them very soon so they can finally know what it's like to have a special place to call home."

And of course there are dogs like Jack Russell Terrier Freddie, a really friendly little lad who is desperate to feel loved and wanted again. He loves getting lots of attention and cuddles from anyone he meets.

"He's fine around other dogs but we don't know how he is around cats," say Animal Care. "He's not happy around young and noisy children so we will only rehome to a family with kids over the age of 15 who understand that he doesn't like to be teased.

"All Freddie, who does need to lose some weight, wants is a relaxed and chilled out life in a quiet home with a family who will love and care for him always."

Could you be the family for him?

• If you're interested in having a stall at the event, or could bake cake for them to sell at the fair, or if you can help in any way, please ring 01524 65495 and ask for Faye or Linda or email

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Reindeer at Old Holly Farm

The award-winning Old Holly Farm on the A6 toward Garstang has three reindeer on show this December.

Originally from Lapland, two of the reindeer and a yearling, above, are helping keep children enthralled along with the Farm's other animals - calves, chicks, rabbits and more.

"We are helping them get their strength up for an important jobs on Christmas Eve," a spokesperson revealed. "They will be back from the 27th December for a week before they go home!"

The reindeer will be at the Farm until 6th January 2011. There is a 50p admission charge to see them. Old Holly Farm is easy to find, on the main A6 road, just 2 miles north of Garstang. Travelling from the north, leave the M6 at junction 33, taking the A6 signposted for Garstang, about 5 miles from the junction you will see a sign a petrol garage, then a brown sign for Old Holly Farm - both on the left. Take the next road immediately on the right, which is called Cabus Nook Lane, the farm is immediately on the left.

Car parking for Old Holly Farm visitors is via the second farm entrance and is clearly signposted. Please be aware that the A6 has a speed limit of 50mph so you will need to slow in order to turn safely.

Web site:

Christmas drink and drug driving crackdown begins

Lancashire Constabulary’s Christmas drink and drug driving campaign gets underway today (Thursday 1 December).

The festive crackdown will see high-profile enforcement activity taking place across the county throughout the month of December, including checkpoints at key locations where officers will administer drink and drugs tests.

“We want people to enjoy the festive season but to remember the consequences of driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs," said Supterintendent Peter O’Dwyer.

“Statistics show that around one in six fatal collisions in Lancashire involve either drink or drugs or both and this is simply not acceptable.

“The consequences of drink driving are high," he added. "If you drive at twice the legal alcohol limit you are at least 30 times more likely to cause a road crash than a driver who hasn’t been drinking, potentially resulting in serious injury or death.

“A conviction could also mean that you lose your job, home, family and friends. The consequences can be absolutely devastating.

“The only safe option is not to drive if you plan to drink.”

Tim Ashton, Lancashire County Council's Cabinet member for highways and transport, said: "We work very hard to reduce the number of people killed or injured on our roads but all that effort counts for nothing if individuals make the decision to drink and drive.

"Drink driving can result in serious or even fatal collisions and you won't just ruin Christmas for you and your family – your actions could have serious long term consequences for yourself and others. Even a conviction could make a big difference to your life.

"If you think for just one second about what could happen, the decision whether to drink and drive is very easy – it's a risk that's simply not worth taking."

The number of people caught drink and drug driving continues to fall in Lancashire, with two per cent of the 10,006 people tested during last year’s Christmas campaign failing or refusing a test.

“Whilst the figures suggest that there are now less people getting behind the wheel after drinking, one person driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs is too many," says Superinendent Dwyer.

“Our message is simple – do not drink and drive and do not take drugs and drive.”

Police are also urging revellers to take care during the party season and have issued the following advice:

  • If you are going out and drinking, plan how you are going to get home and stick to that plan
  • Try to keep to busy well-lit areas, don't take short cuts and walk away from bushes and buildings
  • Where possible, don't walk alone after dark. Take someone you know with you.
  • Always walk facing oncoming traffic
  • To avoid delay, have your keys ready when you are approaching your car or home.
  • Never accept lifts from strangers
  • When telephoning for a taxi, ask for the driver's name and check this when they arrive

The campaign will run until Sunday 1st January 2012.

• If you would like to report someone who you suspect of driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs, contact the police on 0845 1 25 35 45

ASBO bans man from Lancaster city centre

Benjamin Lunn
26-year-old Benjamin Lunn has been given an ASBO banning him from Lancaster’s shops following a campaign of harassment against workers in the city’s stores.

Lunn, who lives in Briery Street, was given the anti-social behaviour order after magistrates heard how he had subjected shop staff to persistent abuse and threats while he was trying to shoplift.

The city centre neighbourhood police team presented evidence to show that Lunn would intimidate workers by glaring at shop assistants and also making verbal threats or approaching them while they were with their children out of work.

Lunn and his girlfriend Shallane Forsythe – who was given a similar ASBO in October (see news story) - also followed young female workers home once they had finished their shifts in a bid to scare them.

The anti-social behaviour order, which will run for two years, prevents Lunn from entering stores in Lancaster, including Sainsbury’s and the Kingsway retail park, at any time. It also prevents him from behaving, or making others behave, in a way which causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to another person.

PC Emma Gornall, Lancaster city centre neighbourhood policing team, said: “Lunn and Forsythe have been an intimidating presence when they have gone into the city’s stores, glaring at staff, shouting abuse at them and even threatening them.

"The shop staff have just been trying to go about their work, and they should be able to do so while feeling safe in their work place.

“We are committed to making sure the city is not blighted by the type of behaviour exhibited by this pair and will continue to use tactics such as ASBOs to rid our community of such nuisance.”