Friday, 11 March 2011

Police appeal after attempted armed robbery

Lancaster police are appealing for witnesses to come forward after an attempted armed robbery at the Costcutters store on Mainway, Lancaster, earlier this week.

At about 8.00pm on  Wednesday 9th March a man wearing a balaclava entered the store and threatened a member of staff with what is believed to be a hand gun. A second man kept watch at the door.

Both offenders then ran away from the store empty handed after being approached by a second member of staff.

Police have issued a CCTV image from the incident and are appealing for witnesses.

The main offender with the hand gun is described as white, slim build, around 6 feet tall. He was wearing a black balaclava with the eye holes and mouth holes cut out, dark grey hooded top and dark bottoms.

The second offender was wearing dark coloured clothing.

“Any offence involving a firearm is extremely serious," commented Detective Sergeant Colin Forsyth from Lancaster CID, "and we would appeal to anybody who has information about to contact police immediately”

• Police are appealing for any information or witnesses to come forward and contact them on 08451 25 35 45 or to contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111

Scotforth Residents see Red over Supermarket plans

Protestors will be gathering in Scotforth tomorrow afternoon (Saturday 11th March) to campaign against two proposed out-of-town supermarkets -- which would create a traffic nightmare for residents and suck trade from the city centre.

In either April or May, Lancaster City Council will decide whether to approve planning applications for two new supermarkets, a hotel, petrol station and 500-space car park at Lawson’s Bridge – the fields to the west of Scotforth Road near the University they sold back in 2008, to the dismay of residents.

One of the proposed supermarkets is a replacement Booths store, with the possibility of a cheaper food shop like Aldi taking over the existing Booths store.

The other out-of-town supermarket is likely to be a much bigger Tesco or Asda, creating a horrible ‘big box’ entrance to Lancaster and sucking trade away from the city centre.

Campaigners against the plans day this store would be 57 per cent bigger than the Lancaster Sainsbury’s, about twice as big as the new Booths and over five times bigger than the existing Booths. One third of its floorspace would be for ‘comparison goods’ (clothes, electrical items, furnishings, etc).

The traffic assessments predict that there will be severe congestion in Scotforth if these plans are approved - and that's on top of the problems the building of the first phase of the Bailrigg Science Park which already has planning permission, may cause.

If you've ever tried to get out of Lancaster after work down the A6, be warned that it's entirely possible the afternoon ‘rush hour’ will be more like three hours long, with queues of 235 vehicles at the Boot & Shoe crossroads heading north. Buses will get stuck in these huge traffic jams, as well as cars and commercial vehicles.

Some local councillors don't seem to think any of this will be a problem - in fact, readers may recall Labour Councillor Sheila Denwood merrily dismissed resident concerns about future use when it was sold off (see news story), claiming that the idea that it would  be sold for a supermarket was just a myth.

• If you don't like the sound of this, then Green Councillor Emily Heath has organized a protest and photo shoot this Saturday (12th March). Meet at 3.00pm by Rowley Court (opposite the Boot & Shoe and please wear red (for ‘Residents see red...’) if possible. Everyone welcome!

• More info from or call 01524 380169.

Claughton Moor wind farm appeal withdrawn

Community Windpower Ltd have withdrawn their appeal against the council’s decision to refuse planning permission for a 20 turbine wind farm development on land at Claughton Moor - but a similar proposal, but with less turbines, is still on the table.

Lancaster City Council’s Planning Committee voted to refuse planning permission for the turbines in March 2010 on the grounds of the impact on the landscape and biodiversity in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The plans had met with widespread local opposition.

The Planning Inspectorate, the government service that deals with planning appeals, was due to hold a public inquiry in May to determine the appeal but this has now been cancelled.

As we previously reported, Community Windpower  submitted a second application in November 2010 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.

 That application is still being considered by the council’s planning department.

• Details of this application can be viewed on the council’s Public Access web site,  by searching for application number 10/01151/FUL.

Vehicles seized after Lancaster Farms contraband crackdown

Over 80 visitors to Lancaster Farms young offenders institute were searched by police in a crackdown on contraband items making their way into the establishment - and items seized as a result.

The activity was carried out as part of regular checks on those entering the Lancaster Young Offenders Institute, to prevent items such as drugs or mobile phones being smuggled inside by visitors.

During a two-hour period on Wednesday, 27 vehicles and 82 people were searched by officers and three vehicles were seized as a result. Three endorsable and five non endorsable fines were also issued and two people were reported for summons for driving offences.

“It is important that contraband items, such as drugs and mobile phones, are prevented from entering the establishment," notes Inspector Geoff Tagg from Lancashire Police.

"Those visiting Lancaster YOI need to be aware that if they are asked to bring a contraband item into the prison they are committing an offence by carrying out this request and checks will be made to ensure this does not happen.”

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Nomination packs available for prospective local election candidates

Nomination packs are now available for people thinking of standing as a councillor in this May’s local elections on 5th May, which will see new city councillors elected to represent local people until 2015.

Nominations close at noon on 4th April 2011 and forms are available to collect from Lancaster Town Hall.

If you’re elected as a councillor you will receive an allowance which recognises the work and commitment that comes with the role.

The current basic annual allowance is £3,300, with committee chairmen and Cabinet members receiving an additional amount to reflect these responsibilities.

Existing councillors agreed the current allowances scheme in February 2011, with the basic allowance being frozen due to the economic circumstances currently faced by the council and the country.

Other allowances were also altered, with the overall effect being a reduced budget of around 5% in the next financial year.

"Becoming a local councillor can be a very rewarding experience," said a council spokesperson. "It offers a unique opportunity to make a difference to your community and to help shape, direct and monitor the services which affect the people who live in, work in and visit the Lancaster district."

• For more information on standing for election as a city councillor telephone the elections helpline on 01524 582915 or email

• Elections for parish councillors in the area are also being held on the same day. Parish Clerks will have nomination packs available from 21st March. The timetable for nominations is the same.

Local band HowdenJones set to launch seventh album

Local band HowdenJones - currently between gigs in sunny Devon, on our ten day tour of beautiful places in the South-West - are about to release their seventh album.

 "plaything is now being manufactured for release on the 18th March 2011," Kate Howden and Paul Jones tell us.

Singer-songwriters with that special magic that has captivated many audiences, Kate and Paul have been playing together since 1999 as howdenjones and ‘cut their teeth’ as performers on the folk circuit at folk clubs and festivals all over the country.

As contemporary musicians they enjoy travelling and sharing their experiences, creating new music inspired by the places they visit and the people they meet.

"We have had great fun recording this album, with long nights of concentration and some fantastic moments of hilarity in rehearsals," they say. "It's been quite a project, with guest musicians, including Laurence Canty on bass, Trevor Wagstaff on drums and percussion, Fred Binley on piano,  Bill Roberts, piano on 'up here' and Kate's son Lewin Cantor on electric guitar. "

Listen to "up here", a track from the album (MP3)

plaything will be launched with a concert on Friday 18th March at The Platform, Morecambe (Box Office: 01524 582803).  The album will be available at the gig or by pre-order on the music shop page of the howdenjones website (, with copies available after the 18th March.

Students' Union to help run activities day for children with disabilities

Volunteers from the University of Cumbria Students’ Union have signed up to help organise and run an activities and information day for families of children with disabilities.

The free event will take place on Saturday 26 March, at Salt Ayre Sports Centre from 11.00 to 16.00, and 25 students have given up their time to help out.

This annual event has been organised by North Lancashire District Group (NLDG) – a partnership of representatives from the University of Cumbria Students’ Union, Lancaster City Council, Lancashire County Council, Lonsdale District Carers, Contact a Family and Scope Face2face.

The day is designed to enable the families of children with disabilities to access support and information about local activities and agencies, and to provide an opportunity for the children to try out activities such as trampolining, boccia, cycling, arts and crafts, tai chi and multi-skills.

The students will help set up the venue, assist in running the activities, making sure the event runs smoothly and supporting families to enjoy their day.

“This is such a great opportunity for our students to have a positive impact on local families and gain valuable experience working with community organisations” says Emma Egglestone, Volunteering Support and Development Manager for the Students’ Union.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Life is a 'Cabaret' for Grammar School students

The cast of Cabaret, this year's joint musical show from students of Lancaster Royal Grammar School and Lancaster Girls' Grammar School. Photo: John Charles Taylor (
Students from Lancaster Royal Grammar School and Lancaster Girls’ Grammar School are taking on the grim but compelling play Cabaret for their joint theatre production at Lancaster's Grand Theatre later this month.

Cabaret is set in 1930s Berlin, as the Nazis rise to power, in the seedy Kit Kat Klub. The musical tells the story of the 19-year-old English cabaret performer Sally Bowles and her relationship with a young American writer and promises to be an extravagant evening’s entertainment, with some standout musical performances of many show-stopping hits, including the MC’s Willkommen, and Sally Bowles’ powerful solo Cabaret.

A sub-plot of the play involves the doomed romance between German boarding house owner Fräulein Schneider and her elderly suitor Herr Schultz, a Jewish fruit vendor. Overseeing the action is the Master of Ceremonies at the Kit Kat Klub which serves as a constant metaphor for the tenuous and threatening state of late Weimar Germany throughout the show.

Based on John Van Druten's 1951 play I Am a Camera, which in turn was adapted from the novel Goodbye To Berlin by Christopher Isherwood, the 1966 Broadway production became a hit and spawned a 1972 film as well as numerous subsequent productions.

The annual Lancaster Royal Grammar School-Lancaster Girls Grammar School joint musical productions are always very popular and this year’s show promises to be no exception.

Cabaret takes place at the Grand Theatre Lancaster from Wednesday 16th to Saturday 19th March at 7pm.

• Tickets for Cabaret are available for £9 (concessions/children £6) from the Grand Theatre box office (01524 64695) and the school offices at LRGS (01524 580600) and LGGS (01524 32010).

Monday, 7 March 2011

Council's chief executive hits back on Conservative 'gagging' claim

Mark Cullinan, Lancaster City Council’s chief executive, has responded to claims from Conservative councillor Roger Mace that he was effectively 'gagged' from speaking on a proposal to consider take action on the escalating costs of Lancaster Market, which might include a move to the City Museum at last week's Full Council meeting (see news story).

“Following the proposal of the motion on Lancaster Market by Councillor Peter Williamson, a procedural motion was proposed by Councillor Jon Barry to go straight to the vote," Mr Cullinan told virtual-lancaster.

“Once a closure motion has been proposed and seconded it has to be dealt with before any other amendment can be considered, as set out in the council’s rules of procedure.

“The mayor, Councillor Tony Wade, as chairman of the meeting, did, however, ask if any councillor wished to speak against the motion. As no councillor indicated that they wished to do so, the procedural motion was put to the vote and was carried.

“As a result, Council procedures provided no further opportunity for any amendment from any councillor.”

The full minute from the meeting reads as follows:


The following motion, of which notice had been given to the Chief Executive in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 15, was moved by Councillor Williamson and seconded by Councillor Histed:

“This Council considers that the current cost of Lancaster indoor market based in the Market Building, estimated at £500k per annum and increasing, is unacceptable and that action to reduce these costs is required.”

Councillor Barry put forward a procedural motion, seconded by Councillor Kerr:

“That the motion be put straight to the vote.”

The Mayor then asked Council if any Members wished to speak against the motion. As no Member indicated, the Mayor put the procedural motion to Council.

A vote was taken on the procedural motion. With many voting for and few against, the Mayor declared the procedural motion to be clearly carried and asked that a vote be taken on the original motion.

A vote was then taken on the original motion without further debate. With many Members voting for the motion and few against, the Mayor declared the motion clearly carried.

Resolved: This Council considers that the current cost of Lancaster indoor market based in the Market Building, estimated at £500k per annum and increasing, is unacceptable and that action to reduce these costs is required.