Friday, 17 June 2011

Used Car Warning after stolen cars sold over internet

Lancashire police are warning members of the public to be particularly vigilant if considering buying a used car.

The warning comes after a spate of reports of stolen and cloned vehicles over recent weeks.

In the past fortnight, police have received six reports from people who have bought second hand cars that have been advertised on the internet that it transpires have been stolen and cloned using another vehicles’ identity.

Detective Sergeant Simon Ingham, from the Organised Vehicle Crime Team said; “This type of criminality has a huge impact on the victims who are targeted as they are often left thousands of pounds out of pocket, with no way of getting their money back.

“We would send a strong warning to people who think they can get away with cloning cars and selling them on to innocent people – you will be targeted and you will be caught and brought to justice. I would also like to reassure members of the public that Lancashire Constabulary is taking robust action against those who clone and sell stolen vehicles.

DS Ingham continued: “People should exercise great caution when buying second handcars from private sales. We are currently working very closely with organisations such as Auto Trader in order to eradicate this type of crime. My advice would be to avoid paying cash where possible, otherwise ask for and record some form of credible identification from the seller and never meet in a car park or similar type of venue in order to complete the purchase of a car.

“If purchasers are taken to a private address make sure the seller actually lives there.
A genuine seller shouldn’t object to this type of checking particularly if they want to achieve a sale. If in doubt walk away and inform the police or contact Crimestoppers. Never buy a car without a log book.

Police are also warning car owners to be extra vigilant in order to prevent their cars from being stolen through ‘car key burglaries’ – as this is quite often the first link in the car cloning chain.

Newer cars, which are often targeted for cloning, are difficult to steal so offenders are resorting to stealing keys left on show by using a hook or cane to retrieve them through an unlocked window, letterbox or cat-flap – people can prevent this by ensuring car keys are kept securely out of the way.

• Anyone with any information that could be useful to police can call Lancashire Constabulary on 08451 25 35 45 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Brace yourselves for a bathe: Morecambe's water is lovely

Bathing in Morecambe Bay has never been better, according to the Government.

Responding to a parliamentary question from local MP David Morris about improvements in water quality over the last 30 years, Richard Benyon, Under Secretary of State (Natural Environment and Fisheries), Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) told him bathing water quality in Morecambe has improved over the last 30 years as a result of significant investment - and it should improve further soon.

"The National Environment Programme that forms part of United Utilities' Asset Management Plan for 2010-15 includes 10 schemes designed to improve bathing water quality in the Morecambe area," he explained.

"Natural England and the Environment Agency have proposed a two-year partnership project on the lower River Lune estuary under DEFRA's Catchment Sensitive Farming initiative. This would promote voluntary action by farmers and other land managers to tackle diffuse water pollution from agriculture."

In addition, an urban diffuse pollution project by United Utilities is nearing completion, which examines surface water outfalls along the Heysham and Morecambe sea front and has highlighted several areas of concern that the Environment Agency is working closely with United Utilities to resolve.

All good news, it seems for local tourism and would-be bathers. Now we just need a decent summer to persuade us further!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Missing Barrow woman may be in Lancaster area

Police are concerned for the welfare of 69-yr-old Patricia Jarvis from Greengate Street, Barrow, who has been missing from her home address since yesterday morning.

Patricia may be in the Cumbria area but may also have travelled to Blackpool or the wider Lancaster area.

Patricia did not return after leaving her home, which she shares with her sister, at 09:45 am on the 13 June 2011, stating that she was going shopping. The police would like to hear from anyone who knows of her whereabouts or who thinks they have seen her since yesterday.

Patricia is described as slim, around 5ft 1” tall with very-long blond straight hair. She was last seen wearing a burgundy cardigan, possibly blue jeans, a blue waterproof jacket and grey boots with turn down tops. She was carrying a black handbag with sparkly writing.

• If you have any information call Cumbria Police of 0845 33 00 247.

Transport group anger at County's attempts to restrict Link debate

Local transport campaign group Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe has hit out at Lancashire County Council's attempts to stifle debate on the M6 link during a new consultation programme, which runs until the end of July.

As we reported earlier, Lancashire County Council is hosting more consultations about the Heysham M6 Link this week.

The Council has, however, decreed that local people can only express their views on the recent changes, not the whole scheme. In their notes explaining “What is the consultation about?” they state the route and road type, design standards, and landscape and ecology proposals, “will not be open for consultation or change”. Methods of construction, and landscape and ecology proposals (unfixed), are.

As we reported, under the terms of the scheme's consideration by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (PDF link), it is apparent that the Infrastructure Planning Commission, which will consider the scheme, made it clear to the County Council that it is possible for residents to comment on the entire scheme.

The IPC’s requirements for consultation clearly stress  the importance of early involvement and allowing the public to influence the way projects are developed by providing feedback on potential options.

TSLM argues that by trying to restrict what can be commented on, the Council has made the consultation invalid and that the it does not comply with IPC requirements.

“The application will be for the whole scheme, not just the changes”, says David Gate of TSLM. “The justification on traffic and job numbers is new. The new planning authority lays stress on early and full consultation with the local community. So that consultation should not be restricted – it should be on the whole scheme.”

After the changes to the scheme, required by the government to reduce costs, it will now be submitted to the new planning authority for large building projects, the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC). A submission is expected in September 2011, but IPC procedures require that there should be a full consultation on it with local people first.

“We ask people to attend the consultations and give their views”, says Mr Gate, “but not just on the changes – on the whole scheme. Other solutions, other routes and other engineering designs should be considered and consulted on.”

Monday, 13 June 2011

Chris Bonnington and Helen Skelton back local Uni's special Week

Helen Skelton is backing the University of
Cumbria's part in Universities Week
Monday 13th to Sunday 19th June is national Universities Week, celebrating the ways in which universities and higher education can benefit everybody.

It's also hoped the Week will serve to highlight the range of economic and research roles which the country's higher education sector currently plays.

The University of Cumbria is supporting the Week and has already opened its doors to more than 620 people in Carlisle, Lancaster and Newton Rigg, as part of the Open Day on Saturday 11th June.

The Open Day gave prospective September 2012 students and their guests the opportunity to look around the campus, visit and chat with course leaders and lecturers, seek advice on admissions and funding, and get a feel for life at university after looking at accommodation and meeting student ambassadors.

Universities Week 2011 follows a successful pilot in 2010, which saw 110 universities, 30 major organisations and 35 celebrities taking part in showcasing the work of the higher education sector, offering a variety of local, regional and national activities designed to demonstrate the extraordinary, life-changing work of universities.

This year’s week looks to be an even bigger success with a series of high profile celebrities, such as Patrick Stewart, Philip Treacy and Professor Brian Cox, helping to highlight the benefit of higher education.

Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, which is co-ordinating the Week, said: “In the media maelstrom which currently surrounds higher education funding, it’s easy to lose sight of the huge social, economic and cultural impact of universities.

“The idea behind this campaign is to tell some of the amazing and inspiring stories of why universities matter to the UK, and how they benefit everyone in the country. We were absolutely delighted with the positive response to the Universities Week pilot last year. We are looking to build on that success and urge universities and wider organisations to get involved with the campaign this year, to make it even bigger and better.”

Universities Week 2011 will focus on five key themes including the value universities bring to their communities, the value they bring to local businesses and how the research currently underway will benefit UK society in 20 years’ time.

The University of Cumbria already has some celebrity supporters who champion the work carried out in Cumbria and beyond, including Mountaineer and Honorary Fellow Sir Chris Bonington and former student and Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton.

"There has never been a more challenging time to begin a university education, yet the opportunity it provides can open doors for a lifetime of achievement," feels Chris. "Reaching the highest point on earth requires teamwork, self-motivation and confidence, together with leadership and communication skills. The university provides support to undertake the degree programmes that will start to develop in [students] these practical skills and the academic knowledge that a leader needs. I am delighted to observe the nurturing of young talent of the future, and I hope that they can be equipped with the skills needed to climb their own Everest, whatever the scale of their aspirations.

"The creative industries are hugely important to the UK," argues Helen Skelton, "not just for economic health but for our overall sense of wellbeing and their importance is growing.   The University of Cumbria prepares its students for life as well as work and its strong links with industry are key to ensuring that creative graduates are provided with the right managerial and leadership skills to transform them into creative entrepreneurs. 

"As a graduate of Cumbria Institute of the Arts (a legacy institution of the University of Cumbria) the main thing for me was the practical nature of my course and support from people who were still working within the industry which helped give me a realistic appreciation of working life that made moving from full-time studies into employment possible."

Johnny Rich, editor of the independent university guide, noted that the week will emphasise the positive impact of higher education on society as a whole when it launches later in the month.

"If it were not for universities, we would not have the entrepreneurial inventiveness of the country," he feels, "we wouldn't have the research, we wouldn't have the highly qualified workforce."

• For more information about Universities Week, visit: or follow the campaign on Facebook at

Goodbye to the Guardian

Waiting for a new tenant. Probably another charity shop?

A quicker reminder that, sadly, the Lancaster Guardian no longer has an office in Lancaster itself.

You can still contact the paper's reporters, now based in Morecambe, on 01524 32525. 

The newspaper announced a 'consultation' on its planned office closure in May but the decision seems to have been made pretty quickly as they closed very soon after it was announced, on 3rd June.

Journalists have condemned the cost-saving move.

"Johnstons could at least let the reporters work from home, sparing them the ordeal of the trudge to and from Morecambe in traffic which is never less than horrendous," commented former Guardian reporter Tom Henry. "For a city like Lancaster not to have local journalists working on the patch is appalling.

"They’re called NEWSpapers for a reason, and reporters need to have a local base," said another. "It’s as much about community involvement as coverage."

Strongmen to do battle at Salt Ayre

Graham Hicks
Photo: Lancaster City Council
16 competitors from across Northern England will line-up at Salt Ayre Sports Centre later this month to battle it out for the honour of being crowned England’s strongest man.

The event will take place on Sunday 26th June from 12pm until 4.00pm and see competitors representing the Midlands, North and South England take part in the u105kg (161/2st) section of the competition.

Amongst those taking part will be local man Graham Hicks from Morecambe. Graham won the Northern England’s Strongest Man u105kg at Salt Ayre earlier this year and is hoping for further success at this national level.

All the competitors will have to complete seven strength challenges if they want to take the title. These include lifting a van, loading atlas stones onto a series of platforms and the infamous log lift where the British record of 165kg (26st) is likely to be broken.

• Spectators are welcome. Admission costs £3 adults and £1 children. The event is indoors and seating is provided.

Heysham Link: still time to Make Your View heard

Lancashire County Council will host more consultations about the Heysham M6 Link this week - and opposition continues to the scheme on grounds of cost and location.

There are also concerns that the County may have misled local residents about the nature of the consultation, with press advertisements perhaps giving the impression that only design elements of the road can be considered.

In fact, under the terms of the scheme's consideration by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (PDF), it is clear that it is possible for residents to protest about the entire scheme.

The Commission's document clearly states: "It was specifically noted that the examination will consider the whole scheme as presented to the IPC and not just the amendments to the previously consented scheme."

Despite this, the emphasis of the County' newspaper advertisements, literature, consultation displays and online presentation emphasized the proposed road's design and design changes.

One virtual-lancaster reader told us they were considering complaining about the County's newspapers advertisements to the Advertising Standards Authority.

Other local residents continue to object to the road on the grounds of its proposed route and expense at a time when cuts are being made to our police, health and education services. The scheme's costs are also open-ended – if the road is built and costs more to build, how will County fund it?

Specific concerns raised at consultations include:

  • The County Council claims raising the roundabout at Shefferlands will save £7.3 million, because earth does not have to be removed from site – but in the original plans, no earth was to be removed from site:  is this a real saving?
  • Changing Junction 34 design is said to save £1.8 million – but it was designed to meet safety guidelines – so why is it safe now?
  • The new Lune bridge and road to Shefferlands will be steep – surely this will have added noise impact in Halton?
  • If Shefferlands Roundabout can be raised by 14 metres, why can’t the road be lowered in other places? For example, the Junction at ground level on Torrisholme Road and Lancaster Road, with traffic lights (as in the 1997 plans), instead of a 26 foot flyover?
  • The Council claims reducing lighting on most of the Link will save money – but previously they claimed it was essential for safety – so why is it safe now?
  • Why can't the road not go under, rather than over, the West Coast Main Line and Lancaster Canal (which was proposed in 1997), to make it less a blot on the landscape?
  • The County Council asked businesses to contribute to the scheme, which many businessmen claim is essential, and yet no local business has put their hand in their pocket. If members of the Chamber of Commerce think the road is so vital, why are they so reticent at giving it any financial backing?
Campaign group Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe remains dubious about claimed benefits to traffic flow, employment ebenfits and the road's claimed contribution to the local economy.  They also point out that the County Council has refused to consider cheaper alternatives, or a package of sustainable transport measures, voted for by Lancaster City Council (20 June 2007), drafted by transport experts Faber Maunsell, developed in James Report by local sustainable transport group (PDF here).

"This is not a 'foregone conclusion'," says TSLM chair David Gate. "Tell them what you think!"

• The next consultations are:

• Today, Monday, June 13, 11.30 am to 4.30 pm, The Atlantic Room, Cannon Hygiene, Northgate, White Lund Industrial Estate
• Tuesday 14th June 14, 2.30 pm to 7.30 pm, The Centre@Halton, LowRoad, Halton.
• Wednesday June 15, 2.30 pm to 7.30 pm, Torrisholme Methodist Church HaIl, Norwood Drive, Torrisholme

• You can write to the County Council expressing your views by 31st July 2011 at Heysham to M6 Link, Lancashire County Council, PO BOX 100, County Hall, Preston PR1 0LD; or Email:

Local police stations may be sold off as spending cuts bite

The public are to be asked for their views on the future of police premises and front counter services in the county after the Constabulary considered a report outlining potential savings of up to £1 million annually and one-off sales of over £4 million.

The potential savings - which may see the closure and sell off of police stations in Carnforth, Over Kellet, Cowan Bridge, Caton, Cabus and Bowgreave (in Old Garstang) - are part of on-going work to identify savings in the region of £42 million over the next four years.

The Constabulary has been reviewing the properties it uses and the services it provides via front counters in some of its police stations.

The reviews, which were noted by senior managers last Friday, outline a plan to make no changes to the busiest stations across the county, such as Lancaster, Morecambe, Fleetwood and Garstang, but to close a number of the front counter desks and to dispose of those premises where there is limited demand from the public, or where the public have no access, or which are unoccupied.

Speaking after the meeting, Assistant Chief Constable Andy Cooke said: “The Constabulary recognises that the closure of any front counter, or indeed any police premise, is iconic for the public and will cause concern. This is why it has looked closely at visitor numbers in particular to identify those which are used the most in order to limit the impact to a potentially smaller number of people.

“We fully expect that this will be a difficult discussion for us to have with the public and one that will be highly emotive, but there is the potential to save in the region of £1 million per year in running costs through the proposals set out in this review, and more than £4 million from the sale of the properties.

"These are significant sums of money," he added. "It will be vital for us to carefully consider how we strike the right balance between finding the savings whilst limiting the impact on the public and protecting officer numbers in what is an already constricting environment.”

The Front Counters review has looked at a range of issues including opening hours, services provided to the public and working practices across the force, and a number of recommendations are being made as a result of the findings.

The review has found that 81 per cent of the total footfall of visitors across the county is catered for by just 17 of the front counters. The remaining 21 are dealing with only 19 per cent of the overall footfall and are therefore recommended for closure in the report considered at last Friday’s meeting, though all decisions were delayed, pending consultation with the public and key stakeholders.

The front counters that remain open will offer a standardised and consistent service to the public, unlike at present where people can potentially be sent to other police stations to access the service they need. They will not close for lunch, for training purposes or for any other reason outside of these hours so this will be a better service for the public.

“We believe that by closing the front desks which are currently underused and offering a standardised service in all of the remaining front counters will result in an improvement on the current position," argues Andy Cooke, "which sees people being sent from one counter to another depending on the services they need to access.

“However, we recognise that police station closures can cause anxiety and concern amongst local people which is why we are asking the Lancashire public for their views to ensure that we are taking these into account when making the final decision on closures later this year."

“Over recent years, we have extended our reach into the community and now operate out of almost 200 different bases across the county.  This means we rely less on the public coming to us. The continued development of on-line and digital services also provides additional opportunities for the public to access services differently and this will continue as technology moves forward.”

“We fully understand the importance people place on local police stations," noted the Chair of Lancashire Police Authority, Malcolm Doherty, "and intend to work closely with the Constabulary on the consultation regarding these proposals. We need to know what people really feel on the subject and Police Authority members will be actively involved in that work.

“However, we do need to find further savings and we are faced with some difficult choices in order to meet the required budget reductions, but I should stress that no decisions have yet been made as far as these plans are concerned.  I can assure people that we will take their views into account when the time comes to take that decision.”

In North Lancashire, Cockerham, Preesall and Hambleton police stations are already closed and up for sale.

Maureen Le Marinel, Branch Secretary of UNISON the Trade Union representing Police Staff employed on Front Counters across the Constabulary, said “I welcome the public consultation the Constabulary and the Police Authority are undertaking.  This is something that our members have raised with us as part of the force review of Front Counters due to cuts.

“Any closure of Front Counters will impact on the jobs of our members and we will continue to work with the Constabulary in order to mitigate any job losses through proper consultation and using agreed procedures, as we have over the last two years in order for the Constabulary to identify the £42 million savings that they have to find through no fault of their own.  We would urge all members of the public in the communities of Lancashire to take part in this important process”.

Mark Sweet, Lancashire Federation Secretary, said: “We fully support the Constabulary in its need to review all areas of business. The federation’s priority is to look after the best interests of police officers and if the loss of police buildings goes to protecting jobs, then we would fully support the organisation in making those difficult decisions.”

• Three months of consultation, commencing on 1 July, will now take place before the final decisions are made later this year and more details of how people can share their views will be released soon.

The Proposals in Full: Northern Division Front Counter and Estates Organisational Reviews

Police station and premises recommendations

*Premises that are shown as being ‘on the market’ have already been identified prior to the reviews as surplus to requirements and are not part of the consultation process.

Station/ Premises
Current status
Proposed status
Visitors per hour
Nearest alternative police station
Front Desk
Front Desk
Front Desk
Front Desk
Front Desk
Front Desk
Front Desk
Front counter decision TBC
To be retained
Lancaster/ Preston
Front Desk
Complete Closure and to be sold
Blackpool Central/ Fleetwood
Front Desk
Complete Closure and to be sold
Operational base
To be retained
Over Kellet
Rural Beat
To be sold
Cowan Bridge
Rural Beat
To be sold
To be sold
Rural Beat Occupied
To be sold
Bowgreave (Old Garstang)
Operational base
To be sold

On the market

On the market
On the market