Friday, 23 September 2011

Local residents warned to beware of cold callers

Residents in the Lancaster district are being warned to be on their guard from cold callers who claim to be able to cut their council tax bills.

Lancaster City Council has received reports of residents receiving unsolicited telephone calls from a business offering to investigate - in exchange for an upfront fee - if their property’s council tax banding could be lowered.

Residents can follow a free and simple procedure themselves to appeal directly to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) against their council tax banding.  VOA staff are always available to offer advice and guide you through the process if you have any queries.

Lancaster and Morecambe residents are not alone n suffering this kind of con trick. Fareham Council in Hampshire has just put out a similar alert, warning of bogus officials offering Council Tax refunds or threatening them with fines; as are Chorley and Trafford , where a 95-year-old woman was told that if she paid £300 the company could get her house moved from an E band to a D band, as well as securing her a potential Council Tax refund of £5000.

The scam is similar to one reported in 2009, when police and trading standards officers across the country received hundreds of calls and complaints when con artists took advantage of a genuine campaign encouraging people to reclaim overpaid council tax, seeing it as an ideal opportunity to take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners.

ClaimsFinancial reported how the fraudsters, claiming to be members of the local council, informed their victims that they had either overpaid or had outstanding council tax. The fraudsters then convinced the homeowners to give them banking details and card numbers in order to refund the payments or prevent the payment of a fine. There were also reports of emails being sent to householders requesting banking details.

• More information on council tax, and how to appeal against your current banding, is available at The Valuation Office Agency can be contacted at 03000 503600.

Local firm part of Tory conference 'best of British' display

Local firm Drinkwater’s Mushrooms will be exhibiting at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester next month (4th - 5th October).

As a local supplier to the UK’s leading supermarkets, the Drinkwater’s team say it's a chance  to showcase their product to important dignitaries including the Prime Minster, David Cameron.

Situated in rural north Lancashire, Drinkwater’s Mushrooms Limited was founded by Ken and Barbara Drinkwater in 1969. Now, over 40 years later it is still a family run and owned company continuing to produce and supply quality mushrooms.

"We had no hesitation in agreeing to support this exhibition of locally grown British produce" said Technical Manager Jane Drinkwater. "We pride ourselves on the quality of our mushrooms and this is the ideal opportunity to prove our dedication and commitment to continue this ethos".

15,000 party members will be in attendance over the two days to hear speeches from high profile cabinet ministers such as William Hague, Theresa May and Liam Fox - to name but a few. Mayor of London Boris Johnson will get things started on Tuesday morning at 10.00am with David Cameron closing the conference on Wednesday. With such Tory dignataries about, it's a big stage for Drinkwater’s Mushrooms and an opportunity to demonstrate a fabulous locally grown product.

Supporting Drinkwater’s will be Lancaster and Morecambe College who will help to prepare 1000 samples of Mushrooms for consumption on each day.

"When we were approached by Drinkwater’s Mushrooms, we had no hesitation," said Andrew Winder of Lancaster and Morecambe College. "We wanted to be involved from the start, to give our students a taste of the pressures of a high profile environment’.

"The Conservative Party Conference will without doubt raise our profile," added General Manager of Drinkwater’s. "It's a really important time for the Company as we look to cement our reputation for quality and locally grown British product".

Morris will take a special interest in environmental issues at this year’s conference. "As a company, we are committed to reducing our carbon footprint. Investigation into renewable energy projects is gathering pace and we will be looking for the support of local MP’s to take a step into a greener future".

Police seek car driver after Lancaster road accident

Police are appealing for witnesses following a serious road traffic collision in Lancaster.

Around 6.00pm on Friday 16 September, a blue and white Suzuki R600 motorbike was travelling along the Preston to Lancaster Road, near Ellel in the direction of Preston.

It is understood a vehicle similar to a silver Saab, travelling in the opposite direction, carried out a ‘U’ turn in the road causing the rider of the bike to fall from his machine.

The rider, a man in his 50s from Penwortham, was a taken to Royal Lancaster Infirmary with a broken collar bone and four broken ribs.

The driver of the silver vehicle failed to stop at the scene, but this may be because they were not aware they had struck the motorbike.

PC Shaun Canning, from the Road Policing Unit, said: “I would appeal to anyone who witnessed this collision to contact police.

“I would also like to appeal directly to the driver of the silver vehicle to come forward so that we can establish the exact circumstances surrounding this incident.”

• Anybody with any information is asked to call police on 08451 25 35 45 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Morecambe councillors set for litter pick

Morecambe Town councillors will be taking part in a community litter pick event next month, to tackle rubbish on its street - and they're hoping local residents will join in and help.

Scheduled for Saturday 1st October and starting in the Festival Market Car Park, the litter pick will deal with rubbish there, the streets adjacent to Northumberland Street and the first part of the cycle track up to West End Road Bridge.

"The aim of the community litter pick is to help make the town look even cleaner and tidier for the benefit of both residents and visitors," a spokesperson said, "and to help build community pride within our town by bringing members of the community together to help improve our town."

To help achieve this, the Council is asking for the support of the local community to give their time to help with the litter pick. All equipment and safety equipment will be provided.

The Council has purchased high visibility jackets to help ensure the safety of all taking part with the other necessary equipment being loaned by Lancaster City Council.

After this litter pick the Council will be considering a strategy for future community litter picking within the town and as always, welcomes resident views on the issue. Several town councillors will be present at the litter pick so it's a chance for the public to express their views on this issue.

• The community litter pick will take place on Saturday 1st October between 10.00 am and 1.00 pm. The meeting point for the litter pick will be the Festival Market Car Park.

•If you have views on litter on Morecambe's streets, contact the Council's   Town Clerk, David Croxall via Morecambe Town Council, Marine Road, Morecambe, or by email to 

Thursday, 22 September 2011

'Two' learn bar-keeping ropes in run up to Dukes theatre run

Actors Kieran Buckeridge and Ella Vale behind the bar of Lancaster's Golden Lion

Lancaster’s newest landlord and landlady were invited to learn the ropes at one of the city’s oldest pubs last week.

Acting couple Kieran Buckeridge and Ella Vale took time out from rehearsals to pull a few pints at The Golden Lion, just a stone’s throw from The Dukes in Moor Lane which will soon be staging Jim Cartwright’s Northern pub drama –Two.

“We found out that we were the only two in the company who had never worked a bar before," says Kieran, "which is quite unusual for actors.”

“I had a waitressing job once but was terrible at it,” said Ella. “I kept dropping things and got muddled using the till.”

But there was no time for excuses when the pair arrived for a shift at The Golden Lion, which has been run by Jon Davis and his wife Macy for the past four years.

The couple were soon put to work, preparing the bar, pulling their first pints and enjoying some banter with the first customers of the afternoon.

Two director, Louie Ingham, chose The Golden Lion to help Kieran and Ella’s preparations for their roles because of its close connection to The Dukes and its similarity to the pub where the drama is based.

Landlord Jon said: “Ours is an old pub where everyone sits around the bar and chats to one another. It’s a proper regulars pub and we have some real characters coming in much like in the play.”

After their work experience at The Golden Lion, Kieran and Ella did a second shift - but this time behind the bar at The Dukes itself.

The Dukes will be creating a new, fully operational pub to stage Two in The Round from Thursday 6th October until the 29th, and the audience can enjoy a drink before the show and during the interval on the stage set.

In Two, as well as playing landlord and landlady of Lancaster’s newest – and most temporary pub – Kieran and Ella will also take on all the characters who visit their bar in what promises to be a tour-de-force performance by two versatile actors.

Two opens The Dukes Pub Season, which celebrates 40 years since the Lancaster theatre and cinema was launched in the autumn of 1971.

• Tickets for Two can be booked at The Dukes box office on 01524 598500 or

Police cuts consultation ends tomorrow

A consultation process launched to give Lancashire public a say on the future of police premises across the county is drawing to a close.

Around 1,000 residents completed surveys during the 12-week consultation period which will conclude on Friday 23rd September. Hundreds more made contact with us via meetings, e-mail and petitions.

Those views on the closure of selected front counters and in some cases, police stations, will now be considered at length and a final decision made in November.

The Constabulary has to find around £42 million of savings by 2014/15. Through its change programme, it has already identified where the majority of this money will come from including reductions of hundreds of officers and staff.

“Every single aspect of our business is being reviewed in order to find the necessary savings and that includes the properties we use and the services we provide at front counters in police stations," notes Chief Superintendent Tim Jacques. "We recognise that any closures will cause concern which is why we were extremely keen to consult with the public before we made any final decisions.

“We were very pleased with the response. Thousands of people either completed surveys, wrote in to us or came along to public meetings and I would like to thank everybody who took the opportunity to express their views.

“These will now be collated, considered and a final decision will be made in November, which we will share as soon as we can.”

He added: “There will have to be some very difficult decisions made and unfortunately some cuts are inevitable given the amount of money we need to save. However, it is our firm intention to make sure that we strike the right balance between finding these savings and limiting the impact on the public.”

Proposals to change the services offered at some police station front counters were put forward in July following a review of services provided to the public, including opening hours and working practices across the force.

The review 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 were therefore recommended for closure.

RoadWatch scheme to launch in new bid to reduce road accidents in Lancaster

Assistant Chief Constable Andy Rhodes:
"We hope that this scheme will reduce
speeds and prevent injuries."

Photo: Lancashire Constabulary
Lancaster RoadWatch, a new scheme which aims to reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured on the county’s roads is set to be launched in Lancaster and Wyre - and has been welcomed by both Lancashire Constabulary and the County Council.

The scheme from Lancashire Partnership for Road Safety will extend the number of sites used for mobile speed enforcement, which can take place at any site along a designated route. The selected routes have been chosen based on casualty statistics – so enforcement will take place on roads where people have previously been killed or seriously injured.

Residents are also being encouraged to raise their concerns about speeding so that the police, together with local councils, can take appropriate action which may include additional mobile speed enforcement.

New sites will not be signed with speed camera warning signs – which are not a legal requirement – providing a more flexible and prompt response to residents’ concerns about speeding. Any existing fixed sites and signage will remain in place and enforcement will continue at these sites.

Lancashire Constabulary’s Assistant Chief Constable Andy Rhodes, who is also the Chair of the Lancashire Partnership for Road Safety Executive Board, is enthusiastic about the development.

“This scheme will provide much more flexibility, enabling the partnership to swiftly respond to concerns about speeding raised by residents," he argues.

“Priority will still be given to roads where injuries have occurred in the last five years but it will also enable enforcement on other roads where there is evidence that speeding is an issue, allowing us to be proactive in our approach and take action where speeding is a concern.

“We hope that this scheme will reduce speeds and prevent injuries.”

County Councillor Tim Ashton:
"I look forward to this greater focus
on mobile enforcement"
"Enforcing speed limits is an essential part of the package of measures, including education, engagement and engineering, which has led to a significant reduction in the numbers of people being killed and injured on Lancashire's roads," added County Councillor Tim Ashton, who is Lancashire County Council Cabinet member for highways and transport.

"I look forward to this greater focus on mobile enforcement which strengthens the message that we will deal quickly with community concerns and do what it takes to make our roads even safer."

Lancashire RoadWatch is set to start in Lancaster and Wyre on Monday 26th September and will be rolled-out to the rest of Lancashire at a later date.

Earlier this year, statistics revealed the number of people killed or seriously injured on Lancashire’s roads is at the lowest in 30 years. The County Council has also introduced residential 20mph speed limits which will cover all residential roads and outside schools over the next three years.

• The lists of designated routes where enforcement can take place will be available to view at from Monday. If you have a concern about speeding, you can raise it at your local police and communities together (PACT) meeting. Dates for PACT meetings can be found at Alternatively, concerns can be reported to the police on 0845 1 25 35 45.

• Lancashire County Council can be contacted on 0845 053 0000 or via

Lancaster, this morning...

Location:Quarry Rd,Lancaster,United Kingdom

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Theives steal lambing gates from Lancaster farm

One remaining connecting section of the gate.
The two stolen sections have no plywood in
the intervening sections, unlike this one.
Local police are appealing for information after four galvanised steel gates were stolen from a farm in Lancaster earlier this month. The theft took place at Seven Acres on Hazelrigg Lane, Lancaster between 9.00am on 7th September, and 10.00am on 8th September.

A total of four galvanised steel gates, and two galvanised connecting sections were stolen, each measureing twelve foot by four foot, with meshing at the base. The two connecting sections are ten foot by six foot. They are predominantly used for lambing and together would cost around £1,200.

“I would appeal to anybody with any information about the whereabouts of these stolen gates or the people responsible to contact Lancaster Police on 01524 63333 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111," urges PC Peter Bennett from Lancaster Police.

“Due to the weight and size of the gates it is likely at least three people would be required to remove the gates and a vehicle would have also been needed to transport. Although the location is on a rural road, it is close to Lancaster University so I’d urge anybody that saw anything suspicious to contact police.”

An adjoining barn was also targeted but only contained hay and nothing was stolen.

This incident coincides with the launch of Operation Firecrest on 19th September to tackle rural crime. The operation will see officers conducting extra patrols; targeting suspected offenders; making visits to farms and rural businesses to offer crime prevention advice; and hosting community meetings as well as providing a police presence at auction marts and other key locations.

Money laundering raid in Morecambe

A woman has been arrested on suspicion of money laundering after police seized thousands of pounds from a house in Morecambe.

The 40-year-old woman was arrested yesterday afternoon after police raided an address on Brook Street and discovered a substantial amount of cash and a small amount of cannabis. The money, which has been seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act, will now be subject to an investigation by police.

The action comes as part of the week-long Operation Firecrest, which is aimed at tackling rural crime. Officers have been carrying out extra patrols in remote areas; targeting suspected offenders; making visits to farms and rural businesses to offer crime prevention advice and hosting community meetings as well as providing a police presence at auction marts and other key locations.

“This was a substantial amount of cash," says DI Martin Pearson, "and our investigation will focus on why such a large sum of money was at the address.

“We were acting on local intelligence as part of Operation Firecrest and we will continue to do everything we can to investigate the finances of people who we suspect may have obtained money illegally”.

Quernmore farm raid brings arrests for fuel and farm machinry theft

Two men have been arrested following a raid on a farm in Lancaster, carried out as part of a crack down on rural crime.

Officers from Lancaster’s target team executed a theft warrant at a farm and adjacent land in Long Lane, Quernmore, near Lancaster, at around 10.00am this morning. Officers from the Environment Agency and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs also attended.

A stolen trailer and a suspected fuel laundering set-up were discovered at the site and Police are continuing their search of the immediate area.

A 44-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of obstructing a police officer, theft and theft of a motor vehicle. A 45-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of theft.

The raid followed an investigation into fuel and metal thefts in the Lancaster area and was carried out as part of Operation Firecrest – a county-wide operation to combat rural crime.

 “We often find that the most common type of offences in our rural communities are fuel and scrap metal theft, as well as theft of agricultural machinery," commented Detective Inspector Martin Pearson. "Criminals can be under the mistaken impression that because they are operating in rural areas they are less likely to be caught, but this is not the case.

“We work closely with local communities and, as well as carrying out regular patrols and operating schemes such as FarmWatch, we encourage residents to report suspicious activity to us. These close links allow us to tackle crime together."

• Anyone with information about crime in rural areas is asked to contact police on 0845 1 25 35 45 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. In an emergency always dial 999.

Last chance for 2012 Queen’s Volunteer Award nominations from Lancashire

A Lancashire youth project honoured by The Queen is calling for people to nominate the county’s best volunteer groups for a national award.

Previous winners of The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, Fishwick Rangers Youth Development Scheme based in Preston, are encouraging entries for the next round of Awards before Friday 30th September.

The Award, part of the UK National Honours system, was created by the Queen to mark the Golden Jubilee in 2002 and recognises the outstanding contributions made to local communities by groups of volunteers.  Next year is the Award’s 10th anniversary and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year.  To help celebrate these two events, the aim is to give even more voluntary groups a chance to receive the Award.

“It has really made a difference in promoting the scheme and helps show how the volunteers are valued and the good work they do has been recognised," says the Fishwick Rangers youth scheme’s secretary Fayaz Ahmed.

“We're proud to have won the Award and we have been delighted by the way it has enhanced our profile. It’s a real morale booster, breathing extra energy into the members and volunteers. It has spurred us on to go for other awards and we would certainly encourage others to nominate their local groups.”

Back in June, 12 outstanding groups in the North West, including five from Lancashire, received the Award  after being nominated by friends, family, beneficiaries or members of the public, but there are many more groups in the county which deserve to receive this unique recognition for their volunteers which can only be done by making a nomination.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service Main Award Committee Chair and former broadcast journalist Martyn Lewis CBE said: “Volunteering groups make a huge contribution to people’s lives, often without praise for the incredible job they do. A prestigious UK National Honour such as The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service can prove invaluable in so many ways to their ongoing success.

“The importance of volunteer groups is all the more apparent in the current climate, and I urge people across Lancashire to help recognise those doing outstanding work in their local communities. Whether you know a group or have benefitted personally from their activities, get a form and nominate!”

The winners of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service 2010/11 in the North West were:
Cumbria Alcohol and Drug Advisory Service Volunteers; Colne Open Door Centre Ltd.; Eden Valley Hospice Volunteers; Icebreakers Manchester; St Ann’s Hospice Volunteers, Greater Manchester; St John Ambulance Cheshire Young Carers; Thomas Street Bowling Club, Nelson; Tindall St Allotment Group, Eccles; Twinkle House, West Lancashire; West Lancashire Carers Sitting-In Service; West Lancashire Disability Helpline; and Wythenshawe Wheelers.

• Nominations can be made at any time but for those wishing to be considered for the 2012 Award, forms must be received by Friday 30th September 2011.  For further details of how to nominate and to see The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service recipients visit or contact the Award Administrator on

Homebirth support group for Lancaster gets set to launch

Charlotte (at one day old), born at
home in Lancaster earlier this year.

The first meeting of a new homebirth support group for Lancaster will take place next week.

The group is self-organised and open to all women (and their partners) so if you're expecting your first, second, third... child, or even if you are not pregnant but simply want to talk about choices in childbirth: home birth; water birth; natural birth after caesarean; pain relief options, the Group will make you welcome.

There will be some toys for small children as well as tea, coffee, cold drinks and cake. Mums wishing to share their experiences either at the group or by providing testimonials to share with expectant parents are also welcome.

"The aim of the group is to give women information to help them make their own decisions about childbirth," explains spokesperson Ruth Ainsworth, "and to share experiences in a relaxed and friendly environment.'

Currently just two per cent of babies in the UK are born at home, despite lots of evidence that giving birth in the home environment is both safe and normally calmer for both the mother and baby. The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) support home birth for women with uncomplicated pregnancies.

The group will run monthly and will also have a website to share information about choices in childbirth and local women’s birth stories.

• The first meeting takes place on Tuesday 27th September at 6.30pm at the Friends Meeting House on Meeting House Lane, Lancaster. For more information, to be added to the group's mailing list or to supply a testimonial, please email or call Ruth (07887732547) or Nina (07868294638) Information from

Dukes measures 'The Price of Everything'

 How much is beauty worth and what will people pay for an air guitar on eBay?

These urgent questions and others are answered in The Price of Everything, Daniel Bye’s performance lecture about value coming to The Dukes on Thursday 13th October.

Comic, provocative, and possibly a tiny bit sad, this show is a must if you've ever wondered about the difference between the price of an object and its value.

And you get a free glass of milk.

Daniel Bye, who has been described as "part of the future of British theatre",  writes and directs immediate, playful, surprising theatre. 

"My work juggles with comedy and tragedy, roughness and polish, truth and astonishment," says Daniel. "I want you to laugh, cry, gasp and change the world."

His work has been described as "almost perfect" by the Scotsman; "near perfect" and "genius" by the Stage; "Fantastic" and "excellent" by the Herald; and "stylish", "terrific" and even "intelligent" by the Guardian.

His whistlestop tour of bizarre facts and impassioned arguments is occasionally shambolic and often opinionated – but is always a joy to watch.

The Price of Everything is part of The Dukes Pub Season to celebrate the theatre’s 40th anniversary. It can be enjoyed on its own or as part of a double bill with one-woman play Hi Vis on 13th October.

• Tickets for The Price of Everything are priced £10/£5 or £13 for a Hi Vis combined ticket.  To book, contact The Dukes box office on 01524 598500 or

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

A Level celebrations turned sour for teenager assaulted in Lancaster

Police are appealing for witnesses following an assault in the early hours of Friday 19th August 2011 between 2.00 and 4.30am on Cheapside, outside the McDonald’s restaurant, Lancaster.

The victim, a 19-year-old local man who was out celebrating his A level results, was approached by four men who punched him a few times before making good of their escape.

He suffered from a fractured to his nose, cuts, bruises and grazes but did not require hospital treatment.

PC Paula Heaton from Lancaster Police said, “I would appeal to anyone who was in the area at the time and who witnessed something to come forward and contact the police.

“Luckily the victim did not suffer serious injuries but he has understandably been left shaken following his ordeal.”

• Anyone with information is asked to call Lancaster Police on 0845 1 25 35 45 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Could Morecambe trains Go Electric again?

An electric train at Morecambe Promenade station in 1964.
Photo, featured in
"Little" North Western Railway, courtesy Martin Bairstow.
Used with permission

The possibility of the Morecambe line being included in the proposed North West Railway Electrification Scheme was raised at the City Council meeting earlier this month.

Conservative Councillor Richard Rollins (Heysham South) asked Councillor Blamire, Leader of the Council, whether the City was taking any steps to ensure the short stretch of line from the West Coast Mainline to Morecambe was included in the programme. Councillor Blamire advised that transport was an issue normally dealt with by the Lancashire County Council but agreed that local pressure would also be necessary to ensure progress. She agreed to investigate the possibility of setting up a working group.

Morecambe Promenade Station in 1933. Via this web site
Late last year, the Conservative government announced it was scaling back previously-announced expansion to various electrification schemes (see Parliamentary PDF here), but it did annouce plans to proceed with the electrification of the lines between Liverpool, Manchester, Preston and Blackpool at an estimated cost of some £300 million, with work scheduled to be completed by 2016.

"I expect that the first electric trains will start running in 2013 and the project will be
completed by 2016 at an estimated cost of up to £300 million," Railways Minister, Theresa
Villiers, said back in February. "This will be funded using the Network Rail Regulated Asset Base, which is financed as part of the five yearly determinations by the Office of Rail Regulation that establishes the grant paid to Network Rail by the Department [of Transport]."

Councillor Rollins feels that if a new electric service replaced the current irregular and, at peak hours, overcrowded diesel service between Morecambe and Lancaster, more capacity would be available and a regular reliable service could ease inter urban road congestion. The connection would also open up the possibility of through services to Manchester and other destinations on the electrified rail network.

He told the Full Council meeting that the distance to be electrified was little more than two miles - part of which had in the past already been used by an electric rail service. In rail terms, he argued, the work could be carried out a moderate cost but provide great benefits to the area.

EMU with diamond type pantograph leaving Green Ayre Station in 1965. Via this web site
Morecambe was of course, once home to a pioneering electric train service, run by the Little North Western Railway company, its line including what is now the Lancaster-Morecambe cycle path. The line was closed after the Beeching Report declared it unviable in the 1960s.

Morecambe Branch Line history (Wikipedia)

Network Rail: Electrification Page

The "Little" North Western Railway by Martin Bairstow details the history of this line 

Railways around Lancaster in Morecambe in 1913, Railway Clearing House

Students urged to have fun but stay safe during Freshers Week

Freshers heading to Lancaster’s two universities are being advised to consider their personal safety while making the most of their first few weeks away from home.

University of Cumbria students  arrive during the week of 19th September, with first year Lancaster University students starting their on 1st October.

Local police point out that Freshers Week often involves a lot of socialising, partying and drinking but sometimes students may be having so much fun they do not realise they could be putting themselves at risk.

Freshers will be finding their way around a new city or town for the first time and will definitely be soaking up the atmosphere – and probably quite a lot of alcohol - so police are advising that also need to make sure they stay safe while doing so.

Lancashire Police are advising students to -
  • Always stick to well lit main routes
  • If you go out as a group of friends – stay as a group
  • Remember, safety in numbers – so stick together and never walk home alone
  • Keep enough money for a taxi. Don’t spend your last fiver on a burger – get home safe instead
  • Get a taxi from a licensed firm or taxi rank
  • Take care of your cash, but only take out what you will realistically need for an evening and avoid using cash machines at night
 Alcohol is a traditional part of student life – but remember it isn’t a compulsory part of your university education! Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can affect your judgement, pose a health risk and leave you vulnerable to becoming a victim of crime.

Pace your drinks and consider alternating alcoholic drinks with a soft drink or water - you will last the night out and you’ll save a bit of cash too.

Drink spiking is rare (the amount of alcohol consumed is more often the problem.) Keep hold of your drink and don’t leave it on the side of the dance floor. Always watch your drink being poured – if someone offers to buy you a drink, go to the bar with them.

Remember that drink lowers inhibitions and makes you more vulnerable to theft, violence or sexual assault. If something happens to you, report it to the police.

Any bad behaviour may come at a cost – police officers take a zero tolerance attitude to drunken criminal behaviour. Penalty notices for disorder cost £80  - a fairly hefty fine for a student pocket – and a criminal record is not the kind of result you want to leave university with.

Most universities have a neighbourhood police team that is linked to the campus. You can find out their contact details by going to and entering the campus postcode into the search engine.

• You can also contact police on 0845 1 25 35 45. In an emergency always dial 999. Lancashire Police is now on Twitter @LancsPolice and on Facebook –

Monday, 19 September 2011

Market Traders hit back at council staff claims they would not move

Lancaster Market Traders have hit back at claims in a council report that some of them would not move from its upper floor as part of a process to rein in costs, saying they are untrue.

Last week, councillors again delayed a decision to make major changes to Lancaster Market after a last minute report by council staff stated some traders could not be persuaded to go along with the proposal to move them all to the ground floor of the building (see new story).

The future of the Market was discussed at Full Council last week, and considered recommendations made by the council’s Cabinet in July, which were referred to Full Council because of cost concerns. A last minute report stated that some traders were not willing to move from the first floor to the ground floor - which was one of the key money-saving proposals Council was asked to consider.

Peter Corke, Chairman of Lancaster Market Tenants Association has contacted virtual-lancaster to say this is untrue.

"All the traders on the upper floor wish to move to the ground floor," he told us. "I think some council officers have another agenda that would suit them better if the market were to close.

Mr Corke is also shocked by the estimated cost of moving traders suggested by council staff, which he describes as astounding.

"It would cost nowhere near £271,000 to relocate seven businesses to the ground floor," he states.

Bypass scheme "fiscal madness", says camapign group

Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe has again rounded on the County Council for its continued support of the M6 Link, despite huge concerns about both the route and, more importantly, the costs of the project if it goes ahead.

Earlier this month, Lancaster mayor and Halton's local Councillor Paul Woodruff wrote to the Lancaster Guardian, arguing that Lancaster and district deserved better than the proposed Heysham M6 Link Road.

TSLM has backed his views continuing to argue that the road will be "damaging and costly" and will not solve local congestion or bring jobs. But alternatives exist which would do both.

"Councillor Woodruff is right too that expenditure on promoting the Lancashire County Council’s preferred route has been massive," says TSLM chair David Gate.

"What people may not realise is that, when the cost of the scheme went down in January, allegedly, the County Council’s contribution went up – from £6 million to £12 million. That’s the contribution from you and me, the council-tax payers of Lancashire who’ll be paying. That was after businesses were asked to contribute to this road they claim is so important to them – and have not offered a single penny piece.

"What’s more – the County Council committed itself to pay for all the extra costs," he adds. "That’s all cost overruns – and which road was ever built without cost overruns?

"Lancashire County Council has in fact already committed to a further £6.5 million to cover further overspend – a tacit admission that overspending is indeed on the cards.

"For example, what happens if the revisions alongside the M6 at Halton Road, which will make the junction here more prominent in the landscape, fail to achieve the cost savings claimed?"

TSLM also point out that the County Council - or we, the taxpayers - will pay for all the extra inflation.

"Just three months after the Council ’s contribution was announced in January 2011, the start date was put back almost a year, adding close to £1 million  inflation: and the Council  now looks like having to find a further £3 million to cover the hike in inflation for the first year, which was assumed  at 2.7% but was actually nearer 5%. The Council  will have to announce these increases at some stage, and they are likely to be the first of many such announcements.

"Councillor Woodruff is also right that a spade has recently been presented to cut the first divot," notes David. "You couldn’t make it up! The spade may be ready, but its main use will be to shovel costs from hard-pressed County Council budgets into the hole labelled “Link Road Funding”.

"The combined effect of cost overrun, flawed estimates of savings and inflation means that Lancashire residents will be looking at a bill of at least £25 million by the summer of 2013 that will have a devastating impact on education, social services and transport budgets. 

"This is fiscal madness."

• For alternatives to the Bypass, visit:

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Lancaster Music Festival back next month

Kirsty Almeida - headline act
for this year's Music Festival
The weekend of 14th – 16th October will see Lancaster's famously historic and hospitable venues play host to every music genre imaginable with the return of the much-praised Lancaster Music Festival.

101 acts, performing at 28 locations in Lancaster are on offer, most within walking distance of each other -- and most will be free.

A packed weekend of local and global musical talent is in store, with new acts arriving and proven favourites returning to a city which has always welcomed and nurtured live music.

Based on the festival successes of 2009 and 2010, this will be Lancaster’s third, and biggest, music festival so far.

From folk (Americana, Celtic, English, Neo), funk (jazz, Latin, blues), grunge, punk, pop (indie, alternative, mainstream), contemporary classical, choral, jazz (Latin, swing, piano, trad.), rock, avant garde, soul, blues and more we expect everyone to find some outstanding music that they will enjoy in a bubbling and festive atmosphere.

There will be a funk fest (“Funktion” at the Gregson), maritime theme (on the quay), student bands at the Park (“Park Fest”), Jah Wobbles (“Memoirs of a Geezer” at the Dukes), with a  festival headline closing act, Kirsty Almeida (at the Dalton Rooms on Sunday) and, along with all the music, there will be a festival ale and ale trail courtesy of Mitchells of Lancaster, a food trail courtesy of LESS (Local Effective Sustainable Solutions), and even a free i-phone festival game courtesy of Lancashire Treasure Trails.

Most of the music will be provided by the outstanding talent and variety of acts that perform in Lancaster district (for example, Get Carter Experience with Madness ex-keyboardist James Mackie, singer songwriter loop sensation Alex Hulme, Celtic fiddle virtuosity from Hard Times, mod punk boogaloo mayhem from the Convulsions). There will also be acts from as far away as Australia, Austria, Italy, USA, all over the UK (even Yorkshire) as part of the Festival (for example, Marco Marconi’s award winning piano jazz from Italy, classical guitar from New York’s Threefifty Duo, haunting Americana from USA’s Danika Holmes and rocking grinding blues from Cheltenham’s Keith Thompson Trio).

The full line up is online at

• A few of the events are ticketed and tickets can be obtained online from the festival website (, at Lancaster’s Visitor Information Centre and the venues themselves. General enquiries to:

The event is no longer taking band applications but acts wanting to apply for 2012 can email us at to be alerted for when the 2012 application process will start.

Punk and poetry at the Yorkshire House

There's a night of punk and poetry not to be missed at Lancaster's Yorshire House this week (Saturday 24th September), featuring Lancaster's new talent Miss P, Cosmo and The Dead Class. 

After a lifetime of writing poetry Miss P (facebook link) unleashed herself and is now performing live around the north west and beyond. Every performance has brought rave reviews, and her poems straight from the heart are read with such passion that they bring smiles, tears, laughter, and rage. Covering topics from love, life, social injustice, and riots.

Cosmo makes his first appearnce in Lancaster, after touring the festival and indie venue circuit all summer with his "Picket Line Party". Cosmo, man-with-guitar, has a unique style that brings together punk, folk, hip-hop, human beatboxing, bluegrass and cowpunk. Throw in a bit of stand-up comedy, tragedy and mayhem and you've got it. 

The Dead Class are no strangers to The Yorkie. They return in September having recently released their third album, Stick on Antipop Records. Mixing molested pop songs with punk rock, folk, ska, crack cocaine and calpol is what gives the dead class it's unique and disturbingly tasty flavour!

• Doors from 8.30 £4 (£3 b4 9)

Miss P on Facebook

The Dead Class