Friday, 13 January 2012

Police warn on purchase protection insurance fraudsters

Lancashire residents are being warned to be on their guard against fraudsters claiming to be able to recover cash spent on Payment Protection Insurance.

A number of reports have been made to Lancashire Constabulary over the past few weeks from people who have been conned out of money by cold callers contacting them by phone or email and claiming to work for financial recovery teams.

In one case, a man on the Fylde coast handed over several thousand pounds after being told he stood to get back PPI overpayments worth around £40,000.

Fraud evaluation and liaison officer Detective Constable Tony McClements says the whole issue of PPI recovery is extremely topical, a situation compounded by a recession where people are struggling to make ends meet.

“Near cast-iron guarantees are given by the fraudsters that they will recover your PPI payments subject to an advance fee payable by you," he notes. "In turn this leads to further payments before the victim realises they have been hoodwinked.”

Many of the fraudsters are actually operating from outside the country– using UK telephone numbers diverted to their true location and professional looking websites to appear legitimate – and this can make it difficult to find offenders and bring them to justice. It is also difficult to close sites down, particularly if they are hosted abroad, and they quickly reappear elsewhere.

DC McClements has some useful advice on how to protect yourself from this sort of 'phishing'-style crime.

“The best way to tackle this is to advise people on how they can avoid becoming a victim in the first place," he suggests. "Our advice is to never do business with a cold caller unless you have checked them out thoroughly.

“By typing the company name or telephone number into search engines you will often find other consumers highlighting potential fraudsters. Other danger signs include requests for payments via money service bureaus. I’d also ask that friends and relatives of those who may be vulnerable are alert to the problems so that they can warn their loved ones to this developing issue.”

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Morecambe Golf Club theft appeal

Police are appealing for information after theft from Morecambe Golf Club earlier this month which saw a variety of items worth over £500, including golf clubs, stolen.

At some time between 3.00 and 6.00pm on New Years Day, a locker in the men’s changing rooms was broken into and a set of golf clubs and some golf clothing were stolen from inside.

“There are a number of lines of enquiry ongoing at this stage," says PC Ian Nickson, investigating, "but the changing rooms are controlled by a key code system and so we are investigating one possibility that the person responsible may have had legitimate access to the changing rooms themselves or may have been with someone who had.

“I would appeal to anyone who may have seen anything at all suspicious or to anyone who may have any other information they think may assist the investigation to come forward and contact us.”

Items stolen include a set of men’s Mizuno astron golf irons; a tailor-made burner driver, 10.5 degree loft with a regular flex graphite shaft and tailor-made grip and head cover Wilson deep red 3 wood; a Dunlop bag, a Regatta khaki coloured waterproof jacket and Adidas black and white waterproof trousers.

• People with information can contact police by calling 101 or alternatively, people can 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.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

"Listening To Youth" Spotlight project announced

Lancaster’s long-running monthly literary cabaret, ‘Spotlight’ are organising a youth project in conjunction with Lancaster City Council and Arts Council England to give young people a big chance to perform their work on stage.

If you’re aged 14 - 21 then you could join Spotlight’s free to participate ‘Listening To Youth’ project, which launches with an Open Mic ‘Try-Out’ Performance at The Gregson, Lancaster on Monday 23rd January.

If you’ve never performed your work in public but would like to give it a try, or if you’ve done an Open Mic before but have got a new poem, story, sketch, song, or some comedy material - as long as it’s your own work - the organisers, Ron Baker and Sarah Fiske, want to hear from you.

Following on from the Gregson Open Mic Try-Out event, participants will be invited to take part in free writing development workshops and a free performance / rehearsal workshop leading to an opportunity to perform at a Spotlight ‘Listening To Youth’ Special at The Storey on Friday 17t February .

• The Open Mic ‘Try-Out’ Performance is at The Gregson, Lancaster on Monday 23rd January. Doors Open 6pm and it’s free admission. To sign up for a three minute spot at the Gregson launch event email:, or call 01524 381642

• Check out the Spotlight website:

New Year, new number for non-emergency calls

Lancasire Constabulary is using the New Year to remind local residents that there is a new number to contact the police to talk about non-urgent issues.

Introduced last month, 101 is the new number to ring to report non-emergency crimes or incidents, to discuss anti-social behaviour or to speak to the police about a general enquiry.

101 has replaced the old non-emergency number 0845 1 25 35 45.

Every force in England and Wales has now adopted the new number which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and costs just 15 pence per call, no matter what time of day or the duration of the call.

People who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired can textphone 18001 101.

“Everyone knows to ring 999 in an emergency but until recently there was no single memorable number to call for less urgent issues," explains Superintendent Damian Darcy from Lancashire Constabulary. "101 has changed all that.

“101 makes it much easier for people to contact their local police service wherever they are in England or Wales. It has made it much simpler for people to pass on information or seek advice from the police and the early indications here in Lancashire are that it has freed up the 999 system.”

The new 101 service is NOT for emergencies. In an emergency, people should always ring 999 for immediate police assistance. An emergency is where:
  • Life is in danger
  • Violence is being threatened or used
  • A crime is in progress or a suspect may have recently been disturbed
  • There has been a road traffic accident where people are injured or there has been an accident that has affected traffic.

howdenjones 'Beautiful Music' tour to launch at the Dukes

Local muscians Kate Howden and Paul Jones kick off their 2012 season at The Dukes, Lancaster on Saturday 4th February. They are joined by Laurence Canty on bass and Trevor Wagstaff on drums.

he date starts launches the band's "Beautiful Music in Beaitful Places" tour, which will see them playing venues across the country. 

Kate and Paul, who now have seven abums to their credit, are musicians with that special magic that captivates the audience in a unique and intimate atmosphere. Their blend of beautiful original songs, Paul's great musicianship and Kate's transcendent singing would be reason enough to recommend them, but add in their engaging, warm personalities and howednjones soon show an audience why they're so popular.

 • Doors open 7-30pm for 8pm. Tickets £8/£6 concessions available from The Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500.

• You can find out more about howdenjones and hear their music by visiting

• The Full 'Beautiful Music' Tour so far (check the band's web site for any extra dattes). Click on a venue to see details of food and drink availability and ticket booking.

February 4th: The Dukes Lancaster
Tel: 01524 598500 Web:
With Laurence Canty and Trevor Wagstaff

February 11th: Dishforth Village Hall, Ripon, Yorkshire
Tel: Jane 01845 577876, Sarah, 578266, Sue 577729, Hillary 577664 (after 6pm)

February 17th: Soulby Village Hall, Cumbria
Tel: 01768371396 or 01768371101

March 10th: Newland Village Room, Monmouth
Tel: 01594 836754

March 16th: Burnsall Village Hall, Skipton, BD23 6BP
Tel: 07900258488. Web:

March 23rd: Armathwaite Old school Hall, Cumbria
Tel: 07900258488

March 24th: Blindcrake Village Hall, Carlisle,CA13 0QP
Tel: 07900258488 Web:

March 30th: Carlton Village Hall, DN14 9TB, Goole, North Yorkshire
Tel: 07900258488 Web:

April 14th: Hutton Rudby Village Hall, Yarm, North Yorkshire TS15 0EJ
Tel: 01642 701744 or 701586 Web:

April 21st: The Herrison Hall, Charlton Down, DT2 9UA, Dorset
Tel: 01305 263406 Web:

April 22nd: The Dunster Tithe Barn,TA24 6RY,West Somerset
Tel: 07900258488 Web:

April 27th: The Lion Ballroom, Leominster, Herefordshire
Tel: 01568611588 Web:

April 28th: East Knoyle Village Hall, Salisbury, Wiltshire
Tel: 01747 830585 Web:

April 29th: The Square and Compass, Worth Matravers, Swanage, Dorset
Tel: 01929439229 Web:
April 30th: River of Life Centre, Dorchester
Tel: 07900258488

May 2nd: Chettle Village Hall, Dorset, DT11 8DB
Tel: 07900258488

May 12th: Kettleshume Village Hall, Cheshire
Tel: 07900258488

May 19th: Mechanics Institute Village Hall at Kirkby Malzeard, HG4 3RS
Tel: 01765 658438

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Heysham M6 Link Road moves to next phase

The government's new planning authority has pushed the proposed Heysham M6 Link Road forward another stage, and a further round of consultation with those affected by the scheme will soon begin.

Lancashire County Council submitted the application for the Heysham M6 Link Road to the Infrastructure Planning Commission on 6th December 2011. The IPC had 28 days to consider it, but hastened the decision through by 23rd December 2011.

"The M6 link is more than just a road," argues County Councillor Tim Ashton, Cabinet member for highways and transport. "It will be an engine for economic growth for the whole of the region and we're very pleased that we have now been given the go-ahead to move on to the next stage.

"We would encourage people to take every opportunity to have their say.

"I know a lot of local people support the proposals," he claimed, "and welcome the injection of £111 milion of government money into the area - it is important that these people say so.

"At the end of the examination period the IPC will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State who will then make the final decision on whether to approve this scheme."

What the County Council isn't saying is that the decision does not mean that the IPC accepts the scheme, just that they will examine it - and as we have previously reported, despite huge enthusiasm for the road from the County Council, there's plenty of local opposition and suggestions for less expensive altrnatives.

The next important stage is for everyone interested in the scheme to register with the IPC between 11th January and 20th February.

“It's very important that the IPC hears the views of those residents and others who think like TSLM that this project is plain wrong," argues David Gate, Chairman of Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe. "These people should register with the IPC and put forward their views.

"This project is hugely expensive, and likely to become more so, and will not achieve the County’s stated aim of reducing traffic congestion in Lancaster and Morecambe.”

TSLM is the principal objector to the project, and has been campaigning for several years to stop the Link Road and to try to persuade the County Council to consider alternative and less expensive measures that could bring growth and economic prosperity to the area in a much more beneficial manner and at a reduced cost.

“This is very different from telling the County Council, which promotes the scheme, and has never listened seriously to arguments against it," Mr Gate added. "The IPC is an independent body, and is obliged to listen to our concerns.”

Once the IPC has completed its examination and consideration of the scheme (after the summer) it will make a recommendation to the Government, which will then make a final decision on the project.

Register your interest on the IPC website from tomorrow, 11th January 2012

Lancashire County Council M6 Link Page

Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe

Monday, 9 January 2012

Occupy 'Lancaster 4' released without charge

The four people arrested last night at the Railton Hotel on Station Road in Lancaster were released from Lancaster Police Station at 4.50pm today without having been charged with any offence. See previous story 'Occupy Lancaster: 4 arrested as Police raid Railton Hotel Squat'.

The crowd of supporters who had maintained a vigil outside the police station around the clock since their arrest welcomed them with cheers and the group moved in an impromptu parade through the City centre back to the Railton, to join the 'guerilla crochet' group (see picture below) which had been keeping busy there all day.

The door of the Railton had been smashed during the polices raid last night (watch video on YouTube) and police had guarded it around the clock since then until it was finally secured by a workman at 4.30pm, shortly before the four Occupy Lancaster protesters were released.

The Occupy Lancaster group released a statement this afternoon:

"There are over 1 million empty properties in the UK, 350,000 of these have been vacant for over a year. Money is being spent on keeping these places empty with no benefit to communities and with negative devaluation of properties in the surrounding area. Criminalising squatting in the middle of a housing crisis, as the Con-Dem government plan to do, is only going to make matters worse.

The Railton Hotel has been derelict for a decade and the situation remains stagnant. The building is  in a state of disrepair and dereliction, an eyesore in the heart of Lancaster, and often the first impression of our beautiful city gained by visitors using the railway station. 

Occupy Lancaster entered the building on Saturday. There is absolutely no evidence of forced entry. Our intentions were good: to renovate the property; and open it for public meetings, arts and crafts events, music and youth activities; the creation of a community garden / allotment space; and, to help replace the many services lost or threatened by government cuts. We imagined an, albeit temporary, cultural hub at the heart of Lancaster, run by the community for the community: something of which we could all be proud. By Sunday afternoon work was already well underway.

The Occupiers secured the building legally, and displayed notices of Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 on the exterior of the building. This notified any stakeholders of our legal protection. Section 6 is a law which preserves the rights of occupants against landlords or anyone acting on their behalf. In order to obtain the legal grounds to evict occupiers, the landlord is obliged to obtain an IPO (Interim or intending Possession Order) from a court, or to produce a written statement or certificate in terms of Section 12A (Criminal Law Act 1977, as inserted by Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994). It is an offence under criminal law to make a false statement or to obtain a written statement for the purposes of Section 12A. A person guilty of such an offence may receive a sentence of up to 6 months imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000. 

The same penalties apply to those using violence or the threat of violence to gain entry to a property without such legal process. Alternatively, the police need to provide irrefutable evidence of criminal damage or forced entry. The police informed us that they had been made aware that the building had been secured by us and, initially, seemed to accept our Section 6 rights. Local CPSOs and officers who had been on the scene at the hotel were good-humoured in nature, in keeping with their previously supportive role during the Occupation of Dalton Square (30 November – 24 December). One even gave recommendations on the planting of winter vegetables for our proposed Community Allotment.

However … how things changed! By 7pm, the vans had arrived. An estimated 40-50 police officers (a large number of whom revealed they had been drafted in from East Lancashire) surrounded the building, or patrolled the vicinity. Occupy Lancaster quickly nominated a legal observation team who were in dialogue with the commanding officer. We have records of the discussions. At approximately 8.15 pm, the commanding officer proposed that two police be permitted entry to the building to assess if there had been any criminal damage. Whilst this was still under discussion, the police set to work deploying a battering ram to break through the front door. It was a noisy and chaotic scene. Once they had gained entry, the police arrested the four occupants who were inside at the time. 

Previously, our local officers and CPSOs had neither prevented access or egress from the building, nor given any indication of what was to come. Up to 80 people observed the forceful eviction from the roadside. Video, photographic and audio evidence has since been made available to view online. Outraged by this perceived disproportionate use of force on a peaceful and legal occupation, a large group marched to the police station to appeal for the release of the now-known “Lancaster Four”.

A tent was erected in the grounds of the police station and a peaceful vigil was maintained until 4am. Demonstrators were already back by 8am the same morning to offer support for the arrestees. As we write at 3pm, a large group remains outside the police station holding banners and informing passersby and members of the press, including national news agencies, of events the previous evening. 18 hours have passed and the arrestees have still not been released.

We have two major concerns: (a) no evidence of forced entry or criminal damage was produced by the police (as required by law), and (b) the police did not produce necessary documentation upon our request in order to legally validate their actions. Therefore, Occupy Lancaster has strong reasons to believe that the police themselves have failed to follow proper legal procedure. If we are correct, this has profound implications for civil society.

Occupy is a peaceful, nonviolent and inclusive movement which campaigns on issues of social and economic justice. Demonstrations have taken place in over 1000 cities across the world, from the financial heartlands of Wall Street to high schools in Chile, St Paul’s Cathedral to our very own Dalton Square. It saddens us to see the police, who are themselves innocent victims of the financial crisis, being ordered to use what we consider to be disproportionate force against peaceful protestors.

You may have seen that the police’s heavy-handed eviction has already received national news coverage from the Guardian and the BBC(1). Videos of the eviction have gone viral all over the world on YouTube. This story will not go away. The Independent Police Complaints Commission will be contacted. An experienced legal team is being assembled. We are currently considering our options. Meanwhile, a request will be made under the Freedom of Information Act to find out how much this police action has cost the taxpayer.

Next time you pass by a dilapidated, derelict, defunct and crumbling eyesore of a building like the Railton Hotel, or any building deliberately left to go to waste by absentee landlords and ladies, we hope you will consider … what could these buildings – with a bit of imagination and hard graft by the community - become?"

High Hopes for Highfield

Photo: Highfield Regeneration Project
The community group working to regenerate Lancaster's Highfield recreation area received a welcome funding boost at the end of 2011.

A NatWest Community Force award of £6,250, following local email and telephone support, means the local residents are another step closer to signing a lease and taking responsibility of the facility for the benefit of the community.

Although the bowling greens are used in this city council facility at the top of Quernmore Road and Derwent Road, there is a crumbling and underused pavilion and four derelict tennis courts.

Once a hub of the local community, it is hoped that through the dogged determination of local residents enough funds can be raised to regenerate this valuable space within 2012.

• Progress of the Highfield Regeneration Project, a subgroup of the Gregson Community Association, can be followed on their facebook page. Questions or suggestions to

CCTV appeal after local charity box thefts

Police have issued CCTV images of a man they are keen to identify after a series of charity boxes were stolen from shops in Morecambe, Scorton, Preston and Poulton.

The first offence took place at Harris Pantry on White Lund Industrial estate in Morecambe at 9.00am on 22nd November 2011, when a man  entered the bakery and stolen a Mencap charity box from a side table.

The next incident happened at 1.00pm on 10th December when an Air Ambulance charity box was stolen from the Post office at The Square in Scorton. A man waited for customers to leave the shop before secreting a newspaper taken from the display down the back of his trousers, concealing the charity box which was on the counter inside his jacket.

A week later, on 17th December, the same man was spotted at the Cabusmart Cabus Garage on Lancaster New Road, Preston when at 12.30pm a Help for Heroes charity tin was stolen from the shop counter.

On 21st December at 2.30pm, the same man entered a cigarette kiosk on Ball Street in Poulton. He again waited for the customers to leave the shop before distracting the assistant and stealing a Trinity Hospice collection tin from the counter.

Police believe all the incidents are linked, describing the man as white and in his 60s.

He was wearing black trousers with black shoes, a white shirt, black jumper and a beige jacket. He wore a blackstalker hat with ear flaps and glasses.

"This is a despicable crime and I would urge anybody that recognises this man or with any information about the offences to contact Lancashire Police by dialling 101," asks PC Ben Hanley.

• 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.

Protest over 'Occupy Lancaster' police arrests

Photo: Occupy Lancaster
Supporters of Occupy Lancaster have been demonstrating outside Lancaster Police Station this morning, at what they describe as the illegal arerst and eviction of activists who had entered Lancaster's derelict Railton Hotel.

As we reported earlier, Four people have been arrested after a group of Occupy activists were removed from the disused hotel close to Lancaster by police, afterfinding a group of protesters had barricaded themselves inside the building.

The national Guardian reports that friends of those involved in the occupation claimed they had displayed notices saying they were legally occupying a disused building under squatting law. A group of people later marched to a police station and have posted footage of the police action.

The four arrested at the Railton are being held on suspicion of criminal damage are two men from Lancaster aged 30 and 4:, another man, 48, from Morecambe, and a woman, 28, from Lancaster.

"Yesterday the police illegally evicted a squat at the Railton Hotel. Once again the police are the first to break the law," claims supporter Will Taylor in a posting on Facebook promoting the police station demonstration.

"Criminal damage?" asked another supporter on Twitter. "What's left to damage?"

In a statement to virtual-lancaster, police denied they had acted illegally. "We suspected that criminal offences had been committed, namely criminal damage to the property, and therefore arrests have been made," said a spokepserson.

Protesters claim they were in the property and had a legal notice which said they were, legally, under section 6 of the Criminal Law Act allowed to remain in the building and any attempt to remove them would be against the law.

The Railton action, promoted via Twitter last week, follows the Occupy Lancaster action in Dalton Square before Christmas when protesters camped out until Christmas Eve, following last year's strikes and marches over pay and pension reforms in the public sector.

Occupy Lancaster on Twitter

Occupy Lancaster: 4 arrested as Police raid Railton Hotel Squat

Police raided the derelict Railton Hotel near Lancaster Railway station this evening. We understand from a witness who does not wish to be named that the Railton Hotel, which has stood derelict for several years, was squatted on Saturday evening by Occupy Lancaster protesters, who are protesting against cuts to services and benefits affecting vulnerable people, and against tax avoidance by the wealthy.

The facebook community 'Occupy Lancaster' has throughout Sunday been discussing the progress of recovery work being undertaken by volunteers to make the building safely usable - and even making plans to realise the potential of the garden area.

However we understand that on Sunday afternoon police visited the property. They were there for some hours, discussing the situation with protesters outside the building whilst members of the occupation were entering and leaving it. At about 8pm between thirty to forty Police officers, many brought in specially from other areas, gathered outside the property with a number of vehicles. A group of police appear to have employed a form of battering ram to break apart the door of the Railton (see video above). They subsequently entered the building and made 4 arrests.

Lancaster Police have issued the following statement:

"Police were called to the Railton Hotel on Station Road in Lancaster at around 4pm this afternoon to reports of a break in. On arrival, officers found a group of protesters inside the building.  Officers have since entered the property and four arrests have been made.

"Two men aged 30, and 48 from Lancaster and a 48 year old man from Morecambe along with one women aged 28 from Lancaster have been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage. They are currently in custody."

The video featured above, posted on YouTube at,  shows police breaking down the door of the Railton Hotel and entering. In the background protesters can be heard to chant "Rich boys' boot boys" and a protester's voice can be heard reading out to the police the squatters' Legal Warning notice under s6 of the Criminal Law Act which gives squatters some conditional protection from illegal or violent entry.

Further photos of the raid can be viewed at

An on-the-spot interview with witnesses describing the raid and the events and negotiations preceding it can be heard at

Following this event a number of people presented themselves at Lancaster Police Station to lodge a complaint against the police, arguing that the eviction was unlawful under section 6 of the Criminal Law Act. Around 20 people have remained to protest outside the police station. Lancaster Police have responded in a further comment that:

"We suspected that criminal offences had been committed, namely criminal damage to the property, and therefore arrests have been made."

The protesters are currently detained at Lancaster Police station pending questioning.

A further report has been published in the Guardian online site .

See Facebook pages:
'Occupy Lancaster!' and 'Occupy Lancaster - Practical Support'.