Saturday, 10 March 2012

Catastrophic damage to 'protected' Freeman's Wood - photos

Environmental damage at Freeman's Wood

As our pictures below, taken today, show, there have been multiple breaches of the legally binding Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) which should have protected the trees of Freeman's Wood. There also appears to have been a great deal of flytipping of historic industrial landfill taken from inside the site and dumped / scattered outside the boundary fence. You can also view a larger copy version of the entire album as a slideshow on facebook here.

Freeman's Wood has always featured on our Virtual-Lancaster virtual tour as a tranquil local environmental and recreational asset, since this website was founded in 1999, and no-one living remembers it otherwise. To those familiar with the woods over past years, this sudden large-scale damage is shocking and painful. It is difficult to relate to the mentality that is responsible for vandalism on such a scale against the area and the community.

Prior to its being wooded, we understand that the site had been used as an industrial waste landfill site for the Williamson's linoleum factory during a period somewhere between the 1840s, when the factory was established, and 1930. Once the site was full, it was given a covering of earth and planted with trees to stabilise the ground. James Williamson died in 1930 and local legend has it that he had given the area over to the local community for recreational use prior to that. It has many mature trees now.

To date Virtual Lancaster has only visual evidence of that buried content of the site which has been unearthed. We are unable to comment on whether potential contaminants might be present, such as asbestos, which was used to fireproof the factory, or other hazardous wastes.

As can be seen from the photographs, while many trees have been chainsawed, a large number have also been fully uprooted, bringing up large masses of debris, appearing to consist mainly of demolition hard-core and a very large quantity of linoleum fragments and bundles, suggesting that the original landfill contents have remained throughout the site. A great deal of it has been dumped in mounds or scattered outside the fence, along with brush and branches, broken concrete posts and many entire uprooted trees. All of this material appears to originate from within the fence, where areas of upheaval can be seen. The once charmingly sylvan pathway between the woods and the fields is now a rubbish tip.

Within the fence perimeter large embankments appearing to consist of excavated landfill, felled trees, linoleum fragments and earth have been bulldozed. These are exposed and unstable and the area around and outside the fence is strewn with large quantities of fragments. The BMX track playground built in the woods by local youth groups and used for donkey's years has been excavated and now adds to the debris.

The Property Trust, who own title to the land, has lodged an appeal against the TPOs but they (or their contractors) appear to have taken a decision to pre-empt the legal process. The Property Trust are registered to tax-haven Bermuda. Without notice, the wood was fenced with very ugly high spiked steel railings in January. See previous story. Outraged local residents have formed a campaign group to complain about the eyesore and the loss of access, and an application is being made to preserve the area as a town green.

The breach of the TPOs is being investigated by the City Council. We understand that council vehicles have visited the site recently and the damage is unmissable. We will update you as we receive comment.

The remaining woodland is clearly recoverable at this point in time, although there is much reparation required. If you see tree-felling or fly-tipping in Freeman's Wood, it is illegal. Call the police asap, take a picture / video if you can, get names and vehicle registration numbers and notify the City Council.


See images below or as a slideshow album in facebook.



Friday, 9 March 2012

Counting the cost of the Burger: Lancaster University data unveiled

The UK could considerably reduce its carbon footprint if more of us switched to a vegetarian diet, according to new research by Lancaster University.

The report ‘Relative greenhouse gas impacts of realistic dietary choices’ published in the journal Energy Policy says that if everyone in the UK swapped their current eating habits for a vegetarian or vegan diet, our greenhouse gas emissions savings would be the equivalent of a 50 per cent reduction in exhaust pipe emissions from the entire UK passenger car fleet or 40m tonnes.

From biscuits and bananas to beer and wine, everything in our shopping basket comes at a cost to the environment and each stage of food production - from farming and transport to storage and packaging - results in greenhouse gas emissions.

By working out the typical greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of 61 different categories of food, using supermarket data supplied by Booths, the authors of the report, Professor Nick Hewitt of Lancaster University and Mike Berners-Lee of Small World Consulting, were able to work out the typical emissions associated with a number of different diets.

They worked out that the combined greenhouse gas emissions from the foods we eat in the UK are the equivalent of 167 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, and switching to vegetarian or vegan diets could cut this by between 22 and 26 per cent.

Fresh meat had the highest emissions of all, but meat and cheese had generally high green house gas costs. These emissions were largely caused by methane from rumination, slurry and farm yard manure and nitrous oxide from fertilizer. Meat has a carbon footprint at the checkout of 17kg of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilogram. Cheese has 15kg. Cooked meats are also high at 11kg per kilogram, with bacon at 9kg.

Exotic vegetables and mushrooms are high (9kg), largely because of freight and glasshouse heating costs. In contrast, fruit and vegetables grown without artificial heating and/ or were shipped to the UK by sea, have low emissions. Wine has a carbon footprint of 2kg per kilogram, and potatoes, apples, milk, bread and cereals are under 2kg.

Professor Nick Hewitt said: “Greenhouse gases resulting from man’s activities are changing the composition of the atmosphere, ultimately, with effects on global climate. It is clear that in order to meet the ambitious emissions reductions targets agreed in the UK and elsewhere, emissions from every possible source category have to be addressed and driven down. Food production, particularly by industrialised agricultural practices, causes significant green house gas emissions. Realistic choices about diet can make substantial differences to embodied GHG emissions.”

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Health & Social Care Bill

Yesterday the House of Lords voted for a Mental Health amendment to the Health & Social Care Bill, one of many amendments they are to debate. What with all the demonstrations, the opposition of the main professional bodies, the giant billboard campaign against the bill, and the ensuing legislative morass that is emerging, it's hard to work out who, if anyone, still supprts the Health & Social Care Bill.  To clear things up, last week PM David Cameron listed as supporters the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC), NHS Alliance and the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO) along with former Labour Minister Lord Darzi.

The NAPC is a lobbying body set up in association with some of the largest private healthcare and medical companies for the purpose of supporting clinical commissioning, existing purely to be onside the Bill. ACEVO have issued a statement saying that they haven't taken any position on the 'controversial' Bill as a whole but are focussing their concerns on the grave deficiencies in social care funding and services as highlighted in the Dilnot Report. Lord Darzi has yet to comment, being busy in his new post as Business Ambassador for the UK.

Coalition Survey goes pear-shaped
On Tuesday NHS Alliance published the results of their Clinical Commissioning Groups Support Survey, carried out in coalition with the NAPC, which found that more than four fifths of respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the rolling out of the programme of commissioning support, and less than a fifth said they were content.   70.7% expressed dissatisfaction with the commissioning support being offered.  And 20% indicated they had decided to use their local Primary Care Trust cluster offering because they were just too busy to shop around exploring alternative arrangements. The conclusion? "Unless our concerns are addressed, the NHS will no longer be able to offer care to all free at the point of delivery across the range of services currently available and this country will regress in terms of the quality of care it offers and its status among first world Western countries." The survey results appear to have been removed from the NAPC website. Oops.

Ask us no secrets.....
So who actually supports the Bill? Well, Mr Cameron can always count on Morecambe MP David Morris and Lancaster's MP Eric Ollerenshaw. As we reported last month, the government is fighting to keep secret the contents of its risk assessments of the proposed new Bill's shakeup of the NHS, despite legal threats from the Information Commissioner, with a tribunal set to take place in March. Last week both our local MPs voted against the publication of the NHS risk register after an Opposition Day debate.

In a letter to a constituent Morris, our very own National Elf, explained why we were safer kept uninformed about threats to our NHS;  "There is a real danger that if risk registers are routinely released into the public domain, then risks would no longer be recorded accurately on them. It could also lead to the publication of deeply misleading information. Establishing this precedent would threaten the successful implementation of Government policy."
Read his full response here..

Cumbria County Medical Officer protests 'gag'
Last month Professor John Ashton, County Medical Officer for Cumbria, was summoned to a meeting by PCT bosses after he and 22 other signatories penned a letter to a national newspaper criticising the Bill.  NHS Cumbria initially claimed Professor Ashton breached the NHS code of conduct - by voicing his concerns over the plans. Professor Ashton protested to the BBC that the PCT was acting under instructions from the Secretary of State's office to 'gag' him. After Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham called this 'top-down bullying', Cumbria NHS was roused to confirm that: "Every senior manager in the health service has to nonetheless be mindful of expressing their views on political issues as individuals, and not on behalf of the NHS organisations for which they work .... the meeting with Professor Ashton is not a disciplinary meeting but is to ensure that he is always mindful of these differences."

Conservative Party Central HQ also called the local radio station to 'out' Prof Ashton as a member of the Labour Party, and thus, unlike them, politically biased.  Professor Ashton said, "As a public health director and as the advisor for public health to the county of Cumbria... I have the freedom to speak out on matters of interest. I am not acting politically, I am acting professionally, drawing on the evidence of what will happen if we go down the road to private health insurance." As  MP David Morris didn't say, this is the trouble with letting people who aren't multi-millionaires (or Conservatives) have access to information that affects them.

Whither Heather? Senior City Council post scrapped in restructuring

The  £77,300 p.a.  post  of  Deputy Chief Executive at Lancaster City Council has been scrapped after two years, leaving its occupant, Ms Heather McManus, redundant. It's not yet known if Ms McManus will be redeployed at Lancaster City Council, so we'll skip the eulogy for now, as a search for her name on this blog will tell you pretty much everything we could put in it. Your contributions are welcome just in case, however.

A query from Virtual Lancaster to the City Council, as to why the new management  structure so recently implemented was being dismantled, obtained the following reply from Chief Exec Mark Cullinan:

"The structure was introduced almost two years ago and much has changed in public services that has led to continuous organisational change in the council

"The council has implemented a series of organisational changes recently to enable further efficiencies to be achieved."

See minutes of Personnel Committee meeting (held on 28 February) for revised senior management structure -"

Sadly, when we followed the handy link supplied by Mr Cullinan, we found the item 'Senior Management Restructure' was restricted from public view. However we did come across this diagram, which may or may not be the new structure proposal.

The restrictions on these agenda items suggest that further changes at senior management level may soon be in the offing. A number of shared service agreements have been negotiated with neighbouring authorities over the last year leading to cuts in staffing levels and further efficiencies are indicated.

Today's Lancaster Guardian Comment section (p18) was keen to mention the redundancy terms that other Town Hall staff at less senior grades have had to accept recently, asking austerely whether the same or more generous terms are being offered to senior management.  They have about as much chance of finding out from the Council as Ms McManus has of receiving several wild horses and a flying pig but perhaps she will be kind enough to enlighten them in due course.

Loyne School takes on Lowry

Artist L.S. Lowry has inspired students from a Lancaster school to pick up their paintbrushes and create an exhibition of local scenes for The Dukes gallery.

Some 23 students aged 16-19 from Loyne Specialist School’s further education department have produced work for the exhibition which runs from 12th - 16th March.

Students were asked to study an artist and Lowry was chosen because of his North West connections which they could relate to.

The teenagers also had the opportunity to visit The Lowry in Salford and see some of the artist’s original paintings and drawings for themselves - and just as Lowry used local landmarks and buildings as the subject of his paintings, the Loyne School pupils followed in his footsteps, taking their inspiration from Lancaster and the surrounding area.

Their paintings include Lancaster Town Hall, the Butterfly House in Williamson Park and Lancaster City Museum.

"Creative art is very important to the Loyne Specialist School," explains higher level teaching assistant, Colette Senar, "and features not only in our curriculum but also in the variety of clubs that operate throughout the week. We have also been very lucky to have visiting artists come in to school to work directly with the pupils.

"The students are excited about seeing their work on public display and take great pride in showing the result of their hard work to others."

• The Dukes gallery is open from 10.00am to 11.00pm, Monday to Saturday. Please call the box office on 01524 598500 to check opening times if you’re making a special journey as occasionally the space is closed to the public.

Traffic curb plans for Lancaster's pedestrian zone being considered

Lancaster City Council is examining the future management of traffic inside Lancaster’s pedestrian zone as part of its plans to revitalise the city centre and in response to concerns about the number of cars and lorries that are often seen using it - despite restrictions.

Very often, much of the zone - which was one of the first created in the UK - is now too heavily used by vehicles, to the detriment of people’s experience and safety, including shoppers and other centre users. Now, as part of the Lancaster Square Routes project, the city council is looking at how traffic is managed within the centre with a view to potentially reducing vehicle access.

Informal consultation is currently taking place with a number of groups, including the Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce, on what changes might be introduced. This could potentially include restricting access to the pedestrian zone for delivery vehicles between 9.30am until 5pm. Currently the restriction is from 10.30am to 4.30pm.

As the Highways Authority, Lancashire County Council will make the final decision on any changes to the current traffic regulations, but both councils are working together to bring in the proposals.

“Lancaster was one of the first pedestrian zone in the country and set the benchmark which other city centres subsequently followed," says Councillor Janice Hanson, Cabinet member with responsibility for regeneration and planning. “However, we’ve now reached a stage where vehicle use within the zone has grown to such a level that it is potentially harming the centre’s future growth.

“We realise that there are a number of differing views and everyone will have an opinion on what, if any, changes should be made to the current regulations.

 “That’s why we’re starting to consult informally because we’ll need to ensure that any proposals we bring forward are properly considered and strike the right balance.”

Initially any changes could be made through an 18 month Experimental Traffic Regulation Order, which would provide the opportunity to closely scrutinise and monitor their effectiveness. Feedback as to how changes are working would be sought from local people, businesses and organisations. Before the end of the 18 months a decision on whether to adopt, amend or abandon the changes would be made by Lancashire County Council.

"Improving the way traffic is managed in Lancaster is an important step to create the right economic conditions for businesses, and make the city centre more attractive to shoppers and potential investors," argues  County Councillor Tim Ashton, Cabinet member for highways and transport at Lancashire County Council.

"Both councils are working closely together on this project and will listen carefully to what people have to tell us about the experimental changes."

The first purpose-built pedestrian street in Europe was the Lijnbaan in Rotterdam, opened in 1953. The first pedestrianised shopping centre in the United Kingdom was in Stevenage in 1959, but there have been many variations on pedestrianised areas in city centres across Britain. 

However as far as we are aware, the pedestrianised area in Lancaster City Centre was the first of its type ie made up of more than one street taken out of standard highway use. This is different to any area purpose built as a pedestrian area or where only one street has been switched into such.

Centros in secret development deal talks with City Council

An earlier visual for Centros first plan for Lancaster
What has happened to developer Centros? In the current issue of Lancaster Chamber of Commerce's Business Matters we read that Lancaster City Council has had recent meetings with Centros who "... confirmed their commitment to progressing a mixed retail led scheme on the Lancaster canal corridor site.

"We are assured by our local authority that plenty is happening behind the scenes and every effort is being made to deliver the best schemes to meet the needs of the district," the Chamber adds in an article that offers a useful round up of development matters in the area.

The Council's Canal Corridor Liaison Group met for the first time in a long time in February in a meeting restricted from the public. The City Council Cabinet is due to deal next week with an Agenda Item concerning the Canal Corridor Development, and we surmise that another secret development deal with Centros is on the table. The matter is entirely restricted from the public, as befits a deal that would lease half our city centre for 250 years to Centros, a private company registered to a British Virgin Islands tax shelter. 

We have no details on what new changes have been made to the original deal; it included a new supermarket and the likelihood that retail anchor Marks & Spencer would move across town to the Centros development, which would leave a very large empty retail space next to the empty market and the second Sainsbury's planned nearby. The original development also proposed a 60 per cent increase in city centre retail space  However with two new giant supermarkets proposed alongside the A6 at Scotforth, plus a new discount supermarket envisaged for the old Booths site,  local retailers worry that shoppers and tourists coming from the South will simply spend most of their money outside the city centre.

Within the city centre struggling retailers will be in further competition with two Sainsbury's, a Tesco and a new supermarket in the proposed Canal Corridor Development.

The previous deal collapsed following strong objections from English Heritage to inadequacies in the plans and the process. Centros failed to attend the public enquiry leaving the council making empty noises about seeking compensation for all its expenses in attempting to defend the deal.  But that's all water under the bridge.

Consultations and fresh impact studies will doubtless be taking place again, hopefully before the council commits itself this time. (We remember with some irony the discredited telephone poll commissioned by Centros for the local Labour by-election campaign in 2007 that saw the Greens taking Bulk Ward from Labour in a landslide vote.)

Councillors approved the last development deal without actually being permitted to read it. It's to be hoped that the hard lessons of Asco and the market and Blobbyland and Bubbles have been learnt this time.

Community transport firm warned on record keeping

A Morecambe-based community transport firm has been issued with a warning after it failed to keep accurate records of the hours its drivers were working.

Lune Valley Transport Enterprise Ltd was called before the North Western Traffic Commissioner following an investigation by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), which found the company did not have acceptable arrangements in place for recording drivers’ hours.

The firm, which is based at Vickers Industrial Estate on Mellishaw Lane, was also served with two immediate prohibition notices by VOSA following a visit in 2011, preventing the use of two of its vehicles due to concerns about their roadworthiness.

Lune Valley, which provides buses for local schools, sheltered housing groups and elderly and disabled people, appeared before the North Western Traffic Commissioner, Beverley Bell, on 6th February 2012.

The company was warned it could risk losing its permits to operate community transport services if it fails to comply with government regulations in future.

“Firms that operate community transport services are legally required to record the hours their drivers work, to ensure the safety of both employees and passengers," said Beverley Bell.

“Officers from VOSA will check that Lune Valley complies with the regulations in future and, if it does not, then I would be perfectly entitled to revoke its permits to run community transport buses.

“Companies that comply with the rules for recording drivers’ hours have nothing to fear, but those that don’t will be called to a formal inquiry to explain themselves.”

Salt Ayre Swimming Pool to close for refurbishment

Salt Ayre Swimming Pool will be closed for refurbishment from Monday 26th March to Friday 30th March inclusive.

During this time, specialist work will be undertaken to the swimming pool floor and improvements made to seating and changing room areas.

Part of the popular Salt Ayre Sports Centre, Lancaster City Council estimates that more than 100,000 swims take place in the pool each year so essential work is needed to maintain the high standard of facilities and improve the quality of the pool for all its customers.

The pool will re-open to the public on Saturday 31st March in time for the popular weekly inflatable fun and floats session which features a giant inflatable ghost ship.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Hospital Trust Chief Exec Resigns

Tony Halsall
Following on from last month's warnings by Health watchdog agencies over failings at the 'red-rated'  University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT) (see previous article), the Trust's Chief Executive Tony Halsall has now resigned.

Mr Halsall's departure follows  Trust Chair Professor Eddie Kane's resignation in December 2011,  five months before his contract was due to expire.  In February the independent regulator Monitor intervened in the running of the hospital trust, bringing in an interim Chair, Sir David Henshaw, from Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool. The Trust's deputy chief executive and director of finance, Tim Bennett, will act as CE until Sir David appoints an Interim Chief Executive.

Having joined the NHS as a nurse in 1980, Mr Halsall had held various senior management posts before being appointed Chief Executive at University Hospitals of Morecamb Bay NHS Trust in 2007. It became a Foundation Trust in 2010. He also led Morecambe Bay to Foundation Trust status in 2010.  However a series of deaths in 2008 at the mother & baby unit at Furness General Hospital, in Barrow, Cumbria, has led to an ongoing police investigation.  It also became apparent that the methods used to compile statistics on patient outcomes at Furness General had led to a number of fatalities involving clinical error at the unit being left out of the figures.

A failed inspection in December 2011 let to health regulators the Care Quality Commission (CQC)  issuing a warning over unacceptable standards at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary's A & E Department. (See previous article).

As a result, changes are now being made at the RLI, with the day surgery ward being changed to a medical ward to immediately provide an additional 34 medical beds. Also, the Trust has announced that a new mobile operating unit is being brought in:

"To support the extra medical beds additional senior medical staff, and appropriately trained and skilled nurses, will be in place to ensure safe medical cover and decision-making to support the Medical Assessment Unit, the short stay wards, Emergency Department and the inpatient wards.
"The introduction of the mobile unit will give us valuable extra capacity to ensure there are enough beds available for emergency patients.  In the short term I regret that we will also need to postpone some non-urgent operations."We have recognised that there is a need to make improvements to emergency care at the RLI to improve patient experience and reduce waiting times.
"Work is starting on a £1.5 million investment in these services and we also brought an external expert in towards the end of last year to work with staff on plans that will provide a longer term solution to managing emergency care. We are also working closely with our commissioners to ensure our longer term plans are in the best interests of our patients."

Work is also underway to move acute stroke patients from Medical Unit 2 to a designated stroke unit.

Sir David Henshaw
In an update on progress released on 1 March Sir David explained that the trust had now set up a Programme Management Office (PMO) which  'quality assures the project plans, the milestones to delivery and outcomes of all projects.  It reports to a Programme Board and through that to the Board of Directors.'  Read his full statement here.

One of the PMO's first projects is a Mortality Review, involving an overhaul of the data collection system in partnership with the NW Quality Alliance and CHKS.

On 6 March, in a Trust statement on the Care Quality Commission warning notices, Sir David went on to say;
"A considerable amount of work is already underway and we are developing a comprehensive recovery plan for the Trust and when this is complete I look forward to discussing it with local people, our staff and other stakeholders.
“In their on-going investigation the CQC has made us aware of a number of additional problems including staff shortages and other areas of concern about care related to assessment, observation, record keeping and privacy and dignity.
“I wish to thank all of our staff for their continued hard work and dedication in what continues to be extremely difficult times. Day in, day out our staff treat the majority of patients with a high level of care and professionalism and we appreciate the support and goodwill of our staff, which has been considerable – we do not take it for granted. However, the level of care, safety and experience that investigators recently identified in some cases is completely unacceptable. '

A schedule for local consultation may have to wait until the new Interim CE is announced.

In the meantime, we hear that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is currently welcoming applications from patients, carers and lay people to sit on a number of NICE groups and committees, as part of their Patient and Public Involvement Programme.  They have vacancies on the following committees (mainly meeting in Manchester):

Technology Appraisal Committee D closing date Monday 26 March 2012
Dyspepsia/Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) Guideline Development Group closing date 22 March 2012
Epilepsy Quality Standard Topic Expert Group closing date 28 March 2012
Hypertension Quality Standard Topic Expert Group closing date 27 March 2012

For more patient, carer and lay opportunities please see the NICE webpages

See previous story: Watchdog threatens closure of RLI A & E Department

See also: Morecambe MP explains why he voted against NHS risk register publication

In Review: Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet is probably a play best performed by teenagers. Or so I was convinced after watching the opening night of the Lancaster Girls’ Grammar School/Lancaster Royal Grammar School production. It’s also even better if the sexes are nicely balanced in the Montague and Capulet gangs, and in Helen Tozer’s production and adaptation they are. Set broadly in the present day and on an ocean liner, The Verona, this production has links with the films West Side Story, Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet and even Titanic (which itself can be seen as drawing on Shakespeare’s play).

This production is very imaginative, interestingly featuring two female friars (Rhona Egerton and Shona Taylor). There is a very funny juxtaposition of Romeo and Juliet’s only night together, on one side of the stage, with Juliet’s parents and Paris planning Juliet’s marriage to Paris on the other – and at this point we welcome this bit of lightheartedness. It is also full of energy, vibrant, intense, very moving and more besides. The acting is excellent, with a thoroughly natural and convincing feel. Ruby Henderson shines as Juliet, whom she plays as a girlish thirteen-year-old who grows up very, very quickly. Charlie Robb is a sensitive, uncompromising and driven Romeo. Between them they allow us to experience something of the anguish this young couple would have gone through.  

Daisy Whalley and Ruaidhri Johnstone, Juliet’s seemingly ill-matched Capulet parents, who see nothing wrong with marrying their daughter off to a man she doesn’t love, nor with disowning her if she does not obey, create a pleasing dynamic, acting in opposition and coming together by turn. Milli Blackwell’s Nurse is genuinely comedic at first – but then is tragically played when events take their much darker turn.

The play is further enriched by Andy Whitfield’s several musical compositions and adaptations, and the contribution of musicians and singers from both schools, including from the LGGS junior choir who sing at Romeo and Juliet’s marriage and later while Juliet lies ‘dead’ in the vault. The fight director Martin Shenton did a brilliant job too: there is nothing amateur or half-hearted in any of the fights, to the extent that the struggle at the end between Paris (Harry Cole) and Romeo was something of a show-stealer.

Because of the cultural over-familiarity of some of the lines, and its emotional intensity, Romeo and Juliet done badly can be a theatrical disaster, and is an ambitious project for any amateur company or as a school production. Done well, however, heightened as an experience by the dramatic irony, it is unbearably sad and deeply moving. This production was a tour de force. Congratulations to all concerned.

Jane Sunderland

Still to run:

Thursday March 8, 7.30 p.m.
Friday March 9, 7.30 p.m.
Saturday March 10, 7.30 p.m.

Tickets £10.00, Concessions £8.00.  The Dukes (The Rake), Moor Lane, Lancaster LA1 1QE. Dukes Box Office: 01524 598500. Telephone: LRGS: 01524 580600 Telephone: LGGS: 01524 32010

Police officer saves Heysham pensioner from fire

A local police officer has been praised for his brave actions after saving a Heysham pensioner from a house fire.

Lancashire Constabulary received a call from Lancaster City Council at 6.20pm on 1st March, stating an elderly resident’s 'Lifeline' - a device which automatically calls a monitoring centre at the touch of a button in an emergency - had been activated at an address in Maple Avenue, Heysham.

PC Jamie Illingworth went to the address and found plumes of smoke filling the entire flat. Inside, the kitchen stove was ablaze, but Jamie was able to extinguish the fire

He then then tried to locate the home owner through the thick smoke, finding the 89-year-old resident  lying on the floor in a corridor, unable to get up.

PC Illingworth helped him to safety and, when an ambuanc arrived, the elderly resident was given oxygen before being taken to hospital.

Inspector Guy Hamlett, Lancaster police, said: “PC Illingworth went into the address without fear for his own safety and his actions no doubt stopped the fire from spreading and saved this gentleman’s life.”

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Appeal after fatal collision in Pilling

Police are appealing for witnesses to come forward after a motorcyclist died in a collision at Pilling on Sunday (March 4th).

The accident happened at shortly before 12.45pm at the junction of Lancaster Road and Gulf Lane.

It is believed the Suzuki motorcycle was travelling along Lancaster Road, towards the town, when it collided with a VW Passat turning into Gulf Lane.

The motorcyclist, a 47 year old man from Thornton, was thrown from his bike and sustained fatal injuries.

Sergeant Jon Allwright, of the Force Road Policing Unit said: “Our thoughts are with the families of the motorcyclist and those others involved. We are asking for anyone who may have seen the accident and didn’t stop at the scene to contact the police.”

Anyone with information should call police on the non emergency number 101 and quote log number LC-20120304-0760

Monday, 5 March 2012

Lancaster Real-ale prize pub seeks new champions

An award-winning Lancaster pub, famous for its wide selection of cask ales and a friendly atmosphere, is on the hunt for a food-loving Lancashire couple to safeguard its future as a cask-ale mecca.

Situated on St. George's Quay by the River Lune the George and Dragon is seeking an enthusiastic entrepreneurial individual or couple to take over from successful outgoing licensees Kye and Ian Lloyd, who are relocating for family reasons.

The popular community local, owned by the pub group Admiral Taverns, was awarded the first ever Most Improved Pub Award (MIPA) last year by the Lunesdale Branch of CAMRA (The Campaign for Real Ale). The award is given to pubs that have demonstrated dramatic improvement in areas such as facilities, drinking environment, atmosphere and ale quality.

Real ale is currently the fastest-growing drinks category in pubs and is becoming increasingly popular with women and young drinkers. Despite some well-known challenges in the pub industry, real ale pubs are thriving. Figures from CAMRA showed that in 2006, only 37 per cent of drinkers nationally had tried real ale. That figure now stands at 52 pr cent.

Admiral Taverns is hopeful that the George and Dragon’s reputation as the premier real ale destination for the people of Lancaster will ensure it is able to attract a high-calibre tenant to drive it forward.

“The George and Dragon is a remarkable pub which has a strong local following," enthuses Admiral’s business development manager Stuart Watt. "It has a friendly atmosphere and attracts a wide range of people; accountants, students, builders, and everyone socialises and gets on together.

“We are looking for an ambitious individual or couple who have experience of food and cask-ale and who are familiar with the local area.

“The George and Dragon is a success story and we want someone to come on board who shares Admiral’s vision for the pub which is to ensure it remains the heartbeat of the Lancaster real ale movement.”

“Everyone at CAMRA is very sorry to lose Kye and Ian and we wish them every success in the future," says Julian Holt from Lunesdale CAMR. "The George & Dragon offers a wonderful opportunity to an incoming tenant thanks to what has already been achieved there. It is a real community local in an attractive location, with a loyal clientele.

“People drink there because the beer is consistently good and there is a great atmosphere. It was the natural choice for the branch's Most Improved Pub Award.”

• Those who are interested in taking on the George and Dragon can contact Kelly Dunne, part of the Admiral recruitment team, on 01244 505491

Mother and children found safe and well

Police can confirm that the missing Cumbrian mum and her two children have been found safe and well in the Lancashire Area.

Cumbria Police would like to thank Lancashire Police and especially  the media and members of the public for their assistance and support.

Fukushima Anniversary bike ride planned

On Saturday 10th March Heysham Anti Nuclear Alliance, families and community members will undertake a seven-mile bicycle ride from Lancaster to Heysham Nuclear Power Station Nature Reserve to mark the one year anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The event has been organised to highlight ongoing concern over the safety and environmental impact of nuclear power.

Assembling at Lancaster Priory at 11.00am, the bicycle ride will follow the path of Lancaster Greenway to Morecambe. From here the cyclists will continue along the promenade and on to the Heysham Nuclear Power Station Nature Reserve for a community picnic. The picnic is set to start at 1.00pm and is a second meeting point for those coming by other modes of transport.

Also planned are talks, a workshop about the lack of a solution for nuclear waste, and a walk around part of the perimeter of the station.

The event will end at around 3.00pm.

"One year on from the catastrophic nuclear meltdown at Fukushima, the reactors are still not under control," notes 25-year-old Morecambe resident Rory Walker. "There's still a 12 mile exclusion zone and the costs of stabilising the plant and salvaging the area are set to be as much as £37 billion just for the first two years.

"Against this back drop, Germany and Italy have said 'No' to new nuclear. Yet Britain is pushing ahead despite this being a tried, tested and failed technology. Investment in the planned 18 new nuclear reactors is likely to exceed £60 billion.

"This vast sum of money would be much better spent investing in the renewable power sector and providing finance for energy saving projects."

The event is taking place at the same time as a national mobilisation at Hinkley Nuclear Power Station in Somerset. Anti-nuclear campaigners and local residents will be blockading the existing power station at Hinkley in protest against plans to build the first new nuclear power station in the UK for 25 years.

Nicky Johnson, 36 of Heysham said "Recent changes to national planning law mean that once the Hinkley power station has been given permission, there is no way that a new nuclear power station at Heysham could be stopped. Therefore, although the diggers are not yet on our doorstep, now is the time to act against new nuclear.

"I'll be attending the event at Heysham as it is a good opportunity to express my ongoing concerns about new nuclear power on my doorstep as well as across the UK."