Saturday, 7 April 2012

The Really Heavy Greatcoat: Jubilee

The Really Heavy Greatcoat is a cartoon strip I created for On the Beat, Lancaster's old listings magazine, over 20 years ago with Nick Miller -- which either both or one of us occasionally get chance to re-visit. This is one of those occasions. Thanks, Nick!

More Really Heavy Greatcoats on the main downthetubes web site

Nick Miller's Team Sputnik Blog

It's Our City plans public meeting to discuss new Centros development plan

Lancaster development campaign group It's Our City held a meeting at the Gregson earlier this week to discuss the latest Centros proposal for Lancaster Canal Corridor - and are now planning a public meeting on Tuesday 15 May at 7.30pm at Lancaster Town Hall to discuss the new plans.

Centros released revised proposals (see previous story for details)  for a £100m development of the area last month, drawn up in partnership with the City Council and English Heritage and include a department store, shops, cafes and restaurants.

The previous £150m proposal by Centros for the canal corridor north site was rejected following a public inquiry in 2009.

During their meeting, the IOC core group recognised that whilst many were opposed to the last Centros scheme, they felt they were currently no longer in a position to speak on residents' behalf in relation to this latest proposal one way or the other.

As a result, it's been agreed that IOC will host a public meeting in Lancaster Town Hall discus the new plans, with speakers on both sides of the development debate.

"The purpose of the meeting will be to gauge how people feel about the new proposal with a view to determining what relationship IOC as a group should take to it," a spokesperson tod virtual-lancaster. "At present we are looking to hold the event in mid to late May but this will depend on the availability of the Town Hall."

"[Our] revised proposals build on many of the positive components of the last scheme that were endorsed by the Secretary of State," argues Centros director David Lewis last month, "while creatively integrating more of the existing buildings, including the now listed brewery, bringing them back into vibrant use.

"Once legal formalities are concluded, we will be in a position to prepare a new planning application. In the meantime, we intend to continue our engagement with both statutory consultees and local stakeholders, as well as the public."

A new planning application is expected to be submitted at the end of the year and if successful the scheme could be completed by late 2016 or early 2017.

Lancaster City Council discussed the plans at Full Council last month, but the public and press were excluded from the debate.

Morecambe metereological mentions the result of long-running campaign

Late into Maundy Thursday evening, BBC national news bulletins were repeating the fact that Morecambe had been the sunniest place in England, recording a breathtaking 12.7 hours of sunshine. This remarkable fact is of immense importance in re-establishing Morecambe as one of our leading holiday resorts.

And yet, not so long ago, Councillor Ron Sands reminds us, the very particular Met Office conditions for ensuring that our resort appeared in the national weather statistics were under serious threat. Indeed for well over five years, it appeared that there would be no hope of fulfilling the Met Office’s requirements. Consequently, other less deserving resorts would have enjoyed these periodic sunshine accolades.

"Fortunately for us, freelance journalist Andrew Wilson refused to accept this situation," Ron recalls. "Single-handedly and with impressive persistence he took up the matter directly with the Met Office and over time convinced them that Morecambe’s long unbroken record of daily weather readings was a precious statistical asset which needed to be preserved and continued into the future."

Up until 2002, Morecambe's sunshine statistics had for years been included in national weather tables, but the service was effectively stopped with the withdrawal of funding for a 5.00pm reading previously taken by council staff in 2004. Only a 9.00am monitoring remained, which the Met Office considered was insufficient for media recognition and stopped including Morecambe in the national list.

As the Morecambe Vsitor noted in a news item in October 2004, The cuts were made despite the fact that Morecambe often comes top or near the top of the national sunshine hours table and the resort has often been described as "the sunniest place in Britain".
Weather records had been kept daily by the council since 1896, and from 1915 these had been sent to the Met Office for their use.

The Council, led by Labour's Ian Barker, initially resisted Andrew's campaign to reinstate the readings, which he argued meant the mentions for Morecambe in national newspapers were worth "tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of pounds in advertising for the resort.

"With the council's weather statistics, particularly the sunshine hours, you have a golden opportunity to generate that sort of publicity free," he argued, "publicity for which others would give their right arm."

In December 2004, Lancaster City Council decided to look at ways to reinstate readings from the Morecambe weather station, with the council continuing to maintain the station, but seeking a local organisation or business to take the readings. In return they would be given a "small honorarium" for their trouble.
Then Council leader Ian Barker said he remained "unconvinced" at the value of the figures but was willing to reinstate readings in partnership with local people.

However, it was not until Morecambe's own Council began work that the matter was addressed, from its very first meeting in 2009. Funding was found to fund the station and a volunteer took readings until 2010, when the latest automatic weather reading equipment was installed at the resort’s weather station and the Councils involvement in data collecton was no longer required.

"And so, last week on the eve of one of our busiest holiday weekends, the nation was told of Morecambe’s favoured position," notes Ron. "Money cannot buy such valuable publicity.

"Thank you, Andrew. Without your campaign we would have lost one of our most precious assets."
Morecambe: Past Weather Observations

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Become a trader in 2012 with a special offer at Morecambe's Festival Market

The future of Lancaster Market is up in the air again this week, but when it comes to Morecambe's Festival Market the Council seem much more on the ball - and have just announced special introductory trader rates for new businesses interested in trading there.

The Council describes the offer as an "exciting opportunity awaits anyone wishing to expand or re-locate an existing business or those looking to start a new venture in a traditional, bustling and popular market."

Morecambe Festival Market is a traditional covered market close to Morecambe Promenade offering more than 100 stalls, shops and cafes.

Open on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays throughout the year, the market has its own annual events calendar which is bigger and better than ever before and benefits from the other festivals and events taking place in Morecambe throughout the year.

Traders, say the Council, will benefit from support and regular visits from local people and day trippers and is a regular destination for coach trips combining shopping and sightseeing.

The Festival Market continues to support traders and encourage visitors to the market and is launching a new visitor leaflet for 2012.

Commenting on the benefits of being a trader at the market, Alan Greenhalgh who has been at the market since it opened in 1996, said: “The benefit of the market is that some people come to shop, others for a day out - but are impressed enough to come back and tell their friends.”

The reduced rate of only £50 per month (other costs apply) for the first three months, will run from commencement and new traders must agree to current fees and conditions for a minimum of one additional month.

• For more details and to discuss commodities, please contact the Market Manager Tracey Bruce on 01524 414251, email or visit

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Council considers options on Lancaster Indoor Market - again

(Updated 4/4/12: 1610): Lancaster City Council will consider a progress report on Lancaster Indoor Market at next week's full Council meeting and consider options available on its future - which now might not see it close after all.

The possibility that the Market now might not close is however, not going down well with some traders still in the building, who had begun to make plans to move out, pending resolution of compensation negotiations for the loss of their leases.

This latest Council debate follows a resolution by Council last November that negotiations should take place with the owner of the building, Allied, to negotiate a surrender of the lease the council holds on the building - effectively meaning the Market would close.

In response, Allied outlined a number of options, which the Council summarizes as follows:

Proposal A: A joint redevelopment of the market building, with the council to bear the costs of the scheme, retain its lease but sublet to a single retailer.

Proposal B: A joint redevelopment of the market building to accommodate a single retailer, with the council to bear the costs of the scheme, and surrender of the council's lease.

Proposal C: Purchase of the freehold of the property contained in its lease by the council.

Proposal D: Surrender of the council's lease and any redevelopment undertaken by Allied.

Based on these proposals, options for the future of the market that Council will be asked to consider next week are:

Option 1: Continue negotiations with Allied on Proposals B and D, in line with the previous resolutions of Council and continue negotiations with Traders as appropriate.

Option 2: Seek an alternative solution to the previous resolutions of Council and continue negotiations with Allied on Proposals A and/or C, and continue negotiations with Traders where appropriate.

Council will be presented with the key risks and full financial implications of each of the options and proposals, but these are confidential in nature as they are commercially sensitive and are contained in an exempt report to Council.

The new proposals have had a mixed response from those market traders still in the building and negotiating compensation for their leases after the Council decided to close the Market.

"There has been very little contact with the traders since last year and negotiations only began a few weeks ago," market trader Chris Green told virtual-lancaster. "Lancaster City Council are paying the tenants considerable surveyors fees.

"I am not sure why the deal with Allied was not done before [closure] was announced to all, as this was a very bad business decision and put Allied in a very strong position.

"The Council have simply ignored any direct communication we have sent them," he says.

Many stalls are now unoccupied and the once-thriving Market is a pale shadow of its former self. With the Market looking set to be closed, some traders began the process of moving elsewhere (and many already had moved out in the face of ongoing uncertainty over the Market's future). Bay Pets is moving into premises on Common Garden Street soon and the electrical shop on the near-deserted top floor is soon moving to newly refurbished premises on King Street, opposite the Assembly Rooms.

"The idiotic decisions are destroying traders business and family lives," says Chris. "The councillors need to ensure that the resolution passed in November 2011 is adhered to and the compensation is paid to the traders.

"Some traders have already made massive financial commitments to trade elsewhere based on what information they have been given by the Council. The councillors also need to ensure that these officers are held to account.

"It was shortly before the main meeting in November that both councillors and officers told traders, including my partner that closure was 'definitely happening' and 'that everyone might not be happy with it but everyone has a price'."

"It has been a very hard time for traders and their families," adds Zoe Caldicott. "We fought closure in 2010 for council to resolve that it would stay open and investment would be made. A year later, no changes took place apart from spending money on fancy consultancy reports. When the last closure announcement was made in November 2011 traders have had to try and plan their futures.

"What the councillors do not seem to understand is that long term tenants are not hanging on to make a fast buck, relocating costs money and the financial risks involved are huge. Others are being forced into complete closure and therefore their livelihood ceases to exist.

"I would like to remind the council that if agreement is not made on the 11th April to compensate the traders and put an end to this emotional and financial torment, the traders will happily continue using their four year renewable leases.

"It is our view that it will only be with the traders consent if the Market closes or not."

The previous resolution by Council on Lancaster Indoor Market was taken at its meeting in November 2011 and is as follows:

(1) That, in light of the options outlined in the report and the information contained in the financial appraisals appended to the report on Lancaster Indoor Market, Council cannot support in the long term the continuation of the indoor market operation.

(2) That Members therefore request that officers negotiate both the terms of a surrender with the Landlord and, considering the timescales for that surrender, undertake negotiations with traders to seek early surrender of trader tenancy agreements offering assistance with relocation and/or suitable compensation as appropriate.

(3) That a further report be brought to members to consider the progress of the above negotiations and to establish a financial framework to allow subsequent implementation of the proposals.

(4) That the intention be for traders to be relocated to new trading premises and/or compensated, with a view to this being completed by the end of 2012.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Lancaster armed robbery - Police seek second man

Police investigating the robbery at the Marsden Building Society on Church Street, Lancaster last Thursday have released further CCTV images.

Detectives believe that a second man may have been involved in the incident and it is thought that the two men were together in the city centre prior to the robbery taking place.

It was lunchtime at around 12.00pm when a man entered the premises and threatened the assistant with a gun and demanded money.

A CCTV image of the man was released, who is described as being white, around 5ft 10inc tall with a pale complexion and was clean shaven. He had blond/red hair and a local accent.

He was wearing a grey silver hooded cardigan with distinctive toggle style fastening akin to a duffle coat, dark tracksuit bottoms, grey gloves, and a black/grey scarf and was wearing sunglasses.

A number of enquiries have been carried out and officers have identified another man who they would like to speak to in connection with this offence. CCTV images have been released and they are asking the public to see if they recognise him.

He is described as being white, in his mid to late twenties and approximately 5ft 6inc tall with a medium build and dark sandy orange coloured short hair. He was also wearing gold rimmed glasses of an aviator size.

It is believed that he was wearing a light coloured grey jacket similar to a suit jacket.

Following the robbery, it is thought the two men could have travelled to the Marine Road area of Morecambe, close to the Gala Bingo.

Detective Inspector Phil Jones said, “We are pursuing a number of positive lines of enquiry but are obviously keen to trace the two men who feature in the CCTV as we believe they could assist our enquiry.

“I would appeal to anyone who was in the city centre on the morning of Thursday 29th March and who may have seen anyone acting suspiciously to come forward and contact the police.

“Although not physically hurt, the victims have been left distressed by the incident and are coming to terms with what has happened. I would like to reassure the community that incidents such as these are very rare and we have a team of detectives working on this investigation.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Lancaster CID on 101.

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.

Green light for Morecambe FC concert plans

Lancaster City Council has given the green light to plans for Morecambe Football Club to stage pop concerts at the Globe Arena.

The football club had submitted a planning application to allow the use of its Westgate stadium for outdoor music events up to three days per year, which the council’s Planning and Highways Regulatory Committee approved the plans at its meeting on Monday.

Temporary planning permission has initially been granted for up to three days of outdoor music events over a period of 15 months to 30 June 2013. 

The temporary nature of the permission provides the club an opportunity to demonstrate how the impacts on the local community can be adequately mitigated, and other planning conditions will also reduce the impact on local people.

“Morecambe Football Club is a major asset both for the community and the local economy and the city council is fully supportive of its aims to grow and become even more successful," noted Councillor Keith Budden, chairman of the Committee.

“At the same time this has to be in line with the needs of people living near the club, in terms of the affect that the extra traffic and noise will have on the community.

“The committee agreed that the application could be supported as it balances both sides and by granting temporary permission any effects can be considered further should the club reapply for permission.”

Police hunt for Lancaster deer poachers

Police are appealing for witnesses after a Roe deer was found hung in a tree dead in Lancaster.

The grisly discovery was made by a local woman who was walking her dog in woodland off Aldrens Lane in Skerton, Lancaster this morning at around 8.50am. The deer was found hanging from a tree with its head, front legs and stomach removed.

It is thought that it had been taken down by a dog and then been used to recover the meat.

"I'm appalled that people can carry this sort of crime, using a dog to bring down a wild animal," commented Lancashire Constabulary’s Crime Wildlife Officer Mark Thomas.

"So much suffering is inflicted by the dogs upon the deer the animal doesn’t stand a chance," he continued. "Once they have hold of the deer it suffers so much pain while they rip into it.

"It’s a gruesome and barbaric crime and one that Lancashire Police take extremely seriously.

"The offenders are calculated and will spend hours stalking the deer before using lamps to show the dog the location of the deer, and then they will release the dogs to chase down the poor animal.

"Most of the pictures [of this attack] are too barbaric to show the public but I feel if they saw the extent of the nature of them it would have a hard hitting impact of this sort of crime.

"I am appealing for anyone who was in the area last night and who may have witnessed some suspicious activity in the area to come forward and contact the police."

This incident of animal cruelty follows on the heels of a another unconnected crime in which a seal was shot in Great Eccleston at the weekend.

• Anyone with information is asked to call Lancashire Constabulary on 101.

• 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.