Friday, 25 May 2012

National Family Week - fun in the Parks

Lancaster City Council is encouraging families to get together to celebrate National Family Week.

There are lots of things to do for all the family from 30 May until 5 June at council parks and facilities in Lancaster and Morecambe.

Williamson Park, Lancaster is already running lots of additional sessions as part of the ‘Love your Zoo’ campaign. There are daily ‘Meet the Keeper’ sessions at 11am in the Butterfly House. On Wednesday May 30 at 1pm there is a snake handling session and at 3pm you can get hands on with the furry creatures in the woodland garden.

On Thursday May 31 you can handle some of the creepy crawlies lurking in the mini beast cave at 1pm and 3pm. On Friday June 1 there are more opportunities to meet snakes at 1pm and the creatures in the woodland garden at 3pm.

There is a Junior Zoo Keeper course starting on Saturday June 2 so book now to ensure you are guaranteed a place on this popular 3 week course.  Starting at 10am, budding zoologists will learn about lifecycles, habitats and get some hands on experience of running a zoo. It is a great experience for children aged 8-14 years and costs £22 for the full three weeks of hourly sessions.

Also on Saturday June 2, join the zoo keepers for a mini beast handling session at 1pm and 3pm. On Sunday June 3 there is another Junior Zoo Keeper course from 10am. Visit the mini beast house at 1pm to meet our resident snakes or for the less brave, at 3pm our furry friends will be available to handle. There will be additional mini beast handling sessions on Monday June 4 at 1pm and 3pm.  Don’t forget you can still ‘Meet the Keeper’ every day at 11am.

Celebrate the additional bank holiday on Tuesday June 5 with our ‘Be A Zoo Keeper’ session at 9.30am. Working alongside our zoo keepers youngsters will learn how to look after animals, feed them and prepare the Butterfly House for opening to the public. Those brave enough will also be offered the chance to handle some of the mini beasts and go behind the scenes in the cave. These sessions last for three hours. The cost is £5 per person and the course is aimed at children aged eight to 14 years.

There is another fun handling session for all the family to enjoy at 1pm with snakes or the small mammals at 3pm. For more information about the range of activities taking place at Williamson park or to book onto the Junior Zoo Keeper course contact 01524 33318 or visit

For country music fans, the Platform in Morecambe is hosting the Country Kickback Festival. On Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 June there will be free live music and entertainment outside the Platform.  So grab your Stetson and pull on your boots for some great country and western music and line dancing.  To find out more, visit or call 01524 582803.

If the traditional sounds of brass bands are more your cup of tea, come along to Happy Mount Park on Sunday June 3 at 2.30pm. Bring a picnic and enjoy the free entertainment. For more information about Happy Mount park visit or call 01524 582808.

Morecambe’s Festival Market is open throughout the Jubilee bank holiday weekend so call in for a huge range of great products at even better prices from local traders who are promising to get into the Jubilee spirit by dressing in red white and blue.

For more information on the market visit or call 01524 414251.

For active families, try something at Salt Ayre Sports Centre such as the floats sessions, Swim for £1, Little Ducks sessions or jump aboard the inflatable ghost ship. The water slide will also be open on Saturday 2 and Sunday June 3. The centre will be closed on Monday 4 and Tuesday 5 June. For more information and session times visit

City Council Bites £17m Bullet over Market Closure?

(Updated 26/5/12): Yesterday's meeting of Lancaster City Council agreed to compensate Lancaster Market traders in order to empty and close Lancaster's Indoor Market. Whether the Council will continue its lease on the building or surrender it will depend on the terms.

Press and public were excluded from the meeting, but we understand from an unconfirmed source that that the up front surrender cost of the remaining 83 years of the lease to Allied Lancaster, who own the building, could be around £16 million. (The Morecambe Visitor reports £20 million). However, terms of any potential surrender are still under negotiation with Allied.

The estimated saving to the Council over the next 83 years is thought to be around £22 million, on the assumption that the future impact of inflation would be neutral.

The City Council's annual budget is around £20 million, and so to spread the pain, if acceptable surrender terms are reached, the council would have to apply for a local government loan to be repaid over 15 - 20 years.

The total claim for compensation from the City Council by market traders who must vacate the building was agreed at £1 million.

"We are very happy that the council has settled our future," stallholder Zoe Caldicott told Virtual-Lancaster. "At last the uncertainty is over, we know where we stand and can begin making plans for a fresh start."

The future of the Market has been a long and difficult decision process for the council and has raised a great deal of feeling locally, as we have noted in many previous reports. However, the revenue from the Market cannot cover the rent, and the lease conditions stipulate that the rent can only be raised and not lowered, regardless of trading conditions, leading to an annual deficit of over £600k and rising.

This is a problem of affecting the entire retail sector, as many private retail landlords nationally refuse to freeze or reduce rents despite the downturn, leaving many shops standing empty, and the cost of renting them far beyond the reach of potential local retailers and start-ups.

Lancaster's prominent market building needs intensive use if it is to function as a retail anchor for the North West end of the city centre, and requires sustainable occupancy. Years of wishful thinking have, as far as we know, only produced Asco as a proposed alternative single retail tenant for the City Council, a plan that soured as soon as it was aired (see previous stories).

Lancaster's loss of its Indoor Market after 120 years is a very bitter pill to swallow but the terms that made it inevitable were written into the original lease on the new building. This was agreed by the then City Council and Allied Lancaster in the late 1980s after the old market burned down.

Harder still, we understand, although it has not been confirmed by the present city council, is that the estimated surrender cost of the lease has almost doubled over the past year. At the same time, long-running uncertainty over the future of the market has made it insecure as a trading base for local stallholders, many of whom have already either closed down or moved to new premises, leaving the building half empty.

A 2011 proposal to rehouse the Market in the City Museum building was found unworkable, as was a proposal to refurbish the building. Current proposals in the air may include the possibility of refurbishing and extending the market building to incorporate the adjacent walkway and row of shops, a development that might make the premises more attractive to a major retailer. However until the lease negotiations are concluded, it's not known whether such an option might fall to the City Council or to Allied to take forward.

Updated 25/5/12: Lancaster City Council has issued a statement of the recommendations agreed at yesterday's meeting:

(1) "That Council agrees to compensate Lancaster Indoor Market traders on the basis set out in the report, as an initial step in resolving the market building’s future, and delegates to the Chief Executive authority to finalise the terms and conditions of the agreement(s) to be entered into with the traders.

(2) "That Council authorises officers to work with Lambert Smith Hampton to continue negotiations with Allied to achieve the best possible terms for the Council in respect of the market building, and that the appropriate details are referred back to Council for consideration in due course, together with proposed financing arrangements.

(3) "That it be noted that should the outcome of (2) above result in subsequent redevelopment of the market building, the costs of compensating traders under (1) above would fall as capital expenditure but until such time as this is confirmed, the Lancaster Market Reserve and Invest to Save reserve be earmarked to provide cover for such costs."

Admission of Freemen and Freewomen of the City: Invitation

The Court of Admission 2011
Lancaster City Council is delighted that 2012 will introduce a major change to one of its most long standing traditions, when women can be admitted as Freewomen in all four categories of application.

Each year Lancaster City Council continues the longstanding custom of admitting new Freemen of the city.

Traditionally the honour of becoming a Freeman carried a number of privileges including the right to ‘pasture a limited number of beasts’ on the Marsh, to enter the city free from the payment of tolls and also to bring goods through toll gates for sale at the Lancaster Market.
Nowadays the role carries few rights, but remains popular amongst those who are proud of their heritage.

Changes in inheritance legislation saw the admission of women as daughters of Freemen in 2011, and work was undertaken to confirm a change to the rules to allow women to be admitted into the remaining three categories (see previous story).

In order to mark this historic event, the Mayor hopes to welcome 60 new Freemen and Freewomen at a ceremony in Lancaster Town Hall - a number which is significant this year to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Why is this relevant? Admission involves swearing an oath of loyalty to the head of state and the chain of command down to City Council. There is also a rider requirement to report secret gatherings of insurrectionists if they should come across any. Of course in Lancaster they mostly advertise nowadays.

The four categories of admission are as follows:

To be the son or daughter of a Freeman or Freewoman.
To have served an apprenticeship to a Freeman or Freewoman of the City for a period of seven years.
To have been born within the old city boundaries.
To have lived within the old city boundaries for a period of 7 consecutive years.
In each case, the applicant has to be at least 16 years of age.

Anyone interested in becoming a Freeman or Freewoman should contact the Mayor’s Office, Town Hall, Lancaster, LA1 1PJ for an application form, by telephoning (01524) 582070 or by sending an email to, who, incidentally, was one of Lancaster's first Freewomen, admitted as the daughter of a Freeman in 2011.

Applications should be submitted by the end of June.

The Court for the Admission of Freemen and Freewomen will take place at 10am on Saturday July 14 at Lancaster Town Hall.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

It's Our City call for council veto on Centros 'sweetheart' deal

The Centros 'Arc' development in Bury St Edmunds
First published: 18/5/12
updated 23/5/12

A packed meeting at Lancaster Town Hall last Tuesday learnt about the new Centros proposals for the development of the Canal Corridor North site east of Lancaster's City Centre, which now propose:
  • scrapping the previously 'essential' connecting footlink to the existing town centre
  • moving the Marks & Spencers store, which currently anchors the south end of the existing shopping centre, into the new development
  • a greater loss of car parking revenue to the City Council than the proposed rent will cover.
The original development agreement with Centros has expired unfulfilled but the City Council cabinet voted to extend it and the full council is to vote on it on Wednesday 13th June at Morecambe Town Hall.

It's Our City has called a further public meeting to discuss the plans on Monday 21st May at 7.30pm in the Gregson.

Speaking for the planning campaign group 'It's Our City' at Tuesday's meeting, a group  committed to obtaining a rational 21st century regeneration plan for the Canal Corridor site, Billy Pye recounted the colourful history of Centros' dealings with Lancaster City Council.

He described the break up after Centros had jilted the Council by not turning up at the public enquiry where their scheme was rejected, and the threats city executives had made about legal action against Centros to recover the exorbitant costs to the city.

Despite all this, he noted, instead of this ending up with the city executives singing 'I will survive' and and picking themselves up to find someone more worthy of their love, it seemed it was only a public tiff between star-crossed lovers, and now the sweethearts were making up again behind the closed bedroom doors of 'commercial confidentiality' - in other words, yet again, the public and even the councillors were not party to the full terms of the proposed new development agreement.

He reminded the meeting that in 2010 the council had affirmed that a valid public consultation would take place but yet again the city was being faced with a fait accompli which still took no account of impacts on traffic and air quality, and the inevitable dereliction of the historic city centre. He called for a city-wide referendum on the issue.

Councillors from all the City Council party groups had been invited to speak at the meeting, which was chaired by Alan Whittaker, a former Pro Vice Chancellor of Lancaster University. With the exception of the Green Party councillors, none had shown interest in attending a public meeting on what is probably the greatest challenge the city faces this century.

Councillor Tim Hamilton Cox explained some of the problems Bury St Edmunds with its new Centros 'Arc' shopping centre now faces - problems which might also affect Lancaster if the proposed development goes ahead.

Bury St Edmunds: work deemed
crucial not undertaken
Centros had failed to undertake a promised essential widening of the connecting passageway between the new development and the existing town centre, with the result that it was uninviting and little-used, with a subsequent loss to existing trade footfall. Their rational was that they were not making the forecast profits from the scheme and so it was not economic for them to complete this work, which they deemed unnecessary.

Legal action by Bury St Edmund council to get the work done then failed – as it transpired their development agreement did not bind Centros to complete that part of the development, despite it being seen by the council as crucial to the viability of the scheme.

In Lancaster, the connectivity between the proposed shopping precinct and the existing city centre would now mean cutting through Boots the chemist or through the multi-storey car park (if you know the route is there).

The Debenhams store (aka 'The Slug') in Bury St Edmunds is already
showing damage to its exterior fabric.
The design of the Bury St Edmunds Arc development is 'Elizabethan pastiche' which is supposed to complement the local architecture. The Debenhams store (aka 'The Slug') is already showing damage to the exterior fabric.

Updated 23/5/12 (next two paragraphs: see apology to Cllr Hamilton Cox at the foot of this article)

Councillor Hamilton Cox noted that local brewery company Mitchells, who own part of the site, had been approached by other developers keen to offer proposals to redevelop the canal corridor site.

Speaking from the floor, local taxpayer Mr Hester noted substantial changes to the terms and conditions of the new development agreement, to the company with whom it was being made, and to the proposals themselves which made it effectively a new agreement and, as such,  subject to new EU regulation that makes competitive bidding a legal requirement. He had already alerted council officers to the possibility of legal challenge should council vote to accept the variations.

Also noted at the meeting was Lancaster City Council employmet of consultants Donaldsons to advise them on their side of the original development agreement. Donaldsons were then also employed by Centros as the Leasing Agent for this site, among others.

The 120 or so people packed into the hall voiced a number of objections to the scheme, echoing the concerns about the impact the proposals would have on existing trade and the overwhelming change it would make to the character of the city to have this stale, 'anytown UK' 1980s retail model foisted into it. By the time it is built, petrol may cost £5+ a litre, people will be having to pay for basic medical procedures and the idea of a local economy based on shopping for non-essential 'lifestyle' items will be history. Women's incomes are disproportionately affected by austerity measures and this means less money to spend on fashion and scatter cushions.

Other proposals for the site have provided for workshops, offices, a cultural quarter, affordable housing and smaller retail units, all of which a city facing 21st century challenges needs. The Centros development offers only additional competition to existing retail businesses and a massive loss of car-parking revenue to the city council which would put front-line services at risk. In the meantime, the council still has to sort out the costly problem of Lancaster Market.

Cllr Hamilton-Cox also showed the meeting the District Auditor's report on the 'Crinkley Bottom' disaster, aka 'Blobbygate'. Commenting on City Council officers' competence, it read:

"Mr Pearson was "out of his depth".  He was outmanoeuvred and out-negotiated by Unique.
I consider that Mr Corker should have, but failed, to advise the Council against entering into the open ended commitment which the Heads of Terms represented and should have drawn to the attention of Members the imprudence of proceeding without carrying out appropriate market research, without knowing what the Theme Park would contain and without knowing what it would all cost.
Mr Corker honestly believed that the "marketing agreement" with Pontins would be entered into and would produce net income of in the region of £132,500.

That was a flawed and irrational view but it was honestly held and it was a view shared by Mr Pearson
"Crinkley Bottom" Theme Park enjoyed overwhelming and enthusiastic support among all political groups on the Council.

Councillor Dawson accepted that he (and other Councillors) should have adopted a more critical and challenging approach to information which was placed before them by officers.  I am critical of his failure to do so."

Billy Pye noted that there appears to be an entrenched cabal within the council that is determined to accept any Centros proposal, right or wrong, without criticism, and which obstructs consultation, transparency and competition from other potential developers. He called again for a referendum on the issue of allowing competitive bids for the development.

The meeting was called for development campaign group It's Our City to gauge the public response to the new Centros proposals. Today they told Virtual-Lancaster:

"IOC takes the view that the development agreement with Centros should not be extended.  What should happen instead is that the city council should proactively seek other proposals for the site from other developers in a nationwide competition.  

"All the proposals, including the Centros proposal, could then be considered together.  It would even be possible for the proposals to be put to a public vote so that the people of Lancaster can choose what they want to see on the site instead of being told what we have to have.
"IOC is asking everybody to write to their ward and other councillors asking them to vote against extending the development agreement with Centros when the matter goes before the full council." 

• If you are unsure about who your local councillors are this information can be found at

23/5/12: Apology from Chris Satori: Unfortunately when reporting the meeting I mistakenly attributed to Cllr Hamilton Cox a comment, as quoted below, that was in fact made by others.  Having rechecked my notes they verify that this was indeed a completely inaccurate attribution as Cllr Cox in fact made no such remark.    I apologise unreservedly to Cllr Hamilton Cox and also to his colleagues at the City Council for any harm my mistake  may have caused.  I have amended this part of the report as above, with additions. 

Cllr Hamilton Fox has provided the following clarification:

"Having had some feedback on this article I need to make clear that those passages which reference me are not a verbatim account of what I said; indeed in places the text goes beyond what I said at the meeting. Most importantly, I didn’t say:

'that council planners seemed determined to retain Centros as the preferred bidder, and refuse to accept competitive bids despite new legislation that makes this a requirement.’

My point, drawing on a source that was in the public domain at the beginning of last year, was simply that other developers had expressed an interest in working with Mitchell’s. A member of the audience queried whether the council had been in the past, and was now, acting in compliance with EU procurement legislation.

To clarify the reference I made to the public interest report on Crinkley Bottom theme park: it is vital that the council considers all the risks attached to a deal with Centros and learns any lessons from its own and others’ experience.

But, in response to the feedback, I hope that people will discriminate between the particular and the general: to criticise decisions on one or more individual issues is not to call into question the competence of the council in all other respects. It seems an obvious thing to say but it is important to judge each case on its merits."

Tim Hamilton-Cox
Lancaster city councillor
Bulk ward

Do you have the mettle to become a Special?

Northern Special Officers: left to right, Special Inspector Ruth Gardner, Special Sgt Simon Tracey, Special Sgt Jonathon Wilkin, Special Sgt Nick Harding, Special Constable Phillip Metcalfe and Special Constable Stephanie Holmes
People looking for an exciting challenge that will give them new skills are being invited to become a Special Constable in the Lancaster and Morecambe area.

The latest recruitment evening will be held at 7.00pm on Wednesday 13th June  at Lancaster and Morecambe College and is aimed at those who wish to become involved in policing in the north of the county.

Special Constables are unpaid volunteer police officers who have the same powers as regular police officers, wear the same uniform and are issued with the same equipment. Special Constables carry out local patrols, police local events, take part in crime reduction projects and help challenge anti-social behaviour in our communities.

There are currently over 400 specials working with Lancashire Constabulary, but a recruitment drive is now in place to get more volunteers to join the ranks.

A Special Constable is asked to work a minimum of four hours per week in a single shift but the working hours are flexible so that you can give more time if you can spare it. Some local companies actively support staff who wish to be a Special Constable by allowing them to undertake some of their police duties during their normal working time. No formal qualifications are needed but applicants must be over 18.

While the position is unpaid, you will gain a wealth of experience, develop professionally and get the chance to give something back to your local community. Being a Special Constable also offers an insight into working for the force and many decide to go on and pursue a career as a police officer.

Special Sergeant Nick Harding, 29, has been a special in Lancaster and Morecambe for two years.

He said: “I work at BAE as a project engineer and the company is very supportive in letting me do my special shifts – they give me three weeks a year to get involved and the rest is done in my own time. Many employers are happy to accommodate your work as a Special Sergeant.”

He added: “I joined because I wanted to give something back to my community and when I am involved in helping find people who have gone missing, or keeping people safe in the city centre at night, I feel I am doing that. It’s also exciting work – going out with the drugs dogs and carrying out raids is really interesting.

“It’s good to be part of a team and the regular officers give you a lot of help and support – we are treated just the same as them.”

“I’ve been a special for 18 months," says 26-year-old Special Sergeant Dan Shepherd, who also patrols Lancaster and Morecambe, "and joined up because I eventually hope to have a full time career with the police. Being a special has given me a really clear insight into what that will entail – particularly when I am on night patrols out in the city centre.”

Special Sergeant Shepherd fits in two volunteer shifts a week alongside his full time job.

He said: “I work in a pawn brokers and I’ve found that being a special has given me a lot of transferrable skills that help me in my job. I’m certainly more confident when it comes to dealing with members of the public and my communications skills are greatly improved.
“Members of the public don’t tend to realise we are special officers, but when they do they are full of praise for what we are doing.”

The event on 13th June will enable you to hear more from other Special Constables and ask any questions that you may have. Places are limited, so register your interest with specials co-ordinator Jen Seal or 01524 596659.

• More information on the Special Constabulary can be found at

County visitors warned on possible - if rare - danger of snake bites

Photo: Marek Szczepanek, via Wikimedia
Poisons experts at the Health Protection Agency’s specialist commissioned National Poisons Information Service -- the poisons advisory body for frontline medics -- are advising people planning country and woodland walks this summer how to reduce their risk of a snake bite.

Between 2009 and 2011, the service was asked for help 196 times after patients were bitten by adders, Britain's only poisonous snake.

Calls came from all regions of England, Scotland and Wales and, while sightings of adders are rare in the our area, here were calls to the service from the North West over the period, including one from Lancaster.

Each year, the NHS says approximately 100 cases of adder bites are reported in the UK. Most bites occur between February and October, with the number of bites peaking during the summer months. (Worldwide, there are around five million snake bites every year).

Adders and non-venomous grass snakes - both species more likely to avoid you than attack you unless you disturb them - can be found in Lancashire in places such as Pendle Hill and the Trough of Bowland. In Cumbria, when the A74 was being widened in 2006, some 50 adders were moved to the Matterdale Forest near Ullswater before work began.

About half of the bites NPIS were alerted to occurred after a snake was picked up, so as the holiday season approaches NPIS, is urging anyone planning on spending time outdoors this summer to take care, respect any wildlife they come across and to leave them alone.

“Adder numbers have decreased in recent years so they are rare but still present in certain areas,” said Professor Simon Thomas, Director of NPIS Newcastle.

“They usually keep well out of sight, but in the summer months are active because the weather is warmer. Because they are well camouflaged people can accidentally tread on them, which is when they can bite. They can also bite if picked up.

“The bite can have very nasty effects, especially in smaller children – so it’s best to take care when out walking, wear appropriate footwear for the terrain and do not handle any snakes. Sometimes the venomous adder can be mistaken for non-venomous species such as the grass snake or smooth snake, making people think it is safe to pick them up.”

Snake bites do not always lead to the injection of venom into the wound. When no venom is released there is always a risk the wound may become infected but the anxiety caused to the patient is often the greatest health concern.

When an adder bite does deliver venom it can cause local pain, tenderness, swelling and bruising which can spread. If a child is bitten, effects may be seen across the whole body.

“The number of queries to us about adder poisonings have been fairly consistent over the years which would suggest people do come into contact with them,” said Professor Thomas.

“Although almost all poisonings from adder bites produce relatively minor effects the illnesses they lead to can be extremely unpleasant. And it’s worth remembering that the effects from these bites can be much more serious, though this is rare. Because of this our advice is simply to do what you can to minimise your exposure.

"Do go out and enjoy the countryside. That’s really important. But if you are going somewhere with large areas of open space, just think about what you’re doing and most importantly of all, if you come across an adder, or indeed any snake or reptile, give it the respect it deserves as a wild animal and leave it alone.”

Despite peoples' concerns over snakes, North West author Rodger McPhail, whose book The Private Life of Adders was released last year, feels the reptiles get a bad press.

During his forays into the Trough of Bowland, he has found adders beaten to death on one or two occasions, something he is keen for people to avoid.

“I’m sure people would think they are doing a public duty, or maybe they’re worried about their dogs, which you can understand,” he told the Lancashire Telegraph last year. "But adders are not that common so I think we need to do our bit to protect this beautiful creature."

• Anyone bitten by a snake should seek urgent medical attention. For more information on snake bites online, visit the NHS web site at:

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Morecambe woman assaulted and robbed at knifepoint - in her own home

Police are appealing for witnesses to come forward after a 64-year-old woman was terrorized and robbed in her home in Loweswater Drive, Morecambe on Thursday afternoon (17th May 2012).

At around 2.35pm a man entered the woman's home when she was alone through an open door and threatened her with a knife, demanding money.

Frightened, the woman has reached for her purse and handed it to the man then punched the woman in the face causing her to fall to the floor. The man then left the property with a small amount of cash.

The offender is described as being a white man, aged in his 20’s, slim build and wearing dark clothing, with a star tattoo on one of his hands.

"This is a brazen attack on a terrified woman in her own home," commented PC Ben Benter from Lancaster CID. "Fortunately she was not seriously injured -- but has understandably been left traumatised.

“I’d urge any member of the public with any information about this crime to make contact with Lancaster and Morecambe CID on 101 or 01524 596526.”

Monday, 21 May 2012

Teens invited to join latest police cadet course

Teenagers who want to do something proactive with their spare time are being urged to sign up for the next voluntary police cadets course.

The scheme has been running for a number of years and accepts 16 – 19-year-olds who live or attend school in the Carnforth, Garstang, Lancaster or Morecambe areas

The 36-week course enables teens to experience the full spectrum of policing within Lancashire, while carrying out fundraising challenges to the benefit of local causes. They also undertaken many projects aimed at breaking down barriers between the police, young people and the wider community, while working towards gaining a BTEC qualification.

The next course will start on 19th September 2012. Email or for an application form, or alternatively call 01524 596723. Forms must be returned by 29th June.

PC Kath Bromilow, course organiser, said: “The course has proven to be a real boost to the CVs of those teens who get involved – they gain an insight into policing and take part in some important community work. Previous cadets have really enjoyed the course and we hope the next set of applicants will benefit in the same way.”

Fun times ahead thanks to Transform Your Patch Campaign

A new recreation area in Morecambe and a play area in Lancaster are set to benefit from funding from 'Transform Your Patch' - a community-led regeneration scheme supported by some of Britain's favourite soft drinks.

‘Transform Your Patch’ is a partnership between environmental regeneration charity, Groundwork and drinks brands from Britvic and PepsiCo and one of the most ambitious schemes to take place in the UK.

Groundwork has identified around 165 exciting recreational projects of various sizes across 12 regions to receive funding from the scheme including playgrounds, picnic areas and parks, skate parks and 5-a-side football pitches.

The provision of a community recreational area at Claypitts field and enhancement of Ryelands Park play area are two of the projects selected to receive funding.

Plans for a new recreational facility at Claypitts on Out Moss Lane in Morecambe were unveiled last year by Lancaster City Council and designers Groundwork when funding became available to develop play facilities at the site as a result of developments in the area.

Play areas for both toddlers and older children are now in place and thanks to additional funding from 'Transform your Patch', the multi-use games area (MUGA) at the site which includes a 5-a-side football pitch can now look forward to being enhanced even further with the provision of a seating area for spectators.

Meanwhile in Lancaster, work has been ongoing to extend the play area in Ryelands Park to make it accessible and enjoyable for everyone. The additional funding will mean that final plans for the play area will be ready by July with a view to work starting in Autumn this year.

Councillor David Smith, Cabinet member with responsibility for Environmental Services, said: “We’re thrilled that two of our ongoing projects to provide young people with somewhere safe and exciting to play have been selected to receive funding from the ‘Transform Your Patch’ campaign. I am sure these recreation facilities will be of great benefit to local children and families for many years to come."

"And there's more good news. Ryelands Park and Claypitts have been put forward as flagship projects under the scheme and everyone is invited to vote for them throughout the summer to receive even more funding from 'Transform your Patch' and help improve them even further.

"Simply visit and then spread the word!"

Council voices concerns over Lancaster street litter

Lancaster City Council is reminding residents and businesses in the city centre that they are encouraged to leave waste out in bags to coincide with collections.

After concerns over waste left in Geroge Street last Thursday - some of it apparently left out overnight and raided by animals -  the Council told virtual-lancaster trade waste is collected in the city centre twice per day Monday to Saturday. 

"We have instructed collection crews to keep an eye on the situation in this area," a spokesperson told us, "and if necessary gather evidence as to who the waste might belong to in order to prevent a similar unsightly occurrence happening again in the city centre."

M6 Link Plans under scrutiny as never before

As the Infrastructure Planning Commission begins its examination of the case for and against the proposed Heysham to the M6 Link Road, the opposition has assembled a strong and what it hopes will be a persuasive case against the road.

Local campaign group Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe has been the principal objector to the road for the past seven years, and has now completed the final touches to the arguments to be placed before the Examiner in the case. Written representations were submitted to the IPC before the 8th May deadline.

TSLM has been joined by respected national organisations Campaign to Protect Rural England and Campaign for Better Transport, and regional transport specialists North West Transport Roundtable, who agree that this road scheme is the wrong way forward, against national policy - and that there are better and cheaper ways to improve local traffic flow rather than the projects £120 million-plus the County Council want to spend on this bypass scheme.

TSLM say they have taken a wide overview of the proposals put forward by the road’s promoter, Lancashire County Council, but are placing particular emphasis on a number of specific strands of its argument against the road.

Members of TSLM, its allied organisations and individual experts, have placed some of these strands under the microscope and have put forward what they consider to be a highly compelling case against the road on a number of important grounds including a failure to reduce congestion and traffic levels in Lancaster; failure to bring the hoped-for jobs; minimal journey time savings; damage to the environment and wildlife; damaging impact on local people; and an increase in harmful pollution.

“£41 million per mile for a road that doesn’t solve congestion or bring jobs is not Value for Money,” argues David Gate, Chair of TSLM. “This road should be rejected: there are far better alternatives that are cheaper and would really work.”

The examination by the IPC will continue over the summer and end in October. Representations can be viewed here on the IPC web site and include responses from Heysham Port, the CPRE, NW TAR & CBT, traffic expert John Whitelegg and Jo Guiver from Halton Residents’ Group.

• Transport Solutions for Lancaster & Morecambe is the local campaign Group which opposes the construction of the Heysham M6 Link Northern Route, and favours instead non-damaging sustainable transport solutions for the 21st century. See website

2012 Morecambe Sandcastle Festival goes for gold

The tradition of building sandcastles will take on an Olympic theme this summer at Morecambe’s 6th annual Sandcastle Festival in June.

The London Olympics will provide the inspiration for entrants to the Super Sandcastle Competition when the beach will be full of families letting their imaginations fly to produce sandcastle creations of Olympic proportions.

Beach games, children’s activities, entertainment as well as plenty of sandcastle building are the main focus of this free weekend of seaside fun taking place throughout the weekend of 9th - 10th June.

Internationally renowned sand artists Sand in your Eye will be back to wow visitors with their display of expertly crafted sand sculptured themed masterpieces and will lead a massive sandcastle building practice session on the Saturday for all those hoping to dig up first prize in the Super Sandcastle Competition the following day.

The competition, on Sunday 10th June, is the crowning glory of this family weekend and free to enter. Teams can comprise up to four members and there are two categories - families/under 12s and an open category.

Registration takes place on the Sunday morning between 9.45am and 10.45am. But you’ll have to be quick – places are limited and allocated on a first come, first served basis.

The winning team from each category win a £50 cash prize with gold, silver and bronze medals handed out on the podium in true Olympic style.

World Record breaking bubble company Bubble Inc and Lancaster's very own Samba band, Batala are two of the highlights on the Sunday. Tall Will, the tallest bubbleologist in the world will be impressing audiences with a mix of bubble magic and Batala who will be performing at various times of the day on the promenade.

Local children's entertainer, Harvey Rush will be back again this year to provide top quality seaside magic in the children's marquee. Lancaster City Council's Sport and Play Rangers will also be on hand to entertain the younger visitors with seaside themed crafts, games and beach sports.

Traditional donkey rides are on offer too on the Sunday as Trigger, Ginger, Skippy and William line up to take youngsters on a gentle stroll along the sands of Morecambe Bay.

A guest appearance by Cedric Robinson, the Queen's Official Guide to Morecambe Bay sands, will have you enthralled with his exciting tales and experiences of working and walking across the bay. For almost half a century, Cedric has guided countless groups of people over a safe path across the potentially treacherous Morecambe Bay. Cedric will be in the visitor information centre marquee on both days.

All entertainment and activities throughout the weekend take place on the beach and promenade near to the famous Eric Morecambe statue.

However, if you fancy a trip down memory lane, you may wish to walk the short distance to visit the Vintage Village Hall Tearoom in the Winter Gardens. Here you will find amazing exhibitors offering vintage clothing, accessories and home furnishings from the 1930s – 1970s, jewellery, crafting sessions, art and more.

A full schedule of events, including Sandcastle Competition details and registration form, is contained in a free programme, available from Morecambe and Lancaster Visitor Information Centres (tel. 01524 582808) or via the council’s website –

The 2012 Sandcastle Festival is just one of a whole host of events taking place in Morecambe this summer, as part of Morecambe's Festivals by the Sea programme. For more dates for your diary visit or call the Morecambe Visitor Information Centre 01524 582808.

Residents invited to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee with Mayor 'At Home'

The Right Worshipful the Mayor of Lancaster, Councillor Sheila Denwood, is celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with an At Home in the heart of the Duchy of Lancaster.

On the theme of the Diamond Jubilee, 60 residents of the district who apply for a ticket from the mayor’s office will be able to attend along with a guest to the At Home which starts at 11.00am on Saturday 21st July.

Hosted by the Mayor and Mayoress, guests will enjoy a light lunch and will learn a little bit about some of the treasures of Lancaster Town Hall.

"I am delighted to be able to hold an At Home in Lancaster Town Hall during this extra special Jubilee year," said the Mayor. "I look forward to welcoming and meeting our residents and their guests in July and together with can celebrate the Jubilee in style."

For those wishing to attend, applications must be made in writing, and the applicant must provide their full name and postal address within the district. The address to write to is Mayor’s Office, Town Hall, Lancaster, LA1 1PJ but applications by email will also be accepted. Emails should be sent to

Tickets will be allocated on a first come first served basis, so to avoid disappointment get your application in to the mayor’s office as soon as possible.

The deadline for applications is 5pm on Friday 29th June 2012. All applicants will be contacted, even if unsuccessful.

Local energy co-op MORE Renewables launches share offer

Renewable energy co-operative, Morecambe Bay Community Renewables (or MORE Renewables, for short), has just launched its first share offer.

MORE Renewables was set up last year to raise local finance for small scale renewable energy installations in the Morecambe Bay area and its first project is a £105,000 solar PV system on the Lancaster Cohousing development at Forge Bank, Halton. This will generate around 40,000 kWh of electricity per year and will contribute to making the Cohousing development zero-carbon.

“This is a great opportunity to invest in local renewable energy and become part of our community co-operative," says former Lancaster City Councillor Anne Chapman, one of the founders of MORE Renewables. "We want to enable people to do something good with their money, which makes use of our local resources for the benefit of our community, while providing them with a real return on their investment.”

MORE Renewables expects to be able to pay investors a return of 4% from the third or fourth year, with lower rates of return before that, as well as providing funds for community projects.

“Everyone at MORE Renewables is excited about the Lancaster Cohousing project," enthuses Caroline Jackson, a former head teacher of Hornby High who also helped to set up MORE Renewables, "and we hope people will read the prospectus and consider investing. The offer closes on 18th June, or earlier if it is oversubscribed, so get your share application form in soon!”

• The share prospectus document is available to download from the MORE Renewables’ website,, or by phoning 01524 380960.

Woodlands Silverdale plans Health and Wellbeing Day

Silverdale's Woodlands Rural Centre is hosting a health and well being event next Sunday (27th June 2012) to raise awareness of the project.

A project dedicated to opening up the woods to local people to improve health and well being through being outdoors and in touch with nature, the project encompasses nine acres of woodland, Centre organisers are hoping to build a study centre, eco-pods for weekend retreats and a camping area.

The programme for the day includes an appearance by Pantabulous, Lancaster's very own steel band, performing at 11.00am and 1.00pm; site tours and talks, yoga and Tai Chi demonstrations under the walnut tree throughout the day; and a Health and Well being tent offering Indian Head Massage, Reflexology, Quantum Wave laser, sound healing tasters.

Victorian Tea Room with cakes and sandwiches, craft stalls, beer garden, face painting, kids activities are also planned.

• The Woodlands Rural Centres is at The Woodlands, Silverdale, Carnforth LA5 ORU. Telephone 01524 701655 or email Web:

Morecambe Council offers grants to local organisations

Morecambe Town Council has announced the availability of funds from its Miscellaneous Grants budget for Organisations and individuals whose activities are of direct benefit to the residents of Morecambe and who wish to be considered for a grant.

The main criteria which applicants should consider before applying is as follows:

  • A Grant limit of £500 per applicant

  • Only one successful application per applicant per year allowed

  • Organisations must operate/provide a service within the six wards of the Parished Area. Where an application is for a service that operates outside of the Area, applicants must provide documented evidence of how this benefits the Parished Area and/or how many members/attendees reside within it

  • No retrospective applications permitted

  • Applications are to fund Festivals and Events; pay salaries; for an individual (legislation does not permit a Parish/Town Council to support an individual); to fund a political party; or to fund a profit making organisation

Applicants must provide with application accounts and balance sheets, constitutions and original receipts.

As the Town Council is eligible to claim back its VAT, organisations are also requested to make invoices for purchases payable to: Morecambe Town Council. Where this is not applicable, Grants will only be paid upon original receipts for purchases being submitted to and checked by the Town Clerk.

The Town Council reserves the right to refuse an application if it is believed to duplicate a service already provided within the Town. If permissions are needed for the item(s) on the application form, this must be gained prior to it being submitted. Failure to do this may result in your application being refused.

Applicants are invited to attend the meeting when their application is discussed, this can be beneficial to answer any questions the Sub-Committee may have.

Application forms for funding may be obtained from the Town Clerk, David Croxall by telephoning (01524) 422929 or by email at, or from the Town Council’s website at Application forms set out the criteria and requirements of organisers in detail. Questions and queries on the process should be addressed through the Town Clerk as set out above.

• Applications may be submitted by post or email and the closing date for applications is Tuesday 31st July, 2012. Applications received after the advertised deadline may not be considered.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Superbike success for McGuinness at North West 200

Picture by Stephen Davison - Pacemaker Press International
Morecambe's John McGuinness enjoyed another successful trip to the International North West 200 road races this week when he swept to victory in Saturday's Superbike race. The Honda TT Legends rider came home over 4 seconds clear of Alastair Seeley and backed this up with a brace of thirds in the feature Superbike race and opening Supersport encounter. He also took fifth in the second Superstock and Supersport races on the Padgetts Honda's.

Having qualified on the front row for all three of his classes - Superbike, Supersport and Superstock - the week didn't get off to the greatest of starts for John with 15th in Thursday's wet Superstock race but with perfect weather on Saturday, he was back to his best. The day started well with a very strong third place in the opening Supersport race and although William Dunlop was away at the head of the field, John made Alastair Seeley work all race for second place. At the chequered flag, John was only a second behind the Suzuki rider and a podium was a great result for John and the Padgetts team.

Next up was the opening Superbike race and having grabbed the holeshot, John and Seeley soon opened up a gap over the rest of the field. Seeley went into the lead towards the end of lap one but when he overshot Church Corner a lap later, John happily accepted the lead and with his advantage over second place as high as ten seconds at one stage, he was able to ride to his signals and control the race from the front. Comfortable in the lead on the Honda TT Legends machine, he was able to ease off in the final laps and claim another great win, his 6th around the 8.9-mile circuit.

Two more excellent rides followed in the second Superstock and Supersport races and John brought the Padgetts machines home in fifth on each occasion, the Superstock result in particular a great effort and only half a second adrift of the final podium place. That left the feature Superbike race as John's final race of the weekend and another superb start saw him lead the way on the opening lap. Local favourite Seeley wasn't to be denied though and although there was only a second between them at half race distance, he edged away and John had a battle to keep Michael Rutter behind him for second. He squeezed by though on the fifth lap and so John had to settle for third for his third podium of the day.

Speaking later, a delighted John said, "What can I say? It's been a great day for me and, apart from the wet race on Thursday evening, I've finished every race inside the top 5. To take my 6th win here, and another on the Superbike, was especially pleasing and although Alastair had a bit more pace than me, it's all about getting past the chequered flag first and that's what I did.

"The bike was fantastic and when I saw '+10' on my pitboard I knew that all I had to do was bring the bike home - if someone could take that amount of time out of me in the final two laps, I think I'd have to hang my leathers up!"

"I tried as hard as I could in the second Superbike race but Alastair and Michael just had that bit extra and I had to settle for third. If someone had offered me a win and a third in the Superbike races before I came here I'd have readily taken them so I'm very happy. Likewise the Supersport races and the third place in the opening race was one of my best rides on a 600cc machine. Alastair's a lot smaller than me so more suited to the Supersport bikes but I kept him honest throughout and it was very satisfying to run at the same pace as him. I've throughly enjoyed my racing today and I'm really happy with how all of the bikes are performing so it's set me up nicely for the TT and I'm looking forward to getting over to the Island and giving it my best shot once more. I'd love to get another win there but what will be will be and I'll just look at doing my best and having a good, safe fortnight."

John now heads to the Isle of Man TT Races where he'll be hoping to add to his haul of 17 wins. Practice around the 37.73-mile course gets underway on Monday 28th May.