Friday, 15 June 2012

Local business look set to back BID for city centre improvements

A plan with local businesses support to introduce a Business Improvement District in Lancaster City Centre to commence in April 2013 seems to be gathering steam, with a vote on the scheme set to take place later this year.

A Business Improvement District is a partnership between businesses, local authorities and other organisations to work together to improve the trading environment of a specific area, to make it a more pleasant place to live, work, invest and visit.

BIDs are different in two key respects to other regeneration initiatives that go on in towns and cities across the UK. Firstly, they provide new and additional activity to complement what is already going on. Secondly, they are driven by the private sector - they are led, financed, and managed by the businesses that trade within their local areas.

Lancaster's Chamber of Commerce has held a series of meetings to discuss the proposed BID with various business sectors, who will all be ballotted in October or November on the plan.

Participating businesses pay a fee based on a percentage of their annual rates in order to fund improvements within the BID district’s boundaries; the services it provides are decided by the businesses taking part in the scheme and are ancillary to those that the local Council currently provide.

"If a 'Yes' vote is achieved then the levy can be introduced in the financial year April 2013 together with the creation of a BID Management group to take projects forward," Jerry North, who is the manager of St Nicholas Arcades, told virtual-lancaster.

"So far, we have met with representatives from the nightime economy/licensed trade,the retailers and we recently held a the focus group is for the tourism and leisure section."

A meeting with Lancaster's commerce sector will soon conclude the focus group sessions.

"The BID Business Plan is currently in the final stages of preparation to be submitted to Council Cabinet for approval at their July meeting," he added. "This will then be made available to all contributing businesses in the BID area.

BIDs elsewhere in the country are currently supporting a wide range of projects including employing City Centre Managers, reducing crime and improving safety, signage and lighting, better management of the night time economy, co-ordinating marketing and promotional campaigns, and attracting new business and investment.

"The Plan's chief aim, together with what has been being discussed at the focus groups,is to describe the type of projects which the BID fund will be used to pursue," Jerry explains, "and, most importantly, to stress the fact that these types of project would never fall within the normal City Council remit and are only going to happen because of the commitment from the business community."

Originally BID’s were introduced through legislation in 2003, with the first pilot BID’s launched in London, all successfully balloted by 2006. Since then, the scheme has been rolled out across the country. There are over 130 BIDs operating throughout the UK the vast majority of those in town and city centres.

• For more information visit:

Storey Centre in crisis as rent rises hit home

Tenants are quitting Lancaster's  Storey Creative Industries Centre because of a rise in service charges.

The Lancaster Guardian reports bosses at the Centre are grappling with a financial crisis, after companies occupying the building on Meeting House Lane were hit with a bill for £99,651 in additional charges late last year.

The demand went out soon after Lancaster City Council, which owns the building, baled out the centre with a £90,000 loan after it lost its public funding. Tenants, whose bills were effectively doubled, have refused to pay up - and some, such as technology comopany Moshen, have moved out.

The building houses the offices of Lancaster LitFest, the Tourist Office and has spaces for performance used by local arts groups such as Spotlight, as well as offices for businesses.

One tenant, who asked not to be named, told the Guardian: “You have to ask why this problem wasn’t tackled sooner. The Storey board and the city council knew the grant funding was going to be lost. Instead of cutting costs they just decided to charge the tenants whose rent keeps the place going. Now there is going to be an exodus.”

Lancaster City Council and the Storey board issued a joint statement yesterday which revealed that the council plans to step in and manage the building directly.

Read the story online in the Lancaster Guardian or this week's print edition, on sale now in all good local newsagents

Have you got the bottle to recycle?

Lancaster City Council is encouraging everyone in the district to recycle all their plastic bottles - and there's a competition on the way to encourage the practice which could win you a nifty Kindle or iPod Shuffle.

In the UK, 15 million plastic bottles are used every day, but less than 50 per cent of these are recycled.

To coincide with Recycle Week (18 – 24th June), the council is launching a competition to raise awareness about the plight of the plastic bottle.

All you have to do is guess the number of plastic bottles that have been squashed into a recycling box, for your chance to win one of two fantastic prizes. Up for grabs are a Kindle or an iPod shuffle.

From 21st June to 20th July, you can either enter the competition online by visiting where you can also find out more about plastic bottle recycling and other recycling services or come along to one of three roadshows:

Thursday 21st June - 10am – 3pm, Morecambe Library
Wednesday 27th June - 10am – 4pm, Lancaster Market Square
Monday 9th July - 12pm – 4pm, Tesco, Carnforth

All types of plastic bottle can be recycled in your kerbside recycling box – not just drinks bottles, but also shampoo and shower gel, sauces, cleaning products, and many other types of plastic bottle. It doesn’t matter what shape or colour it is, if it’s plastic and it’s a bottle – it can be recycled.

Recycled plastic bottles can be turned into all sorts of every day objects, such as fencing, benches and even fleeces. In fact it only takes 25 two litre bottles to make one adult sized fleece.

Residents in the Lancaster district are currently unable to recycle any other types of plastic such as yogurt pots, food trays, tubs and carrier bags. Lancaster City Council is working with the waste treatment plant where recycled materials are taken and hopes to be able to provide further plastic recycling facilities in the future.

Sunset Screenings In The Park

The Dukes will be presenting cinema under the stars this summer.

After decades of taking theatre outdoors, The Dukes returns to Lancaster’s Williamson Park in July for an exciting new venture – Sunset Screenings - a season of outdoor films.

Open air film screenings are events you'll often see on film or TV, usually in the US, but British weather might play a factor here in the UK - and The Dukes say thet hope they are not to be tempting fate by opening the season with Singin’ In The Rain (U)on Thursday 26th July. Starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor, this classic celebrates its 60th anniversary this year and often tops best ever musical polls.

Guaranteed to get The Dell rockin’ and rollin’ on Friday 27th July is Dirty Dancing (15), the ultimate feelgood Eighties classic and a great film to share with family and friends.

And as night falls on Saturday 28th July, it will be time for the audience to steel themselves for the big screen adaptation of The Woman in Black (12A), a chilling ghost story starring Daniel Radcliffe.

Screenings will take place rain or shine so film fans are asked to dress appropriately and bring a blanket and warm waterproof clothing.

Short films will be screened from 8.30pm with the main features beginning at 9.00pm, just as the sun goes down. Locally sourced catering and licensed bar facilities will be available within The Dell area from 7.30pm or you can take a picnic.

Sunset Screenings will complement The Dukes Cinema’s indoor summer film season. Among the July highlights are Prometheus (15), The Angel’s Share (15) and Jaws (PG).

After a break from walkabout theatre this summer as The Dukes tours with Sabbat, it will return with an outdoor production in Williamson Park in 2013. The title will be announced in due course.

• Sunset Screenings Tickets cost £11/£10. To book, ring The Dukes box office on 01524 598500 or visit Tickets can also be purchased at the events themselves using cash or cheque, subject to availability.

'Sneak in' burglary at Garstang home

Police have released an Evofit image and are appealing for information after a 97-year-old woman was robbed in a sneak in burglary in Garstang

At around 3.10pm on the afternoon of the 29th May, a man entered the kitchen of a house on Windsor Road through an unlocked back door.

The man was in the process of removing a purse and a wallet that had been left in a bag by the door when he was disturbed by the homeowner, a 97-year-old lady. When challenged by the lady, the man walked out of the house, discarding the wallet after removing money from inside and walked away with the purse.

"I would urge anyone who has seen anything at all suspicious, anyone who has experienced anything similar in the area, or anyone who recognises the Evofit image to contact police immediately," asks DC Steve Craig of Fleetwood CID.

"Sadly, there are people who are always looking for an opportunity, trying doors and windows on the off chance that they may be insecure and so we would always urge people to keep their windows and doors locked where they can."

• Anyone with any information is asked to call police on the new non-emergency number 101 or alternatively, information can be passed to 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.

Learn how to be a good birth partner

Bring your birth partner along to the next meeting of Lancaster Birth Support Group on Tuesday 3rd July – 6.30pm at the Gregson Centre in Lancaster.

All birth partners are welcome – experienced partners to share their stories, and inexperienced ones to find out how it’s done (or not!) Our meetings are always informal and fun.

The group is self-organised and open to all women (and their partners, mothers etc). If you are expecting your first, second, third... child, or even if you are not pregnant but simply want to talk about choices in childbirth: home birth; water birth; natural birth after caesarean; gentle caesarean; pain relief options, please come along. If you’re a mum who’s had a water birth, please come and share your top tips!

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

The aim of the group is to give women information to help them make their own decisions about childbirth, and to share experiences in a relaxed and friendly environment. Currently just 2% of babies in the UK are born at home, despite lots of evidence that giving birth in the home environment is both safe and normally calmer for both the mother and baby.

The Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists support home birth for women with uncomplicated pregnancies.

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

• More info: To be added to the Group's mailing list or to supply a testimonial, please email or call Ruth (07887732547) or Nina (07868294638)

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

McGuinness denied Senior TT race opportunity

Picture by Steve Corlett -

Morecambe's John McGuinness was denied the chance to race for his 20th Isle of TT victory last Saturday when the Blue Riband Senior race was cancelled.

Adverse weather conditions on the Island meant that the six-lap race was postponed from its scheduled start on Friday but with damp patches remaining on various parts of the 37.73-mile Mountain Course, the organisers took the decision to cancel the race on the grounds of safety.

The Superbike machines, some making close to 200bhp, are now deemed unsuitable and too dangerous for racing on damp roads at the Isle of Man and many riders, including John, agreed with the decision to cancel the race, but aside from two world wars and the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001, it was the only time the Senior race hasn't been held.

The cancellation did mean that John returned the Joey Dunlop TT Championship Trophy with two wins, a fourth and a fifth from his four races and it gave him 74 points, seven ahead of nearest rival Bruce Anstey.

The Lightweight race, for smaller capacity machines, did take place whilst John also took part in a Monster Energy parade lap alongside current MotoGP star Cal Crutchlow.

Speaking later, the 19-times TT winner said: "No one wants to see a race cancelled but I think the right decision was made. There was so much rainfall on Friday that the course was saturated and on some parts of the course it simply wasn't drying up. Through Glen Helen, the 13th Milestone and from the Mountain Mile to Brandywell were still very wet. As riders, we want to put on a show for the thousands of fans that come to the TT - and I feel for them more so than anyone - but not knowing what lies round the corner on a 200bhp Superbike with slick tyres is a very scary prospect.

"When conditions are perfect, there's no better place in the world to race a motorbike and we've seen some fantastic racing this weekend so it's a shame to end on a bit of a low note but we'll all be back next year to give it another go. Rider safety is paramount and we've had a good fortnight with no serious accidents so I think the Clerk of the Course is to be commended not just for his decision today but for everything that's been done at this year's TT."

"I didn't get to race my Honda TT Legends Superbike machine but I did get to ride it in a parade lap and it was an absolute thrill to go round the course and wave at all the fans that were lining the course. It felt very, very special and I enjoyed every single second of it as I'm sure Cal did to. Overall, I've had another great TT and to add two more wins to my collection has been brilliant, particularly the Superstock victory as that's one I've been chasing for some time. It also felt special to take a podium in the TT Zero race on the Mugen Shinden whilst I was also competitive in the two Supersport races. It's been hard work as always but the racing has been superb and I'd like to thank all the team for their hard work. Everyone's been 100% behind me whilst the fans never cease to amaze me and their support continues to remain invaluable."

John now returns to the short circuits with the Metzeler National Superstock 1000cc Championship taking place at Knockhill from Sunday 22nd - 24th June

Don’t lose your vote in 2012

Voter registration forms will soon be dropping through letterboxes across the Lancaster district and people are being urged to return them as soon as possible.

Lancaster City Council staff will be sending forms to households over the coming months to compile the electoral register.

Daphne Snelson, Lancaster City Council’s elections manager, said: “Registering to vote is very simple. All you have to do is update the annual canvass form with the details of everyone in your household who is eligible to vote and return it to us as soon as possible. If your details haven’t changed it’s even easier because you can just confirm the details by text, phone or e-mail.

“It’s vital that people register their details every year because an election could be called at any time, and if they aren’t on the register they won’t be able to make their voice heard.”

This year it’s more important than ever to register early – in November voters will go to the polls to elect a Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire and the annual canvass has been brought forward as a result.

As well as allowing people to vote, the electoral register is used by credit rating agencies when people apply for mobile phones, loans and mortgages. If people don’t respond to the canvass then they could find their credit ratings are affected.

Anyone who does not register will receive a visit from one of the council’s teams of canvassers so it’s easier, and less time-consuming overall, to respond when the form comes through the letterbox.

• For more information telephone the elections helpline on 01524 582905 or visit

Exports from North West businesses reach all time high

The value of exports from North West businesses has reached its highest ever level, according to the latest statistics.

Figures released by HM Revenue & Customs show exports from the region were valued at more than £6.8 billion for the first three months of 2012 – an increase of £461 million on the same period last year.

The news has been welcomed by UK Trade & Investment, the government body which encourages British businesses to trade abroad. It says Germany, France and Ireland are still among the North West’s five biggest customers, despite the recent difficulties facing the Euro.

Exports to other European countries, including the Netherlands and Belgium, are also continuing to grow.

Overall, North West businesses exported goods worth £3.42 billion to European Union countries between January and March this year. The value of exports to non-EU countries, including the USA and China, stood at slightly less at £3.39 billion.

The region continues to be the country’s biggest exporter outside of London and the South East, with the chemicals, machinery and transport sectors bringing in the highest levels of investment.

“This is fantastic news for the region," commented Clive Drinkwater, UKTI’s Regional Director for the North West, "especially at a time when people are facing financial difficulties both here and abroad. There’s a real breadth of businesses in the North West, many of which have something unique to offer customers in other countries.

“The fact that exports reached an all time high during the first three months of the year shows that firms are trying harder than ever to find new business abroad.

“The USA and China continue to be among the countries where we export the most, but we’ve also seen an increase in the number of goods we sell to European Union countries like France and Germany.

“It’s great to see that goods produced by North West businesses are appreciated by people all over the world.”

• Businesses can get help and advice on how to export successfully by visiting or by calling the North West International Trade Team on 0845 603 7053.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Council counts the cost of vandalism at Salt Ayre Sports Centre

Lancaster City Council is counting the cost of clearing away broken glass and replacing more than 20 windows following a vandalism attack on Salt Ayre Sports Centre.

The attack happened on the night of Friday 8th June when extensive damage was caused to the swimming pool windows. The cost for clearing the glass from poolside, replacing windows and making the site secure is likely to cost tens of thousands of pounds.

The swimming pool was closed briefly as a precaution whilst all the broken glass was cleared from the pool area, spa pool and children’s play equipment.

Sports and Leisure Facilities Manager, Susan Williams, said: “Our main concern has been to make sure that all broken glass has been removed from the poolside area.

"Hundreds of families use the centre each week and we are determined not to let the mindless actions of a few hinder the enjoyment of people from the Lancaster district.

“The matter is currently being investigated and footage from the CCTV is being studied.

"The police have been informed and the vandals may be identified from the evidence gathered. The city council will take action, including legal, against those involved."

If anyone has information about this incident please contact Lancaster police on 101.

Salt Ayre Sports Centre will be open as usual and services will run as advertised.

The Lancashire Hotpots help Police with some Musical Marketing for new post

One of the Lancashire's most popular musical exports have joined Lancashire Police Authority's campaign to promote this year's most important election.

The Lancashire Hotpots have recorded a song and music video in support of 'Be Part of It!'; LPA's campaign to make people more aware of this year's vote to elect a Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire.

The teaser of the song and video is available on YouTube right now and another snippet of the song will be unveiled, via Twitter and Facebook, on Tuesday12th June and Wednesday 13th June. The election will take place on 15th November. All of Lancashire's electorate can vote for who they want to be responsible for tackling crime and holding the police force to account in the County.

The Lancashire Hotpots are one of the County's best-loved bands, performing across the UK in front of thousands of fans. They'll perform the song live, for the first time, in Burnley Town Centre on Saturday 16th June from Midday.

"We're so pleased to join the 'Be Part of It!' campaign," said lead-singer Bernard Thresher . "We support LPA in wanting as many people as possible to know about this election, so why not do it through music?

"This is an important election for Lancashire and one which everyone is taking seriously. But we also know that it’s a County with a sense of humour and this song reflects that.

"We hope that the people of Lancashire like the song and the video.

"We're excited at the LPA to have The Lancashire Hotpots on-board," added  Lancashire Police Authority Chief Executive, Miranda Carruthers-Watt. "They have been a delight to work with and I would like to thank them for their support so far.

"The song is just one way we are hoping to capture the interest of the Lancashire electorate. It is vital that as many people as possible know about their right to vote for a Police and Crime Commissioner. 

"My kids introduced me to The Lancashire Hotpots and I have 'Chippy Tea' on my iPod. I like the song; it's catchy and speaks clearly about the election and what the PCC will be responsible for. I encourage as many people as possible to view and download the song for free and tell friends and family to do the same."

• The song and video can be downloaded, for free, on iTunes and via Facebook, at from Friday 15th June.

Thousands throng to Morecambe for Sandcastle Festival

Sandcastle Festival goer Pollyanna Hill. Photo courtesy Lancaster City Council

Thousands of people got themselves into the Olympic spirit at the weekend and ventured down to the golden sands of Morecambe beach to visit the resort’s sixth Sandcastle Festival.

The event, which was organised by Lancaster City Council and sponsored by Broadoak Leisure Buildings, took place over the weekend and provided visitors with a free weekend of seaside fun.

The town was packed with people enjoying the free entertainment on offer.

Photo courtesy Lancaster City Council

Europe’s leading professional sand artists, ‘Sand in your eye!’, created an array of expertly crafted sculptures, while Tall Will the bubbleman impressed with his mix of bubble magic.

Over at the Winter Gardens, guests enjoyed a trip down memory lane at the Vintage Village Hall Tea Room, enjoying cream teas, music and vintage fashion.

There was also music from samba band Batala, talks and book signings by the Queen’s Guide to the Sands, Cedric Robinson, and even donkey rides!

Staff from Morecambe's award winning Visitor Information Centre were kept busy during the weekend and dealt with 770 enquiries.

“The Sandcastle Festival is always one of my highlights of the festival season," enthused Councillor Ron Sands, Cabinet member with responsibility for tourism. "It just goes to show how much fun you can have with a bucket and spade!

“It was a wonderful weekend and it was great to see Morecambe so busy and packed with so many people, especially families, enjoying themselves.

“My personal congratulations go to the winners – the standard of entries is always high and this year was no exception.”

Under 12 winners the Strong family, from Kendal. Photo courtesy Lancaster City Council
The highlight of the weekend was Sunday as 30 teams battled it out to be crowned the king, queen, prince and princess of this year’s Super Sandcastle Competition.

This year the festival took an Olympic theme, in preparation for the arrival of the Olympic Torch in the district on 22nd June.

The judges had a hard task on their hands as they struggled to decide between the entries and who would win first prize.

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

The Strong family from Kendal came out tops in the Families/Under 12s category, with Ruth and Jeremy Street from Stratford-upon-Avon winning the Open category.

Winners of the Family/under 12s were 1st: Team Strong;  Second: It’s All Greek to me; and Third: Neo

In the open category, the winners were Street’s Ahead; Second, And then there was one; Third,
Team Duffy

The Sandcastle Festival is just one of the great events taking place this summer in the Lancaster district and is part of the Morecambe Festivals by the Sea summer of fun.

• For more information on what’s coming up visit

Photo courtesy Lancaster City Council

Local car dealer backs England's football stars

To celebrate Vauxhall’s sponsorship of the England football team, local car dealer Hargreaves, is hosting a fun-filled England 2012 Event between 15th and 18th June.

The dealership, with sites in Morecambe and Kendal, is inviting customers to join in with football-themed celebrations and take advantage of a range of offers and savings throughout the weekend.

Hargreaves is offering £500 of free fuel on new vehicles ordered during the Event, as well as 20 per cent off Genuine Vauxhall Accessories with all new vehicles purchased over the England 2012 weekend.

Plus, if you’re one of the first 50 people to visit the dealership during the event, you’ll receive a free England supporter’s pack.

These savings, available from 15th to 18th June only, are on top of the offers already available to motorists, such as Vauxhall’s innovative 0 per cent APR Flexible Finance scheme and free insurance on Corsa S and Limited Edition models.

“As part of Vauxhall’s sponsorship of the Home Nations team, we’re really proud to be showing our support by hosting the football-inspired weekend, said Steve Hargreaves, Managing Director at Hargreaves.

“Those looking to purchase a new car will have the opportunity to take advantage of a range of fantastic savings as well as exclusive offers and incentives, from helping to cut costs at the fuel pumps to discounts on accessories.

“We’d like to invite customers to come along to our dealership, get into the Home Nations spirit and drive away with some great savings!”

• To find out more about the England 2012 event and the offers available terms and conditions etc, locate your nearest dealership at

Johnston Press deny rumours papers set to move base to Preston

The Morecambe Visitor and Lancaster Guardian offices on Victoria Street, Morecambe - up for sale.
Photo: John Freeman

Johnston Press, owners of the Lancaster Guardian and the Morecambe Visitor, have denied rumours they plan to move journalsts on both papers to Preston if their Morecambe offices are sold.

Speculation about such a move follows what seems to be a more prominent sales push for their offices in Victoria Street, Morecambe, on the books with local estate agents Robert Pinkus and Co for offers in the region of £350,000.

But although Johnston Press closed and sold its Lancaster offices last year - the building on Common Garden Street still unoccupied - the national company seems determined not to follow in the steps of rival Garnett, which owned several North West free 'Citizen' newspapers but closed its local offices and moved staff to Blackpool some years ago, and shut down several papers along the way, including the Lancaster Citizen.

In a statement reported by media site Hold the Front Page, Johnston Press denied suggestions that it plans to move the two titles to Preston, 20 miles away, saying that alternative local premises would be sought in the event of a sale.

“The Morecambe building has actually been up for sale for a number of years," the company states. “If the building were to sell, we would seek replacement local premises. There are no current plans to relocate staff to Preston.”

The Victoria Street office boasts a total 13,892 square footage spread across two floors. The ground floor is currently arranged as a shop front with offices at the rear with the first floor of the property used as ancillary offices. and Pinkus notes "the premises may suit a variety of different uses, subject to planning."

Sunday, 10 June 2012

New edition of historical novel set in Lancaster released

The Lancaster Crossing by Christopher Oxborrow
A new edtion of The Lancaster Crossing by local author Christopher Oxborrow has just been released.
Re-published this month, ten years after its original publication, The Lancaster Crossing is a novel set over 200 years ago, opening in the busy port of Lancaster.

When men toiled to build our canals, fortunes made on distant oceans paid for their labour and materials. The Lancaster Crossing follows two young men growing up, living the horror of the Atlantic Slave Trade, and the terror of the Baltic traders who imported the massive supplies of timber.

"While the great engineers and 'navigators' were transforming our landscape, Napoleon was marching across Europe and making alliances with our trading partners," noes Christopher. "We travel from building the great aqueduct in Lancaster, to Britain's merciless attack on the friendly state of Denmark, Yet trading partnerships were established which continue today. Likewise, the great Lune Aqueduct draws today’s tourists to marvel at its massive structure."

Christopher says historic accuracy is an essential element of the novel, and accounts from many sources have been studied to create the precise environment for the fiction.

The Lancaster Crossing is available in Waterstones and other local quality bookshops now, as well as online from Amazon, including an ebook version.