Saturday, 1 June 2013

Evofit image appeal after series of indecent exposures in Garstang and Wyre

Police investigating a series of indecent exposures in the Garstang and Wyre areas have today released an Evofit image of a man they are looking to speak to in connection with the offences.

Officers who were initially investigating five reports, are now also looking into a sixth report that has been made to them that a man indecently exposed himself on Market Street in Hambleton at around 6.20am yesterday morning (31st May).

The five previous reports took place between 4.45pm and 8pm on Wednesday (29th May) wherea man, described as being white and aged between 40 and 60 years old, has indecently exposed himself to passing members of the public.

The first incident took place on Castle Lane, Garstang near to Sainsburys around 4.45pm. The same man was later seen at 7pm at Nateby near to Garstang Gym on Longmoor Lane before being spotted again at 7.30pm on Ainspool Lane in Churchtown.

Further reports were received at 7.45pm on Brock Road, Great Eccleston and lastly at 8pm on Thistleton Lane in Thistleton.

The man is believed to be travelling in a green Peugeot 206 car but despite a police search of the area the man was not found.

Each incident appears to be random and it is not believed that any of the women were deliberately targeted.

DI Andy Bunn from Wyre CID said: “If anyone recognises the man in the evo-fit image, I would urge them to contact police.

“I would also be particularly keen to hear from anybody that has seen a green Peugeot 206 car in around the area or if anybody has obtained a registration.

“These appear to be isolated incidents in which no violence or threats have been made towards any of the victims but nonetheless I’d encourage women to be extra vigilant.

“Members of the public should be reassured that an investigation is ongoing and anyone with any information should contact Lancashire Police on 101.”


Friday, 31 May 2013

RLI ward closures planned; NHS Trust budget cut by 13%

The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMB) has circulated a consultation document to staff outlining proposals to save the Trust £30 million from its annual turnover of £250 million. (You can see a scanned PDF copy of the consultation document here.)

Changes proposed include a reduction of 200 front line clinical and nursing staff and 40 clinical admin support staff. Redeployment proposals include downgrading ('reprofiling') of staff and a broad range of downward changes to pay and conditions. Skilled maintenance workers such as qualified plumbers and electricians are to lose any retention premium, which would drop their pay to apprentice-grade levels and the market is to be tested for external contractors.

In the new proposals the number of beds available at the RLI, now totalling 491, would be reduced by 40.  Wards 5 & 6 (30 beds) are to be closed. We understand that the Day Surgery operating theatre is also to be closed, despite having one of the best records for patient outcomes, infection-control and patient satisfaction across the entire Trust. In 2012 the Trust announced as an 'important improvement' for the RLI that 'From 30 October, day surgery patients will be seen in single sex wards with ward 5 as the female day surgery unit and ward 6 as the male day surgery unit.' Less than a year on, the Day Surgery unit is targetted for closure.

In addition, 10 beds are to be cut from Ward 16 (Gynaecology) at the RLI on the assumption that more of these cases could be treated as Day Cases if staff work longer shifts.

Day Surgery cases overall are to be increased, with staff shifts suggested as 7.30am·to 9pm Monday to Saturday / Sunday. General Surgery Theatre hours have similar shift increases proposed over a seven-day week.  In addition, Wards 5 & 6 are currently routinely and daily used to accommodate and monitor  'overspill' patients from General Surgery. If these wards are to be closed, then it is not immediately clear from the proposals how the current caseload will be safely accommodated, let alone an increase in surgical cases.

Many other services offered in both Kendal and Lancaster are under review, with a view to centralising them in a single base. Other services may be merged to share staff and facilities.
The cost reduction programme is timed to take place as the Health Trust also faces the challenge of adapting to the  fundamental change in the way medical services are commissioned by the new GP-led Clinical Commissioning Groups.

It's not bad news for everyone. Frontline nursing and clinical staff who face pay cuts and downgraded redeployment to different sites across North Lancashire and Cumbria may find comfort in The Westmorland Gazette report this March that the employment contract of former Trust Chief Executive Tony Halsall has survived both cuts and failure to deliver an acceptable service. He is still being paid his £150,000 a year salary from UHMB - despite stepping down in February last year. His severance package is said to total £225,000, plus perks such as an NHS lease car. Mr Halsall and several other trust board executives were made to walk the plank after the Trust was taken under special administrative measures by government watchdog Monitor, following a scandalous series of major organisational failures and avoidable deaths. (see previous report).

Staff were given 45 days to respond to the UHMB cost reduction consultation, which ends in June. We are yet to be informed when the public is to be consulted on the considerable changes planned to our services. There is no reference at all to any specific proposed change on the consultation website, although UHMB cost reduction plans appear to be at an advanced stage of development. However we are confident that the Trust will soon be announcing the publication of a comprehensive online statement of the proposals and organising a series of well-advertised-in-advance and well-briefed local and accessible public consultation events. It stands to reason that our NHS Hospitals Trust will be open to reconsidering some of the proposals if the public finds them to be unsustainable. It's all about choices.

We have asked the UHMB NHS Foundation Trust for clarification on the above issues, and will update you as and when. 

Summer drink driving crackdown gets underway across Lancashire

Lancashire Constabulary’s summer drink driving campaign will be launched tomorrow (Saturday 1st June).

The crackdown will see high-profile enforcement activity take place across the county throughout the month of June with a focus on under 25s and daytime drinkers.

There will be checkpoints at key locations where officers will administer drink and drugs tests.

Chief Inspector Debbie Howard said: “We know that people like to make the most of the warmer weather in the summer months and this can sometimes lead to more alcohol being consumed.

“We want people to enjoy themselves but to be aware of the dangers of driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

“The consequences of drink driving are high – a conviction could mean that you lose your job, home, family and friends. Not only that but you are more likely to cause a road crash than a driver who hasn’t been drinking, potentially resulting in serious injury or even death.”

In 2012, 44,996 drivers were required to provide a roadside breath test in Lancashire. Of these drivers, 1,690 – or 3.8 per cent – failed or refused the test.

"It has taken years of hard work to change attitudes to drink driving and achieve the much safer roads we have now," notes Paul Binks, Lancashire County Council road and transport safety manager.

"The work being carried out by the police this summer is vital to ensure that people continue to realise the risk of killing or seriously injuring an innocent person or themselves if they drink and drive."

Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw added: "I am totally supportive of the Constabulary's efforts to ensure our roads are safer this summer.

"We all want to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on the county's roads, and any initiative which raises awareness of the harm driving under the influence of drink or drugs can do has to be a good thing for all residents."

• If you would like to report someone who you suspect of driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs, contact the police on 101. In an emergency, always dial 999.

Garstang indecent exposure driver sought by police

Police are appealing for information after a naked man repeatedly exposed himself to several women across Garstang and Wyre on Wednesday night (29th May).
Officers are currently investigating five separate reports between 4.45pm and 8.00pm whereby a man, described as being white and aged between 40 and 60 years old, has indecently exposed himself to passing members of the public.
The first incident took place on Castle Lane, Garstang near to Sainsburys around 4.45pm. The same man was later seen at 7pm at Nateby near to Garstang Gym on Longmoor Lane before being spotted again at 7.30pm on Ainspool Lane in Churchtown.
Further reports were received at 7.45pm on Brock Road, Great Eccleston and lastly at 8pm on Thistleton Lane in Thistleton.
The man is believed to be travelling in a green Peugeot 206 car but despite a police search of the area the man was not found.
Each incident appears to be random and it is not believed that any of the women were deliberately targeted.
DI Andy Bunn from Wyre CID said: “I would appeal to anybody who thinks they have seen this man either last night or on any other occasion to contact police.
“I’d be particularly keen to hear from anybody that has seen a green Peugeot 206 car hanging around the area or if anybody has obtained a registration.
“These appear to be isolated incidents in which no violence or threats have been made towards any of the victims but nonetheless I’d encourage women to be extra vigilant.
“Members of the public should be reassured that an investigation is underway and anyone with any information should contact Lancashire Police on 101.”

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Housebound pensioners terrorized by walk-in burglar

Police are appealing for information after an elderly couple were confronted by a burglar at their home in Morecambe, stealing over £2000 in cash.

The offence took place at around 5.35pm on Saturday 18th May at an address on Charles Street. The victims were sat in their lounge watching television when a man walked in through an insecure front door.

He walked into the centre of the living room before grabbing the victim’s handbag which was on the floor and running from the house.

DC Mike O’Regan from Morecambe Reactive CID said: “The victims of this burglary are elderly and house bound, which makes it all the more traumatic.

“The female victim has lived in the same house for 71 years since she was 11 years old, and this is the first time she has been burgled so she is understandably very upset, especially as the offender walked into the living room and stole her bag whilst she and her husband were sat in the room, powerless to stop him.

“Despite a police search of the area the offender could not be found so I’d urge anybody with any information about this burglary to come forward on 101.”

The offender is described as being short, aged 19-24 and tidy in appearance. The stolen bag is black leather with two short straps with a fastener in between. It contained over £2,000 in cash, along with bank cards and a post office card.

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.

Fishy Business: thieves steal angling equipment from Lancaster home

Police are appealing for information after thousands of pounds worth of fishing equipment was stolen in Lancaster.

Between 5.00pm on Monday 27th May and 9.00am the following day, somebody entered the back yard of a property on Langdale Road and broke into the shed, making off with more than £4,000 worth of fishing equipment, including and number of fishing rods and poles, reels, nets, a chair and a rucksack.

PC Carl Wood said: “If anybody has any information about this burglary or knows where any of the stolen property is now, I would urge them to contact police.

“I would also like to hear from anybody who saw or heard anything suspicious in the Langdale Road area on Bank Holiday Monday night into Tuesday morning.”

• Anybody with any information can contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at

Yes, we do love to be beside the seaside: Morecambe wins top beach award

Lancaster City Council has scooped a top award that places two of Morecambe’s beaches among the best in the UK.

Seaside Awards recognise and award beaches in England that achieve the highest standards of beach management.

Keep Britain Tidy today announced that Morecambe's North and South beaches are two of 10 North West beaches to have received an award for offering visitors great facilities alongside a litter free and safe environment.

Councillor Ron Sands, cabinet member with responsibility for leisure, culture and tourism, said: “Lancaster City Council recognises the increasing importance of our coastline in attracting visitors to the town and we are delighted to have received a Seaside Award for both Morecambe's North and South beaches. The standards of these beaches are testament to all those who work hard throughout the year to ensure they can be enjoyed by residents, visitors and holiday-makers alike.

"With another glorious summer packed with free festivals and events to look forward to in Morecambe, I am sure the beaches will once again prove to be a popular choice for families that we can all take pride in."

One of Morecambe’s award winning beaches will be the setting for the town's 7th annual Sandcastle Festival which takes place on the 15th - 16th June.

Sand art workshops, donkey rides, mud-dipping with the RSPB and other children's activities, and of course, plenty of sandcastle building are the main focus of this free weekend of seaside fun.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Tory County Councillor condemns minority alliance politics

County Cllr. Alycia James
Conservative County Councillor Alycia James (Lancaster Rural North) is calling for changes to be made to the way Lancashire County Council is run after Labour negotiated a minority administration last week.

The format is strangely reminiscent of the last general election election. Except that the roles of Labour and the Conservatives are reversed. In the County Council elections of 3 May 2013 Labour won 39 seats, the Conservatives 35 and the Lib Dems 6. (There are also 3 Independents and 1 Green). Taking into account the potential margin of absenteeism. abstention or rank-breaking, the only possible formula for a viable working majority required Labour and the Lib Dems to negotiate an alliance. On 23 May the County Council issued the following statement:

"Labour and the Liberal Democrats have reached an agreement that will see Labour form a minority administration, with the support of the Liberal Democrats.   Under the agreement, the Liberal Democrats will support a proposal for Jennifer Mein, Leader of the Labour Group, to become Leader of Lancashire County Council. County Councillor Mein will then form a minority administration, with a cabinet made up of Labour councillors."

The Lancashire Evening Post reported on the same day that LibDem leader Cllr Winlow had sought a cross party 'rainbow' coalition but that Labour Leader Cllr Mein had dismissed the possibility of any form of coalition with the Conservatives.  Cllr Winlow noted with regret that the Conservatives had also broken off talks but that he was still hoping for a 'progressive administration for the benefit of Lancashire residents.'

And so, at the meeting of full council later that day, Cllr Mein was elected as Council Leader and appointed an all-Labour Cabinet. Labour members were also appointed  to lead the majority of the committees, although the chair of the powerful Audit & Scrutiny Committee was awarded to Cllr Bill Winlow who is the leader of council's Liberal Democrats. The chair of the Education Scrutiny Committee went to Conservative Cllr Suzie Charles (Lancaster Rural East).  Conservative Cllr Mike Devaney was elected as Chair of the County Council.

The council is still in the process of appointing members of all its committees. There is a legal requirement that the membership of County Council committees must reflect, percentage-wise, the membership of the political parties of the councillors elected to the full council. With the exception of the Cabinet, whose members are appointed and dismissed by the Leader of the Council.

County Cllr Alycia James who, like the rest of the country, has lived under a  coalition government system for what now seems like a very long time, is of the view that the arrangement is unrepresentative and would like to scrap the current Cabinet-led system. She said:

“Our constitution is made for having a single group with a majority to run the authority. Four years ago we were given a clear mandate to run the council by the electorate but with no party in overall control this time round, voters have sent out a clear message that they do not wish one party to be in sole charge. ‘’

She continues: ‘’Lancashire County Council’s current set up is not made with a minority administration in mind. The best solution for the County would be to revert back to the traditional Committee system where all groups get to have a say in the running of Lancashire County Council. The Conservative Group, Liberal Democrats and Independents are all in favour of having such an executive committee to allow this to happen. As no party has an outright majority, we must all work together for the residents of Lancashire.”

County Cllrs Jennifer Mein + Bill Winlow
signing the agreement
‘’The Lib Dems have allowed Labour into power through the back door. To agree a so called ‘alliance’, but then to not have any of their councillors in the new Cabinet simply highlights the fact that Labour do not care about the what is best for local people. We must fight to ensure that residents are represented properly and not short changed.’

"The Urgency Committee, which was extended to 13 members at the AGM to allow the Independents to have a say, met on Friday 24 May. The viability of a proposal for an executive committee is now being investigated by officers with a report due back in July."

Cllr Winlow has published a copy of the agreement signed between Labour and the Lib Dems on his website and you can read it there. It lists the priorities of their administration. Political changes planned include:

'Open democracy for all service areas. We will work with officers to set up advisory groups, initially working within Older Peoples’ Services, with all party involvement.

'District Forums (or Committees) will be made up of County, District and Parish Councillor(s) with delegated funding and decision making powers and public access.'

It further adds that the Labour-LibDem alliance hopes to "modify the constitution to ensure that both the first and second opposition groups have a place at the cabinet table by right."

County Cllr
Richard Newman-Thompson
Along with Cllr James, parents of disabled children and carers might find some comfort in the proposals from all sides for a more inclusive administration. As we reported in February 2011, they were excluded from the previous  Conservative-majority council meeting that voted to approve a 25% reduction in council spending, predominantly targeted at social care. The then Conservative Council Leader Geoff Driver laughingly dismissed the objectors as 'rentamob'.

Labour County Cllr. Richard Newman-Thompson (Lancaster East) who sits on the Urgency Committee commented to Virtual-Lancaster:

"The Urgency committee was called after the full County Council meeting last Thursday (23 May) to look at a number of issues to do with the sizes of some committees and the possible setting up of some all party groups to discuss policy. At no point was the possibility of reverting to a committee structure for the County Council seriously discussed.

"The Conservative group appear more interested in playing political games, rather than the serious business of representing the people of Lancashire. There are a number of challenges facing Lancashire, not least of which is the massive cut in our funding from George Osborne and the Tory led coalition.

"We are a Labour run County Council, supported by the Lib Dems where we have policy areas we agree on. We will be working to protect services, provide value for money and try to repair the damage done by the Tories over the last four years."

Critical Mass Bicycle Ride this Friday pays tribute to road accident victim.

Critical Mass Bicycle Ride
Lancaster cyclists have announced that they will be holding a 'Critical Mass' bicycle ride in Lancaster this Friday 31 May. Cyclists are invited to assemble at Dalton Square in Lancaster at 6pm to ride en masse at a sedate pace around the Lancaster one-way city centre ring road.

Organisers have said that 'the recent death of George Mitchell, who was knocked off his bike on Cable Street, has shown that Lancaster's streets are still not safe for cyclists.'

The news was announced yesterday of the tragic death of 80 year old Lancaster pedal cyclist George Mitchell, from the injuries he received after he was knocked off his bicycle on Cable Street on 16 May, by a vehicle which failed to stop at the scene. The driver, a 32 year old Morecambe man, is currently helping the police with their enquiries (see previous report).

The Critical Mass cycle ride is an event which reclaims the street for cyclists and is aimed at reminding the general public that road traffic includes cyclists by right and that other road users are required to drive with consideration for their presence, by law.

You can find out more about the Critical Mass event from the organisers at their facebook event page at:

City Council asks County to purchase Viking "Silverdale Hoard"

Part of the Silverdale Hoard
Lancaster City Council’s Cabinet has agreed to ask Lancashire County Council to secure an important collection of Viking treasure for the county.

Known as the Silverdale Hoard, the collection of coins and jewellery was found near to Silverdale in September 2011 by a metal detector enthusiast and has been valued at £109,815.

Both Lancaster City Council and Lancashire County Council can purchase the hoard as ‘accredited museums’, but the county council has more considerable level of experience and expertise and currently runs Lancaster’s museums.

Cabinet agreed to request that the county council purchases the hoard and secures it for the people of Lancashire.

The city council will make a contribution, however, in the form of the £20,000 acquisitions budget which forms part of the annual management fee paid to the county council to run its local museums.

Councillor Eileen Blamire, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “By taking this decision the city council is helping to ensure that the hoard remains within Lancashire and demonstrates the commitment of both councils to the cultural heritage of the district.”

Other options available for Cabinet would have been for the city council to purchase the hoard, or for a joint purchase with each council funding parts of the costs.

However, given the costs associated with purchasing the hoard, which would also include conservation and display, Cabinet decided that purchase by the city council alone is unaffordable in the long term.

These longer term costs include a one-off cost of £130,000, which would be in addition to the purchase cost. Additional costs include re-interpretation and redisplay and vary between an extra £48,000 to £655,000.

City Cabinet defers decision on Chancery Lane closure

Lancaster City Council's cabinet has voted to defer a decision on the possible closure of Chancery Lane between Market Square and Church Street (see news story), after virtual-lancaster highlighted the proposal within the Lancaster Square Routes plan.

Nestling in the papers for this week's upcoming Cabinet meeting yesterday was the suggestion to close Chancery Lane (PDF link), the ginnel beside TK-Max which connects Market Square with Church Street. Council papers stated the proposed gating of the thoroughfare was in repsonse to "a longstanding concern of the Police in terms of anti-social behaviour".

But after objections from several quarters, including the national charity Living Streets, councillors decided to defer a decision, although Lancashire County Council, as the highways authority, has the ultimate decision-making capacity on its future as a thoroughfare.

The City Council is also consulting again with the police for further detail as to why they are asking for closure of this particular ginnel (especially after there have been muggings on other city centre ginnels recently).

The officer in charge of the Square Routes scheme has also been asked to look into at what might be done to try to improve the condition of the ginnel to make it more attractive to the public.

Chancery Lane has been a public right of way for centuries, dating back to medieveal times - people lived there in the last century.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

NuBlue backs Lancaster BARTER Research Project, seeks local support

(with thanks to by Sita Bridglal): NuBlue, a local business based in InfoLab21, has lent its support to the BARTER research project, as part of Lancaster University’s School of Computing and Communications.

The project, which has been running for the last two weeks, is now looking for local internet businesses to get involved, aims to create a loyalty trading system which records trades and tracks the trading patterns within its network to reward sustainable and locally beneficial trading behaviour in Lancaster.

Using mobile and web technology, the 18-month project favours local trading within a community, aiming to map where money is being spent, with the long term aim of possibly extending to other cities after the initial project is complete. BARTER is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, but it counts on local traders and consumers getting involved.  

Mark Lochrie, who is working with Dr Paul Coulton (of the exploratory lab ImaginationLancaster) and Professor Jon Whittle explains the BARTER project originated out of a Catalyst Launchpad, which was initially supervised by Dr Paul Coulton and his third year student Adrian Gradinar, alongside the support of ESTA founder Michael Hallam.

Quite simply, moving forward from its original conception, BARTER is a research project that encourages consumers to spend money locally - but also for local traders to benefit from market research technologies the way high street stores do, by using NFC-enabled cards.

The BARTER team are actively seeking ways to integrate this system into existing technologies, systems and loyalty schemes, with traders adopting an easy-to-use phone app called ‘LocalTrader‘, which will store, upload and track transactions from their consumers.

The NFC-enabled cards don't transmit personal data the way credit cards do when collecting spending data: the trader will only receive a first name and amount spent for their services.

BARTER wants the data collection process to be seamless rather than a hassle for either consumer or traders, and the hope is that by providing a better way to monitor local economy transactions, the system will gain and provide a much greater insight into where (and how much) trading goes on in specific places in the local community. Examples of traders include grocers, pubs, milkmen, window cleaners, market vendors… just about any place with local goods and services.

The team are now searching for local business involvement with the research project, to encourage local spend.

The biggest potential benefit to the trader is the social networking aspect the project aims to create for local businesses and their consumers. As well as keeping tabs on personal spending, consumers can rate, recommend and review the businesses, and share what they have bought and from where using social media. Trust is built from friendships and reviews, with the hope is that this project might even inspire business-to-business trading.

 In the same way high street stores are regularly talked about online, traders in Lancaster will gain the same attention. And in this world where everything is shared virtually, BARTER are hoping it will become an essential platform.

NuBlue are providing free hosting for the duration of the project, a scalable virtual hosting platform to allow BARTER to log research data in the cloud. This of course includes free hosting support. "The data is the end product," say NuBlue, "the fruit of the project’s efforts, which will be passed on to the European Union and reviewed."

The research aspect of the project will be finished in November 2014.

• You can keep up to date with BARTER’s progress on their Twitter page.

• Visit NuBlue at

Endangered eels rescued from Luneside West tanks

A European Eel. Image: Wikipedia
Forty eels - a critically endangered species - have been rescued from tanks destined for burial on Luneside West and released into the River Lune this week.

Their rescue from two large tanks came after local councillor Jon Barry raised concerns about their fate as work progresses apace on the development of the site.

The site's developer agreed the eels should be rescued and brought in a boat to capture them.

The eels were then cleaned and released into the River Lune.

The tanks will now be decontaminated, drained, removed and the holes backfilled with clean material as part of ongoing work to prepare the site for building works.

The European eel (Anguilla anguilla) is classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which is believed to have declined by up to 95 per cent over the last 25-30 years across Europe.

The Zoological Society of London says the reasons for its decline appear to be down to a combination of habitat loss, barriers to migration, parasites, pollution, over-fishing and climate change affecting oceanic currents.

(Living in two rusty tanks wouldn't have helped their chances, either).

"I'm extremely glad that the eels have been rescued," says Jon. "It wold have been awful if they had been buried alive and I am grateful that they have been released unharmed. Hopefully these 40 eels can help in the UK eel recovery!"

Fairfield Association's "Promises" auction set to raise funds for new nature reserve

Lancaster's Fairfield Association will be holding an Auction of Promises and Gifts on Saturday June 8  - offers that have been generously donated by members, sponsors and supporters. 

Among the many items on offer are:

  • a luxury box for four, with lunch and drinks, for a home match at Preston North End
  • a sail on Windermere, a drive in a Ferrari or a 1923 Sunbeam, a canoe on Lancaster Canal, or a round of golf for four people
  • art work by local artists Jon Sparks, David Herrod, Sue Mitchell and Helen Hicks
  • guitar, violin, art and pottery lessons
  • food and drink from Teatro, Atkinsons' Music Room/The Hall, or a home-made Indian meal for six
  • tickets for Robin Hood in Williamson Park, or Heritage Opera's Magic Flute
  • a mini-break at Halton Co-Housing including a guided tour
  • a will or power of attorney drawn up by a local solicitor

“People, both individuals and businesses, have been wonderfully generous in their promises, and we have a great selection of items on offer," says Sue Nieduszynska, who has organised the auction, " including luxury items for a very special day out and others which will appeal to people with less to spend. 

"Our auctioneer, Graeme Kirk, is very well known and highly experienced, and it will certainly be a fun evening for everyone.” 

All proceeds will go to the Fairfield Association's funds for Flora, the new nature reserve adjoining Fauna, the Association's first reserve which opened in late 2011. 

The land that will comprise the Flora Nature Reserve has been bought by the Association through the generous donations of members of local communities working together, helped by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. 

Once Flora is landscaped and restored, Lancaster will be in the unique position of having a combined nature reserve of nearly 50 acres within a few minutes' walk of the City centre. 

Funds raised by the auction will be used for landscaping works. Natural England has already promised funds for wildlife friendly farming and conservation, but the Association is now fundraising for a footpath, suitable for push chairs and wheel chairs, leading to seats from which people will be able to enjoy the extensive views of the Castle and Priory and the hills beyond.

• The full auction catalogue can be viewed at: (PDF)

Event tickets and advance bidding:
Auction date: Saturday June 8th, 7pm for 7.30pm
Venue:  The Gregson Centre, Moor Lane, Lancaster

80-year-old cyclist dies after Lancaster road collision

(Updated, 15:11): We're sorry to report that the 80 year old pedal cyclist involved in a serious road traffic collision with a Citroen Berlingo on Cable Street in Lancaster on 16th May, died of his injuries yesterday.

Police have named him as as George Mitchell from Lancaster.

The driver of the car involved, a 32 year old man from Morecambe, is helping police with their enquiries.

The police continue to appeal for witnesses.

Mr Mitchell was knocked off his push bike by a vehicle which failed to stop at the scene at at around 9.10am on  Thursday 16th May on Cable Street.

After being taken to Royal Lancaster Infirmary with a head injury he was transferred to Royal Preston Hospital.

• Anybody with any information can contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at

In Pictures: Lancaster Castle opens its gates to the public

Lancaster Castle opened its gates to the public for the first time on a regular basis this weekend and local photographer Alan Phillips was on hand to record the day.

2013 marks the first time the Castle has opened daily top the public, officially marking its transition from former prison to major tourist attraction.

With its 900-year history as an enclave of crime and punishment, Lancaster Castle’s interior has for centuries generally been considered a place for the incarceration of those on the wrong side of the law.

But the formal closure of the HM Prison in March 2011 signalled a new dawn for the castle’s future role in Lancaster life, which will – for the first time in its history - include opening the gates daily to allow people inside.

Once through the gates, visitors can get a glimpse of the castle’s magnificent interior from its large internal courtyard.

Tours run by Lancashire County Council’s museums service at Lancaster Castle start and finish at the cafe and will include the Castle Courtyard as well as parts of the former HM prison.

The gates will remain open from 10.00am to 5.00pm each day and throughout the year there will be a series of new events which will include live music and seasonal fairs.

Though much of the castle will still remain inaccessible for the time being its owner, The Duchy of Lancaster, has already engaged the public in consultation about its future use and is keen to make more of the centuries-old building accessible.

English Heritage has described the Castle as being "not only the North-West's most important historic and archaeological monument but also of international importance".

• Duchy of Lancaster - Lancaster Castle web site:

All photos in this news item © and courtesy Alan Phillips

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Council sneeks proposal to close Chancery Lane to pedestrians into Square Route plans


While the latest news on Lancaster City Council's Square Root plans to revamp Lancaster city centre are great news for the town, supporting local business and other community efforts to boost it, there's a sting in the tail to the current plans to be discussed next week - the proposed closure of Chancery Lane, a centuries-old right of way between Market Square and Church Street.

Nestling in the papers for this week's upcoming Cabinet meeting on Tuesday is the suggestion to close Chancery Lane (PDF link), the ginnel beside TK-Max which connects Market Square with Church Street. Council papers state the gating of the thoroughfare is in repsonse to "a longstanding concern of the Police in terms of anti-social behaviour".

The proposal has provoked several objections, including one from the national organisation Living Streets, the national charity that stands up for pedestrians which campaigns for pedestrian facilities and street design, who have written a letter of objection to the City Council's Chief Executive Mark Cullinan.

"We promote safe, attractive and enjoyable streets where people want to walk," says former Lancaster resident Doctor Kevin Golding Williams in his letter. "Walking is a form of transport with multiple benefits, not least to our mental and physical wellbeing, and to the environment. The quality of the public realm is key to encouraging more people to walk, and in doing so, helps to revitalise our town centres.

"However, convenience is an equally important factor. The gating of Chancery Lane will remove a traffic-free, shortcut and reduce the character and permeability of pedestrian routes through the town centre."

Given that Chancery Lane has been a public right of way for centuries, dating back to medieveal times - people lived there in the last century -  it strikes us as odd that the Council have chosen not to highlight the proposal to gate the ginnel. There was no mention of it in last week's press briefing, for example.

It seems unlikely to us that this right of way causes more concern than other city centre ginnels when it comes to anti social behaviour - and if the Council and Police get their way on this one, what other short cuts might also be lost for pedestrians? The ginnel beside the Halifax on Penny Street, for example, where a student was mugged earlier this month?

"This is a really bad idea," argues former city councillor John Whitelegg, who is currently the national Green Party's Sustainable Development Spokesperson. "Alleyways and ginnels are an important part of the fabric of any town but especially so in an historic place like Lancaster and they should be presserved.

"A traffic-free walking route is also a really  good thing to have and plays a big part in encouraging people to walk.

"It goes without saying that all our alleyways need improving," he feels. "Better lighting, more patrols from PCSOs, opening up for cafe use where there is a space, public art etc. 

"The council say that the police are unhappy about anti-social behaviour in Chancery Lane, including drugs – but we need a plan of action to deal with that and one that does not involve closure.

"There is also a failure in logic with the closure/gating problem," he argues. "Car parks are often used for drug abuse and have been the location for muggings, sexual assaults and worse but I have not heard of a plan to close a car park on the argument that it would solve anti-social  behaviour problems.

"Closing Chancery Lane discriminates against pedestrians  and should be rejected."

View the Cabinet Meeting Papers which include more details on the Square Routes project

• Living Streets:

1999 excavations of Mitchells Brewery site on Church Street