Saturday, 30 November 2013

Pri-Market one step closer?


Allied Lancaster Ltd, owner of Marketgate Shopping Centre, are seeking permission redevelop and partly demolish Lancaster Market to create what would be the city’s biggest single retail unit, unless or until the Canal Corridor scheme goes ahead.

As we speculated back in September 2012, it's possible clothes retailer Primark will be the "anchor tenant" – although Allied told the Lancaster Guardian they were not yet in a position to announce who the tenant would be.

We reported that sources told us that Allied were already in talks with Primark, a retailer which has nearly 160 stores in the UK and has seen rapid expansion abroad in the past three years.

Plans submitted to the city council propose a £10m, 40,000 sq ft two storey unit for an “anchor tenant” in the former market hall, which Allied hopes will help arrest 'leakage' of shoppers to other towns in the area. The entrance in Common Garden Street would be closed, and a new entrance created within the covered area of the shopping centre.

The Lancaster Guardian reports Gillinson’s Lane, which links Marketgate to Common Garden Street, would also be removed to allow the extension of the new development further into the shopping centre, and the demolition of some of the existing walls.

Now closed, Lancaster's two-tier indoor market hall, which housed 55 market stalls, opened on 4th September 1995, 11 years after its Victorian predecessor was razed to the ground by fire and the original building could not be restored owing to under insurance problems. The Council sold the land to Centreville Properties Ltd to fund its construction, and took out a 99-year lease on the market hall, with no get out clause.

Mismanagement, not helped by the building's design – criticised at the planning stages by planning expert Doctor John Whitelegg –  and a rent rise of £296,000 to £409,000 in early 2008 as the recession worsened eventually saw the market's closure in September 2012.

The closure followed a lengthy campaign to save it and several proposals for alternate use, including a derided proposal to sell the to a now-failed company, ASCO – with many questions about this abandoned plan and the conduct of some council staff (some of whom have since left) still unanswered to this day.

In May 2012 we reported that Market traders received around £1 million in compensation from Lancaster City Council for closing market and several moved into shop premises around the city centre and continue to operate. 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, but it is still not clear how much it will cost the City Council to remove itself from the lease it still has with the company.

Marketgate owners Allied Lancaster, which has cash assets of over £700,000 but liabilities of some £35 million, was incorporated in April 2005, initially as 'Spendright Limited', by Mr Clive Ensor Boultbee Brooks, Mr Steven John Boultbee Brooks. It currently has four directors. Despite the recession, the shopping centre has retained most of its retailers and seen new stores replace those that have closed.

Read the Lancaster Guardian report on the plans, which includes comments from Allied spokespoerson Darren Sharpe

Read our original 'Welcome to Pri-Market' news item

"Market Movers"

African Caribbean Foods - sharing a unit in King's Arcade with Rose and Sharon hair salon
Barbers - Sir Simon's Arcade (joining the picture framers who moved there some time ago)
Bay Pets & Jesters Fancy Dress - Common Garden Street
Burgess Cheese - Ffrances Passage 
Gillisons Fine Leather Goods and Bag Stall - New Street 
Hester's Haberdashery - Gage Street
Hartley Electrical Services - King Street/Sir Simon's Arcade 
The Terrace Cafe - New Street (taking over Lewis' Cafe)
Tobacconists - Ffrances Passage The Market Cobbler - New Street
Polish Delicatessen - Brock Street

Friday, 29 November 2013

Lancashire calls on MPs to rethink local NHS funding

Health chiefs from Lancashire visited MPs in London this week to encourage the government to reconsider how it plans to provide funding to local NHS organisations.

NHS England is currently consulting on plans which would see funding for Lancashire's hospitals and other NHS organisations cut by more than £29m per year.

If approved, the move would also see a reduction in the health funding for disadvantaged areas where people suffer poorer health by as much as £30 per person.

This week, County Councillors Azhar Ali, chairman of Lancashire Health and Wellbeing Board, Lorraine Beavers, lead member for health, and Steven Holgate, chairman of Lancashire Health Scrutiny Committee, visited the House of Commons to express their concerns.

County Councillor Ali said: "This funding contributes towards running our hospitals and commissioning groups, which manage the health services people across Lancashire use every day.

"If NHS England brings in this formula we stand to lose £140m over five years. This is equivalent to the cost of an entire hospital.

"These changes would affect disadvantaged and rural communities and have the potential to lead to more older people suffering from isolation and loneliness.

"We don't want Lancashire to lose out so we've spoken to MPs from all parties to highlight the problem and ask them to persuade the government to reconsider how it provides funding for local health services.

"In particular, we would like a formula to provide good levels of funding for services in disadvantaged areas.

"This would mean we can continue to put the resources we need into improving the health of people in these communities and across Lancashire as a whole."

County Councillor Lorraine Beavers, added: "We must speak up for the people we serve and felt we needed to visit Westminster to fight our corner and explain what the proposed new funding arrangements would mean for Lancashire.

"This would affect all communities, including people from rural areas who need to travel to the larger towns for hospital treatment and health advice. We believe there needs to be a fairer way of funding the vital services people use every day.

"It's well known Lancashire faces some tough health challenges with life expectancy below the national average. We need as much funding as possible so people get medical support earlier in life to reduce more long-term health problems.

"I'd urge the MPs we met to raise these concerns at the very highest level."

Lancashire's Health Scrutiny Committee reviews and studies public health issues and the work of the NHS. It also monitors the work and performance of the county council's public health service, activities of cabinet members and partner organisations.

County Councillor Holgate said: "The Health Scrutiny Committee Works closely with organisations involved in health in Lancashire from hospital trusts to clinical commissioning groups.

"Most local health organisations are not in favour of this formula and they want the government to make an adjustment to take levels of deprivation into account.

"Not only would this affect Lancashire, but other areas, particularly those in the north of England, would lose out on vital investment in what are already shrinking health economies.

"The formula that is being proposed focuses on life expectancy alone, and only takes into account that people use health services more frequently as th! ey get older. Although this is the case, we believe it must also recognise that people in disadvantaged areas need access to health services at a much younger age, leading to better health in the long-term.

"If the new formula is brought in, it will only compound Lancashire's health inequalities, widening the gap between rich and poor.

"We'd encourage NHS England to work on a fairer formula which takes deprivation into account – one that recognises future health needs and current health demands."

Meet artist Chas Jacobs this weekend at Ashton Memorial

Lancaster artist Chas Jacobs has an exhibition at the Ashton Memorial this weekend (Saturday 30th November - 1st December) and will be on hand to talk about his work and sign the back of any works sold.

Original paintings, canvases, limited edition prints and cards will be available.

Chas draws his inspiration from the towns and landscapes of the North West of England; a unique and beautiful area including Morecambe Bay, the Forest of Bowland and the nearby Lake District in Cumbria as well as from his holidays in Devon, particularly Dartmouth, where his interest in boats, the sea and harbours are reflected in his work. 

He's been producing images which reflect the region for over 15 years. Having always lived in the area, he  manages to add a very local feel to the scenes he produces.

Lancaster Castle by Chas Jacobs © Chas Jacobs

Strong primary colours, fluffy white clouds and often multi-coloured balloons make the paintings instantly recognisable and fun. If you look carefully, you will sometimes find his springer spaniel, Rags, in the paintings. 

• Chas Jacobs Exhibition Saturday 30 November & Sunday 1st December 11am - 4pm, the Ashton Memorial (ground floor), Williamson Park, Lancaster. 2 for 1 entry to the Butterfly House for everyone who comes to the exhibition. Website:

Lancaster's MP challenges Prime Minister on pancreatic cancer care

Lancaster MP Eric Ollerenshaw challenged Prime Minister David Cameron on pancreatic cancer care in the House of Parliament, earlier this week, drawing attention to the slow speed of improving survival rates in the UK.

"By the end of this year, more than 8,000 people in our country will have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, of which only four per cent will have even the chance of a five-year survival rate.," he noted. "Those figures have not changed for the last 30 years."

Mr Ollerenshaw, whose partner died from pancreatic cancer, then asked the Prime Minister if he would join the all-party group on pancreatic cancer and Pancreatic Cancer UK in their aim, which is that it is time to change and improve on those dreadful outcomes.

An experienced campaigner and former board member of Great Ormond Street Hospital, the questions came after the recent publication of a Parliamentary report which said NHS treatment for pancreatic cancer is not patient-centred, well co-ordinated or efficient.

The committee, chaired by Mr Ollerenshaw made 12 recommendations, including a call to increase awareness of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer and a review of the services and tests available to GPs.

"My honorable Friend makes a good point," responded Mr Cameron. "An issue always raised by charities campaigning on some of the less well-known and less prevalent cancers is that they do not get a fair share of the research funding.

"That is an issue that I have taken up with the Health Secretary," the Prime Minister added. "We need to make sure that we are spreading research funding and the work we do into cancer fairly across the different disciplines and across the different cancers."

Survival rates for pancreatic cancer are very low. In addition to the low survival rate after diagnosis,
only 10  to 20 per cent of patients are suitable for surgery and most people (around 80 per cent) die within the first year. 

There is a mistaken belief that pancreatic cancer is a rare cancer, affecting small numbers of mostly elderly, male patients. Symptoms can be vague but include pain in the stomach area, weight loss and jaundice.

• Lancaster-based CancerCare was established in 1983 to provide support to cancer patients and those around them in an informal, relaxed manner. Facing cancer, whether as a patient, carer, or family member can be a life changing experience. CancerCare helps people as they come to terms with these changes through providing emotional, social and psychological support.More info:

Lancashire charter says no to bullying

All children and young people who live, go to school, work or socialise in Lancashire have the right to go about their daily lives without the fear of being bullied.

This is the clear Message behind Lancashire's anti-bullying charter.

The anti-bullying charter was drawn up by officers from Lancashire County Council's children and young people's service and representatives from the Lancashire Youth Council. It was officially launched at a conference in Chorley during anti-bullying week earlier this month.

The charter makes it clear that tackling bullying is not just an issue for schools, but also for parents and carers and all organisations working with children and young people, and the wider community.

Speaking at the conference, Matthew Tomlinson, Lancashire County Council's cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said:

"According to some recent research, one in every three children has experienced some form of bullying. It goes without saying that this is an extremely important issue for young people and one which we are determined to tackle.

"Anti-bullying week provided us with an opportunity to remind everyone in the community that we share a collective responsibility to stamp out bullying. This is an issue that many children and young people see as their biggest concern as they grow up.

"We have been working with a range of partners including teachers, young people, parents, the young people's council and representatives from Children and Young People’s Trusts to devise a poster that focuses on the rights and responsibilities of everyone within the community.

"The logos on the poster feature ‘ED’, a character named by members of the youth council’s equality and diversity group. The poster has been endorsed by the Lancashire Safeguarding Children Board. This is one element of an Anti-Bullying Charter."

The other side of this initiative is to invite Lancashire schools to sign-up to Lancashire's anti-bullying charter mark.

"We are inviting schools to support the charter by downloading copies of the poster," said Mr Tomlinson, "displaying it prominently throughout school and discussing the roles and responsibilities with children and young people."

Elizabeth Wilson, 18, one of the six members of the Lancashire Youth Council's Equality and Diversity Campaign who worked on the charter and the charter mark, said:

"The highlights of the conference were seeing Tor View Theatre Company perform their piece and also taking quite a lead in the disability worksh! op where we were able to share a lot of knowledge and experience. People really seemed to take in what we were saying.

"It was a great day and made even better because we'd helped plan it and we got to see how everything came together at the end. All the staff we met from the county council's children and young people's directorate were so supportive of us.

"And, as well as being part of an event that many adults from the county council have worked with us on, we've learned a lot while we've been here.

Elizabeth, from Lancaster, added: "We definitely learned a lot from the Founding Director of Kids Company, Camilla Batmangelidjh, who attended the conference. Camilla's charity works with some of the most vulnerable young people in London.

"Camilla spoke about how children and young people's brains work and grow, about what happens if you haven't had enough love or support. She talked about how adults can learn more about working with people in this situation who may not be easy to have in school sometimes, but now we know why."

• Schools wishing to apply for the Lancashire Anti-Bullying Charter Mark will find further details here

Care workers found guilty of neglect

Three local care workers have been found guilty of neglecting and ill-treating elderly residents at Hillcroft's nursing home in Slyne-with-Hest.

Carol Moore, 54, Katie Cairns, 27, and Gemma Pearson, 28, were all convicted of being a carer involved in the ill treatment and wilful neglect of a person with lack of capacity contrary to the Mental Capacity Act 2005 at Preston Crown Court today (Tuesday 26 November 2013).

Cairns of Riverview Court, Morecambe was found guilty of three offences, Pearson of Hill Street, Carnforth and Moore of Ripon Avenue, Lancaster were both convicted of one offence. Moore, who was initially charged with three offences, was found not guilty of the two other offences.

Earlier this year, a fourth person, Darren Smith, 35, of Howgill Avenue, Lancaster pleaded guilty to eight offences of being a carer involved in the ill treatment and wilful neglect of a person with lack of capacity contrary to the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

All four will be sentenced on Friday 10th January at Preston Crown Court.

In May 2012, Lancashire County Council Adult Services Social Care department made police aware of a complaint they had received about the level of care provided to some residents at the Hillcroft nursing home in Slyne-with-Hest.

A multi-agency investigation into the alleged mistreatment of residents at the home immediately began and following a complex enquiry Smith, Moore, Cairns and Pearson, who were all employed as carers, were charged with the offences under the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

The charges related to the mistreatment of seven men and one woman between May 2010 and September 2011. All the victims had been diagnosed as suffering from dementia. The group were found to have abused residents in their care in a number of ways: they mocked them, bullied them and on occasions deliberately assaulted them. Most of the neglect and ill treatment related to instances of throwing bean bags and balls deliberately at the residents.

Detective Inspector Andy Hulme said: “I am pleased with the verdicts today. These victims represent some of the most vulnerable members of our community who have been subjected to ill treatment at the hands of people who were entrusted to care for them and improve their quality of life. Instead Smith, Moore, Cairns and Pearson showed a total disregard for their wellbeing, displaying contemptible behaviour that should never be tolerated. I would like to take this opportunity to commend those members of staff who had the courage and decency to speak out against this despicable behaviour. If it wasn’t for their brave actions we may not be where we are today.

“I would also like to praise the families of the victims who trusted these people to care for their relatives and treat them with dignity and respect. To learn that they failed in their professional duty to this must have been utterly heart-breaking, yet they have conducted themselves with dignity throughout the investigation and subsequent trial.

“From the outset, the main aim of this investigation was to establish if any abuse had taken place and if it had, to put an immediate stop to it. I am pleased to say we have been able to do that.

“The safety and wellbeing of all residents being cared for by the Hillcroft Group was always a priority. We have been working with other agencies to ensure all appropriate safeguards are in place and work continues in this area by Lancashire County Council and NHS North Lancashire. A multi-agency learning review is continuing to ensure that any lessons learnt will be fully explored and actioned where appropriate. The review, which has been running parallel to the investigation and judicial proceedings, aims to ensure better protection for vulnerable adults in residential care.

“We don’t believe that the behaviour shown by Smith, Moore, Cairns and Pearson is a true reflection of the majority of staff at Hillcroft and we believe the care home in Slyne is now a completely different environment, with the quality of care afforded to all residents being carefully managed and monitored.

“Smith, Moore, Cairns and Pearson will now have time to reflect on their actions and I hope they can see just how appalling their behaviour was.”

Joanne Cunliffe, Crown Advocate for CPS North West Complex Casework Unit, said: “The vulnerable victims in this case were subjected to appalling ill treatment at the hands of the very people who were entrusted with their care.

“They deserved, and should have had, the very best of treatment, but instead of looking after them, Darren Smith, Carol Moore, Katie Cairns and Gemma Pearson mocked, bullied and humiliated them for their own entertainment. Their actions caused considerable distress to the victims, and it has been very distressing for their families to hear about it.

“The CPS has been determined to bring the defendants to justice for the abuse they inflicted on their victims and we have worked closely with the police to piece together all the evidence in this case. We are committed to prosecuting crimes against older people, and where there is evidence of ill treatment or neglect we will prosecute robustly.

“I would like to thank the witnesses who showed great bravery in coming forward and supporting the prosecution. Their assistance has been invaluable in building a strong case against these defendants and as a result, we have been able to secure their convictions.

“I hope the fact that these defendants have now been brought to justice is of some comfort to the victims and their families.”

The families of the victims gave the following statement:

“It is impossible to imagine what it’s like to have dementia and as relatives we do our best to speak for the victims of these crimes, who are unable to speak for themselves.

“As the disease progresses, we see our relative change and we do our best to care for them, but we have not been trained how to handle difficult situations.

“There often comes a time when the family of the person with dementia has to put its trust in professionals to care for their relative and these professionals have a duty to treat the people they look after with dignity and respect. Smith, Moore, Cairns & Pearson have failed in this duty and we hope that sentencing will reflect that these crimes were committed against vulnerable people who could not stand up for themselves.

“There are also duties of care on the owners and management of Hillcroft, Lancashire County Council Adult Services, NHS North Lancashire and the CQC. We feel that there have been failings on the parts of all of these.

“The section of the home at the centre of this case is a challenging behaviour unit and the description speaks for itself. To work in a challenging behaviour unit must be incredibly difficult, requiring patience and understanding, not to mention training and professionalism, but the difficulty of the job does not excuse mistreatment on any level.

“Mistreatment is unlikely to occur in front of relatives or during an inspection by the CQC and not all forms of abuse leave visible scars.

“We believe that families, in particular those with relatives in challenging behaviour units, should be able to contribute to the periodic review of standards in that care home.

“In many cases, people with advanced dementia are not able to communicate and this means that we as relatives might not know if something untoward has occurred to them. It is not always easy for relatives to raise concerns, for fear of becoming a trouble-maker and something must be done to change this situation.

“It is important that so called "whistle-blowers” are listened to and we thank and admire the courage of those who came forward to report the mistreatment at Hillcroft.

“We would also like to publicly thank the Prosecution Counsel, CPS and Lancashire Police for carrying out a professional investigation and for their support over the last 18 months.”

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Case Against M6 Link remains strong, legal system has failed local community say campaigners

Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe have issued a statement after Lord Justice Sullivan refused TSLM permission to appeal against the decision to allow the Heysham M6 Link Road to go ahead.

“Our case against the road remains strong, persuasive and reasonable”, said David Gate on behalf of the local campaign group which has consistently argued for alternative and cheaper measures to ease traffic congestion.

”The legal system has failed the local community and common sense, and has failed to carry out its long term primary duty to check abuse on the part of central and local government," he feels.

”TSLM is very proud indeed to have taken a central role over nine years in defending the interests of all those who will be damaged by this unnecessary road, and in pointing out the deep flaws in the case for the road, and the strong arguments for the alternatives to the road.

”TSLM has always been very clear, on the basis of professional advice, that the road  will not deliver jobs or relief from congestion, and at £43 million per mile of road is a huge waste of money that could and should be spent on the clear, alternative measures that will create jobs and solve congestion problems.

“This failure of public policy has produced an expensive, destructive and  ultimately useless new road

”Finally we lay down a challenge to the County Council.  County has made frequent claims about the importance of this road for creating jobs, relieving congestion and growing the port of Heysham. It has rejected our arguments that these claims are baseless. 

"We ask that County now carries out a monitoring exercise to produce data so that five years after opening we can assess whether or not these claims were true.”

MORE Renewables announces new share offer to help Horton Women’s Holiday Centre

MORE Renewables, a local company established to to establish sustainable renewable technologies and enhance the sustainability and resilience of local communities in the Morecambe Bay area has just opened a new share offer.

The company aims to raise £17,000 for a pellet biomass boiler at Horton Women’s Holiday Centre, a charitable co-operative who provide affordable holidays for women and children.

"Their current heating system has broken down, so they urgently need a new boiler and we are pleased to be able to help them out," said a spokesperson.

The offer closes on 9th December, but if you think you may want to invest do not wait until the last minute – if it is oversubscribed they will allocate shares on a first come first served basis.

After a full year of operation of their solar PV system, MORE Renewables announced in September that it would shortly be paying share interest of 2% to members, as outlined in its initial share offer documentation.

• To find out more please look at the share offer document which you can down load from

M6 Link clears last legal hurdle, County Council's favourite white elephant finally goes ahead

Pictured at the construction depot for the M6 link - the County Council's Heysham to M6 Link Road project director Steve McCreesh, Costain project manager Andrew Langley, County Councillor John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and tran! sport, Phil Barrett, LCC director of Lancashire Highway Services.

Local pro-road builders are jumping for joy today, after the £125 million plus Heysham to M6 Link Road that will save an incredible five minutes journey time for Heysham to Lancaster commuters cleared the last legal hurdle.

Work on the Heysham to M6 Link Road will now begin in the New Year after a final attempt by Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe to stop the controversial scheme – whose cost over runs will be the responsibility of the County Council – was thrown out by the Court of Appeal.

The decision clears the way for Lancashire County Council to start building the £124.5m road linking the Heysham Peninsula to the M6 motorway, which the County claims heralds a new era for economic growth and improved transport.

The County Council argues link will provide better access to Morecambe and industrial areas which include the Port of Heysham and the Heysham power stations. It will also reduce congestion in the Lancaster area, particularly on Caton Road, Morecambe Road and the Greyhound and Skerton bridges – although in its own evidence it has acknowleged the journey savings may be as little as five minutes.

The project has long been one of Lancashire County Council's top priority transport schemes, after all other routes were rejected – leaving it only with a route planners previously claimed made no sense and originally had limited political support.

When the route became the only road building option, local political parties changed their minds and joined the Liberal Democrats in backing this northern route, claiming it wasn't the best option but arguing road building was the only solution to the area's traffic woes.

Lancashire Ciounty Council rejected alternative transport schemes out of hand and insisted any potential traffic calming measures, such as Park and Ride could only be included as part of the road scheme and not considered as a separate item.

Development consent for the Link was awarded in March 2013 following a lengthy process that included a six month examination period with three weeks of public hearings and further work by the County Council to put the plans in order after its own staff made several mistakes in the planning process.

Campaigners against the link road, Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe requested permission to apply for a judicial review to challenge the decision by the Secretary of State to grant approval for the project.

Following a two-day hearing held in July, a judgement was issued by the High Court in October, which rejected all five grounds put forward for the challenge and refused TSLM permission to make the application for judicial review.

TSLM made further applications to the Court of Appeal, asking for the High Court's judgement to be overturned. The last of these was made today during an oral hearing, with the judge again finding no substance to their case against the road.

County Councillor John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: "We've always been confident of the case for the link road, which is widely supported by local people and businesses, and I couldn't be more pleased that we can now get on with building it.

"The road will provide excellent value for money in terms of considerable benefits for local traffic, businesses and employment, while acting as a catalyst for wider economic growth," he argues.

"Whilst I'm very satisfied at the strong judgement in our favour, I'm also extremely frustrated that objectors have cost the people of Lancashire an extra £2.6m by pursuing what amount to no more than delaying tactics.

"I went to see the depot being constructed earlier this week, and I'm looking forward to seeing work on the road itself start in earnest in the New Year."

Lancashire County Council's contractor Costain recently began constructing an area to accommodate staff, offices and equipment needed to build the link road at an army camp on Halton Road leased from the Ministry of Defence. The depot is scheduled to be completed in time to allow work on the road to begin in January.

The new road will complete the long awaited connection from the Heysham and Morecambe peninsula to Junction 34 of the M6, and will be a 4.8km dual carriageway with a footpath and cycleway along the entire route.

The project also involves a fully remodelled junction 34, with new slip roads, a new bridge over the River Lune and a 600 space park and ride site. The new road will provide better access for residents, businesses and tourists to the area.

The link road project features a number of associated improvements including a park and ride scheme with buses running from the park and ride site into Lancaster city centre, and bus priority, cycle and walking measures. (All of which, as noted above, could have been introduced before).

The County claims the link road will improve access to Heysham Port, the third largest in the North West, allowing it to develop as a hub for services to Ireland. It is the supply base for major offshore gas field and wind farms.

And, of course, the road would also improve access to a possible third nuclear power station, not to mention opportunities for other building along the route.

The Council argues road access to the port, which specialises in roll-on roll-off freight, is currently severely congested and unreliable, acting as a barrier to further growth.

(The Council refused to consider proposals to improve the rail link with a lorry park at Carnforth, which would have cost far less than the road that will now be built. Ironically, as it champions road building here in Lancaster, the County is arguing that there are too many roads in Skelmersdale and it would be better serviced if it had a train station. Go figure..).

The Council claims the scheme will bring ongoing regeneration benefits, with 3,000 people due to be employed during construction alone. Up to 100 local unemployed people will receive training and jobs during construction.

A contested study has predicted that every £1 invested in the link road will earn £4.40 for the economy.

The contractor Costain has been selected to construct the road and has been in discussion with local firms for some time.

Andrew Langley, Costain project manager, said: "We are just looking forward to getting started on the construction of the new road. We have already engaged with several loc! al companies, and have already started the local employment and training programme."

An additional benefit of reduced congestion will be improved air quality, and the scheme includes a number of measures to protect the environment by improving wildlife habitats, tree cover and watercourses.

Terms have been negotiated with Costain that gives an estimated construction cost of £124.5m. The Department for Transport has said it will contribute £111m and Lancashire County Council will fund the remainder.

• Lancashire County Council M6 Link Information: Search for Heysham Link at

• When the road is built and when it becomes as congested as the rest of local roads now - we give it three years, tops, before the Council starts asking for another road – why not check out the Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe's web site and view its costs alternatives, all of which were much cheaper than the road and didn't destroy part of our Green Belt?

North West England report warns "We Don't Talk Any More" (to neighbours, anyway)

A Public Health England report published today on mental wellbeing in the North West (PDF) has found that although there has been an increase in people within the region reporting to be in ‘very good’ health (an increase of 18.2%), and more people with greater life satisfaction (increase of 10.5%), people with long-term conditions had a significantly lower level of mental wellbeing than average.

The survey notes a further decline in neighbourly relations – with the number of people who say they talk to their neighbours ‘on most days’ down from 51.9% to 33.6%.

The first ‘North West Mental Wellbeing Survey’ published in 2009  (PDF Link) showed that people with good mental wellbeing have higher life satisfaction and are much more likely to be in employment, be educated, be healthy and have closer relationships with others.

The follow up report published today has revealed that while there has been little change in average mental wellbeing across the North West between 2009 and 2012/13, there have been significant changes in some of the key factors that influence wellbeing.

Key findings from the ‘North West Mental Wellbeing Survey 2012/13’ (PDF) include:


  • A significant increase (+18.2%) in the number of people reporting to be in ‘very good’ health
  • Fewer people reported being current smokers (29.8% in 2009 and 27.7% in 2012/13) 
  • A fall in the number of people meeting current guidelines for physical activity (30.4% in 2009 and 27.1% in 2012/13) 
  • People with long-term conditions had a significantly lower level of mental wellbeing than average. Conditions most strongly associated with lower mental wellbeing include depression, anxiety and stress, liver disease and stroke

Neighbourhood and social connections

  • The number of people who talk to their neighbours ‘on most days’ has fallen from 51.9% to 33.6%; the number of people who ‘never’ talk to their neighbours has risen from 2.6% to 4.7%; and the number of people who meet with friends and family (that they are not living with) ‘on most days’ has fallen from 53.9% to 41.2% 
  • There was a 12.7% fall in the number of people who felt ‘very strongly’ that they belonged to their immediate neighbourhood


  • People who had undertaken voluntary work in the past year (14.3%) had significantly higher mental wellbeing compared to those who did not 
  • There was a 9.1% fall in the number of people who ‘definitely agreed’ they have time to do the things they really enjoy

Across both survey years, relatively low levels of mental wellbeing were more likely to be found among people living in the most deprived areas and among those aged 40 to 54 years.

“This survey is a crucial piece of work in helping us understand the significance of mental wellbeing to our physical health and our overall wellbeing," commented Professor Paul Johnstone, Regional Director of Public Health England, North. "It is clear that we shouldn’t treat these issues separately but do more to address whole-person approaches in all our services.”

“Having good mental wellbeing underpins all aspects of living healthily, managing and recovering from illness and living with long-term conditions, argues Professor Kevin Fenton, Public Health England’s Director of Health and Wellbeing, commenting on the results of the survey.

“Maintaining good relationships with the people around us and a sense of belonging to where we live are hugely important factors for our physical and mental health.

"A worrying finding from the survey is that people feel both of these are declining. The public health system needs to continue to understand the factors contributing to the mental wellbeing of our communities and commission services that address mental as well as physical wellbeing.”

The survey findings will be used by local authorities and their partners across the North West to support local action to improve mental wellbeing. They will also be used alongside the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’, to increase awareness of the importance of mental wellbeing in improving people’s lives.

Read the North West Mental Wellbeing Survey 2012/13 report on the North West Public Health web site (this site will eventually be merged into Public Health England)

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Local Cinema Round-up for 27 Nov to 5th Dec

For up to date local cinema links and day-by-day listings every week visit the Virtual-Lancaster Cinema Page.
Read on for the weekly round-up and reviews.

It's a good period for family treats with new animation releases Free Birds (U) and Saving Santa (U).  Comedy/drama is represented with  The Best Man Holiday (15) and Saving Mr Brooks.  Finally for horror aficionados there is the remake of the classic Carrie (15).
We see the reappearance of the popular family films Justin and the Knights of Valour, The Rise of the Guardians & Sunshine on Leith. Also there is still chance to catch the excellent Despicable Me 2.
A documentary of note is provided by the Dukes with The Epic of Everest (U), the official film record of the 1924 attempt on the summit that saw the death of two climbers.
Other than this, Philomena, Captain Phillips, Gravity & The Hunger Games: Catching Fire are all must see movies showing during this period.


Captain Phillips
Director: Paul Greengrass
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener, Barkhad Abdi
A dramatisation of the 2009 hijacking of the container ship Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates who kidnapped the eponymous Captain Phillips.  This is an excellent must see thriller movie  featuring superb acting. Characters are well developed and the film takes a sympathetic view of both pirates and the crew of the ship.  In keeping with the subject the film has a documentary feel about it which makes for compelling viewing.

Despicable Me 2
Director:  Pierre Coffin , Chris Renaud
Certificate: U
Cast includes: Steve Carell, Kirsten Wiig, Steve Coogan
A sequel to Despicable Me, which became the tenth biggest animation movie in US history. Gru, now retired, spends his time caring for his adopted children.  He has turned good and is recruited by the Anti-Villain League to track down a criminal who has stolen a serum from a research facility.  This is a great animation for both children and adults and, like last time, it is the Minions who provide the most entertainment.  If you only get to see one film this week - this should be the one.
Free Birds
Director: Jimmy Hayward
Certificate: U
Cast includes: Owen Wilson, Keith David, Colm Meaney, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, Dan Fogler
Two turkeys, Reggie and Jake, use a time machine to attend the first Thanksgiving meal in an attempt to get turkey removed from subsequent thanks-giving dinners. Reggie is from a free-range turkey farm and he realises why turkeys are being fattened.  Jake has the vision of commandeering the time machine in an attempt to change history.  The film has some romantic interest with Reggie falling for Jenny, a turkey he meets during the adventure.  In all the plot of this animation seems a little over complicated and the film contains some rude humour that may not be appropriate for the very young.  In all an entertaining movie but one that is not destined to become a classic.
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Ryan Stone (Bullock) a medical engineer and seasoned astronaut Matt Kowalsky (Clooney) are on a shuttle mission to repair the Hubble Telescope.  However during a routine space walk, disaster strikes as the shuttle is destroyed by impact from space debris and Stone tumbles free in space.  The film follows Stone's plight as she battles to survive.  Bullock gives a superlative performance in this spectacularly shot movie.  However the interest of the film is not the impressive special effects but rather the exploration of human frailty in adversity.
Director: Peter Landsman
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Zac Efron, Paul Giamatti, Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver, Billy Bob Thornton
A re-telling of the 1963 assassination of J F Kennedy, with the drama set around the Dallas Parklands Hospital.  The film is little quirky as it attempts to portray the assassination through the lives of ordinary people involved in this drama.  A well made movie with good acting.  It mixes newsreels with dramatic reconstruction.   However this reviewer felt everyone was trying a little to hard to add a new spin to these well known and extensively documented events.  Overall a fair movie.

Director: Stephen Frears
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan
A quaint and charming film based on the book 'The Lost Child of Philomena Lee' by Martin Sixsmith.  Philomena (Dench) is an Irish woman who had her baby taken from her for adoption in the USA whilst she was forced to live in a convent after becoming pregnant out of wedlock.  Much later in life she enlists the help of Sixsmith to try to discover the whereabouts of her lost son.  Coogan produced the film and co-wrote the screenplay.  He plays Sixsmith, the journalist who has fallen out of favour. Both Dench and Coogan give superb performances in this funny and heartwarming if a little sentimental film.  Well worth seeing.
The Best Man Holiday
Director: Malcolm D. Lee
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Morris Chestnut, Terrence Howard, Taye Diggs, Regina Hall, Sanaa Lathan
This is a sequel to 'The Best Man' which was released 14 years ago and explored the humour when an author (Harper) is best man at a wedding when his due to be released book shows his friends in an unflattering light.  'The Best Man Holiday' sees the college friends as they are reunited.  The opening credits bring the audience 'up to speed' on the history of the characters and the film is a comedy exploring the tensions and complications between a group of friends over the Christmas period.  The film contains sexual innuendo and some sadness but succeeds in being an excellent and enjoyable comedy.

The CounsellorDirector: Ridley Scott
Certificate: 18
Cast Includes: Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz,  Penelope Cruz
The screenplay is by Cormac McCarthy and the film follows the Counsellor, a man in love with Laura (Cruz) and employed defending drug dealers.  He succumbs to greed and becomes involved in a drug deal on the Mexican boarder.  However the deal goes very wrong and the Counsellor has to deal with some colourful and unpleasant characters.  This is an original crime thriller with scenes of sexuality and gruesome violence which justify its 18 category.  The film is convoluted, unpredictable and generates an atmosphere of unease.  However it is absorbing, very well acted and with its share of dark humour.  A powerful must see movie.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Director: Francis Lawrence
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Woody Harrelson, Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland
The Hunger Games started as an extremely successful trilogy by Suzanne Collins.  For this reviewer, the first Hunger Games excursion into film felt a little clunky.  However the Hunger Games: Catching Fire got everything right and is a first rate movie.  Katniss Everdeen was the winner in the 74th Hunger Games tournament and as victor she and Peeta Mellark must undertake a victors' tour of the districts.  However rebellion is 'in the air' and the ruler, President Snow, sees Katniss as a potential threat to the status quo.  Hence he plots to discredit and kill her by involving her in a new Hunger Games along with old winners.  Now the participants need to defeat President Snow - whilst avoiding killing each other.  This is a dark, tense, thrilling and very enjoyable movie.
Thor: The Dark World
Director: Alan Taylor
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings
Thor must combat an ancient, pervasive and powerful enemy led by Malekith to save the earth and all the realms.  Much of the action is played out in Asgard and the interaction between Thor and Loki provides a major part of the film.  However there is plenty of action and a strong vein of humour.  In all a film that is very entertaining and does not take itself too seriously.
Director: David Soren
Certificate: U
Cast Includes: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Peña
A DreamWorks animation in which Turbo is a snail obsessed with racing cars who dreams of competing in the Indianapolis 500 race.  His hopes start to look more realistic when an accident with a car engine provides him with a magical turn of speed.  The animation is expertly done.  The snails have cute believable personalities and the whole has a real 'feelgood' factor of an underdog following his dreams.  The film follows the DreamWorks hit animation 'The Croods' and whilst it is extremely enjoyable, it lacks twists and subplots that make for a really memorable movie.

Peter Clarke

For up to date local cinema links and day-by-day listings every week visit
the Virtual-Lancaster Cinema Page.

Divorce Care group offers free "Surviving the Holidays" session

A social evening for people who are separated or divorced or a single parent will run in Carnforth in the run up to Christmas.

The ‘Surviving the Holidays’ session, which is free, will be run by Carnforth and Lunesdale Divorce Care, a friendly, caring group of people who walk alongside each other through one of life’s most difficult experiences.

The event will reveal how the whole family can rediscover a happy Christmas holiday. Adults will receive practical advice, support and encouragement.

There will also be a video, refreshments and a chance to hear from others who are dealing with marital breakup this holiday season. Their children can enjoy some festive fun at a Christmas party, in the same venue but separate from the adults, plus an opportunity to talk about some of the challenges that they face.

“Christmas is very much family-focused yet for those undergoing separation and divorce this can be a lonely, stressful and depressing time," explains Heidi Boardman, from Divorce Care. "But it doesn’t have to be like this. We have run previous ‘Surviving the Holidays’ events and feedback from them has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Attendees can also find out about the 13 week Divorce Care course which will begin on 6th January 2014 in Carnforth at The Salvation Army.

• ‘Surviving the Holidays’ takes place at The Salvation Army, Preston Street, Carnforth, on Monday 9th December from 7.00 to 9.00pm.Admission free. For more information email or call Allan or Sue Ellershaw on 01524 730642

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Ghostly Goings-On At The Dukes

The Signalman – which will be screened as part of Ghost Stories at Christmas at The Dukes

Christmas comes with a bit of a bump in the night at The Dukes on 15th December.

While the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future take a night off from the theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol, there’s an advent evening of chilling tales in store.

Join Lancaster actor Steve Tomlin for a spooky fireside reading of ghost stories followed by a screening of The Signalman (PG) from the BBC’s spine-tingling series, A Ghost Story For Christmas.

Steve, who is known for being the 1991 BBC Mastermind champion and founding demi-paradise productions which stages events at Lancaster Castle, will read a Victorian Christmas ghost story.

Tarnhelm by Hugh Walpole is firmly rooted in the Lake District where Walpole lived.

The Signalman, which is screened afterwards, is based on the Charles Dickens’ short story and follows a lonely railway worker who is being haunted by a ghost from a nearby tunnel.

• Tickets for Ghost Stories at Christmas cost £7/£6(Concessions). Book at The Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500 or online at

Chickens killed at Ryelands School, children distraught

Lancaster Police are appealing for information after nine chickens had their necks snapped during a break in at a Lancaster school.

The incident took place sometime between 5.00pm on Friday 8th November and 9.00am on Saturday 9th November at Ryelands School on Torrisholme Road. The offenders broke into an area of the school were animals are kept and, having removed the door to the chicken shed, slaughtered all of the chickens inside by snapping their necks.

The dead chickens were found by a member of staff the following morning.

“The offenders clearly knew where these chickens were kept and I would encourage anyone that may have information about this incident to come forward," urged PC Dave Pinnington.

“The children at the school have been left very upset and anybody that could assist with our investigation is urged to contact Lancaster Police on 101.”

• People with information can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Review: Julian Joseph Trio at Live at LICA

Julian Joseph Trio
Thursday, 21 November 2013
in the Great Hall, Lancaster University

Reviewed by Henry Prince

It was a real treat to have the opportunity to share an evening with the man whose voice is so familiar to listeners of Radio 3’s ‘Jazz Line-up’. It was also a good opportunity to learn more about this imminent figure in the world of contemporary jazz and about his two musical colleagues.

Like Andre Previn, Julian Joseph is equally comfortable and competent playing Bartok or Monk. His own compositions, however, favour the elements of jazz: swung notes, improvisation and mixed rhythms and his creativity has gone well beyond the boundaries of jazz concert performance, extending to both dance and opera.

Some of his work is easy listening but other compositions are better left to jazz aficionados. Thursday’s audience experienced elements from both categories, with pieces often beginning with easy-listening free improvisation on piano and then developing into very complex rhythms and unusual textures.

Percussionist Mark Mondesir has played with Joseph for two decades. More than once during the concert the two of them demonstrated just how close they are musically. Mondesir was allowed far more creativity than would be expected in a jazz piano trio and took the level of drumming improvisation way up the scale, on one occasion unexpectedly playing fortissimo against the piano, as though both players were competing to be heard, and leaving the beat to look after itself somewhere in the players’ imaginations. As such, the audience was often severely challenged to sense the position of the downbeat and had to rely on the rocking heads of the performers for assurance that they at least knew where the beat was.

Jasper Høiby was on double bass and is not a normal member of the Julian Joseph Trio. If you could not have seen for yourself that he was playing from a pad, you would have believed that he was as musically close to Joseph as is Mondesir. Høiby’s contribution to the sounds was exciting, whether through ensemble playing or bass solos. The audience never got the impression that he might be simply following the other two musicians. All three were ‘right there’ together at every sharp artistic bend.

Høiby’s principal job was to maintain the chord progressions. As has become usual though with sophisticated jazz where the layering of improvisations on top of variations of previous improvisations results in an almost total absence of any sense of an original melody, the harmonic structure, like the rhythmic framework, is often left to the imagination whenever the player succumbs to the urge to improvise around the strict bass line. Høiby enjoyed indulging in that as much as McCartney always did on Beatles tracks.

The Great Hall was not full but for such a specialist event as contemporary jazz, the attendance was very good. It did feel a bit odd though to be sitting in rows, retiring to the bar for interval drinks and adhering to other such straight-laced behaviours when the venue could have been set out as a club with relaxed comings and goings. I suppose it all comes down to licensing laws or something.

I was also surprised to see that all the instruments were miked. Okay, just maybe it might be appropriate for a double bass but since when does a drum kit or a grand piano need an amplifier?

H. Prince

Artist’s website:

Tickets were priced (web advance):  Adults £17.50/£14.50, Concessions £14.50/£12.50, Young person/student £7.00

Future musical events at Live at LICA: Live at LICA ‘What’s On