Friday, 31 January 2014

Re-development work starts on Moorlands Hotel?

Moorlands Hotel, Freehold, Lancaster.
Freehold residents have been expressing concerns that Mister Properties appears to have begun work on the re-development on the Moorlands Hotel into student flats – even though planning permission has yet to be granted.

The Moorlands Hotel in Lancaster's Freehold closed a few months ago and was sold to Mister Capitol Holdings by owners Mitchells. Mister Properties submitted plans to turn the property into four student studio apartments,  two six-bedroom student flats and one seven-bedroom student flat in December, and under planning regulations, MCH are allowed to start preparation work while the planning application is going through. However, they cannot start major works.

The submitted plans for the proposed development

"I am concerned that building and work is being carried out before planning permission has been granted for change of use of the Moorlands Hotel, says Primrose Street resident and Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator Terry Parsons, who is concerned about the conversion plans, which he argues in a submission to the Planning Department would lead to an increase in existing ant-social behaviour, more noise and parking problems in the area.

When Terry took photographs of the property he says the workmen were "unimpressed". Other local residents report seeing lorries removing rubble from the property. 

"That isn't prep work, that's a rebuild," opined one resident.

As we have previously reported, Mister Capitol Holdings is the same company that bought and began work on the Duke of Lancaster on China Street last year. Lancaster City Council quickly called a halt to the conversion work and began a planning enforcement investigation after it became clear that  the company had begun work converting the former public house into flats without securing planning permission. (The company has since submitted plans for converting the premises, which cost £250,000 to purchase, which, like the Moorlands application, are awaiting a planning decision).

The Planning Office says it is "investigating" complaints about work being carried out on the Moorlands.

Terry Parsons argues that along with noise and anti-social behaviour issues, if it goes ahead the development will cause problems with parking in the area – a view supported by many other locals. There are no plans for any on-site parking for the property.

"During term time it is very difficult for locals to park because of student cars," he says in his submission. "Quarry Mount Mews is already used by people parking to go into town to work. On a number of occasions I have had to contact the police because I could neither get in or out of or drive because of parked cars.

"It is also difficult for emergency services to get up Quarry Mount Mews. I have seen an ambulance on at least two times unable to get up the road to get to Quarry Mount because of the parked cars. We have been promised double yellow lines on Quarry Mount Mews but these have not appeared.

"... If only half the students that move into the Moorlands had cars that is at least another 12 cars that need parking spaces. Where are these going to come from?"

While Lancashire Constabulary has not objected to the change of use, they have suggested stronger security for the development. " I note from the Sustainability Statement, no mention is made of physical security to be fitted to the communal entrance doors for the student flats or the individual internal flat/apartment entrance doors," says Terry Burke from the Local Policing Unit. "A considerable amount of student accommodation has been built to Secured by Design standard, I would recommend that this is maintained across new applications for student accommodation.

"Parents of students have sought reassurance as to the security of residential accommodation available in Lancaster."

Should planning permission be granted, the Council's Environmental Health Services  has insisted on various conditions by which any work be carried out. "Environmental Health... has identified significant potential for adverse impact(s) and the need for suitable controls to be included in any permission granted," they state in their response to the planning application.

They have demanded that Hours of Construction be 0800-1800 Mon to Fri, 0800-1400 Saturday. No site clearance or construction of the development shall occur on the site except between the hours of
0800-1800 Monday to Friday, and 0800-1400 on Saturdays. In particular no work shall be undertaken on Sundays or on Public Holidays without the prior written agreement of the local planning authority.
Reason: In the interests of residential amenity.

View the Moorlands planning application and responses to the plans here on the Lancaster City Council web site

See Also

Moorlands Hotel set to become flats? 

•  Council calls a halt to conversion work on former Duke of Lancaster pub

Thursday, 30 January 2014

1200 sign petition to save Lune Valley bus services

Over 1200 local residents in the Lune Valley who will be affected by Lancashire County Council's proposal to cut 72 evening bus and weekend services across the County have signed a petition opposing the plans.

The petition will be presented to County Councillor Susie Charles at a public meeting at Caton Victoria Institute at 7.00pm on Monday 3rd February, and the proposals to cut bus services will be discussed at a County Council meeting to agree the county's budget on 20th February.

While this petition is aimed at users of buses in the Lune Valley, the proposals - part of the County Council's plan to cope with £300 million in funding cuts by central government - have been met with fierce opposition.

As we previously reported, the Labour-run County Council says the proposed cuts will save £3.8m over the next two years by withdrawing subsidies which enable the services to operate - but the cuts will affect most of the villages and outlying council estates in the Lancaster area.

Campaigners argue the plan is a false economy which will unfairly hit the 15% of rural dwellers in the County without access to a car, such as night workers and both elderly and young bus users alike.

Bus services to Freehold, the Ridge the Marsh and Vale estates in Lancaster and Skerton, Heysham, Morecambe, Carnforth, Hest Bank Railway Station, Bolton-le-Sands and Overton are among those that would be lost if the plan goes ahead.

Labour councillors argue they have no choice but to make the cuts (and prospective parliamentary candidate Amina Lone has set up her own petitions to protest at them to local MPs Eric Ollerenshaw and David Morris).

Opponents of the Council's cuts plan argue the entire system of bus subsidy is flawed and in part, the bus companies could be seen as being unaccountable for the services they run.

"[Stagecoach] have been cherry picking routes for years," argues Simon Williams, "Pricing people off the rural routes and also estate ones. They have no competions hence can charge what they like. I've been to many other areas and local buses there are much better... and cheaper."

Others point to the plans of other councils such as Tyne & Wear and Hertfordshire, who are planning to put their bus services out to competitive tender and shake up the whole process by which bus services are run.

"Many people are saying what a big impact these cuts will have on people's ability to get to work as well as have the freedom to go out if they don't own a car," says campaigner Ursula Gallie, who set up the Lune Valley petition and has appeared on local TV to talk about the issue. "The hardest hit will be the elderly, the young and those who can't afford to run a car."

"The proposed cuts would result in no evening and Sunday bus services through the Lune Valley," argues local resident Paul Thurston. "This would have terrible consequences for our villages. It will isolate those in our community without cars and result in even more traffic congestion in Lancaster's already clogged up traffic system."

"I use the bus to get to work," says care worker Fariha Quraishi. "Without this service I couldn't work yet there was nothing on the bus to say this was happening. I cannot be the only person who will be out of a job."

"Eric Pickles, David Morris and this Tory Government have imposed a 40% cut of over £300 million on our local council," counters Amina Lone, who is asking the Government to reverse its funding cuts. "The local council, faced with impossible choices between transport, social care, education and the environment have nowhere to turn and now vital transport services to rural communities are at risk."

Four-fifths of bus services in Lancashire are run by private companies such as Stagecoach on a commercial basis because they are profitable. The remaining 20 per cent are not commercially viable and are currently subsidised by some £8 million annually by the county council. The proposal suggests that subsides be withdrawn from 72 evening and Sunday services from 18th May 2014, but would continue to 103 bus services which operate during the day.

However, each subsidy would be reviewed on a case by case basis when its current contract expires to ensure it remains sustainable.

Any withdrawals will take place during the middle of 2014 so for the meantime all these services are continuing to run as normal. 

Save Lune Valley Buses Petition

• Save Lune Valley Buses Facebook Page:

•  Morecambe Labour PPC Amina Lone has launched a petition to Protect local Bus Services to Rural Communities |

See Also:

• virtual-lancaster: Campaign to save local night buses as fury mounts over Labour-led County Council's bus cut plans

Lancaster Guardian article: "I'll be trapped in my home"

New Bowlers, please! Happy Mount Bowling Competition announced

Lancaster City Council is calling for teams to take part in a crown green bowling competition at Happy Mount Park, Morecambe. The event will take place over three week nights. The initial heats will be on Tuesday 18th and Wednesday 19th March.

The finals will take place on Thursday 20th March. Each night will run from 6pm to 8pm and all are welcome.

For anyone keen to start their training for this competition early who wants to avoid the wintry weather, Salt Ayre Sports Centre holds a popular indoor winter bowling league. The league takes place every Monday (10.00am to 4.00pm) and Thursday (10.30am to 1.30pm) until March and anyone can join for £5 a year.

For more information about the indoor league, please call the organisers direct on 01524 770665.

• There is an entrance fee of £15 per pair and entry forms for the Bowls Competition are available from Morecambe Town Hall, Happy Mount Park or can be downloaded from For more information call Mel or Claire, Sport and Play Officers on 01524 582616 or 01524 582641

Number's Up For County Council's 0845 Lines

County Council chiefs have announced the forthcoming introduction of cheaper 0300 numbers to contact its services.

The decision by Lancashire County Council to replace its current 0845 numbers with 0300 numbers will make it cheaper to contact the council by phone.

The new numbers, to be introduced on Thursday 27th March, will cost the same to call as geographic numbers starting 01 or 02.

0300 calls are often included as part of inclusive minutes, discount schemes or bundled packages in the same way as geographic calls, so will be free of charge to the customer in many cases.

County Councillor Jennifer Mein, Leader of the County Council, said: "Changing to 0300 numbers is undoubtedly the right thing fo! r us to do as a council and will enable the people we serve to contact us for the same cost as any other geographic number. These numbers are often also included in people's mobile phone packages.

"Ensuring that the existing numbers continue to work means that we can introduce the new numbers without inconveniencing anyone and can minimise the costs of the change."

The change is part of a country-wide move to 0300 numbers to reduce the cost of contacting public sector organisations. The DVLA, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Ofcom have already moved to 0300 numbers and other councils across the country are also making the switch.

The existing 0845 numbers will continue to work for the foreseeable future, until the council is sure that the vast majority of calls are being made to the new numbers. Callers to the 0845 numbers will be automatically connected to the Customer Service Centre and hear a message informing them! that they can redial the 0300 number at a lower cost, or if they want stay on the 0845 line.

Maintaining the existing numbers will minimise the costs of the change by meaning that printed material with the old numbers does not need to be replaced immediately.

The council will publicise the new numbers from the end of February.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Local Cinema Round-Up for 29th January to 6th February 2014 by Peter Clarke

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, official film links and reviews.

A varied selection of new releases this period. War action with Lone Survivor (15), comedy/romance with That Awkward Moment (15) and animation with Mr Peabody & Sherman (U).

We have lost The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, but movies making a re-appearance include Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, and Moshi Monsters: The Movie.

There is still horror with I, Frankenstein & Devil's Due and thrillers with Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street and The Railway Man.

For a more classical experience, both the Vue and the Dukes are showing Bolshoi Ballet: Lost Illusions.


12 Years a Slave
Director: Steve McQueen
Category: 15
Cast Includes: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Sarah Paulson, Michael Fassbender
Set in the 1800s, New York black man Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is drugged, kidnapped and sold as a slave to a New Orleans Plantation. Here he works for slave-master Epps (Michael Fassbender) who is a sadist, dishing out sexual abuse. The film is based on an 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup, the script being co-written by Steve McQueen and John Ridley. This is one of the finest films about American Slavery. It is very visceral, with Northup trying to maintain dignity amidst the atmosphere of violence of the movie. Very well shot and splendidly acted, this is the must see film for 2014.

Devil's Due
Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin , Tyler Gillett
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Allison Miller, Zach Gilford
Newly-weds Allison Miller and Zach Gilford return from their honeymoon having conceived a baby rather earlier than they had planned. The husband decides to record the pregnancy for posterity, but finds his wife showing rather odd behaviour. With time her behaviour becomes more extreme and there are suggestions that their baby has a sinister origin as a mysterious cult takes an interest in its welfare. This is a horror film in the tradition of Rosemary's Baby and whilst it does not break new ground with regards to plot, it merits a trip to the cinema.

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 diners. Reggie is from a free-range turkey farm and he realises the reason why turkeys are being fattened. It is Jake who 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: Chris Buck
Certificate PG
Cast Includes Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad,Alan Tudyk, Jonathan Groff
This Disney musical animation is loosely based on the fairy tale 'The Snow Queen' for it is she who has condemned a kingdom to eternal winter. It is up to Anna (sister to the snow queen) and a loner Kristoff to undertake an epic journey to find the Snow Queen and convince her to lift the icy spell. This is a magical movie destined to become a classic. It will appeal to families and children of all ages and makes an movie for Christmas.

I, Frankenstein
Director: Stuart Beattie
Category: 12A
Cast Includes: Aaron Eckhart, Yvonne Strahovski, Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto
The Frankenstein monster (Aaron Eckhart) has survived to the present day where he find himself the hero as he battles against daemons and gargoyles who quest after the secret of immortality. A rather lightweight movie owing little to Mary Shelly. However if you want to see lots of computer generated monsters battling each other in a quest to defeat humanity, this is the movie for you.

Lone Survivor
Director: Peter Berg
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, Eric Bana
This film is based on the real life 'Operation Red Wing' undertaken in Afghanistan in 2005. Four navy SEALs are sent into combat and here they are ambushed. The film title gives away the fact that only one of the four men, Marcus Luttrell (Wahlberg), survives the event. As a film this is a gritty action movie with a prolonged battle action, told from an American point of view. The characters of the soldiers are well developed, and they show great courage under fire during very harrowing war scenes. However this is not simply American propaganda. The film explores the cheapness of life in combat and 'tips its hat' to those Afghans who resisted the Taliban.

Mr Peabody & Sherman
Director: Rob Minkoff
Certificate: U
Cast Includes: Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Ariel Winter
A DreamWorks comedy animation. Mr Peabody is a dog, but this does not stop him being an inventor, scientist, sportsman and general genius. Accompanied by his boy Sherman, the duo use their WABAC time machine in order to impress Sherman's friend Penny. However during their adventures meeting famous characters of history,they accidentally rip a hole in the Universe. As a result they must repair history in order to save the future. A great yarn and appealing family movie. There is little here to offend the youngest of children, and some of the jokes will entertain an older audience.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Director: Peter Jackson
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, Richard Armitage
In this second installment of the Hobbit. We find Bilbo Baggins and his group of comrades continuing in their journey to the Lonely Mountain in order to extract gold from the dragon Smaug whist being pursued by an army of Orcs. This film is a splendid action adventure, more so than the first of the trilogy. It is imaginative, with plenty of special effects and a block buster feel about it. However it again puts action above developing the characters of the protagonists. A great Christmas movie that will leave you anticipating the concluding film in the trilogy.

The Railway Man
Director: Jonathan Teplitzky
Certificate: 15
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth
The story of Army Officer Eric Lomax (Colin Firth), this film is based on Lomax's memoir. Lomax was a POW during world war II, tortured and brutalized whilst was forced to work on the Burma Railway. The film, set in 1980, tells of his meeting, courtship and subsequent marriage to Patti (Nicole Kidman). The background of Lomax is shown in flashbacks as Patti herself learns of his history from one of her husbands fellow POWs. Patti encourages Lomax to face his demons and return to the place of torture. Here he discovers an old Takashi Negase, who was one of his torturers. The acting of Kidman and Firth is excellent and the flashbacks of Lomax's experience as a POW are strong and harrowing. However the end of the film does not quite live up to the tension built up during the movie.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Director: Ben Stiller
Certificate: PG
Cast: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Shirley MacLaine
A re-telling of James Thurber's 1939 story. Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) survives his humdrum existence in a boring office job by escaping into a fantasy world of action and adventure. However when his job becomes threatened he is forced to take action in the real world, undertaking an adventurous journey that rivals those of his daydreams. This film has some entertaining moment but one the whole proved to be a rather lightweight comedy.

The Wolf of Wall Street
Director: Martin Scorsese
Certificate: 18
Cast includes: Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Jonah Hill, Kyle Chandler
The story of New York stockbroker Jordan Belfort (Di Caprio) who rose from penny stocks to a life of affluence and corruption as he founded the brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont. His life of drugs, sex and ruthless achievement led to his title of Wolf of Wall Street. Scorsese had produced a hard hitting and fast moving film and Di Caprio's acting rises to the challenge of portraying Belfort. However after building up Belfort as a monster the film seems to say little about about the morality of this sort of life and thus ultimately does not come to any satisfactory resolution. Hence the movie seemed to lacked any real depth.

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. 

Campaigners fight to save First Transpennine train service

Users of the Windermere to Manchester train line are up in arms after First Transpennine they are cancelling a peak time commuter train service from Kendal to Lancaster - leaving a two hour hole in the timetable.

The decision means a lot of local people will be unable to continue to commute to work by train.

First Transpennine Express have decided to to withdraw the 5.30pm Kendal to Lancaster train (the 5.06pm train from Windermere to Manchester), from 10th February, leaving a two hour gap in the timetable during peak time from 4.24pm to 6.22pm.

"Many people rely on this train to commute to and from work," say campaigners, who are running an online petition asking the company to reverse its decision. "What will they do? Some people can change their working hours, others can't.

"Some people are considering giving up jobs that they won't be able to get to. Still others will be forced into cars or the near non-existent buses. If they start commuting by car, they won't come back to public transport, which will only increase our carbon use."

The decision to cancel the service has not been publicized by the train operator and will affect a lot of people, some of whom have been commuting to and from work for years. Users of the exisiting service also fear the loss of the peak time train probably will result in fewer passengers on the morning trains, giving the operator the perfect excuse to start cancelling those.

"What kind of so called economic madness is this?" commented one signatory to the petition. "I am sure Trans Pennine are doing this because it strengthens their bottom line but it will harm and damage the bottom line of many other people.

"Profiteering by passing on (externalising) the real costs of an action to others might be 'clever' in the narrowly defined way that an animal achieves a cunning kill is clever but it is an action that, from a human point of view, is both socially stupid and inept in anything but the shortest short-term context. And, in the long run, it is an act of economic suicide for all." 

"Commuters in any rural area should be concerned and support this petition," added another. "There is a dearth of regular public transport in many rural areas and proposed reductions such as this can only exacerbate the problem. A service to your community / workplace could easily be next on the rail 'chopping block'.

"The is the same idiotic kind of action that's on a par with Lancashire County councillors proposals to cut evening bus services," said another local commuter. "How will people get to work? It's high time our public servants put their faith and support into public transport."

• View and sign the petition here:

• Campaign Page on Facebook:

Campaigners lose Parliamentary "Ping Pong" as "Gagging Bill" gets passed by House of Lords

The government’s plan to clamp down on what charities and campaigning groups and ordinary people can speak out about at elections, backed by local MPs Eric Ollerenshaw and David Morris, is now almost UK law.

The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill (PDF Link), labelled the "Gagging Bill" by those horrified by its proposals, went through the House of
Commons once, and through the House of Lords once, and then bounced back and forth between MPs and Lords in a process known as ‘ping pong’.

Eric Ollerenshaw MP backed the
Gagging Bill.
Sadly, the Bill was back in House of Lords yesterday and the vote – 245 Lords voted in favour and 245 against – mean that under Parliamentary rules in the case of a tie, the government gets its way and the Gagging Law is now unstoppable.

For draft laws to become part of the UK’s statute book, MPs and Lords have to agree. Over the last few months, Lords have made substantial and important changes to the gagging law – fixing lots of the worst bits. Last Tuesday (21st January), the Lords sent an improved version of the gagging law back to MPs. But on Wednesday 22nd, MPs overturned their two most critical decisions (on how much staff costs would count towards reduced spending limits, and on what kind of activity could be regulated in individual constituencies).

The Lords were given the chance to decide whether or not to overturn MPs and put their improvements back in, and various campaign groups worked hard to try to ensure the Lords vote again went against the government, placing full pages advertisements in several national newspapers to try and secure a No vote.

"Personally I feel pretty devastated about this," commented David Babbs from 38 Degrees, one of the campaign organisations under threat from the Law, which was supposed to clamp down on lobbying but has ended up doing more to prevent free speech than stop lobbyists.

"I'm worried about what it means for the future of 38 Degrees. More importantly, I'm worried about what it means for the future of democracy, and what it tells us about the state of British politics.

David Morris MP

Gagging Bill backer

"But I also feel proud of everything 38 Degrees members did together to fight this."

Despite the Lords vote, 38 Degrees says it will fight on against the government.

"There will be a lot of thinking and discussion to be done in the coming days," says David. "38 Degrees members will need to pull together to think about how to fight this terrible law. And we'll need to work out how we can keep standing up for all we believe in - despite the restrictions the government is trying to impose.

"But right now, I feel sure of one thing. We won't give up."

Published the day before MPs went on holiday in the summer, then reintroduced today two days after their return, the timing of the Gagging Bill always looked
suspiciously like the Government wanted to avoid MPs giving it proper scrutiny, which is certainly how both pressure groups, lawyers and charities see it.

"It's a complex piece of legislation but its repercussions for us are quite simple," notes Gary Shrubsole from Friends of the Earth." if it had been passed 10 years ago, it would very likely have curtailed much of Friends of the Earth's work on our most important campaigns."

The law could effectively stifle campaigning on subjects such as zero hour contracts, fracking, government corruption,
the NHS and much more – all matters for which politicians wanting our vote should be held to account in the run up to a General Election.

Opponents argue the Law poses a huge threat to pressure groups and to the whole voluntary sector because it vastly extends the definition of what activities are considered to be 'for electoral purposes' in the whole year before an election, and slashes the cap for what charities can legally spend on these activities - both nationally and in every MP's
constituency across the country.

• 38 Degrees members are discussing the outcome on Facebook. You can join in at

• To find out more about the ping pong process, click here

Earlier Stories

• 6th September 2013: Local Tory MPs back "Gagging Bill", Third Reading next week, protest tomorrow in Lancaster

• 13th September 2013: Gagging Bill backed by local MPs passes to 'Report Stage' 

• 26th October 2013: Gagging Law backed by local MPs reaches House of Lords

Council introduces new traffic rules for Lancaster city centre pedestrain zone

New rules which aim to reduce the amount of vehicle traffic in Lancaster’s pedestrian zone are due to come into force from next Monday (3rd February).

As part of the Lancaster Square Routes project, Lancashire County Council is bringing in an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order.

The changes are being made following a request by Lancaster City Council to improve the management of vehicle traffic within the pedestrian zone.

The main changes will see:

  • A change to the period when goods vehicles cannot enter the zone to 10am - 5pm to  fit with the main shopping hours. 
  • Removal of the permit system by which some drivers can access the zone by vehicle for either loading or parking, including access for disabled parking.
  • The introduction of a new dispensation system by which the zone can be accessed by vehicles for certain purposes, including for essential works or events and by market traders (time limited).

To compensate for the reduction in spaces for disabled drivers, four additional spaces have been created on the city council managed St Nicholas Arcades car park. In addition, disabled drivers can use any council car park for free.

The order will last for 18 months, during which the effects of the changes will be monitored and people and organisations will be able to give their views on how they are working.

Changes can be made during the period if necessary.

Councillor Janice Hanson, Cabinet member with responsibility for Economic Regeneration and Planning, said: “Lancaster’s pedestrian zone is at the heart of the city and the setting for much city centre trading, commercial activity and host to many of the city’s cultural offerings.

“The ETRO will look at whether traffic can be better managed to create a more pleasant and safer environment for pedestrians and to the benefit of all who live, work and do business in this centre.

“It is all about striking a good balance between the needs for vehicle access and the interests of pedestrians."

County Councillor John Fillis, Lancashire County Council Cabinet member for highways and transport, said: "We want to improve the way traffic is managed to achieve a better environment and get the most out of this space which is vital to the daily functioning and economy of the city.

"The experimental order will allow us to monitor how the changes to traffic management work in practice and make adjustments if necessary to improve the way they work.

"We'll work closely with the city council, businesses and local people throughout to achieve the best result for Lancaster."

Leaflets outlining the changes are being distributed to businesses in the centre and are available at various locations around the district including both town halls, VICs, all district libraries and to permit holders where details are held.

• More information is available at 

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Local Birth Buddy Scheme Launch next Tuesday

Are you expecting? Have you recently given birth? Fed up of hearing horror stories? Lancaster and Morecambe Birth Support Group is about to launch a birth buddy scheme.

If you would like to be a birth buddy, or to be put in touch with someone who’s given birth locally for some email support, come along to their meeting on Tuesday 4 February – 6.30pm upstairs at the Gregson Centre, email them at: or call Holly on 07875469382.

The group will also be talking about Birth Options and there will be the opportunity to borrow books or DVDs from their extensive library on pregnancy, labour and beyond. There will also be time for general chat and to ask any other pregnancy and birth related questions.

Lancaster Birth Support Group meets the first Tuesday of every month at the Gregson Community Centre in Lancaster. The group is run by volunteers and the cost is £1 to contribute to room hire. Partners, grandparents and children are also welcome. Tea (builders and herbal) and coffee is provided. For more information, see our website: or search facebook for Lancaster and Morecambe Birth Support.

Also, don't forget, on Friday 7 February The Breastfeeding Network Star Buddies are holding a discussion session for grandmothers about breastfeeding from 9.30 till 12.30 at Firbank Children's Centre in Lancaster. The session is open to grandmothers and women expecting grandchildren, whether or not they have breastfed. Book your free place via their Facebook page or by texting or calling Ursula Gallie on 07927483425.

Is Lancaster game for sustainable change?

Less is More Game Project Manager Liz Horn with Project Academic Researcher Dr Noel Cass from Lancaster University.

A new four-month research project to explore the feasibility of creating a new digital game to promote sustainability across the district has secured £15,000 funding.

LESS, a Lancaster-based social enterprise, has secured the money from Lancaster University's Catalyst Project.

The Less is More game would encourage players to consume less and live more sustainably by both setting and completing real-life challenges for online recognition and/or real-world rewards, co-ordinated through a fun and engaging app or website.

The challenges could range from lowering the temperature on a thermostat, cycling to work once a week to organising skill-shares and free-shops.

LESS have already worked with Lancaster and Morecambe College students and talked to Senior Learners from the University while third year computing students from Lancaster University's Software Innovation Course are developing their own digital game ideas inspired by the project.

Liz Horn from LESS said: “We want to get people thinking about what they buy and throw away, how they travel to work or heat their house, and how this impacts not just on the environment, but also the local economy and global working conditions.

“But rather than just telling people what to do we want to motivate them by making it fun and rewarding to play the game.”

Dr Noel Cass at the University says the project will test different theories on motivating pro-environmental habits: “Providing information about environmental impacts alone has not achieved much. We believe that games exploiting fun, co-operation and competition might be more successful.”

A week-long trial of the game concept will start on 10th February with daily challenges being set.
Anyone can take part and you can sign up to play at

Catalyst is an interdisciplinary research project which brings together academics and communities to jointly imagine and build the next generation of digital tools for social change, and to explore innovative, bottom-up technology-mediated solutions to major problems in society.

Catalyst brings together a team of academics from a range of disciplines including social science, computing, design, and management science. It unites these with community organisations – large and small – based in Lancaster, Manchester and further afield. Teams of academics and community organisations form partnerships to research specific technological innovations aimed at social change.

• If you have ideas for a challenge then please contact: or call LESS on 01524 66100.

Williamson Park Needs Yews!

A number of yew trees are being replaced around the Ashton Memorial in Williamson Park to enhance the historic landmark.

Lancaster City Council is removing existing trees from around the outside of the Memorial this week. The project will be completed in line with the recently commissioned Landscape and Woodland Management Plan.

More than 40 new trees will be planted in exactly the same spot and should be in place by Friday 7th February.

Councillor David Smith, cabinet member with responsibility for parks and open spaces, said: “This worthwhile environmental project will greatly improve the appearance of the Ashton Memorial.

"Currently the views are restricted from the top of the steps due to the trees being overgrown.  The work will replace poor specimens with good, improve the views and appearance of the building and implement a proper management regime to ensure they are kept in good form for visitors to enjoy for years to come.”

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Council considering plans to convert St Leonard’s House into student/young worker accommodation

Lancaster City Council has issued a full statement on its ongoing discussion about the future of St. Leonard's House, confirming that proposals to convert St Leonard’s House in Lancaster into student/young worker accommodation have been given the green light to progress to the next stage.

As we previously reported, Lancaster City Council’s Cabinet met last Tuesday to discuss the future of the Grade II listed building, which is currently partly let as office type accommodation. The discussion was an "exempt item" as it contains confidential commercially sensitive information, so the report on the building and its condition has not been made public.

The review was led by Property Group, which has been a shared service between Lancaster City Council and Lancashire County Council since May 2012 and Carillion has been appointed as the county council’s regeneration partner covering the Lancaster district through what is referred to as an Official Journal of the European Union procurement exercise.

We are told councillors heard that the building is under occupied, but it would need renewal works of around £2 million just to continue to operate in its current form. Much more would need to be spent to improve the general standard of accommodation on offer.

In view of this, alternative uses for the building have been explored, the preference being to see whether it could be converted for student/young worker accommodation.

The proposals and their feasibility will now be worked up in greater detail before a final decision is made on the future use of the building.

“The city council’s property portfolio has to be managed in a way that ensures value for money so as to protect other council services to the public, commented Councilor Tim Hamilton Cox, the Cabinet member with responsibility for property.

“St Leonard’s House has not been fully utilised as office accommodation for a number of years and it is no secret that the building's future has been under review for some time. The proposed redevelopment offers the best value to the council in terms of turning around an asset that has over time become a considerable liability.

"I'm only too aware that the charities, non-profits and other businesses operating there will face disruption but the city council will offer assistance in finding alternative accommodation, should they require it. Where leases expire earlier, we have arranged for organisations to stay on until at least 31st July in order to give them extra time to relocate."

Existing tenants have been informed that their leases will be brought to an end in 2014.