Friday, 16 January 2015

Friends of the Earth film reveal passionate opposition to Fracking across Lancashire

Take Action Now. Keep Lancashire Frack Free. from Friends of the Earth EWNI on Vimeo.

Friends of the Earth has released a video documenting the views of Lancashire people on fracking, as part of its long campaign to stop fracking in the County, which is now at a crucial moment.

At the end of the month Lancashire County Council will take a decision on whether Cuadrilla can resume fracking for shale gas. Three years ago, fracking in Lancashire was suspended after attempts to frack by Cuadrilla triggered several earthquakes.

Last week Friends of the Earth took their camera to the streets of Lancashire to capture how people feel about the prospect of fracking in the county.

As you can see in the film the response they received was overwhelming. The people of Lancashire do not want fracking to happen – and for good reason. 

"Lancashire’s local economy could be harmed by risking jobs in sectors such as farming and tourism, house prices have already been impacted, and there is no evidence it will reduce energy bills," say Friends of the Earth.

"In less than two weeks time Lancashire Council will make a final decision on whether to frack in Lancashire. Time is running out to stop this destructive process which is change the face of Lancashire forever.

"We are urging Lancashire residents to sign our petition to stop fracking in Lancashire and share the new film.

"Fracking for shale gas risks damaging Lancashire's beautiful and wildlife-rich natural environment, it risks polluting our water, air, and soil, and brings disruption and health risks to our communities."

• Please sign and share the petition:

• Follow this link to find both the FOE petition and the new film: 
• Watch the new film to keep Lancashire Frack Free on Vimeo:

Morecambe businesses consider BID for the town

The former Morecambe Visitor offices, part of the proposed BID area
When is a tax not a tax? When those that pay it also get to say what it's spent on. That's the case with a levy on business rates under a scheme known as a Business Improvement District (BID).

Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce reports that leaders from Morecambe Town Centre's business community have joined forces to form a Steering Group which will set up and promote a BID project across the town.

(Lancaster already has its own private sector led, owned and managed initiative and they recently launched a new web site about it here)

The Chamber says that indications are that a successful majority ballot amongst business ratepayers could lead to raising revenue of at least £140,000 a year to spend on initiatives to improve and promote business in the town.

The group includes representatives from national multiples, independent retailers, the commercial and licensed sectors, leisure and tourism, charity sector and the local authority.

The Steering Group elected local businessman Brendan Hughes, Managing Director and Owner of ICU Security Services based on Pedder Street, as Chair and Arndale Shopping Centre Manager, Sue Byers, as Vice Chair. Collectively, the group will act as ambassadors to actively promote the BID to other business owners and managers operating in Central Morecambe.

The project is being managed and co-ordinated by Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the business community and is supported by funding from Lancaster City Council which has allocated £40,000 to the Chamber of Commerce to lead on BID development for Morecambe.
Brendan Hughes explains how as an independent business with nine years trading in Morecambe, the scheme would be very welcome.

"Creating a Business Improvement District in Morecambe could be very beneficial to all businesses in the proposed district. It gives rate payers the chance to decide how their contribution is being spent and gives us the opportunity to invest in projects that will improve the fortunes of the businesses in the area. I firmly believe this is going to be a turning point for the town's economy and is proven to help other towns and cities. Opportunities like this don't come around very often and the business community of Morecambe would be silly not to take full advantage of it."

The team will spend the next few months campaigning to promote the BID before ratepayers get an opportunity to vote at a formal election in spring 2016.

"The chance to create a Business Improvement District in Morecambe presents a fantastic opportunity for all Town Centre Businesses," says Sue Byers, Centre Manager of the Arndale Centre/

"A successful ballot outcome will mean that businesses within the Town Centre can have real input and influence over initiatives to improve and promote their business and trading environment.

"Throughout 2015 the Steering Group will be working hard to ensure all businesses owners are provided with enough information to enable them to make an informed decision during the ballot process. This is a really positive step forward for Morecambe - an opportunity too good to lose.

• If you want to get involved or find out more please visit

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Hunt Continues for Missing Aimee

Update: Aimee Challenger was found on 16th January 2015 safe and well. This story is retained only for archive purposes.

Police are appealing for information about Aimee Challenger, a 15-year-old girl missing from home in Lancaster.

Aimee was last seen at her home address on Victoria Place by a family member on Saturday 10th January. She left the house to see friends and has not been seen or heard from since.

It is believed that she could be in the Blackpool area.

PC Michelle Flood from said: “We are very concerned about the welfare of Aimee and urge her, or anyone who has seen her to contact us as soon as possible.”

Aimee is described as white, 5ft 5ins, slim build with shoulder length dark brown hair. She was last seen wearing a white vest, black leggings, black pumps, a black leather jacket and a brown satchel.

• Anybody with any information can contact police on 101 quoting log number 1334 of January 10th or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at

Gregson calls for members to attend AGM

The Gregson Community Association (GCA) and the Gregson Community Club’s (GCC) AGMs were due to take place on Sunday November 23rd.  Unfortunately, not enough people turned up and both meetings had to be postponed.

Both AGMs will now take place on Sunday 25th January 2015 at 2.00pm.

The Gregson needs 25 GCA members to turn up to be able to hold these vitally important meetings. If they are unable to hold them then the GCA and the Gregson Centre will be unable to function and no one wants to see that happen!

So please do your best to attend on the 25th of January - both meetings together will take a maximum of one hour out of your day; there is a complimentary glass of wine and a tasty treat (from Dominicks) for all those attending as well as a free raffle!

It's not too late to become a member and support the community and arts. Enquire at the Gregson.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Greens say No More Cuts to the Arts

Councillor Chris Coates
After confirmation that the Labour Party will not cancel £83 million of Conservative Party cuts to the national Arts budget made in recent years, local Green Party prospective parliamentary candidate for Lancaster Chris Coates has called for an end to cuts to the Arts.

Chris Coates is a Lancaster City Councillor for Scotforth West. Until 2013 he served as the area's first Green County Councillor (replaced by the Green's Gina Dowding).

“We have already seen over £50,000 of cuts to Arts organisations in the district," he said, "and further cuts would threaten the existence of some of Lancaster’s Arts organisations.”

The row about national Arts funding broke out after the Labour Party press office tweeted “Tory dossier says Labour will cancel cuts to the arts budget. We won't”. In Lancaster, Arts Council cuts have affected The Dukes, dance company LUDUS, LitFest and Lancaster University’s arts program.

A study published by the Local Government Association in 2013 (PDF link) estimated the arts generates £4 for every £1 spent by a public body in funding. The claim was slightly overblown, as noted here by author Brian Clegg earlier this month, but did illustrate the value of the arts to a local community and the report also highlighted the many ways town halls are using the arts to bring in money to communities as well as achieving other goals such as creating jobs, filling vacant shops and reducing youth offending.

“The Labour Party seemed to be engaged in a bragging contest on who will cut arts budgets," Chris notes. "The Arts make a significant contribution to the economy of the City. There has to be a point where we say enough is enough and support our local arts organisations.”

• You can find out more about Chris on his campaign Facebook page: and at

Local Cinema Round-Up for 14th to 22nd January 2015 by Peter Clarke

For up to date local cinema links and day-by-day  listings of what's showing on local screens every week visit the Virtual-Lancaster Cinema Page. Read on for the weekly round-up, and reviews.

There are three new movies on release in our area. There is war adventure with Eastwood's American Sniper (15); science fiction with Ex Machina and drama with Big Eyes (PG-13). Big Eyes was actually released at the end of last year but this is its first screening in Lancaster.

The film Unbroken is no longer being screened. Also the films Annie; Dumb and Dumber To; Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb; Exodus: Gods and Kings and Tinker Bell and the legend of the NeverBeast are all looking to be nearing their end. However by compensation there is the return to the screen of the romantic drama Magic in the Moonlight and Boyhood.

High culture makes a return this period with NT Live: Treasure Island. Also the Dukes is again running their ever popular Film Quiz on Sunday.

Must see movies of the week include the much anticipated, romance with a twist, Fifty Shades of Grey and the true life sports drama Foxcatcher. Also the Dukes is again offering a particularly full programme of movies including the true life drama Kon-Tiki.


American Sniper
Director: Clint Eastwood
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Ben Reed, Luke Grimes.
This is the story of Chris Kyle (Cooper), the most lethal sniper in American History with 160 confirmed kills. Following the attacks of 9/11 Kyle enlisted, and became a Navy SEAL marksman serving four tours of duty in Iraq. The film is based on his autobiography. As a sniper, Kyle was separate from the other troops and was forced to make life and death decisions depending of his perception of whether the person in his rifle cross-hairs was a terrorist or simply an innocent bystander. The film does not address the politics of the Iraq conflict, but is told from Kyles point of view. Thus his is the only character who has any depth (his history and the increasingly strained relationship with his wife is told in flashbacks). This is a tense movie, well acted and thought provoking, if a little one dimensional. Still it merits a trip to the cinema.

Big Eyes
Director: Tim Burton
Certificate: PG-13
Cast includes: Amy Adams, Christopher Waltz, Danny Huston
The film is based on a true story. Margaret Ulbrich (Adams), a divorcee with a child, married the estate salesman Walter Keane (Waltz). Margaret was an artist, producing enigmatic pictures of children with big eyes. Her husband had artistic pretensions and when his wife's work started to sell, he claimed it was he that was the artist. The paintings became best sellers and, with their success, Margaret's confidence grew. The movie follows their turbulent divorce in a Honolulu court as both the Keane's claimed the big eyed pictures to be their own. This is something of a change of style for Burton. The movie benefits from excellent acting and impressive photography of San Francisco. It is a something of a quirky movie, but excellent entertainment.

Director: Bennett Miller
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Sienna Miller, Vanessa Redgrave, Mark Ruffalo, Steve Carell, Channing Tatum.
A sports movie (Wrestling) based on a true story. Mark Schultz (Tatum) is a wrestler who won a gold at the 1984 Olympics. However he lives rather under the shadow of his more charismatic brother Dave (Ruffalo), who is also a wrestler and his coach. Meanwhile, the millionaire John du Pont (Carell), heir to the Du Pont chemical corporation, bankrolls the American National wrestling team. He offers to train them at Foxcatcher farm, the home of the Du Pont family, ready for the 1988 Olympic games to be held at Seoul. John DuPont has his own demons, feeling inadequate and trying to impress his mother (Redgrave). Mark Schultz, at first pleased to be invited to train at Foxcatcher, becomes increasingly disillusioned as does his brother as they are manipulated by du Pont. The alienation between the three men builds to a horrifying climax that makes for a really gripping movie.

Into the Woods
Director: Rob Marshall
Certificate: PG
Cast Includes: Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp, James Corden, Anna Kendrick
This is a Walt Disney adaptation of Sondheim's 1987 hit musical of the same name. The film posits that the fairy tales of Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel are all happening simultaneously. Meanwhile a Baker and his wife wish to begin a family, but they cannot due to a witches curse. To lift the curse they must collect items from each of the fairy tales. This is a star studded musical with excellent performances, especially from Meryl Streep who plays the wicked witch. The original stage musical had a number of adult themes which are softened for the Disney version, but the end result is a great and entertaining family movie.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Director: Peter Jackson
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Ian McKeller, Andy Serkis, Martin Freeman, Elijah Wood, Richard Armitage, Stephen Fry, Christopher Lee
This is the long awaited final installment of the Hobbit trilogy and it concludes the adventures of Bilbo Baggins. The action immediately picks up where the previous movie left off. Thorin and his dwarves have reclaimed their homeland from the dragon Smaug, but Smaug now mounts an attack on Laketown. Meanwhile Sauron has sent legions of Orcs to the Lonely Mountain. Hence armies of Dwarves, Elves and Men must come together to determine the future of Middle Earth. The film is full of action, with numerous set pieces, as each of the major characters is give chance to shine. However, with the exception of Thorin who develops 'dragon sickness' there is little of interest taking place at an emotional level among the characters. Bilbo increasingly starts to be sidelined by the plot. This reviewer could not find any fault in the movie, but neither could he summon the enthusiasm to care about the destiny of Middle Earth.

The Imitation Game
Director: Morten Tyldum
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rory Kinnear, Keira Knightley
A portrayal of the life of computer genius Alan Turing (Cumberbatch) who masterminded the cracking of the German Enigma code in the second world war and continued to develop computer theory at Manchester University. The film opens in 1951 with a robbery taking place in Turing's house. Thence the film explores Turing's life by flashbacks to his schooling and his life in Bletchley Park. The acting in the film is excellent with Cumberbatch giving a particularly good performance. However the film rather backs away from Turing's homosexuality and his subsequent suicide after his persecution by the British Government.

The Theory of Everything
Director: James Marsh
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox
A biopic of the early years of the world renown physicist Stephen Hawkins, based on the memoir 'Traveling to Infinity: My life with Stephen Hawkins' by Jane Hawkins. At Cambridge, Stephen Hawkins was an active young man who fell in love with literature student Jane Wilde. However, aged 21, Hawkins had an accidental fall which led to his being diagnosed with motor neuron disease and given just two years to live. The film shows the marriage of Stephen and Jane and how she supported him and their children during the years of their marriage (they divorced in 1995). This is a beautiful film likely to leave the audience in tears. The acting is excellent especially Redmayne's portrayal of Hawkins and the movie shows the lighter side of Hawkin's character, his humour and his passion.

The Woman in Black: Angel of Death
Director: Tom Harper
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Helen McCrory, Jeremy Irvine, Phoebe Fox, Oaklee Pendergast
This is the sequel to the film 'The Woman in Black' which was based on the novella by Susan Hills. The Second World War is raging and a group of eight school children are evacuated away from London and the Blitz to rural England. They are accompanied by their Headmistress Jean Hogg (McCrory) and teacher Eve Parkin (Fox). The group occupy the abandoned Eel Marsh House which had been haunted forty years ago. Eve tries to build trust with Edward (Pendergast), one of the vulnerable children, who starts to exhibit trance like stages. Subsequently other children start acting strangely as a dark force is awakened. Eve seeks the cause of the problem aided by a pilot Harry Burnstow (Irvine). The film is a very competent horror movie with some romantic interest. It is well acted and has plenty of frights. However like many sequels, it does not quite live up to the suspense of the original. 

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Civic Society to profile Lancaster’s "Renaissance Man", architect and reformer Edmund Sharpe

Edmund Sharpe

Lancaster Civic Society is to host a talk by local historian Jim Price on architect, architectural historian, railway engineer, and sanitary reformer Edmund Sharpe, "Lancaster’s Renaissance Man" in The Storey Lecture Theatre, on Wednesday 14th January 2015.

Born in Knutsford, Cheshire, Sharpe's legacy consists of about 40 extant churches, railway features, including the Conwy Valley Line and bridges on what is now the Lancashire section of the West Coast Main Line.

He established an architectural practice in Lancaster in 1835,  going into partnership with Edward Paley in 1845, one of his pupils. Sharpe's main focus was on churches, and he was a pioneer in the use of terracotta as a structural material in church building, designing what were known as "pot" churches, the first of which was St Stephen and All Martyrs' Church, Lever Bridge.

He was Mayor of Lancaster in 1848 - 1849 and while active in the town, championed the construction of new sewers and a waterworks.

St. Paul's Church, Scotforth. Photo: Alexander P Kapp
He also designed secular buildings, including residential buildings and schools, and worked on the development of railways in North West England, designing bridges and planning new lines. Although he left Lancaster in 1856, spending the remainder of his career mainly as a railway engineer, first in North Wales, then in Switzerland and southern France, he returned to England in 1866 to live in Scotforth, where he designed a final church - St. Paul's, Scotforth - near to his home.

Edmund Sharpe was also a talented musician, and took part in the artistic, literary, and scientific activities in the town. Also an accomplished sportsman, he took an active interest in archery, rowing and cricket.

Sharpe achieved national recognition as an architectural historian, publishing a number of books of detailed architectural drawings such as The Seven Periods of English Arhitecture, and wrote a number of articles on architecture. He also devised a scheme for the classification of English Gothic architectural styles, and in 1875 was awarded the Royal Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

He died in Italy in 1877 after being taken ill and is buried in Lancaster Cemetery.

Edmund Sharpe: Lancaster’s Renaissance Man - A Talk by Jim Price 7.30-9pm, The Storey Lecture Theatre, Wednesday 14th January 2015. All welcome. Members free; visitors £2. Web:

Monday, 12 January 2015

Local pressure mounts for Infrastructure Bill changes that will speed fracking and remove local input on major planning projects

A Mass Lobby of Parliament to protest at the Infrastructure Bill now making its way through the Commons will take place on 14th January - and many local campaigners will be at the protest.

The Bill, which the Coalition government argues will boost the economy by £3.9 billion over the next 10 years, is seen as yet another threat to take away the rights of the public – not just in future developments but also in environmentally damaging activities such as fracking.

It has already been passed by the Lords and is now in the House of Commons at the Committee Stage, where a closed Committee are discussing and amending it.

When the Committee have reported back to the House of Commons (currently scheduled for 15th/16th Jan) it will then move to the Report Stage, where a new version of the Bill (with new section/clause numbers) will be released, and opened up for all MPs to make amendments to it, and vote on it.

If passed, will enable the following:

• Any public land (apart from that owned by the royal family and now our forests) can be transferred to the government’s Homes and Communities Agency, to be passed on to private firms to use for any kind of development, with all rights of public access removed

• The recovery of gas and oil – including fracking, coal gasification, coalbed methane extraction and geothermal – anywhere in Britain to be a legal objective

• The right to dump and abandon any substance whatsoever under any land (including radioactive and gases)

• The right to drill under any land, public or private

• Major projects (such as power stations, new towns, high-speed rail and motorways) to be decided on by government rather than councils, with communities also unlikely to be consulted

• Any species deemed non-native (including barn owls, red kites, goshawks) can be controlled or exterminated.

• Councils given short time limits to enforce planning restrictions or their duties will be discharged by a panel of two government inspectors and a minister, giving developers free rein

• The Land Registry will be given major new powers to hold local registers, and be the judge, jury and executioner on land ownership disputes

• Anyone building fewer than 50 houses in a development will no longer need to ensure they are zero carbon or eco-friendly

"If this becomes law it makes a mockery of any democratic rights still held by the people of this country," argues Canon Andrea Titterington from Preston.

There is a mass lobby of parliament at 11.00am on 14 January 2015 (more information here on Facebook).

• If you plan to attend the lobby email us at to let organisers know how many of you are coming. If you can't make it to London, please write to your MP and let them know that you are opposed to the Bill as it stands, and that you would like to support the amendments that are being tabled. 

• Tell your MP that you are opposed to the Bill as it currently stands (#BinTheBill), and that you would like him/her to 

- Vote to support the main amendments to the Bill that Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Tory MP Norman Baker have tabled (
- Vote to support any other amendments that you feel strongly about
- Demand the disclosure of the heavily redacted DEFRA report on the economic impacts of Fracking 

Government News Stories on the Infrastructure Bill

Campaigners fight for full disclosure of Fracking Economic Report

Campaigners are calling on the government to release the its Shale Gas Rural Economy Impacts report published in July in full, before MPs are asked to vote on the contentious Infrastructure Bill.

Anti-fracking groups, including many in the North West, argue the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has heavily censored the only public version of the Government’s report ‘Shale Gas Rural Economy Impacts’.

The report, called Shale Gas: Rural Economy Impacts, was written in March and a draft was released under environmental information laws with large portions of the text removed. Last August, The Guardian noted that in particular, the section looking at the effect of drilling on house prices has three missing chunks.

Although the Government has repeatedly said 'the public should be given all the facts’, this report was redacted 63 times, including the section on how fracking could affect house prices. DEFRA claim this was best for ‘public interest’.

Reclaim the Power campaigners maintain that a report pertaining to UK health policy has also been redacted, along with varying estimates that suggest the shale gas industry lacks commercial viability.

A petition has been launched demanding full disclosure and a stop to Fracking Censorship.

Within the next couple of weeks MPs will vote on the Infrastructure Bill, which proposes controversial changes to Britain's Trespass Laws that will erode land rights and pave the way for fracking. Two Tory MPs have already urged David Cameron to release the report in full. Other MPs have also asked to see the complete report, yet still it remains redacted.

"It’s crucial that what’s hidden in this report is released before the Infrastructure Bill is finally voted on in Parliament," campaigners argue," so that MPs can properly understand impacts that fracking will have on our house prices and our communities.

"We all deserve to see the censored material in this important document that our government is keeping from us."

In a response to requests for a more detailed release of the draft report (PDF), the Department commented:

?We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosure of information concerning policy development in relation to shale gas. On the other hand, there is a strong public interest in withholding the information because it is important that officials can consider implications of potential impacts and scenarios around the development of the shale gas industry and to develop options without the risk that disclosure of early thinking, could close down discussion."

View the "Stop Fracking Censorship" petition