Thursday, 3 November 2016

M6 Link no "Magic Bullet" when it comes to new business, we have to "Think Big", urges Seatruck boss

Seatruck CEO Alistair Eagles
Hot on the heels of the opening of the Bay Gateway earlier this week, Alistair Eagles, CEO of Seatruck Ferries, one of the companies set to benefit the most from the new M6 Link, has called on locals to not sit back and be content simply with less congestion, and think big when it comes to the area's future.

In an article for the Chamber of Commerce, Mr Eagles argues the M6 Heysham link road will fundamentally change traffic flow in the Lancaster region.

"It will massively improve access to Heysham Port for the growing number of HGV vehicles using it," he says, "while also ensuring that private motorists can move more freely in the local area. I have no doubt that from a road congestion viewpoint it will dramatically and positively change the current situation, which will be just brilliant!

"However," Mr Eagles, who moved to the area in 1991 cautions, "we need to be careful that we do not sit back and expect the road to be in some way, ‘magical’" arguing that although the road is open, "we will not automatically see new businesses locating to the area."

One of the major factors that figured heavily in the eventual go-ahead for the road, after years of debate and many alternative plan proposals, were claims the road would bring significant economic benefits to the area, in terms of jobs and new business. During the road building phase, for example, at least one hundred long-term unemployed people were trained and employed.

Mr Eagles has previously said the link road's opening is the long awaited ‘big bang’ moment for the Port of Heysham, arguing it unleashes the port’s potential to win more Irish Sea tonnage from hauliers who no longer have to wrestle with congestion between the M6, Lancaster and the Heysham peninsula.

But, he also cautions, if  the area wants to see new hotel and leisure facilities and more visitors, Lancaster and Morecambe's residents will have to work for it.

"A line of coaches full of tourists wishing to sample our delights will not automatically thunder relentlessly over the horizon, " he says.

"The road will absolutely be a major catalyst for growth and economic development, but this can only be achieved if ‘we’ make it happen," he urges.

Seatruck is already benefitting from the new M6 Link. Image: Seatruck
Mr Eagles knows all about rolling up your shirt sleeves and making things happen, too.  In 1996, as part of a small team a small team he helped set up Seatruck Ferries, the Heysham-based freight only ferry company now 100 per cent owned by the Clipper Group based in Denmark. . Seatruck specialise in the shipment of unaccompanied freight trailers and has grown from a new entrant to a significant player on the Irish Sea moving in excess of 290,000 freight units per annum on two routes from Heysham and one from Liverpool, moving around 20 per cent of the total roll on roll off freight traffic to Ireland - and it continue to grow.

With 12 freight ferries, including eight newbuilds, Seatruck is also active in the external charter market offering vessels on hire to other ferry operators in Northern Europe.

In preparation for the Bay Gateway opening Seatruck has already added the 105 trailer Clipper Point to its daily Heysham-Dublin route, increasing annual capacity by more than 25,000 extra spaces a year. She will join her two sister vessels Clipper Pennant and Seatruck Panorama, which already operate between Heysham and Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland.

In total, Seatruck now offers 12 crossings a week between Heysham and Dublin and 22 crossings a week between Heysham and Warrenpoint.

To take full advantage of the potential economic advantages the road it's claimed will bring, Mr Eagles has a simple three-point plan for success.

"Simple plans are always the best," he argues.

"Firstly, we should be getting out of the armchair," he urges - a sentiment echoed on many social media groups in the days following the road's opening. Rather than sitting back and expecting things to come to us we should be leaping upwards and shouting from the very top of our voices about what an amazing area this is. We simply do not do enough to tell the outside world about us.

"Secondly, we need to shout with a collective voice," he feels. "We spend too much time squabbling about the local detail rather than jointly pushing a strong message. Frankly it is not about if Lancaster is better than Morecambe, if Cat Smith is more or less attractive than David Morris or indeed if the visitor economy is more or less important than commercial business activity.

"Rather than raising constant issues with the City Council we should all get behind the new [Chamber of Commerce] Chief Executive Susan Parsonage and her team. Together with a simple understandable vison we are much stronger.

"Finally," he enthuses, "we should think big.

"Someone recently said to me that Lancaster should try and be more like Preston," he notes. "Well, no disrespect to our near neighbour but as life goals go, I think we should be setting our sights a little higher!

"We are different and we should celebrate ‘our’ strengths. This area should be more like Chester, or York or Bath?

"The Bay Gateway will be fantastic," he is convinced (as are the vast majority of locals now using it to get to work and those already noting the benefit of less Lancaster town traffic, although some caution the current half term week may have be making some contribution to that).

"Together we now have within our power the option to grasp this huge opportunity and makes things not just fantastic, but also utterly fabulous.

"The road will not be magical in its own right, but with it as a catalyst and by working closely together and shouting loudly, we can indeed make the magic happen."

• Seatruck Ferries is online at

You can read Mr Eagle's full article here on the Chamber of Commerce web site

The principle aim of "The Chamber - North Lancashire" is to help make North Lancashire businesses become more profitable and through partnerships create an environment where businesses can grow and prosper. It does this by offering member organisations a range of services to help them grow and save money.

The Chamber is a strong, professional and unified voice that campaigns on behalf of its members and the District. Whether it is on local, regional or national issues that affect the District, or industry-specific issues,  For more information about its work and how to join visit

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Local Cinema Round-Up for the 2nd to 10th November 2016

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 five new movies being screened in our region during this period. There is the feel good A Street Cat Named Bob (12A) and animated romance in Ethel and Ernest (PG). In addition we have two powerful dramas with The Accountant (15) and I, Daniel Blake (15). Finally there is the buddy cop comedy War on Everyone (15).

We have lost the movies Blair Witch; Bridget Jones's Diary and Ice Age:Collision Course. However by way of compensation we see the return of the family film Pete's Dragon and the adult comedy Sausage Party.

Horror continues this week with Don't Breathe; Ouija: Origin of Evil and a horror double bill of Frankenstein & Bride of Frankenstein. Also there is mystical superhero action with Doctor Strange and the family fantasy Miss Peregrine's Home for Particular Children.

Drama this period is well represented with Deepwater Horizon; I, Daniel Blake; The Accountant; The Girl on the Train and Tomboy. In a similar vein there is also action and adventure with Inferno and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.

A movies with a lighter feel is A Street Cat Named Bob. In addition, there is family entertainment with Pete's Dragon; Storks; The BFG; The Secret Life of Pets; and Trolls.

With the loss of Bridget Jones's Baby there are only two romance films, the charming animation Ethel and Ernest and the more gritty A Light Between Oceans.

Finally, high culture this period comes with Anastasia Royal Opera and Bolshoi Ballet: The Bright Stream.


Doctor Strange
Director: Scott Derrickson
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Mads Kikkelsen
Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) was a surgeon whose career was ruined by a car accident which crushed his hands. He learned of an Ancient One (Swinton) with healing powers and so travels to Nepal to seek out the mystic. Here Strange learns of the different dimensions, magic and becomes a warrior on the astral plane. Meanwhile a former disciple of the Ancient One Kaecilius (Mikkelsen) has turned to the dark side and is intent on invoking the malevolent Dormammu from his alien abode. Strange much choose between a life of fortune or to defend the earth from magical attack. Doctor Strange has made a very successful transition from comic to the screen and the movie provides a good plot with excellent acting and dialogue. Special effects are very convincing and the film is one of the better Marvel super-hero movies.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Director: Tim Burton
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Samuel L Jackson, Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Judi Dench
A rather dark fantasy drama based on the 2011 best selling novel by Ransom Riggs. Jake (Butterfield), following the death of his grandfather, finds Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children. This is a refuge for people with extraordinary gifts and it is fixed in one day in 1940, which they continually re-live. The inhabitants of the home can access different time zones. However they have powerful enemies, led by Mr Barron (Jackson), who also has peculiar powers. Jake finds himself being called upon to help his new friends. This is a very busy film with plenty of characters, lots of action and CGI special effects. However, in this variety, there seems limited time for the characters to fully develop. The movie has received mixed reviews but this reviewer found it great fun.

Director: Nicholas Stoller, Doug Sweetland
Certificate: U
Cast Includes: Kelsey Grammer, Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Anton Starkman
Conerstone used to be in the business of delivering babies and most of its employees are stalks. However CEO stalk Hunter (Grammer) discontinued the service for the more lucrative business of delivering parcels. The business receives a letter from Nate (Starkman) a neglected boy who wants a baby brother and Tulip (Crown), a woman working for Cornerstone, causes the baby machine to create a girl in response to the letter. Now Tulip and her stork friend Junior (Samberg) must deliver the baby before Hunter finds out. This involves their facing a pack of wolves, militant penguins and an avalanche. This is a bizarre, non stop and fun packed movie that will appeal to all ages. It has been well received by the critics and is sure to please.

The Girl on the Train
Director: Tate Taylor
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Luke Evans, Justin Theroux
A movie based on Paula Hawkins best selling 2015 novel of the same name. Rachel (Blunt) is an alcoholic who recently divorced her husband Tom (Theroux). She commutes every day by train and on her journey she fantasises about the seemingly perfect couple Scott (Evans) and Megan (Bennett) Hipwell who live in a house that she passes. Rachel witnesses something shocking on her journey and then hears Megan Hipwell is missing. She tells the police and starts her own investigation. Yet she cannot remember where where she was on the night of Megan's disappearance, and Megan and Scott are neighbours of her ex husband. Hence Rachel find the police start to suspect she is involved in the mystery. This is a well acted first rate mystery with a plot that provides a good number of unexpected turns. A must-see movie.

The Secret Life of Pets
Director: Chris Renaud, Yarrow Cheney
Certificate: U
Cast Includes: Louis C.K., Ellie Kemper, Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart
A family animation film that follows the lives of pets living in a Manhattan apartment building during the time their owners leave them alone. Max (Louis) is a rather spoilt terrier who starts to find himself neglected when his owner Katie (Kemper) brings home Duke (Stonestreet), a mongrel, from a dog pound. However the two dogs must put their rivalry behind them when they are captured by Snowball (Hart) a rabbit and an army of abandoned pets who are trying to get back at all happily owned pets and their owners. This is a delightful and energetic animation movie that is inoffensive and fun for all, young and old. 

Former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett back in Lancaster

Tomorrow  evening Natalie Bennett, former leader of the national Green Party will be speaking at a collaborative event between  Lancaster University Politics Society and Lancaster University Young Greens, to discuss the shale gas industry, green energy and Natalie’s view on fair public administration. 

On 6th October, the Government overruled local councillors and approved the plans of Cuadrilla to explore for shale gas in Lancashire. Many residents, politicians, and scientists object to the development of  the ‘fracking’  industry in the UK.  

Decisions about energy policy made today will affect the health, and indeed security, of future generations," said Natalie, "so I am delighted that groups at the  University is taking a lead on hosting a public discussion.

Before speaking at the University Natalie will be meeting with a group of local  women to talk about women in leadership roles - focusing on overcoming  the challenges and barriers that women face when in the public eye. 

She will also be meeting with Xeina Aveyard, the Green’s candidate in the forthcoming University ward by-election. 

There are full details of the "In Conversation" event here on Facebook

Monday, 31 October 2016

New Bay Gateway Road opens to traffic

The Bay Gateway has opened to traffic this afternoon (Monday 31 October 2016), linking the Heysham peninsula to the M6 at junction 34.

This £140m project is the biggest new road to be built in Lancashire for decades, and it is hoped it will boost economic growth by providing better access to the peninsula. Funded by £29m from Lancashire County Council and £111m from the Department for Transport, the road has been under construction since January 2014 by Costain (as you may have noticed).

The 4.8km route completes the connection from the Heysham peninsula directly to the M6, providing better access from the M6 to the Port of Heysham and the Heysham power stations (we hope they will show their appreciation eventually), to Heysham itself and also, indirectly, to Morecambe.

It has been predicted that it will help to ease congestion in Lancaster city centre and we greatly look forward to seeing this reduction over the coming months.

The County Council reports the road has already brought economic benefits to the area, with over 100 local long-term unemployed people being trained and employed during construction.

Building the Bay Gateway has been a huge engineering achievement, with two million cubic metres of earth being moved, and 11 major new structures being built to cross existing roads, the West Coast Main Line railway, the Lancaster Canal and the River Lune. Great efforts have also been made to reduce environmental impact, with the scheme's nine habitat creation areas ensuring an overall gain in biodiversity following construction, and 13 new trees due to be planted for every one felled.

Work on the entire project is due to be completed during spring 2017, with aspects such as landscaping, motorway communications, and signing due to be finished over the winter.

County Councillor Jennifer Mein, Leader of Lancashire County Council, said: "The opening of the Bay Gateway is an enormous milestone for Lancashire. As well as immediately improving to travel in the north of the county, this road will bring major benefits to our economy over the coming decades.

"This has always been far more than just a road building project - it will have a far reaching impact right across the county and beyond – not only reducing journey times, but transforming opportunities for businesses and people seeking employment.

"It will create local jobs by improving travel to Heysham and Morecambe, and the port, power stations and nearby employment areas, while reducing congestion in Lancaster city centre."

She added: "Lancashire County Council has a proud history of road building – the Preston bypass which opened in 1958 was the first stretch of motorway in the UK. The Bay Gateway is another significant improvement to our transport infrastructure.

"As is normal in the early life of a major road scheme, there will be some traffic management including temporary lane restrictions while aspects of the scheme such as landscaping, motorway communications and signing are completed - however it makes sense to be able to realise the benefits of the road for residents and businesses as soon as possible.

"Weather permitting, we expect all activity to be completed by spring 2017 when we will hold events to mark its official opening."

The spring opening allows for motorway communication works to be carried out on the M6 and there will be a continuation of the lane restrictions on the M6 up until that time.

More than 4,000 people took the chance to walk the length of the route on Saturday 29th October, with Lancashire County Council and Costain teaming up with St John’s Hospice in Lancaster to organise a community walk along the route of the link road, to raise money for the hospice and other local charities.

The opening has also resulted in a rare sighting of Morecambe MP David 'Empty chair' Morris, as this verified photograph of the opening shows (he is the suit without a poppy).

The main part of the Bay Gateway scheme involved constructing a 4.8km dual carriageway from the A589 between Morecambe and Lancaster to an upgraded junction 34 on the M6, with additional measures to improve transport in the city, including a major new park and ride site at junction 34.

Heysham port, the third largest in the North West, owned by Peel, is developing as a hub for services to Ireland. It is the supply base for major offshore gas fields and wind farms.

The road is predicted to reduce congestion in the Lancaster area especially on Caton Road, Morecambe Road and the Greyhound and Skerton bridges, and in Carnforth.

For updates, follow @Heysham_Link on Twitter or visit

Musicians set to gather to celebrate the life of local music legend, Chas Ambler

Photo: Barrie Marshall

A great line-up of bands will come together at More Music this November to celebrate and remember the life of Chas Ambler, a well-known local musician who passed away over a year ago.

'A Night For Chas' will take place at the Hothouse in Morecambe on Saturday 12th November 2016 at 7.00pm and all proceeds from the gig will go to St John’s Hospice in Lancaster. In addition to being a mainstay of the local music scene, Chas also created the Melodrome, the distinctive and colourful stage regularly seen at festivals and events across the country, including Lancaster Music Festival.

The line-up features bands that Chas had strong links with and includes The Guns of Navarone (who Chas led for 20 years), Band From Uncle, Johnny Gee and the Melodrome All Stars.

The compere for the evening will be Ian Marchant, who Chas performed with for many years as Your Dad. Expect a lot of laughs, great music and dancing!

There will be a stall selling vinyl records, hats and music books so don’t forget to take cash!

“Chas was a great friend, a brilliant performer and a key part of the local music scene," More Music Artistic Director Pete Moser, who played in bands with Chas for many years, explains.

"We played and worked together and had some great adventures! He spent some time at the Hospice in his last few months the level of care was special. I hope we get a good turnout for the great night of music”

• Tickets cost £8 and can be bought online at or on the door

House of Lords votes today on pupil data sharing plans

The House of Lords is voting on new country of birth and nationality data collection today, 31st October 2016, a feature of school administration for some time across the UK, including Lancaster and Morecambe.

It was recently revealed the Department for Education has been secretly sharing children's data with the Home Office - and it seems it doesn’t plan to stop, despite widespread protest.

For those who don't know, Britain's Department for Education has a policy of collecting country of birth and nationality information from children in England. This information is stored in the National Pupil Database, which can be accessed by journalists, government departments and other organisations.

National campaign organisation the Open Rights Group has joined the Against Borders for Children coalition, which is calling for and end to this, after a Freedom of Information request from campaigners at defenddigitalme finally received an answer from the DfE - just after this year's autumn School Census was completed.

Against Borders for Children was already aware that data from the National Pupil Database (NPD) had been accessed by the Home Office on 18 occasions between 2012 and 2016.

"We didn’t know for what purpose, however, although looking at data-sharing between the Home Office and other departments, we had our suspicions," say the group.

"The response received by defenddigitalme on October 6 confirmed our worst fears: that data from the NPD has been shared with the Home Office for immigration enforcement purposes.'

Asking for information on 18 occasions does not mean that the Home Office has used the NPD to look up the details of 18 people.

"It may have been looking for the details of several people – dozens, hundreds – on each occasion," say Against Borders for Children. "We don’t know how many. And up until now, parents and the public have had no idea.

Digital Defend Me notes that, since July 2015, the Home Office requested almost 2,500 individuals’ details from the Department for Education. They are given out home address and school address.

Against Borders for Children, Defend Digital Me and the Open Rights Group don't believe that schools should gather information about children to be used against their families. The National Union of Teachers has called for this use of pupil data to end to make it clear that “schools are not part of policing immigration".

Some parents have refused to fill in the information requested but if you do that, or you haven’t heard anything from your school, then they will have “ascribed” a nationality to your child (as this report in the Independent notes) – whatever they thought it might be. Nationality data already in local systems has been sent to the National Database often without informing parents or pupils at all.

• If you are a parent, there's more information here on Against Borders for Children about what you can do to protect your child's data and here on Digital Defend Me

There's more information here about how you can get involved in protesting the government's actions

Light Up Lancaster event at Lancaster Library

Lancaster Library will host an event as part of the annual Light Up Lancaster arts festival this month.

'One Dark Night' will be held on Friday 4th November from 5.00 until 9.00pm and is free to attend.

Anyone attending the event will be able to create light art with torches, glow sticks and finger lights.

The library café will be lit by candlelight, and visitors will be entertained by a creative light performance and make a personal creative picture.

As we've previously reported, the Light Up Lancaster two night arts festival will take place over Friday 4th and Saturday 5th November. Lancaster will be transformed into a celebration of light and art, with music, dance and theatre performances.

County Councillor Marcus Johnstone, Lancashire County Council's cabinet member for environment, planning and cultural services, said: "I'm delighted that the library is involved in this fantastic free weekend of cultural events which are going to take place across the city.

"Visitors will get the chance to experience the library after dark and create their own light art to draw a picture, write something or simply get really creative. We'll even email you a digital photo as a memento.

"The café will also be candlelit, with artists entertaining you whilst you enjoy refreshments.

"I'm sure it will be great entertainment for everyone."

• Booking isn't required, just turn up at the library. For more information about the event phone 0300 123 6703, visit or 

• Information about other Lancashire County Council libraries is available at 

• Information about Light Up Lancaster is available at 

Creative Dallas Road children light up canal for festival

Sixty schoolchildren and other young people have created a floating sculpture and lantern installation that will be on display at the Aldcliffe Triangle and canal towpath (near the Waterwitch Pub) for this year’s Light Up Lancaster festival this Friday 4th and Saturday 5th November.

If Boats Could Talk has been inspired by the city’s historic Aldcliffe area and Lancaster Canal, where, from 5-9pm on the Friday and 5-7.30pm on the Saturday you will be able to enjoy slideshows, window installations, lighting displays and music.

It will be part of Light Up Lancaster - an exciting City-wide free festival of light, fire, art and music over the Friday and Saturday, that culminates in the famous Lancaster Fireworks Spectacular on Saturday evening. You can (and you definitely should) find out all about all that at

The Aldcliffe installation has been created by local artists Anna Read and Shane Johnstone together with Dallas Road Primary School pupils (pictured), the Hua Xian Chinese Society and Lancaster Boys & Girls Club. Both the School and the Club are based in Lancaster's Dallas Road, close to the Aldcliffe Triangle.

Over a month, the Dallas Road students have received guest lessons exploring the heritage of the canal, heard personal stories of those living in Lancaster and shared their own hopes and dreams for the future.

The Aldcliffe Triangle is next to the Canal Towpath at the end of Portland Street, about 200 yards 'downstream' of the Waterwitch Pub. You can find out more about it at

The project has been organised by The Dukes supported by the Canal & River Trust, Friends of the Triangle, Global Link – Development Education Centre and Lancaster Boys & Girls Club.

To find out more  about If Boats Could Talk and all the brilliant Light Up Lancaster events and spectaculars lined up, visit