Saturday, 31 May 2014

Opinion: Caging the Morecambe 'Bird Man'



The shock news that 65 year old Morecambe man John Wilkinson was given a six week prison sentence on 23 May for feeding birds in breach of an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) has led to local people planning a 'mass bird feed' on Morecambe Prom tomorrow (Saturday) at 1.30pm in protest. The Morecambe Visitor has also launched a campaign to free him on the grounds that the sentence is:
  1. Out of proportion for the crime committed;
  2. An unnecessary waste of taxpayers’ money;
  3. Unlikely to make any long-term difference to Mr Wilkinson’s behaviour or benefit those impacted by his anti-social behaviour in any way.
A lovely and intelligent gentleman
One local resident has called him a 'lovely and intelligent gentleman', relating that he has been subjected to vandalism and abuse. The windows of his house have been smashed, on more than one occasion, and he has been followed and subjected to considerable abuse. The bird-feeding protest is planned to draw attention to a sentence believed to be draconian and unbalanced and unlikely, on its own, to resolve this situation successfully. 

What are the facts?
Residents living nearby Mr Wilkinson's home in Cavendish Road in Morecambe's West End had made numerous complaints for years to Lancaster City Council about the bird mess and nuisance that resulted from the flocks of birds that came daily to be fed. Back in 2005 Morecambe MP Geraldine Smith backed demands for an ASBO to be placed on him because of the hundreds of wild pigeons flocking into the neighbourhood to feed at his house throughout the day. Mr Wilkinson put the calls for him to desist down to 'spite and malice'. He believed the pigeons would starve without him.

An RSPB spokesperson told the Lancashire Evening Post (LEP) '"Pigeons are pretty hardy creatures. There is a lot of food for them to find elsewhere in Morecambe. He could be encouraging a large and unsustainable population to breed."

Morecambe police said (2005):  "We would not rule out an ASBO on Mr Wilkinson. We would, however, hope to deal with this through alternative routes."

Everyone's a critic
Four years and many, many pigeons later, in December 2009, the Storey Gallery in Lancaster ran a project about 'the contest between humans and animals over space' which featured the dispute between Mr Wilkinson and his neighbours prominently, much to the disgust of City Councillor Peter Robinson, who wasn't happy about the council grant-funding a treatment of a painful, ongoing local dispute as an art exhibit and suggested the council should instead look at issuing people who habitually feed pigeons with ASBOs. (See Lancashire Evening Post report 'Anger at Storey's 'bird man').

Coun Robinson's grounds for his aesthetic critique were sound. The dispute was not about a conflict between humans and birds for space. It was between humans; specifically one human habitually enticing flocks of wild birds into his neighbours' space without due regard for the distress, disturbance and health risk he thus inflicted on them. Had it been a dispute between humans and birds it would have soon been settled.

Coun Robinson also backed calls by Skerton resident Norman Tomlinson for the Council to follow the lead of a West Midlands council which had just recently fined a woman who was feeding ducks. However a council spokesman said that bird-feeding was not illegal and the government wouldn't support such unpopular legislation. All they could do was remonstrate, write letters and put up signs. Their hands were tied.

Pigeon fanciers who keep birds are governed by codes of practice and legislation but feeding wild birds is different. Thousands of us do it habitually in our yards and gardens and by the canal, supporting not only birds but also a birdfood industry from which many local businesses profit. We are just not expected normally do it on such a scale within an urban environment and so persistently in the teeth of such obvious problems for our neighbours.

Residents living nearby Mr Wilkinson complained of being trapped in an excremental Hitchcock nightmare. Gutters clogged with birdmuck. Smell. Noise. They couldn't sell their properties to move away either as no-one wanted them.

Finally, in December 2012 Lancaster Magistrates imposed a 2-year ASBO on Mr Wilkinson. Under its terms he was not allowed to:
  • feed any birds in his home or within 100 metres of his address; 
  • feed any birds in England and Wales outside of the exclusion zone unless the feeding takes place twice a day between the hours of 9.30am and 10.30am, then 3.30pm and 5pm, in a location that cannot be the same location in the morning and afternoon; and 
  • no more than half a kilo of bird seed to be fed to the birds at any one time; 
  • feed any birds in England and Wales outside the exclusion zone any other foodstuffs or bird food, except bird seed; 
  • aid, abet or incite others to feed any bird within England and Wales."
This meant that he was allowed to feed birds half a kilo of birdseed twice a day if he could do it over 100 metres away from his house, within two daily timeslots totalling two and a half hours, and never in the same place twice in any one day. 

ASBO Breeches
In July 2013 he was convicted on two charges of feeding birds within 100m of his home and one charge of feeding birds on Heysham Road after 5pm, in breech of his ASBO. He was also convicted of breaching a conditional discharge.  He was fined £265 and £105 costs.. 

In November 2013 Mr Wilkinson was given a four week suspended sentence and ordered to pay £100 costs and a £80 victim surcharge at Lancaster Magistrates Court for a succession of similar breeches. 

His recent 6 week sentence takes the suspended sentence into account, with additional time in respect of a number of subsequent breeches of his ASBO.

What next?
The Morecambe Visitor's campaign asks that Mr Wilkinson be released from prison and for other methods of intervention to be discussed by the relevant authorities.  They also ask for 'active and meaningful support for those in Morecambe who have suffered as a direct result of Mr Wilkinson’s bird feeding activities.'

I certainly hope that the prison system will treat him gently and release him early.  It remains to be seen if, upon his return, he will be amenable to adjusting his bird-feeding practices to make life less intolerable for his neighbours over the long-term, or indeed if he can.

Those who sympathise with him do have the option of helping him to support his feathered friends in other, less anti-social locations. Whether this, if it were achievable, would be enough to persuade him to change his habits and stay out of trouble permanently is impossible for this mere blogger to predict.

£4000 a month 
On average it costs £4000 a month to keep a man in prison in the UK. Mr Wilkinson is not accused of being violent or malicious or fraudulent or larcenous or predatory in any way;  he does not appear to have any criminal intention whatsoever. Sadly, local welfare budgets that might help to keep a man who isn't a criminal out of prison are faced with increasing demands whilst being cut daily to meet government- imposed austerity targets - but the Home Office's budget for imprisonment seems ever-expanding.

I hope, along with the Morecambe Visitor and many, many others, that the statutory and community agencies involved can find the means to come together again and find a new and non-custodial strategy to help Mr Wilkinson address his issues more constructively and find some respite from the troubles they inevitably bring him.  The Council and the judiciary have already resolved, with great difficulty, that it can't go on and I agree. Mr Wilkinson's neighbours have suffered for too many years. 

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Luneside residents win embankment victory


Persimmon Homes have now submitted an amended planning application for Luneside East. Their revised plan for 149 dwellings off Lancaster's St George's Quay now retains the embankment, which the developer originally proposed removing and has also withdrawn the proposal for direct vehicular access to Long Marsh Lane, keeping a pedestrian and cycle path instead.

The applications revised Design and Access Statement reads:

"Following on from the Arboriculture Impact Assessment, only a few low quality trees  now remain. In the main these are located on the Embankment which will be retained. Only a pedestrian / cycle footway will be provided through the existing gap."

Local residents had formed a campaign group to oppose Persimmon's original application to remove part of the embankment and its distinctive line of trees that serve as a natural defense against estuarine winds. They were also strongly opposed to a new vehicle access route from Long Marsh Lane, a view backed by the County Highways Department in their report on the original application.

Persimmon initially responded by appealing against the Tree Preservation Order the City Council had placed on the embankment's trees. The City Council advised them to go back to the drawing board. (See previous news item: "Luneside East housing plans set back pending review")

Hailing the news as 'A Victory for the Environment, the Local Community and Common Sense' local resident Julia Russell posted this message on the group's petition website at change.org earlier today:

"Whilst it appears the trees will be retained, questions remain over how and by whom the embankment and the land bordering Long Marsh Lane will be managed. We are awaiting clarification on this and will keep this petition open until we know the future of the trees is 100% secure. 
"We have proposed the concept of a community-led and managed project, with various ideas to keep this space green as well as to increase its accessibility for all. We feel this is especially important as the site will be lacking in other public green open space. 
"As there will now be no housing facing onto Long Marsh Lane, there will be no direct vehicular access onto the lane, and the only access will be the cycle and pedestrian route which had originally been promised.
"Thank you for all your support - together we have made a difference."

• Persimmon's amended planning application can now be viewed on the Lancaster City Council website Planning Portal, Reference 13/01200/FUL

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Local Cinema Round-Up for 28th May to 5th June 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.

New releases shown locally during this period are the comedy western A Million Ways to Die in the West (15); the excellent science fiction drama Edge of Tomorrow (12A) and, somewhat belatedly, the drama Heaven is for Real (PG).

Films that have come to the end of their screening are Pompeii, Sabotage, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Other Woman and Rio 2.

Again this is a good period for catching a good family movie. Showing are Maleficent; Postman Pat: The Movie; The LEGO Movie and Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return. Also we see the return for the weekend of Frozen and Escape from Planet Earth.

A curious film well worth catching this period is the Musical Comedy Frank being shown for much of this time at the Dukes.

Reviews

Bad Neighbours
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Seth Rogen, Jake Johnson, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne
Released as 'Neighbors' outside the UK, this is a comedy about Mac Radner (Rogen), his wife Kelly (Byrne) and young baby and the disruption they face when a college fraternity led by Teddy (Efron) moves in next door. Initially relations between the neighbours are not too bad but increasingly the frat boys work to ruin their family life and the Radner's give as good as they get. The film is a bawdy comedy as the tit-for-tat acts of sabotage escalate to hilarious (and possibly offensive) effect. One of the better Frat house comedies.

Frozen
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' 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.

Godzilla
Director: Gareth Edwards
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, David Strathairn, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche
Godzilla rises again with an excellent cast and plenty of special effects as cities are destroyed. Joe Brody (Cranston) is a physicist who investigates the events at a Japanese nuclear facility where Godzilla is accidentally released. It is his soldier son Ford (Taylor-johnson) who battles the beast as it stalks San Francisco. There is some excellent performances, especially from Cranston and the director tells the story from a human viewpoint. Indeed we don't get a good glimpse of the monster till the latter half of the film. A spectacular disaster movie and one of the best re-telling of the story of Godzilla.

Maleficent
Director: Robert Stromberg
Certificate: PG
Cast Includes: Angelina Jolie, Miranda Richardson, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley
In part a re-telling of the tale of sleeping beauty but from the point of view of the villain of the story, Maleficent (Jolie). Maleficent was driven to evil following an act of betrayal which cost her the ability to fly. She battles to save her shadowy forest kingdom and plots revenge by placing a curse on the infant Aurora (Fanning), daughter to the king. Aurora herself becomes caught in the conflict between forest and human kingdoms. This is a rather dark fantasy for a Disney film, but a great tale with powerful characters and impressive special effect.

X-Men: Days of Future Past
Director: Bryan Singer and Matthew Vaughn
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Ian McKellen, Peter Dinklage
The film starts in the year 2023 where a war has resulted in the near destruction of all mutants. Trask (Dinklage), leader of Trask Industries, had developed robot soldiers that can destroy mutants under the Sentinel Program. The mutants send Wolverine (Jackman) back to the year 1973 in order to stop Mystique (Lawrence) from killing Trask as it was this death that resulted in the creation of the Sentinel Program. This is a fine movie worthy of the X-Men franchise that will not disappoint.

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.

Let Us Entertain You - Street Music for Bank Holiday Monday

Martha, Beatrice and Miriam from Brownedge St Mary's High School, Bamber Bridge, entertain the crowds at Lancaster's Horseshoe Corner on Bank Holiday Monday with a classical trio.

Photos: Alan Phillips.





Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Charmaine Childs , the Human Carousel raises smiles on Bank Holiday Saturday



Australian strong lady Charmaine Childs as "Betty Brawn" thrilled the crowd in Lancaster's Marketgate on Bank Holiday Saturday by showing her unique talent for picking up men. She hefted her volunteers bodily, had them trample on her tummy and finally picked up both at once as "The Human Carousel."







• Charmaine's website is http://www.strongladyproductions.com (Strong Lady Productions)

All photos courtesy and © Alan Phillips

Monday, 26 May 2014

Meet Your New North West MEPs 2014

Three Labour, three UKIP and two Conservatives were elected as MEPS for the North West last night (full results here). 

The North West vote share was Labour, 34%, UKIP 27%, Conservatives 20%,  Green 7%, Liberal Democrat 6% and Others 5%.

The Liberal Democrats long-term MEP Chris Davies lost his set, as did the BNP's Nick Griffin.

Here's a quick 'snapshot' of both the new and re-elected MEPs), including global warming sceptic and leading UKIP MEP Paul Nuttall, who has his constituency offices in Lancaster. Mr Nuttall is also deputy leader of UKIP.

We've included their official web sites where we could find them, along with their Twitter accounts so you can follow their work. The North West is represented in the European Parliament by eight MEPs, elected every five years.


Jacqueline Foster - Conservative (Re-elected)
Jacqueline Foster was first elected as one of three Conservative MEPs for the North West of England in 2009. She is the Conservative Spokesman on the Transport & Tourism Committee and is also Deputy Leader of the Conservative MEPs.

She is also Vice President of the Animal Welfare Parliamentary Intergroup; Vice President of the Sky & Space Parliamentary Intergroup and a member of the EU-US Parliamentary Delegation with the United States.

Web: jacquelinefostermep.com Twitter: https://twitter.com/jfostermep

European Parliament Page: www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/4553/Jacqueline%20FOSTER_home.html


Sajjad Karim  - Conservative  (Re-elected)

Sajjad says his earliest political memory is campaigning for Margaret Thatcher and his local Conservative MP at the age of seven in his home borough of Pendle. In the European Parliament he has been involved in matters regarding industry, research and is the Tory Energy Spokesman on Legal Affairs

Web: www.sajjadkarim.eu Twitter: https://twitter.com/SHKMEP

European Parliament Page: www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/28481/Sajjad%20KARIM_home.html


Theresa Griffin - Labour

A former Liverpool City councillor, Theresa has been a Labour Party member for over 25 years and an active campaigner at local, CLP,  national and European levels.  She is currently Deputy Chair of the NW Regional Labour Party and represents NW CLPs on the National Policy Forum.

She describes herself as a committed trade union activist and  has campaigned closely with all unions on employment rights, rights for young people, equality and against the BNP, EDL and far-right.

Web: http://theresagriffin.eu/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheresaG_EU



Afzal Khan - Labour

Manchester's former Lord Mayor, Mr Khan is Labour's first Muslim MEP and has worked for the Labour Party on many levels.

He left school with no qualifications and worked as a labourer in a mill before returning to education, then spending three years as a police officer with Greater Manchester Police before going on to study law and qualifying as a solicitor.

Web: http://afzalkhan.org.uk Twitter: https://twitter.com/cllrakhan



Julie Ward - Labour

The founder of Jack Drum Arts, a poet and community/cultural activist who strongly advocates social change via empowerment of ordinary people, Julie was politicised in the North West under Thatcher. "I'm so proud to be elected as one of three Labour MEPs to represent the North West in the European Parliament," she says. "The last year has been an amazing new journey.

"From the factory floor to directing a disability organisation and co-founding a workers' arts collective; from Manchester to Lancashire, Cumbria and north-east England (via Brazil, Belfast and Moldova!); my work and life experience enables me to understand the challenges faced by those from all walks of life," she says.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/julie4nw


Louise Bours - UKIP

Louise Bours trained as an actress and singer at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, and went on to appear in BrooksidePeak Practice and Band of Gold in addition to performing in West End musicals and fronting 1940s big bands.

She previously served as councillor on Congleton borough and town councils and was elected Mayor of Congleton in 2006.

Prioer to her election she told the Chester Chronicle she would have a Brussels-based team but intends to spend most of her time in the North West, supporting local people on their doorstep. “How can you help anybody if you are completely detached sitting in an office in Brussels?” she mused.

“We want to shake off the BNP in blazers thing,” the single mother says of claims by some that UKIP is racist, and points out that former members of far right parties are banned from joining UKIP. She pointed out to the Chronicle that her father is actually Dutch and her full name is Louise van der Bours.

Paul Nuttall - UKIP (Re-elected)

A global warming sceptic, Paul is UKIP’s youngest ever Chairman, youngest ever MEP and is a member of Young Independence. He is a former history lecturer and played football for Tranmere Rovers in his youth.

With his constituency office in Lancaster, as a UKIP MEP, he says his mandate is to do himself and every other British MEP out of a job by helping to get the UK out of the costly and what he describes as the "undemocratic" European Union he has just been voted into again by democratic vote.

Over the next five years, he says he is committed to working tirelessly on behalf of those who elected him into office. As well as defending the UK’s interests in the European Parliament, Paul says he will campaign in Britain so UKIP can make a breakthrough at Westminster.

In September 2013 he argued Labour had abandoned working class voters, and UKIP was now the official oppostiion to Labour in the North West.

He also recently warned that the reduction in mobile roaming charges brought in by the European Union was not as good a deal as it sounded, arguing it would lead to higher domestic charges for mobile use.

Web: www.paulnuttallmep.com Twitter: https://twitter.com/paulnuttallukip

European Parliament Page: www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/96805/PAUL_NUTTALL_home.html


Steven Woolfe - UKIP

Steven is the UKIP Economics Spokesman. A former lawyer in the City of London who spent the past few years as general counsel for hedge fund managers, he now acts as a legal and regulatory consultant to financial institutions.

"I believe that freedom is a right not a dream and that the European Union has no right to take away a nation's right to self determination, democratic freedoms and sovereignty by stealth and without consent of the people," he says. "That is why I campaign that Britain leaves the EU."

Official web site: www.stevenwoolfe.co.uk Twitter: https://twitter.com/Steven_Woolfe

• The full European Election results can be found here: www.elections2014.eu/en

• Full contact details for all your North West MEPs can be found here: www.europarl.org.uk/en/your_meps/list-meps-by-region/north-west.html (This page had not been updated to reflect all the above MEPs on Monday 26th May

European Parliament Elections 2014 - North West Results

The Members of the European Parliament for the North West UK elected in May 2014 are:

Conservative: 
Jacqueline Foster (re-elected), Sajjad Karim (re-elected),

Labour
Theresa Griffin, Afzal Khan, Julie Ward

UKIP
Louise Bours, Paul Nuttall (re-elected), Steven Woolfe

The votes in the North West UK Region were cast as follows:

Party Votes % MEPs +/-
Labour 594,063 33.86 (+13.46) 3 +1
UK Independence Party 481,932 27.47 (+11.62) 3 +2
Conservative 351,985 20.06 (-5.56) 2 -1
Green 123,075 7.01 (-0.68) 0 0
Liberal Democrat 105,487 6.01 (-8.25) 0 -1
British National Party 32,826 1.87 (-6.13) 0 -1
An Independence From Europe 26,731 1.52 (0.00) 0 0
English Democrats 19,522 1.11 (-1.31) 0 0
Pirate Party 8,597 0.49 (0.00) 0 0
NO2EU 5,402 0.31 (-1.12) 0 0
Socialist Equality Party 5,067 0.29 (0.00) 0 0


Friday, 23 May 2014

Local Council By Election Results May 2014

Two by-elections for vacant seats on Lancaster City Council took place yesterday (Thursday May 22).
Green Party Candidates Abi Mills (Scotforth West) and Jack Filmore (University) both took seats previously held by Labour.

Lancaster City Council's seats are now held as follows:  22 Labour, 15 Conservative, 10 Independent Group, 10 Green, 2 Free Independent, 1 Non-Aligned Independent.

Morecambe Town Council acquired a new UKIP member with Steven Thomas Ogden, who also took a seat previously held by Labour - by just a single vote.
Abi Mills
Green Party

RESULTS:

Lancaster City Council - Scotforth West

Phil Dunster (Liberal Democrats) 80
Colin Hartley (Labour Party) 802
Steve Metcalfe (Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts) 49
Abi Mills (Green Party) 823 ELECTED
Janet Walton (Conservative Party) 517


Jack Filmore
Green Party

Lancaster City Council - University

Daniel Aldred (Conservative Party) 128
Jack Filmore (Green Party) 273 ELECTED
Stuart Langhorn (Independent) 24
James Joseph Leyshon (Labour Party) 237
Oliver Mountjoy (Liberal Democrats) 33
Steven Thomas Ogden
UKIP


Morecambe Town Council - 
Westgate

Alan Biddulph (Labour Party) 497
Terry Ingle (Morecambe Bay Independents) 308
Steven Thomas Ogden (UK Independence Party) 498

Results for the European Parliamentary Elections are expected on Sunday 25 May.

12,000 new homes locally? Council launches major planning consultation

Forecast Methodology. Turley

The Lancaster district should make plans for an additional 12,000 new homes over the next 20 years to meet housing needs fuelled by an increasing population and a growing economy. This would represent a 20% increase in the number of local homes.

That’s the verdict of independent consultants Turley Associates who last year conducted a local housing requirements study on the district to replace regional targets recently abolished by the Government. Around the country all councils are now being urgently required to meet these newly calculated needs. .

Their report states as its premise:
"The authority of Lancaster includes approximately 61,950 properties of which all but approximately 4.3% are occupied.

"The assessment of need, however, has clearly identified that if Lancaster seeks to accommodate growth in its business base manifested in a growth in employment opportunities to the levels currently forecast by Experian then the level of housing required to accommodate a growing labour-force will need to be in the region of at least 560 per annum. Growth of this level would accommodate projected population growth pressures and represent an increase on average recent historic levels of net migration into the authority. 


"This level of growth also responds to important market signals including the scale of affordable housing need in the authority, which has been recalculated as approximately 578 affordable dwellings per annum over the next five years in order to address the current backlog of need and newly arising need. Assuming this backlog of need is met the overall requirement for affordable housing over the twenty year period is estimated as 5,000 affordable dwellings (250 per annum on average).

"On this basis the research recommends that an objective assessment of need for Lancaster represents the requirement to accommodate at least 560 houses per annum over the plan period (2011-31). This would represent an increase of approximately 11,100 new households in the authority over the plan period."

This is great news for construction companies and estate agents, but what’s the best approach to identifying where to place all these new homes and accompanying infrastructure? A further issue is how the council might manage to ensure that at least 50% of the properties proposed could be made affordable, as the report suggests is needed, and what that might entail. In practice developers have been tough negotiators of significant reductions in the target percentage of affordable properties in new build developments, and also in the quality and sustainability of the homes they construct.

Lancaster City is asking the public to help it to identify the best approach through an eight week consultation which will be held from June 2 to July 31.

Coun Janice Hanson, Lancaster City Council’s Cabinet member with responsibility for Economic Regeneration and Planning, said:

The scale of the task we are faced with is not to be underestimated. Through the work we have done already we have found sufficient land to accommodate 7,000 new homes, but this still leaves a significant shortage of 5,000.  To fill this gap we need to ensure that we are taking the right approach and to do that we need the help of the public.  I would urge everyone to get involved by either attending one of the consultation events or filling in the online questionnaire.”

The consultation will ask people what they think of the suggested targets and of five potential approaches to identify sites to deliver them, which include:

  1. A Single Large Urban extension
  2. Reviewing the Green Belt
  3. Distributed to settlements throughout the district
  4. Significant expansion of two existing rural settlements
  5. Creation of a new settlement

A number of ‘drop in’ events will be held across the district for people to find out more about the options and to have their say on which they feel would be most appropriate to cope with all the newcomers, jobs and wealth we are expecting.

These will take place on the following dates and locations:

  • Tuesday 3 June  - Morecambe Arndale Centre – 10am to 3pm
  • Wednesday 4 June - Carnforth Tesco – 2pm to 7pm
  • Thursday 5 June  - Heysham Library – 2pm to 6pm
  • Tuesday 10 June  - Ellel Village Hall (Galgate) – 2pm to 7pm
  • Wednesday 11 June  - Barton Road Community Centre (Scotforth) – 2pm to 7pm
  • Thursday 12 June  - Dolphinholme Village Hall – 2pm to 7pm
  • Saturday 14 June  – St Nicholas Arcades – 10am to 3pm
  • Tuesday 17 June  - Torrisholme Methodist Church – 2pm to 6pm
  • Wednesday 18 June  - Bolton Le Sands Village Hall – 12.30pm to 4.30pm
  • Thursday 19 June  - The Centre (Halton) – 3.15pm to 6.45pm
  • Tuesday 24 June   Victoria Institute (Caton) – 2pm to 7pm
  • Wednesday 25 June – Nether Kellet Village Hall – 2pm to 6.30pm
  • Thursday 26 June - Hornby Institute – 2pm to 7pm
  • Friday 27 June - Fraser Hall (Cowan Bridge) – 2pm to 7pm

The results will be used to inform the next stage, which will be to consult on the most supported approach/approaches with more detailed proposals.  This may happen in early 2015, (subject to timescales and council approval) and will ultimately lead to the preparation of a Land Allocations Document.

More information on the consultation can be found at www.lancaster.gov.uk/planningpolicy.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Looking Back on Market Square: A 'Sneak Peek" at Lancaster Library's Exhibition


A post-war image of Market Street leading to Market Square circa 1946.
The centre of the square is still accessible to cars. The Square was pedestrianised in the 1970s 

Lancashire's Museum Service has given us a sneak peek at the fascinating photographs of Lancaster's Market Square, which will be on display in Lancaster Library from Saturday 24th May as part of an ongoing display.

The exhibition launches just as the Square is about to undergo changes to its looks as part of the ambitious "Square Roots" project that has come about through local government and business partnership, backed in part by European Union funding.

We've been given permission to publish a few of the photographs that feature in the exhibition, backed by the Friends of Lancaster Library, here.

The corner of  Lancaster Market Square, circa 1870's. The derelict building was demolished and is now Greggs Bakery. The building on the right was being used as the Gas Company office and the Blue Anchor pub. Joseph Crook was landlord of the pub from 1864-1872 which may explain the signage. The pub became the 1725 restaurant in 2007.
The visit by the Duke and Duchess of York to the city, to open the Lancaster Infirmary on 24th March 1896. The building in the centre of the picture was the Fire and Police Station which was demolished and rebuilt as the public library in 1932.

Market Square was traditionally used as a meeting place for celebrations and significant events. This is the Ox Roast in Market Square on Coronation Day, 9th August 1902.

The Wesleyan Sunday School Centenary, 1906

The exhibition coincides with 'Lancaster Unlocked', a city-wide event celebrating Lancaster's history. 

Anyone who has photographs that would be suitable for the exhibition is welcome to contact the library or the Friends of Lancaster Library. 

Lancaster City Museum also has a display about the history of the Old Town Hall, now the museum. Staff are keen to hear people's memories or see their photographs. 

Lancaster Library is part of Lancashire County Council's library service. 

• For more information, call 0300 123 6703 or email lancaster.library@lancashire.gov.uk. Alternatively visit www.lancashire.gov.uk/libraries

• For more information on the Friends of Lancaster Library visit: www.friendsoflancasterlibrary.org.uk

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Ban old tyres on public vehicles, urges county council

Vehicles which provide a service to the public such as coaches and taxis should not be allowed to use tyres which are more than 10 years old, according to Lancashire County Council. 

Councillors unanimously supported a Notice of Motion proposed by County Councillor John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, at a recent meeting of the Full Council. 

He said: "I was fortunate enough to meet Frances Molloy, whose son Michael was killed when a 19-year old tyre blew out on the coach he was travelling on to get home from a music festival. 

"When she began to tell me what had happened I suddenly remembered the incident – three people were killed, and it was one of those tragedies that sticks in the mind because the reason it happened was so wrong and easily preventable. 

"The coroner found that the tyre failed due to its age, and said that action should be taken to prevent future deaths. Although the tyre was so old, it was not illegal as there is no legislation in the UK which gives an age limit to any tyres on vehicles." 

County Councillor Fillis will now write to the Minister for Transport asking that legislation be introduced that would: 

  • prevent public service vehicle operators from using aged tyres regardless of their outward condition. 
  • formalise the current research and guidance that advises tyres more than 6 years old should not be fitted and should be removed and replaced regardless of condition when 10 years old. 
  • make it illegal to operate coaches with such tyres fitted. 


He added: "It is clear that such risks can no longer be tolerated and the government sho! uld act now in order to prevent any further deaths being caused by old tyres. I'm pleased and proud that members of all parties at Lancashire County Council have given their full support to this excellent campaign."

Local Cinema Round-Up for 21st to 29th May 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, and reviews.

 This is a good period for new family films. We have animation with Postman Pat: The Movie (U) and Legends of OZ: Dorothy's Return (U). Also making an appearance is the impressive Disney fantasy adventure Maleficent (PG).

Movies coming to the end of their run include Rio 2, Pompeii, Tarzan, Sabotage and The Other Woman. However making another appearance is Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy.

Culture is represented with Driving Miss Daisy: The Play and two performances from the National Theatre, viz King Lear and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Two must see movies during this period are the suspense thriller Locke (15) and the black and white Buster Keaton comedy The General (U), both showing at the Dukes.

Reviews

Bad Neighbours
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Seth Rogen, Jake Johnson, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne
Released as 'Neighbors' outside the UK, this is a comedy about Mac Radner (Rogen), his wife Kelly (Byrne) and young baby and the disruption they face when a college fraternity led by Teddy (Efron) moves in next door. Initially relations between the neighbours are not too bad but increasingly the frat boys work to ruin their family life and the Radner's give as good as they get. The film is a bawdy comedy as the tit-for-tat acts of sabotage escalate to hilarious (and possibly offensive) effect. One of the better Frat house comedies.

Godzilla
Director: Gareth Edwards
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, David Strathairn, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche
Godzilla rises again with an excellent cast and plenty of special effects as cities are destroyed. Joe Brody (Cranston) is a physicist who investigates the events at a Japanese nuclear facility where Godzilla is accidentally released. It is his soldier son Ford (Taylor-johnson) who battles the beast as it stalks San Francisco. There is some excellent performances, especially from Cranston and the director tells the story from a human viewpoint. Indeed we don't get a good glimpse of the monster till the latter half of the film. A spectacular disaster movie and one of the best re-telling of the story of Godzilla.

Maleficent
Director: Robert Stromberg
Certificate: PG
Cast Includes: Angelina Jolie, Miranda Richardson, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley
In part a re-telling of the tale of sleeping beauty but from the point of view of the villain of the story, Maleficent (Jolie). Maleficent was driven to evil following an act of betrayal which cost her the ability to fly. She battles to save her shadowy forest kingdom and plots revenge by placing a curse on the infant Aurora (Fanning), daughter to the king. Aurora herself becomes caught in the conflict between forest and human kingdoms. This is a rather dark fantasy for a Disney film, but a great tale with powerful characters and impressive special effect.

Pompeii
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Kit Harington, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jessica Lucas, Jared Harris, Kiefer Sutherland, Emily Browning
The year is 79AD and the backdrop of the movie is the epic eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Mile (Harington), a gladiator strives to save the love of his life Cassia (Browning) who is betrothed to Corvus (Sutherland) a corrupt Roman Senator. This is a film that is hard not to like as it 'ticks all the boxes' portraying poor boy/rich girl romance with action and combat set in a disaster movie incorporating spectacular special effects.

Sabotage
Director: David Ayer
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terrence Howard, Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway, Mireille Enos
John 'Breacher' Wharton (Schwarzenegger) leads a special drug enforcement team, all with equally outlandish nick-names, to raid a drugs cartel. However a large sum of money goes missing and there is suspicion of internal corruption. The members of the drug enforcement team find themselves targeted and start to be killed. There is no shortage of gore and bad language in this movie, though perhaps it is a little lighter on action then previous Schwarzenegger films, having just one major shootout piece. The film however supplies suspense as we learn what became of the missing ten million dollars. A star cast and one of Schwarzenegger's better films.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Director: Marc Webb
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Paul Giamatti, Jamie Foxx
Garfield plays the role of Peter Parke and his alter-ego Spider-Man. He must defeat Max Dillon (Foxx) who becomes transformed into the super-villain Electro, in order to save New York. The strength of the Spider man franchise lies in the tribulations of Peter Parker as he juggles his role as super-hero with the more mundane aspects of his life and his relationship with girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Stone). With jokes, special effects and love interest this is a worthy sequel to the Spider-Man series.

The Other Woman
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Kate Upton
Carley (Diaz) discovers that her boyfriend Mark (Coster-Waldau) is in fact married. She accidentally meets his wife and they become friends. Subsequently they discover Mark is also undertaking a third affair with Amber (Upton). The three women plot their revenge. This is a rather lightweight comedy, and a little light on laughs. Mildly amusing.

X-Men: Days of Future Past
Director: Bryan Singer and Matthew Vaughn
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Ian McKellen, Peter Dinklage
The film starts in the year 2023 where a war has resulted in the near destruction of all mutants. Trask (Dinklage), leader of Trask Industries, had developed robot soldiers that can destroy mutants under the Sentinel Program. The mutants send Wolverine (Jackman) back to the year 1973 in order to stop Mystique (Lawrence) from killing Trask as it was this death that resulted in the creation of the Sentinel Program. This is a fine movie worthy of the X-Men franchise that will not dissapoint.

Lancaster University in traditional Chinese Dragon boat race




A team of 20 Lancaster University students, staff and community members braved the heavy rain and wind to take home 2nd place at the North West Confucius Institute Dragon Boat Competition was held at Preston Docks on 10th May.

The annual set of races are held to celebrate the traditional Chinese Dragon Boat Festival and included teams from five universities in the region.

The team, drawn from across Lancashire and Cumbria, was sponsored with the generous support of the Lancaster University Confucius Institute.

As part of this year’s preparation, the team also partnered with Paddlers For Life (PFL), a Cumbria-based charity for cancer survivors that fosters the wellbeing of those who have experienced cancer through physical activity and team support.

The Lancaster University team joined PFL for a day of training and camaraderie on beautiful Lake Windermere where team members were taught paddling techniques and staying in time with the dragon boat drum. 

Lancaster University's Dragonboat team

Team members Jill Brumand and Sandra Maloney were both new to dragon boat but were keen to try and learn more about a traditional Chinese sport. Sandra said, "Competing in a dragon boat competition was definitely one of the highlights of my time at Lancaster!"

"The amazing women and men from Paddlers for Life taught us all we needed to know and it was because of their coaching and encouragement that we did so well in the race and we even got to train on Lake Windermere!"  

With two qualifying heats of intense sprint paddling and the championship heat in a downpour the team was quite tired but it was all worth it. After the final Jill added, "It was exciting to see everyone come together and work as a team. We worked so hard and it was a fantastic experience."

On the back of the team’s success, Lancaster University Confucius Institute hopes to host the next instalment of the annual races on the River Lune in May of 2015.

Lancaster city centre improvements take shape, famous Horseshoe set to return to rightful place



Resurfacing works partly funded by European Union finance to revive the heart of Lancaster city centre are well underway as part of a £1 million investment to reinvigorate Market Square and the surrounding streets that will include the return of the famous horseshoe to "Horsehoe Corner" on the corner of Penny Street and Market Street.

Street works to improve the city centre started at the beginning of March at the bottom of Cheapside and Market Square with further work starting this week to resurface the rest of Market Square.

During this time, the Charter Market will continue to run in the city centre every Wednesday and Saturday as normal. However, to make way for further works taking place in the vicinity of market square, some stallholders have been relocated to New Street. Others have taken up vacant pitches on lower Market Street and Cheapside until the works are complete.

An improved long term layout for the Charter Market will then be introduced which will make full use of its enhanced setting.

The installation of a new centrepiece in Market Square which is scheduled to be complete by the end of July will mark the end of this phase.

The famous horseshoe - currently in safe keeping at
Morecambe Town Hall
The council have also told virtual-lancaster the horseshoe that was removed for safe keeping from Penny Street some time ago will be incorporated into the paving when works to resurface "Horse Shoe Corner" take place, within the next three or four weeks.

Market Street and Market Square will be closed to all through traffic but pedestrian access to shops and businesses will be maintained during normal business hours.

Councillor Janice Hanson, Lancaster City Council’s Cabinet member with responsibility for Economic Regeneration and Planning, said: “Investing in improving the heart of Lancaster city centre is at last taking shape with resurfacing works being rolled out to some of the busiest streets in the city.

“Market Street and Market Square has always been the focal point for both civic and ceremonial activities as well as events and trade. We can now look forward to what was once a tired and uninviting place portraying an image befitting our important historic city and encouraging more activity into the city centre during the day and through into the evening.

“In turn this will boost the local economy, increase income and profit for local businesses and lead to more jobs for local people.”

The Horseshoe in its original setting.Photo: Han Fleet
The works are part of the Lancaster Square Routes Project and being led by Lancaster City council in close partnership with Lancashire County Council and other partners to make improvements to Market Square and surrounding streets to strengthen the city centre’s position as a quality destination for visitors, residents and traders.

They are co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Programme 2007-2013 and both councils.

• For more information on Lancaster Square Routes visitwww.lancaster.gov.uk/squareroutes

• Did you know? Horseshoe Corner is the unofficial name of the intersection between Penny Street, Cheapside and Market Street in Lancaster. 


It is so named because of the horseshoe once set into the paving at the centre of this crossroads and due to be restored. Legend has is that John o' Gaunt's horse shed a shoe here when he left Lancaster castle for the last time. This was once the centre of the mediaeval City of Lancaster. More info: https://www.facebook.com/groups/393878117314695

Memories of Market Square opens at Lancaster Library this weekend

Lancaster Market Square c1900
Lancaster Market Square with outdoor market, circa 1900. Image courtesy Lancashire County Museum Service 

An ongoing exhibition of photographs showing the changing face of Lancaster’s Market Square will open at Lancaster Library this Saturday - 24th May 2014.

The images show how Market Square has changed over the last century, and offer a contrast to the latest facelift and new centrepiece that is currently being worked on as part of the "Square Routes" scheme that includes a huge improvement to Penny Street, where work is still in progress, and will include the return of the famous horseshoe to "Horsehoe Corner" (on the corner of Market and Penny Street) very soon.

To complement the exhibition, there will be further displays from Lancaster's library and museum archives to illustrate the wide range of local businesses that have been part of the Market Square's history.

The archives also include records of the many celebrations that have taken place in the square over the past 100 years.

The event is funded by the Friends of Lancaster Library, a local voluntary group that helps with many of the events and activities taking place at the library.

Anna Haywood, a library officer at Lancaster, said: “This brilliant event showcases the rich heritage of this historic city. We're very grateful to the Friends for their generosity and hard work helping to bring it all together.

“Visitors to the library will be able to see the transformation Lancaster has undergone over many years and compare that to the future plans.

“We'd also like thank the residents of Lancaster for their valuable support, which has once again shown the wonderful community spirit that we have here in the city.

The exhibition coincides with 'Lancaster Unlocked', a city-wide event celebrating Lancaster's history.

Anyone who has photographs that would be suitable for the exhibition is welcome to contact the library or the Friends of Lancaster Library.

Lancaster City Museum also has a display about the history of the Old Town Hall, now the museum. Staff are keen to hear people's memories or see their photographs.

Lancaster Library is part of Lancashire County Council's library service.

• For more information, call 0300 123 6703 or email lancaster.library@lancashire.gov.uk. Alternatively visit www.lancashire.gov.uk/libraries

• For more information on the Friends of Lancaster Library visit: www.friendsoflancasterlibrary.org.uk

City Council under Scrutiny: Is it Up to Scratch?


Is there an issue affecting you and your community that you would like to see Lancaster City Council look into? If so, Lancaster City Council wants to hear from you.  

Scrutiny is important to local democracy and exists to hold decision-makers to account and ensure that issues of concern to local residents and visitors are addressed. 

It could be a problem in a local area, a council service or an issue which you feel the council, using its community leadership role, should take a lead in improving. 

Based on these issues, the committee can make a number of recommendations to the council or other agencies, which can help to make real improvements to the lives of residents in the district. 

Councillor June Ashworth, Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, said: "In recent years various task groups have made a number of recommendations to council, cabinet and other agencies, with the intention of helping to make real improvements to the lives of residents in the district.

"It is therefore important that local people get in touch, let us know what concerns them or how the council can improve the services it provides."

If you think there is a particular issue that should be scrutinised, let us know by writing to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, c/o Democratic Services at Lancaster City Council, Town Hall, Lancaster, LA1 1PJ. 

Alternatively email scrutiny@lancaster.gov.uk or telephone 01524 582065. 

All Overview and Scrutiny meetings are open to the public and are mostly held at Morecambe Town Hall.  Meetings have also been held in locations where a topic has been raised. 

• For more details and to read the agenda and recommendations from the Overview and Scrutiny committee, visit www.lancaster.gov.uk/scrutiny

Morecambe Carnival 2015 opens applications for floats

Float Entries for Morecambe Carnival 2015 (MC15) are now open. The application form is here on the event's official site.

Morecambe Carnival 2014 had a fantastic turnout, with an estimated 30,000 people turning out to watch it, and while the date of next year's event has yet to be confirmed, the Carnival's organisers are now planning for a bigger and better carnival experience in 2015.

The event attracted interest and support from schools, businesses, community groups, uniform groups, sports clubs who all got involved and represented in the carnival parade.

This year we’re looking for the most creative and entertaining float ideas, either traditional or something new and exciting," say the team. "Entries in MC14 came from all parts of the Morecambe Community and we’re looking for the same level of diversity and creativity – only more!

"The Morecambe Carnival is an fantastic opportunity to celebrate the variety of Morecambe’s community sprit."

The organisers urge anyone interested in taking part to take a look at our guidelines before submitting an entry.
  • A Float Application does not guarantee a float entry – successful applicants will be notified of their qualification
  • Upon a successful application there will be a £25 entry fee per float, £100 for businesses. Once accepted a place in the carnival parade is non-refundable
  • Safety is of paramount importance for all involved in MC15 so all floats must provide at the very least two volunteer stewards for safety reasons
  • Please be as descriptive as possible when telling the orgnaisers about your float. This will help with the selection processes
• Morecambe Carnival 2015: http://morecambecarnival.org

• Follow Morecambe Carnival on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MCMCarnival

Dukes New Patron Sarah Lancashire scoops a BAFTA

Dukes patron Sarah Lancashire
Just weeks after The Dukes revealed that popular actress Sarah Lancashire had been appointed its first Honorary Patron she has added a touch of lustre to her new role by scooping a BAFTA.

Sarah, who rose to national television fame as Coronation Street barmaid Raquel in the 1990s, won her prestigious BAFTA on Sunday evening at a glittering award ceremony in London, picking up the award for her role in the BBC drama Last Tango in Halifax.<

Just over a fortnight ago, Sarah was a special guest at The Dukes for a Gala performance of its new production, The Life & Times of Mitchell & Kenyon where her position of Honorary Patron was announced.

Joe Sumsion, Director of The Dukes, said: "It's fantastic to see Sarah's success at the BAFTAs.  She's brilliant in Last Tango in Halifax and it's really no surprise that her work has been recognised in this way.

"We're all really proud of her here at The Dukes - and the success of our first Honorary Patron certainly gives us plenty to live up to."

Although she has been nominated for a BAFTA in the past, this is the first time Sarah has lifted one of the awards. She has appeared on the West End stage as well as in many popular television dramas including Where The Heart Is, Clocking Off, Rose and Maloney and The Paradise.

She's currently appearing on our screens in the new BBC drama Happy Valley, which is written by Sally Wainwright who also scripted Last Tango in Halifax.

As The Dukes Honorary Patron, Sarah will be an ambassador for the theatre and attend special events such as the Gala Night. The Dukes is keeping its fingers crossed that her commitments will permit her to be the star attraction at its next major fundraising event, The Diamond Dinner, at The Midland in Morecambe next February.

Lancashire County Council calls for Robin Hood Tax to rebalance economy

County Councillor Gina Dowding
Lancashire County Council has become the 50th British local authority to agree to lobby Government  to sign up to the Financial Transaction Tax. The motion was proposed at the County’s Full Council meeting last week (15th May) by Gina Dowding, Lancashire’s Green County Councillor representing Lancaster Central and also a European candidate.
Lancaster City Council was one of the first to pass such a motion in 2012, and Preston Council recently followed suit.
The Robin Hood Tax – or Financial Transaction Tax (1) is a tax on all financial exchanges, including shares, bonds and derivatives. Even at the rate of 0.05%, the tax could raise up to £250bn per year globally and up to £20bn per year nationally.

“The money raised could be used to provide the vital council funding for services that are being decimated by government cuts," says County Councillor Gina Dowding.

“A Robin Hood Tax would ensure that the number of high risk financial transactions, the gambling which helped to trigger the financial crisis, would be curtailed. By curbing some of the worst financial sector excesses, a Robin Hood tax would help to rebalance the economy.

“ We are sending a clear message to the government that we want a finance system that works for the common good, not the vested interests of the few”

“The Green group in the European Parliament has been instrumental in pushing for a Financial Transaction Tax," added Peter Cranie who is the Green Party’s finance spokesperson and lead North West European candidate added. 
"Eleven Member States including Germany, France, Italy and Spain have decided it is crucial to put people before the profits of their big banks and financial speculators and introduce an FTT. 
"The UK government on the other hand has continued to block the tax in order to promote business as usual in the City of London.”

Seaside Awards for Morecambe's beaches



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

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

Keep Britain Tidy has announced that Morecambe's North and South beaches are two of 13 North West beaches to have received an award for offering visitors great facilities alongside a litter free and safe environment.

Councillor Ron Sands
“Lancaster City Council recognises the increasing importance of our coastline in attracting visitors to the town," commnted Councillor Ron Sands, cabinet member with responsibility for leisure, culture and tourism,  "and we are delighted to have received a Seaside Award for both Morecambe's North and South beaches.

"The standards of these beaches are testament to all those who work hard throughout the year to ensure they can be enjoyed by residents, visitors and holiday-makers alike.”

The LOVEmyBEACH campaign is a great way for anyone who lives, works or visits Morecambe to make a difference and help improve our two designated Bathing Waters. Please visit www.lovemybeach.org to find out more.

If you run a business and would like to pledge your support, please contact Emma McColm, LOVEmyBEACH Co-ordinator for your free checklist atemma@morecambebay.org.uk

These simple steps can help LOVEmyBEACH:

  • Only flush the 3Ps down the toilet – poo, pee and paper. Everything else goes in the bin! 
  • Don’t pour cooking fat down the sink – it can cause blockages 
  • Check your drains are connected right at www.connectright.org.uk 
  • Pick up after your dog and put it in the bin 
  • Don’t feed birds at the beach and keep outdoor areas free of food waste 
  • Put litter in the bin