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GOVERNMENT FORCED US TO BE SMELLY
30/7/04 Fats & Proteins (UK) Ltd (aka Nightingale Hall Farm) are still on trial in Carlisle on charges of breaking the terms of their operating licence by allowing foul smells to escape the plant in May 2001. The trial is being held in Carlisle because it was felt that it would not be possible for the company to get an impartial jury in Lancaster.
In their defence the former company Managing Director said that month had been a special case as their hands had been tied due to the Government Intervention Board taking over the site and forcing them to break the rules in response to the foot and mouth emergency.
People who are familiar with the company and its emanations will remember the visit of Prince Charles going on 20 years ago when he complained about the smell from the plant, which he detected from the A6 at White Cross.
Our site editor satori remembers having to take a pregnant friend to hospital one summer about 10 years ago because she had been sick for days and unable to keep nourishment down. Where she lived there was no escaping the foul smell from the plant. She was admitted and put on a drip - but soon recovered away from the stench and went to stay with relatives. She and her husband sold their house and moved away from town a few months later to get away from the smell.
The plant is situated adjacent to three local schools and a hospital. Virtual-Lancaster is seeking stories about Fats & Proteins (UK) Ltd and the smells, which we will compile into a feature. If you are a witness or have a story or anything to contribute to this, please email the editor at Virtual-Lancaster

ACT FOR ART'S SAKE
30/7/04 Artists who are interested in forming an action group are invited to attend an open meeting at 'Upstairs Downstairs' on Morecambe promenade on Friday 13 August at 2pm. The purpose of the meeting is to generate artistic action to publicise artists' work, develop exhibition space and benefit artists.
Morecambe has no public exhibition space for artwork, and the Storey Gallery in Lancaster is currently allergic to work originating from this area. The meeting is being called by G.W McLelland, whose letter appears in this week's
Citizen.

MP BACK FROM SUDAN - JUST GIVE THEM THE MONEY!
30/7/04 Chair of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Sudan Hilton Dawson MP visited Sudan including Darfur less than three weeks ago and witnessed a catastrophe which will have got worse since the rainy season set in. He saw thousands of people, many of whom will be dead by the time you read this, who have been driven from their homes, living in makeshift, inadequate shelters, hungry and lacking clean water and latrines.
Sudan is very close to ending its 21 year civil war. Its Government is accused of backing the militias responsible for the current crisis but now, under international pressure, it is allowing aid through and preparing to improve the security of its people. There is much more to be done to achieve and monitor a ceasefire and agree a political settlement in Darfur. However, the priority now is to save as many lives as possible. Hilton is hosting a fundraising coffee morning at Lancaster Town Hall tomorrow (Saturday) from 10am - noon. There will be stalls, a tombola and information on how to help more.
You can also send donations to: DEC Sudan Emergency, PO Box 999, London EC3 or with a call to 0870 60 60 900.
£15 will provide a family with plastic sheeting, a water container and purification tablets.
£44 will feed a family of five for two months.
£84 will buy two household kits including a mosquito net, blanket and kitchen utensils.

COUNCIL PROVIDES FREE HANDYPERSON SCHEME
30/7/04 Lancaster City Council has begun offering the free services of a handyperson to perform minor repairs and maintenance about the house for people who are over 60 or disabled. The scheme is available to anyone eligible within the Lancaster District, and people in the Poulton Renewal Area can use the scheme, regardless of age, if they are in receipt of certain benefits. For details, call Hayley Southcott on (01524) 586820.

MORECAMBE SKATEPARK TO OPEN ON SATURDAY
30/7/04 Work on Morecambe’s new skatepark is going well, and if all goes according to plan, should be open on Saturday 31st July. So get your kneepads on, and trundle down there!

SHELLFISH BEDS SAFE AGAIN
30/7/04 After the latest scientific tests, Lancaster City Council has lifted the temporary ban on the use of the shellfish beds at Heysham Flat Skeer, which were closed earlier in the month due to the presence of an algal toxin which can cause illness.

20,000 LEAGUES UNDER MORECAMBE
29/7/04 A chance to see an exciting play performed aboard a ship comes to Morecambe on 20th to 23rd August, with the arrival of the Walk the Plank Theatre Company at the Stone Jetty, in their theatre ship, the Fitzcarraldo. They’ll be performing Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and the ship’s hold will be transformed into Captain Nemo’s submarine, the Nautilus, in a family play for children of 8 and upwards. See details

STOP THE PHONE MAST!
2
8/7/04: Thre are just 13 days left to object to the siting of a new phone mast near galgate, local resident Steve Booth reports.
The mast will be built on Highland Brow, one of the last bits of clear countryside between the village of Galgate and Lancaster University.
"The mast will be too near the residential housing in Galgate and will spoil the visual appearance of the hill," says Steve.
• Send your objections to Lancaster City Council Planning Department, Palatine Hall, Dalton Square, Lancaster against the planning proposal number 04/00962/PAM - Highland Brow Galgate phone mast.

FIRE EFFECTS - MORE INFORMATION
28/7/04: Following yesterday's fire at Lancaster Synthesis on the White Lund Industrial Estate, Councillor Anne Chapman has informed Virtual-Lancaster she has spoken to John Isherwood at the Environment Agency, who is responsible for regulating this company under Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control legislation. It would appear from his comments that although the fire was bad, the environmental impact will hopefully not be as damaging as some may have feared.
According to Mr Isherwood there seems to be no obvious explanation for the cause of the fire, the only information at the moment being that it seems to have started in a store room. Lancaster Synthesis has had to apply for a new permit in the last few months, so it has been visited quite a few times recently, and fire safety was one of the things considered.
The company, the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive will all be carrying out investigations into the cause of the fire and Anne has asked to be kept informed of these.
The Environemnt Agency says strenuous efforts were made to contain the fire water on site and tanker it away. However, some will inevitably have got into the drains, which is why the Council has issued a warning about not going into the river, as a precautionary measure.
The County Analyst did some monitoring of air pollution levels in the vicinity of the site and was satisfied that these were not severe, since most of the chemicals would thankfully have been destroyed in the fire. There were chlorinated organics present, which would have produced dioxins but apparently it is not possible to monitor for these in the fire plume, only in chimney stacks. (This is probably because the levels would not be high enough in the plume to be detected by the available analysis methods. In stacks the air is extracted over a period of several hours and the dioxins absorbed onto a solid substance of some sort, which is then analysed). Anne asked whether soils in the area should be sampled and tested for dioxins (dioxin does not stay in the air but tends to bind to soil particles) but Mr Isherwood thought that this would not be worthwhile - dioxins will be present (they are produced by PVC being burnt in bonfires, for example) but it would not be possible to show that the fire has increased the level.
It may be that the quantity of organochlorine chemicals at Lancaster Synthesis is so small that the total amount of dioxins produced could not make a significant difference to concentrations in local soils.

Firefighters tackle blaze at Lancaster Synthesis  amid heavy black smoke

FIRE SERVICE REPORT ON SYNTHESIS FIRE
28/7/04: Lancaster and Morecambe's Fire Service have released the following report on the fire at Lancaster Synthesis yesterday, which has resulted in warnings about eating locally grown food and an alert about the River Lune:
Fire crews were called to a major fire yesterday on the White Lund Industrial Estate. The first call was made to the fire and rescue service just after half past six when it is beleived a small explosion had occurred in the chemical warehouse of Lancaster Synthesis on Newgate. The first fire crew from Morecambe arrived minutes later to find smoke rising from the roof of the building. After assessing the fire potential the officer in charge of the first attendance instigated operation merlin - the county's multi-agency response plan for serious chemical incidents.
Because of the nature of the processes and materials within the building, the White lund Industrial Estate was evacuated and closed to the general public by police straight away. The fire developed quickly inside the warehouse and within 10 minutes thick smoke had filled the entire building and flames appeared through the roof.
Sub Officer Murrell said "The products generated by the fire were extremely hazardous, with flammable, toxic, corrosive, oxidising and water reactive chemicals involved. This hampered firefighting operations considerably and the wind direction changed several times, causing firefighters to abandon their vehicles to avoid contamination."
Water supplies from all over White Lund were utilised by crews and the pressure was increased to the area by United Utilities. Large volume ground and aerial monitors were directed onto the fire from newgate and the A683 dual carriageway. At its height around 11,000 litres of water was directed onto the fire every minute. The fire was brought under control 5 hours later, with 18 fire engines and around 70 firefighters in attendance. Crews from as far away as Burnley have attended the fire and is expected that crews will still be damping down at the fire today (28th).
The cause of the fire is being investigated by Fire Officers over the coming days.

LUNE MAY BE POISONED AFTER CHEMICAL FIRE

27/7/04, updated 28/7/04: The City Council is warning everyone to steer clear of the River Lune where it runs through Lancaster, after the fire at Lancaster Synthesis today on White Lund Industrial Estate.
Members of the public are advised to avoid bodily contact with the water of the River Lune at any point between Skerton Weir in Lancaster and Ashton Hall south (downstream) of Lancaster because some water used to douse fire may have gotten into the drainage system and might be poisonous (see explanation above). These points are marked A and B on a map provided by the City Council (click here). The same applies to pet animals.
This notice has effect until 12.00 midday on Thursday 29 July 2004 unless a longer period is advised.
Any person encountering dead fish in the river at these locations is asked to notify the Environment Agency by telephone on 0800 807060.
As a precautionary measure, the Food Standards Agency are recommending that the public should wash and peel home grown fruit and vegetables that will be harvested from areas that may have been affected by the plume at ground level.

NORMAL COUNCIL SERVICES RESUMED 27/07/04: Lancaster City Council's cleansing and leisure services are returning to normal, following disruptions caused by today's fire at White Lund.
The tip and sports centre at Salt Ayre had been closed early this morning. The tip has now re-opened and Salt Ayre Sports Centre will re-open at 6.00pm (closing tonight at 10.00pm).
As a result of the tip closure the city council made alternative arrangements for the disposal of normal rubbish, recycled waste and green recycled waste. Green waste was sent to Kendal Transfer Station, run by SITA. The other waste was split 50:50 between Fleetwood and Clifton Marsh.
The time it took to transfer the waste to these alternative sites obviously had an impact on services. in order to further minimise disruption off duty staff were brought in and extra wagons were dispatched.
The emergency services have now allowed the tip to reopen and the council has been given special permission by the Environment Agency to extend its opening hours, from 4pm to 7pm, in order to clear the backlog.
City council director for community services, Peter Loker, said: "Everything will be off the streets by 7.00pm tonight. Everyone has pulled together in order to make this happen. I would particularly like to thank all our staff who've worked extremely hard and pulled together brilliantly, some of them coming in on their day off, in order to provide as near normal a service as possible for the public. I'd also like to thank the public for their patience and co-operation. It is much appreciated."
The city council run playschemes went ahead with the precaution that children attending schemes in the Morecambe and Heysham areas stayed indoors. The scheme at Loyne closed early when smoke began entering the building.

MAJOR FIRE AT CHEMICAL PLANT
27/7/04: Local residents are being warned to stay indoors and keep windows shut as a major fire at Lancaster Synthesis -- the second in a month.
BBC News reports more than 50 firefighters and 11 fire appliances were tackling the blaze at the depot on the White Lund Industrial estate in Morecambe. ASDA, Salt Ayre Sports Centre and Salt Are tip have all been closed as black smoke spread across the area and has reached as far as Abraham Heights.
A city council environmental health inspector is at the site of the fire assisting the operations at the gound and another is attending the Silver Command at Lancaster Police Station, where further decisions arising from this incident will be made.
"We've got a severe fire involving a building containing a cocktail of chemicals," Michael Laws of Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service told BBC Radio Lancashire. "The fire is well established - we've not committed any firefighters actually into the building because of the safety of the crew. Eleven people including four firefighters were treated in hospital after a chemical fire earlier in the month at the plant. Their symptoms included nausea and headaches from breathing in fumes at Lancaster Synthesis in Eastgate, Morecambe.
As a result of the tip closure council refuse and recyled waste collections have also been affected. The city council has made alternative arrangements for normal rubbish, recycled waste and green recycled waste. Green waste is going to Kendal Transfer Station, run by SITA. The other waste is being split 50:50 between Fleetwood and Clifton Marsh.
The time it will take to transfer the waste to these alternative sites is obviously going to have an impact on services. The Council says it has brought in people from their day off, and are using three extra wagons and suspended some rounds n Lancaster. Even so the collections will be behind schedule.
Today is also the first day of a new recycling round in Bare and this service will be affected. The Council are asking the public to bear with them as we do our best to ensure rounds are collected as quickly as is possible.
City council run playschemes may also be affected, depending on advice we may receive from the emergency services. Any parents or guardians with any concerns should contact Bernice Dalton on 01524 582822.
Earlier this month, Lancaster Synthesis owners Clariant, a Swiss chemicals group currently in the throes of a major restructuring exercise, announced it had sold its UK-based Lancaster Synthesis unit to Johnson Matthey.
The £14.15 million deal is part of Clariant's strategy to sell businesses that are no longer core activities, and takes Lancaster into a company far more compatible with its focus on research chemicals and organic synthesis. Lancaster Synthsesis has catalogue sales and small-scale bulk manufacturing operations in Morecambe and additional distribution facilities in the US, Germany, France and India. Last year, it started operating in China through an agreement with Shanghai Chemical Reagent Co. The business had sales of approximately SF 45 million in 2003 and employs 225 people world-wide.
Lancasterís product range includes 14,000 compounds, with main lines including reagents for synthesis, boronic acids, heterocyclics, fluorinated organics, isocyanates and isothiocyanates, chiral molecules, organophosphorus intermediates, iodoaromatics, and acyl and sulphonyl halides.

IS THIS THE END FOR THE PLASTIC CARRIER BAG?
26/7/04 Following a recent resolution, Lancaster City Council is to campaign for the reduced use of plastic shopping bags and to lobby the government for the introduction of a levy on each bag.

Green City Councillor Chris Coates said " If this is taken up seriously by the council and local supermarkets it could make a big difference to the number of bags littering the town. It can take a plastic bag anything from 30 to 100 years to decompose in a landfill site and with Salt Ayre tip due to close soon we need to be doing everything we can to reduce waste." Read more.

A recent survey showed that around 15 billion plastic shopping bags are distributed by supermarkets in a year in the British Isles or about 250 per person This would be enough plastic to cover an area greater than the areas of London, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and West Yorkshire put together.

The council resolution also called on Margaret Becket, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural affairs, to introduce a plastic bag levy nationwide, with the money raised being fed back into local plastic recycling schemes.In the UK a number of councils and the Local Government Association(LGA) have already come out in favour of the plastic bag levy.

A levy on Plastic bags introduced in Ireland in 2002 resulted in over a 90% reduction in the consumption of plastic bags. Green City Councillor Catriona Stamp said " The Irish scheme has been a great success with support from both shoppers and the supermarkets. All of us receive plastic bags handed out by supermarkets and shops which we don't really need and which end up in the bin the second we're home. These plastic bags end up littering the environment, polluting our seas and causing the deaths of sealife, birds and other animals as a result.."

On a personal note, having just come back from living in Germany, where people habitually carry the strong cloth bags which supermarkets sell for less than £1, I’ve found that using the phrase “I don’t need a carrier bag, thank you,” in Lancaster often meets with blank incomprehension, and needs to be repeated twice. I was starting to think I was going to have to have it tattood on my forehead!

LOCAL MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES SLATED BY HEALTHCARE COMMISSION
23/7/04 Morecambe Bay Primary Care Trust (PCT) Mental Health Services, previously given a 2-star rating by the Healthcare Commission, have fallen off the map, with no stars at all in this year's DOH survey. An overall reduction in the PCT's rating means it is no longer eligible to acquire Foundation Hospital status - despite having invested heavily in developing this project for some time. In the Mental Health Services area a lack of integration between health and social support services in the community was cited. Proposed
plans to reorganise services to a 'Regional Asylum' model, with in-patient services centralised to one unit - up to 50 miles from many patients' homes - have highlighted this deficit drastically. These plans involve a reduction of in-patient facilities from 79 to 60 beds - almost 25%, with one
ward at Ridge Lea Hospital already closed. But poor liaison between hospital and community services leads to slower rehabilitation - and longer hospital stays. The inevitable result of this is tragedy and increased risk to the community as patients are denied essential care through a shortfall
in provision. The consultation period on these proposals will last until 30 September 2004.
Read more

LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFERENDUM CANCELLED
22/7/04: The referendum on whether to have regional assemblies in the north-west (see here) has been postponed. The government claims this is due to worries about irregularities in postal voting, but critics claim that it is because it looked likely there would be a "no" vote. The referendum in the north-east will go ahead in November as planned.

DIVERSITY FESTIVAL CALLS FOR CONTRIBUTIONS
22/7/04: Throughout October, the Lancaster District’s first ever Diversity Festival will take place, created by local people. A Steering Group of volunteers is currently putting together the programme for the festival, and they need your help.

An eye-catching logo, which sums up the ethos of the festival, is needed. The Steering Group is holding a logo-design competition, with a £20 book token for the winning entry, to be submitted by 9th August.

The Steering Group also needs to receive details of all diversity-related events that will be happening in October, so that they can be included in the festival publicity. The deadline for this is also 9th August.

Anyone can put on an event as part of the festival, as long as it supports at least one of the festival’s aims:

· Recognising and celebrating diversity
· Educating and awareness-raising
· Challenging discrimination
· Supporting long-term partnerships and programmes
· Bringing groups and individuals together
· Linking local and global issues

There are also seven themes: race and ethnicity, disability, gender, sexuality, age and religion.

Proposals so far include:
· an International Evening at Dallas Road School
· an interactive exhibition challenging media myths about asylum seekers
· a series of sexuality pride events, including film screenings and discos
· an integrated disability workshop and performance at the Nuffield Theatre

Emily Heath, a Steering Group member and City Councillor, said: “The Diversity Festival promises to be one of the biggest and most varied festivals that the Lancaster District has ever seen, with scores of individuals and organisations involved in making it happen.”

Donald Read, a Steering Group member who works in Health Promotion, said: “We hope that by celebrating people from all kinds of different backgrounds, we will help to make our community stronger, safer and more welcoming for everyone.”

If you would like to know more about the festival or submit a logo design or details of an event, please contact the Diversity Festival Steering Group c/o Global Link, 24a New Street, Lancaster LA1 1EG, tel: 01524 36201 or email: . More information can also be found on the web at: www.virtual-lancaster.net/diversity/

FREE BELLS FOR CYCLISTS
22/7/04 It’s not often you get something for nothing, but if you happen to be cycling along the cycle path between Lancaster and Halton on Sunday 25th July, you’ll be given a free bicycle bell! This opportunity is being offered by Dynamo, the Lancaster and District Cycle Campaign, whose spokesperson (no pun intended!) Dave Horton says “the expanding network of off-road paths in this area is great not only for cyclists of different ages and abilities, but for all kinds of people escaping from the noise and speed of our car-dominated roads. With a bell, people on bikes can alert dog-walkers, horse-riders and other path users of their approach. Although cyclists generally slow down when approaching other people using our local paths, and obviously don't endanger life in the same way as motor traffic, Dynamo thinks people should ding-ding, as a simple courtesy signalling their approach, rather than as a warning of danger.”

Dynamo will also be providing people with information about the current closure of the popular riverside path further upstream, at the Crook o'Lune bridges. The County Council predicts this off-road route to Caton and Brookhouse will remain closed well into next year. Speaking for the group, Patricia Clarke said, 'Dynamo finds the lengthy closure of this important route completely unsatisfactory. The County Council knew for a long time that the bridges need essential repairs. Their woeful lack of action suggests that cycling and walking still aren't being treated seriously enough by the Council, and continue to be given insufficient resources. For anyone wishing to express their frustration at the closure of this important leisure and commuting route, we will be handing out postcards which they can send to the County Council'.

You can pick up a free bell, and fill out a postcard, at Dynamo's stall at the old railway station at Denny Beck, Halton from 1:30, this Sunday, 25th July.

In 2008 the Virtual-Lancaster Local News Service was transferred to an online blog where readers can add their comments and updates.

You can search both this blog and the old archive using the purple search box above.

Virtual-Lancaster also has a Facebook Community Page where you can comment and add items.

If you have a news story, please tell us.

You can find links to other local and national media here.

This section includes all our earlier news stories, written by a large number of people with the help of many more. Thanks to all our contributors!

 


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