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FASCISTS SEEK LANCASTER SEAT
25/5/06: The British National Party has put forward a candidate in
the upcoming council by election for Skerton West.
Only three people are campaigning for the seat vacated after the death
of Labour Councillor Janet Horner in February: Conservative Debbie Jane
Buck, BNP candidate Christopher Lawrence Hill and Labour's Robert Paul
The BNP has canvassed Skerton in the past without fielding candidates,
and BNP offshoot England First has fielded candidates in Morecambe.
MP IN NEW MOVE TO STOP BYPASS SCHEME
23/5/06: Morecambe MP Geraldine Smith is to meet new Government Ministers in Whitehall and representatives from the Government Office for the North West to try to kill off the much criticised plans for the controversial Heysham M6 Link road.
In her most forceful statement to date she says that the Northern route scheme should not be allowed to go ahead.
Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe reports that Geraldine believes that the massive road, linking Heysham Port to the M6, will not solve the chronic congestion problems of the Lancaster district and in fact the building of the road would make a solution to the problems virtually impossible to achieve.
Smith aregues that instead, a bridge should be built at the southern end of Lancaster to improve access and connect with Heysham. If the Northern route were built, it would rule out a southern bridge in the future.
In a letter setting out a long list of objections (click
here for a PDF of the letter), Smith argues that to justify the cost a road, it would have to make a significant contribution to solving the congestion problem and enhance the economic, environmental and social prospects of the area. Unfortunately, she says, the Northern Route fails to meet the needs of the district in these respects.
She also highlights the fact that the key Luneside regeneration area remains isolated and inaccessible under the present plan.
Geraldine argues that the initiative has revealed an apparent lack of concern for the people whose lives will be blighted by the air, noise and visual pollution. This, the MP states, is totally unacceptable, as is the pollution which people in the centre of Lancaster would continue to experience if the scheme went ahead.
Ms Smith also points to the lack of public consultation, and that she is not surprised by the outrage in the communities of those affected.
Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe, the independent group who favour
non road building solutions, broadly welcomed the MP's initiative.
support the building of any new road; so much can be achieved by alternative
ideas. But Geraldine Smith has exposed how inadequate and destructive this third
rate scheme is," says David Gate, chair of the group.
"Our MP is one of over 500 formal objectors; we hope that she can cut through the petty politics in Preston. There are new faces in Whitehall; we hope that they will take a more objective view."
TSLM says the County Council is now running well behind schedule with its Link Road proposal, as it attempts to redesign the plans to satisfy the concerns of other major objectors like the Environment Agency and English Heritage, and major increases in the cost of the scheme are anticipated.
A large number of people are demanding a public inquiry into the controversial scheme which destroys the North Lancashire Green Belt.
CANAL CORRIDOR PLANS DEBATE
13/5/06, updated 19/5/06: The City Council's Cabinet will discuss the "Canal
development on 20 June, discussing the proposal from preferred partner
Centros Miller, who have responded quickly to residents' recently-voiced
concerns about a huge retail development for the city which includes
a department store and mult-story car park. The discussion is part
of a "key decisions" meeting of Cabinet, discussing various
strategies for the Lancaster and Morecambe area.
The Corridor plans, a bold initiative to redevelop land around Mitchells
Brwery and Edward Street in Lancaster, include new premises for
the Muscians Co-op but centre on a large department store to anchor
the massive development.
The initial outline (see
this page for more information) has been met with fierce criticism
from some local residents, voiced through the It's Our City pressure
group, who made their first pubic statement about the proposals last
week. In it, they expressed disquiet at the manner in
which the proposed re-development of Lancaster City Centre was proceeding,
and fears over increased traffic, the nature of the development and
the tiny green space featured in the proposals.
very much welcome the continuing input of interest groups such as the
local residents organisation, 'It's Our City'," Centros Miller's Associate Director, David Lewis, told virtual-lancaster. "We
will soon be meeting them again in our third round of consultations
at the end of this month and we very much hope that many members of
the public will also come along to find out more and comment on the
progress we are making.
"The main issue that 'It's our City' has identified-- the
concern about traffic-- will be the major subject in this next round
of consultation," David reveals, "and also much further consultation in the months leading up
to the planning application. Other fears they are raising-- including
aspects of the actual design and their worries about the impact of the development-- are
simply premature at the moment as we are still only at the masterplanning stage
of this project. Therefore speculation about such issues at present is unnecessarily
negative and really only serves to raise some quite unfounded fears in the
minds of the public.
"In the next few months, we expect to start all the detailed design work
with the aim of submitting a planning application early in 2007. That process
will involve at least another six months of consultation and a huge amount
of work on the economic, transport and environmental aspects of the development.
This will all be part of the public planning process during which we aim to
fully engage in discussions with the public - so 'It's Our City' really
has nothing to fear about there not being enough consultation."
The proposals Centros Miller unveiled earlier this year could also be in trouble after the Council's own research
for the city -- still not discussed by either cabinet or full council,
despite being published for some months now -- suggested that two
new food super stores for Lancaster and Morecambe, more quality shopping
and careful consideration of "edge of town" retail developments would better serve
the area. That was the finding of a
106 page report on Retail Needs in the Lancaster and Morecambe area (PDF
document), which has been published by the Council.
"The huge report must be buried as it has certainly not been discused
to my knowledge," one councillor told Virtual-Lancaster. "It will probably
turn up at a planning meeting!"
Empty Shops numbers grow
Also on the agenda must surely be a recent report by Lancaster-based
which found that more than one in five business premises in the Lancaster
City district are vacant, costing, the group estimates, over £1million
in lost business rates last year. Centros Miller has responded to
Empty business properties in Lancaster City district cost the authorities £1,170,282.21
in the last financial year, but SCN believes the loss of revenue is anticipated
to be in the region of £2,500,000 if the Canal Corridor development
is given the go-ahead.
The research was commissioned because of concerns over council plans
to increase the size of the city centre by 50 per cent. There are widespread
fears of a dramatic increase in the number of empty business properties
in the district.
The research evaluated the potential effect of the Centros Miller Canal Corridor
development on the city centre, and took into account the impact of shops closing
down to move to the Canal Corridor site; and looked at how many
local businesses might be forced out of business by larger competitors moving
into the area.
Initial findings show that 21 per cent of commercial premises are already lying
empty, which SCN says contradicts Centros Miller claims in a
report to the council that demand for retailing space in the city is high and
they want to expand the shopping centre towards the canal.
The survey was conducted as part of an international study on the
effect of Empty Properties on Britain's town centres, due to be published by
the Locus Group in early in 2007. It also looks at how communities
end up as 'Clone Towns', a term describing high streets in Britain
which consist of standard 'identi-kit' selections of retailers. These are often
in regenerated or new-built town centres with standard architectural features.
want to oversee a major new development of the city centre here in Lancaster,
but these findings raise major questions," feels Dr Joel Harman, who carried
out the research in Lancaster. "The council will need to take a good hard
look at the impact of the plans before giving the go ahead.
"The number of empty properties is an issue that urgently needs to be addressed.
Nothing short of well thought out economic policies to support local businesses
will stop Lancaster becoming yet another identi-kit clone town."
Lancaster City Council do not keep detailed records of empty properties, and
were not able to provide information on their distribution. This meant that researchers
had to analyse the statistics to find out which type of properties are affected.
What they found was that most of the empty properties are small to medium and
are office and retail units.
This confirms surveys conducted by local people
over the last few years, including the photographic exhibition of empty Lancaster
shops entitled Desolation, featured by local media in September 2002: www.eco-action.org/lancaster/grassroot/Desolation/
Centros Miller has hit back at SCN's report however. "You simply can't conclude that revenue is being lost from businesses
that don't exist," argues spokesperson Steve Bryson. "Such negative headlines derived from very shaky research are simply
aimed at creating a climate of fear of development and do nothing
to examine how Lancaster needs to respond to competing major developments
in Preston and elsewhere.
"It would appear that some 'think tank' in Oxford has -
out of the blue - decided to commission a local Lancaster firm
of IT and training consultants to undertake a survey of business premises
in Lancaster. From your coverage and that of the Lancaster Guardian's,
the Oxford think tank has left a veil over its background, credentials
and motives in this field and, judging by their website, the local
consultants do not seem to have any expertise in property at all.
"As any local shopper can tell, Lancaster's prime shopping street - Penny
Street - has a very minimal vacancy rate," Steve points out. "Therefore, to create their 'one in five' headline, the researchers
must have included properties across the city without distinguishing
between relative sizes or locations in prime, secondary or tertiary
retail areas. Plus it would seem from the media reports that they have
added empty offices and other business premises into the figures while
applying their conclusions mainly to retail.
"They then go on to make some wild and unsupported generalisations about
loss of income to the city and some completely imagined effects of
Centros Miller's development proposals. But there's no proper
examination of whether existing empty premises are remotely suitable
for current business needs, and you simply cannot conclude that empty
properties equate to lost business rates income for the council or
even failing businesses. (Indeed, it could even be a measure of success
if it turned out that many businesses had actually outgrown small or
"They also conclude - with absolutely no evidence - that Centros Miller's
proposed development will have the effect of emptying another batch
of unspecified properties and thereby lose the council a further £1.5
million in business rates income," Steve says. "This is simply laughable when, other than
a department store, we haven't even got to the stage when the
exact mix of uses on the Canal Corridor North site can be determined,
let alone any impact be quantified." Steve also points out that to the proposed development will offer a full mix of residential,
retail, leisure, cultural, office and local workshop uses, not just
retail as the people behind this survey and others misrepresent it
"When we do get to the stage of preparing to submit a planning application,
then there will be a full retail impact assessment study undertaken
by real experts in the retail property field," sasys Steve. "That will be a public
document and the evidence provided and conclusions drawn will no doubt
be debated in much detail at the time.
"In the meantime, perhaps it might be more constructive for the doom
mongers to focus on the 'do nothing' scenario and the potential
impact that might have on Lancaster's economy, employment and
environment. If the proposed major developments in Preston and other
Lancashire towns go ahead, it is quite possible that business and jobs
will be sucked out of the city and many shoppers will simply bypass
Lancaster because it doesn't provide a comparable attraction.
They then might find that their fabricated 'one in five' headline
of today may unfortunately have a very unwelcome ring of truth about
can read a full response to It's Our City's objections from Centros Miller
here - PDF format document
13/5/06: Freewheeling again: the Environment Agency has now carried out
the resurfacing of the 'Glass track' on the footpath diversion through
Lancaster's Freeman's Wood and it's now safe to use again for cyclists
"There's a small amount of the recycled aggregate that contains the glass that
was used to fill a puddle on the permanent path through the wood," says Green
councillor Chris Coates, one of the prime movers behind a campaign to get the
path fixed (see earlier story). "We're trying to get the council to clear this
with the speedy reaction of the Environment Agency in dealing with this potentially
NUKES BACK ON AGENDA
13/5/06: In a move that could see new developments at Heysham and Sellafield
locally, one change in the recent shak-up of the national Cabinet was the arrival of pro-nuclear ian Pearson at DEFRA, moving from the Department of Trade and Industry to become the new minister of state
"for climate change and the environment". Campaigners against nuclear power have suggested he's clearly been moved to get
DEFRA on side with nuclear power.
Pearson, now responsible for the
climate change review, emissions energy issues, fuel poverty, and transport
and the environment, is a leading nuclear advocate, defender of free trade
and the privatisation of water and electricity in developing countries. "My
personal view is that we ought to look at a limited new-build nuclear
told the national Guardian. "That strikes me as pretty much a no-brainer. It is the
right thing to do."
His views have been met with derision by anti-nuclear campaigners.
"Worldwide, $175 billion has been spent on
nuclear power research and development since 1979, which is much more than
the total expenditure on all the many forms of renewable energy put
together," feels Dr Stuart Parkinson, Director of Scientists for
Global Responsibility, speaking
at a recent local meeting about nucelar power. "Despite this, renewable energy technologies still supply more
energy worldwide than nuclear, and are expanding at a faster rate. Added to
this, radioactive waste and nuclear security still pose major problems."
"If we're to tackle global warming, we
can't wait the ten years or so it will take to build each new nuclear power
station," argued Green Councillor Chris Coates, "especially when their carbon emissions (taking into account
uranium mining and decommissioning) are higher than many alternative energy
IS YOUR VOICE HEARD?
13/5/06: Lancaster Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) is looking to involve members of
under represented groups in Lancaster (eg LGBT community, women's and youth
groups), to volunteer with the CAB service and ensure the community needs
are met. Volunteers are at the heart of the Citizen's Advice service.
Volunteers not only have a crucial role to play in the service today, but
are also crucial to how we develop the service tomorrow.
CAB provides free advice/ information/ guidance/ support and campaigns against
unfair social policies and services. We recognise the positive value of
diversity, promote equality and challenge discrimination. Volunteers at
CAB will be able to improve awareness of these issues to the community,
which in turn will help to reduce discrimination and social exclusion.
No experience is necessary for volunteers at Lancaster CAB. All volunteers
are given free training, all expenses will be paid and continued support is
provided. There are at present a variety opportunities for volunteering
(advisors, campaigners, administration, Trustee Board members, case support
workers). Lancaster CAB has always had a consistently good record of
enabling volunteers through their training to move into paid employment.
• For further information please contact: Lancaster Citizen's Advice
Bureau, 87 Kings Street, Lancaster LA1 1RH Tel: 08451 264 264 Email: email@example.com
CYCLING GUIDE LAUNCHED
13/5/06: Lancaster City Council has launched a colourful new guide to tempt
both locals and visitors alike to enjoy the wide range of cycling routes through
our city, coast and countryside.
Lancaster with Morecambe is just one of six places in the country to be named
a 'cycling demonstration town' and boasts the largest cycling network
The eight-page cycling magazine, will be dropping through every door
in the district from next week, and includes competitions to win two bikes.
With £1.5M. of funding over the next three years from the Department of
Transport to show how increased investment can encourage more people to get on
their bikes and enjoy cycling in the district, Lancaster City Council has produced
the Cycle for All Guide to provide at-a-glance information about six great rides
for you, your friends and family to enjoy.
Featuring stunning photography by Jon Sparks and his experience as a writer of
guides for both ramblers and cyclists, the guide takes you from the bustling
heart of the city to the open spaces and stunning views of the Lune Valley, to
the breezy shores of Morecambe, along canal paths to Carnforth and tidal trails
from Lancaster to Sunderland Point.
For those who enjoy a more demanding ride on mixed terrain, the guide offers
the Halton and the Bay route which celebrates cycling in our city, coast and
countryside all in one day.
Coun Gina Dowding, member of the Cycling Demonstration Town Project Board said: "These
rides highlight what a wonderful area this is to live in and visit and what better
way to see and experience the beauty of the district than on a bicycle - you
really get to be part of the environment rather than just looking at it."
• The cycling guide is now available, free of charge, from Lancaster and Morecambe
TIC or by visiting the new celebrating cycling website www.celebratingcycling.org
BARKER REMAINS COUN CO0UNCIL LEADER
A Full Council meeting saw the re-election of Coun Ian Barker as its
leader for a further term of office on Thursday.
Barker also proposed the nine members for the Cabinet comprising
Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green councillors who were also re-elected
for a further year with just one change. Coun John Gilbert
has replaced Coun Joyce Pritchard, who has given up her seat on Cabinet
to become the Deputy Mayor this year.
There has been a
change in the chairmanship of the Overview and Scrutiny with Liberal
Coun Stuart Langhorn elected as Chairman. Coun Tony Wade is the new
chairman of the Licensing Act Committee, and Coun James Airey, who
recently stood down as leader of the local Tories, will chair the
Licensing Regulatory Committee.
Here's a list of all Council committee chairs:
Overview and Scrutiny: Stuart Langhorn
Budget and Performance Panel: Keith Budden
Licensing Act: Tony Wade
Licensing Regulatory: James Airey
Planning and Highways Regulatory: Roger Sherlock
Personnel: Paul Gardner
Appeals: Sheila Denwood
Audit: Malcolm Thomas
Appraisal Panel (cannot be the Leader): James Airey
Standards: Stephen Lamley
Council Business: Susan Bray
Local Governance: Maggie Chadwick
BABY BABES VANISH
13/5/06: Ivan Opinion couldn't help but notice that there was no advertisement
for "Bay Babes" in the Lancaster/Morecambe Guardian this
earlier story), although in a way he
must register some disappointment because now he will never be able
out the identity and location of massage parlours No's 2,3, 4 and so on!
THURSDAY LECTURES BEGIN
13/5/06: An exciting new project of Popular Education is starting up in Lancaster
under the umbrella of Autonomous University of Lancaster, called the
Thursday Lectures. Every second and fourth Thursday of the month there
will be a lecture with plenty of time for questions and discussion. The
lectures will cover a broad range of topics - see our diary below - and
will be presented by people who have been concerned with the issue for a
long time and have explored it in depth. However, the Thursday Lectures
are based on the principle that everyone can learn from everyone else, and
that the division between teacher and student is an unhelpful one. People
are free to simply come and listen, and hopefully learn, and everyone can
participate in the discussions, which is where most of the mutual learning
will take place.
The Autonomous University of Lancaster is a concept, rather than a body or
organisation. It was developed at the end of 2005 by students and
lecturers from Lancaster University, University of Central Lancashire, and
others. An initial series of lectures took place last autumn on campus
which was successful and people enjoyed but a summer programme has now
been arranged, to take place in town, at the Friends' Meeting House.
• For more details of the lectures, see our What's On Pages
The huge pile of rubbish collected from the banks of the Lune last
week. Pic: John Freeman
MEET THE CLEAN UP SQUAD!
12/5/06: Eleven volunteers took part in a litter pick along
the bank of the river Lune last weekend-- and collected 50 bin
bags of rubbish. They will be back in action again this coming weekend
-- but more volunteers are welcome to join them.
The volunteers, who were mainly from Skerton and St. Geroege's Quay,
scoured the riverbanks from the Millennium Bridge to Carlisle Bridge
last Saturday and collected two bikes, estate agents' boards,
street signs, metal fencing, traffic cones and a street bollard, in
addition to 50 bin bags of general rubbish.
These were sorted into recyclables and non-recyclable rubbish and the recycleable
bits were recycled by Lancaster City Council. The council supplied gloves and
litter picking equipment.
The litter pick was organised by Couns Jon Barry and Chris Coates after they
were inspired by local resident Roger Pearce who has often fished trolleys out
of the riverbed.
Following his example, Lancaster City Council worked together with the Duchy
of Lancaster (who own the river up to the high water mark) to clean up the river
bed in March.
"This was a tremendous effort by the volunteers," commented Jon Barry.
"It just goes to show what can be done when people roll their sleeves up and
get involved. Let's
hope that the area stays clean for some time to come.'
It's just a shame that one bag that was missed by the collection team on the
Monday following the pick was subsequently set alight and its contents strewn
across the approach to the Millennium Bridge, making the area as messy as ever
-- but fortunately, a second litter pick will take place this Sunday (14th) at
Carlisle Bridge from 1.30pm.
• To encourage everyone to work together to put litter where
it belongs, the council launched its 'Putting Litter in its Place' campaign
at the beginning of April. If you would like to organise a litter pick please
contact Helena Lewis 01524 582439.
Previous stories: 1 - 11 May
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