15 - 30 September 2007
Next stories: 16 - 31 October 2007
SMITH PROUD TO BE POST OFFICE UNION MEMBER, MORE CUTS ON WAY
12/10/07: Speaking in a House of Commons debate about the post office strike on Thursday, Morecambe MP Geraldine Smith declared herself proud to be a member of the Communication Workers Union currently involved in industrial action against the Post Office in protest against work changes.
Smith also challenged John Hutton, the Secretary of State, Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform on why the Government is refusing to intervene in this dispute, which is costing Royal Mail millions of pounds and inflicting countless damage on hundreds, if not thousands, of other businesses across the country.
Hutton told Smith that the government's role in the dispute was, he felt, " to speak up for the public and for the taxpayer.
"We are not going to take sides in this dispute," he said, after speculation from Conservatives that the lack of intervention might also in part be due top CWU donations to the Labour party, which Hutton also rejected.
"I think that it is entirely proper that the management and the unions negotiate the terms and conditions for people in Royal Mail. I am not, for example, going to intervene to provide further funding to support a different offer to Royal Mail staff. We have given Royal Mail substantial investment, and it must operate within those investments and ensure that the taxpayer gets a return on them. I believe that the offer that has been made to Royal Mail staff is a decent and fair one, and I hope that this industrial dispute ends as quickly as possible."
In other Post Office news, Lancaster MP Ben Wallace has called for protest now to stop further cuts to post office services and closures of more post offices. The Royal Mail expects to announce any proposals for closures of more local post offices next year and consult with the public then, but Ben Wallace says raising concerns now may help many rural offices he fears are under threat.
Lancaster and Morecambe has already suffered swingeing cuts to post office services which former Lancaster MP Hilton Dawson did little to try and stop.
Under the Post Office's Network Change Programme, consulting on possible Post Office closures will commence in May 2008. It is expected that at least 2,500 more post offices across the country will close because the organisation says they are not profitable.
Thousands of people up and down the country are protesting at the changes, arguing the closure of rural and sub post offices damages communities and they needs to be seen as assets beyond their Post Office role by the government.
Further Information On Closures•
Postwatch is an independent organisation set up to ensure that Royal Mail and any licensed postal providers give the best service possible to the customer. The organisation says it will investigate every proposal to ensure that customers' reasonable access to post office services is retained.
This Is Money Save Your Post Office Campaign
This Is Money reported in October 2007 that Post Office boss Alan Cook promised that the latest branch closures would be handled sensitively and that customers would have a big say in which branches remained. But having ordered postmasters not to speak about the closures, it appears that the handling of the first shutdowns is nothing but a mess. Customers and postmasters are deeply unhappy.
The Liberal Democrats
The Liberal Democrats have a petition to stop more closures on their web site but the page doesn't seem to have been updated for a while
GETTING IT LOUD
12/10/07: Well done all of you who voted for Lancaster Library’s Get It Loud in Libraries project which stuffed rival finalists Birmingham, Derbyshire, Grangetown and Lambeth library services to win the national ‘I Love Libraries’ award and a cheque for £2000 to spend on a decent PA. Music Librarian Stewart Parsons said, “To pitch great bands into the unique traditional library setting and allow all ages to come and enjoy the music is, for me, the best use of space in an after hours setting.”
You can read Tamar Newton’s (VL’s new Lois Lane) review of their last gig, with headliners Los Campesinos here.
Their next gig is a new departure – Laugh Out Loud in Libraries, launched by brilliantly funny comedian Lucy Porter (I’ve seen her twice now and I’m definitely going) on Sunday 21 October. 8pm. It’s a ridiculously cheap £5 considering she’s hardly ever off the telly, but the show is selling out fast so get a move on. Tickets from the Library.
CENTROS IN PORTSMOUTH:
DEVELOPMENT COSTS SOAR
12/10/07: The Portsmouth News (www.portsmouth.co.uk) reports this week that development costs for their Centros Miller development (similar to one currently proposed for Lancaster) have rocketed from the originally estimated £350 million to £500 million, because of scarcity of contractors, due to demand from the London Olympics, rising costs of materials and the recent banking crisis – which hit Northern Rock – increasing the interest Centros Miller pays on money borrowed to bankroll the scheme. Concerns have also been raised about the terms of the development agreement between the council and Centros Miller.
University of Portsmouth economic analyst Dr Michael Asteris warned that the shopper could ultimately 'pay the price'. He said: 'It is obvious Centros Miller will have to raise rent if the capital costs go up.
'A percentage of profit share means both parties are carrying the risk, so it's possible Centros Miller might try to renegotiate the profit share percentage if they are making less out of it.
'It could cost the council millions.'
News editor of Construction News David Rogers said: 'Centros have got to find that £150m from somewhere.
'The big boys such as John Lewis and Marks & Spencer will be able to afford a rent hike but it will squeeze out the smaller shops.'
However Steve Bryson, a spokesman for Centros Miller, said rents would not go up, but refused to comment on whether Centros Miller would re-negotiate profits with the council. He added: “The costs reflect an investment in Portsmouth which will create up to 3,000 jobs and transform the city's economic horizon.”
Lib Dem regeneration boss Mike Hancock confirmed that both parties could agree to change the terms of the profit share but refused to speculate further.
God help them.
12/10/07: The Green Party have announced that Gina Dowding will be their candidate in the next parliamentary election. The Lib Dems have already selected Stuart Langhorn. Boundary changes mean that Conservative MP Ben Wallace will be hoping to represent his chums in the defence industry from a different constituency. The Conservatives have selected London Borough of Hackney councillor Eric Ollerenshaw (you can find out more about him at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Ollerenshaw). However it really seems a waste for the Conservatives to go to all the bother and expense of standing now that all they have to do is decide the policies and then delegate them to Labour to do the work. But sadly Labour are also again unable to field a local candidate. Perhaps the Conservatives could recommend someone?
PARK AND PLAY
12/10/07: Years of hard work by local residents has paid off as installation of a new £38,000 children’s play area in Greaves Park begins this week.
The project was the idea of the Friends of Greaves Park who felt that better facilities were needed for young children to play. Members of the group have worked closely with environmental regeneration charity Groundwork and officers from Lancaster City Council to make the idea a reality.
The play area will be located on the grassed area of the park in front of the Greaves Park public house. The site will be fully fenced for safety and will be divided into two areas, for toddlers and under-12s, to maximise the use of the site for children of all ages.
Abi Mills, Treasurer for the Friends of Greaves Park said: “We’re really pleased that the play area is finally being installed to provide local children with a safe and fun place to play. We would like to thank Groundwork, City Council Officers and all project funders for the support we have been given to make this project a reality.”
Work on site is expected to last for around two weeks and a celebration event will be held on completion to officially open the site and acknowledge the support of all partners who have been involved.
For more details about this project, or to find out more about potential support for projects in your area, please contact Groundwork on 01942 821444 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
12/10/07: The Lancaster and Morecambe Vision Board are consulting about transport strategy and they’d like to hear your views so that their recommendation for a new link road from Heysham to the motorway won’t look as if it just comes from the Power Station and the Port of Heysham. There will be staffed exhibitions in St Nicolas Arcade on Friday 26 October & Saturday 3 November (9am – 5.30pm) and unstaffed in Lancaster and Morecambe Libraries from Monday 22 October - Saturday 3 November.
The Vision can be viewed at www.l-m-vision.org. It’s a 42 page document and the whole plan boils down to: 1. Get the Link Road. 2. errr, that’s it. (Ok there’s a lot of stuff about ‘Rebranding the District’ which is basically just a black hole for public funding.)
The City Council’s Air Quality Action Plan, which is supposed to address the grave problem of traffic pollution in Lancaster City Centre, is waiting on the results of the Vision Board’s ‘consultation’ in the hope that they will come up with some useful ideas. However given that traffic studies already show that a northern motorway link road would not have any significant impact on city traffic, we could all be gasping for a while yet.
Here’s my vision for an improved Lancaster & Morecambe: I see Professor Paul Wellings, Chair of the Vision Board and Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster University, sitting on clean, punctual, cheap and intelligently-routed public transport to get to work and to meetings every day.
If that’s not their No1 goal, then why are they getting all that public funding?
COUNCIL SNUBS RESIDENTS' PLEA FOR CONSULTATION
"WHAT GOOD WILL THAT DO?"
11/10/07: Councillors at Lancaster City Council's Cabinet meeting on Tuesday snubbed Scotforth residents who asked them to defer putting Lawson's Field up for marketing as a new supermarket site, voting 8-2 to put the land up for marketing immediately.
Green Councillor Johnn Barry pointed out that such a proposal should normally be given three months prior notice to allow proper public consultation by councillors.
In this case the item had been sneaked on to the Agenda under a report restricted from public viewing, entitled misleadingly "Capital Programme – Receipts report". Green councillors had only realised in the preceding week what the agenda item really referred to. Even so with only four days to go before the meeting a considerable public outcry had resulted, with a demonstration being called on the land in question and councillors receiving hundreds of emails asking for the item to be deferred.
In response to the complaints the report had been made available to the public. It did not contain any material that could justify the original restriction - except that it was a subject that was known would provoke controversy, the land in question having been subject to a Public Inquiry in recent years.
Under the 5-minute rule Tim Hamilton-Cox addressed the cabinet pointing out that the report, prepared under the auspices of John Donellon, Director for Regeneration, misquoted the council's recent retail survey prepared by consultants White, Young, Green (WYG), in that it used the section in which they said there was capacity for another supermarket in the area, but left out the following paragraphs in which they emphasised that such a development should be located centrally to anchor the current commercial centre rather than diminish it, and that government guidelines were opposed to out-of-town supermarket developments as detrimental to communities and the local economy overall.
Mike Hardy, speaking for the South Lancaster residents Associaltion and also for Scortforth Parish Council, of which he is the Chair, expressed how shocked these organisations were at the City Council's secrecy in pursuance of this matter, bypassing the proper planning stuctures without any consultation or discussion with local residents and the organisations specifically set up to enable such communications. He noted that the Whinney Carr Public Inquiry had demonstrated that there was strong public opposition to development on that land and had found that the local roads, already heavily congested, would be unable to cope with a housing development, which would result in a half-mile tailback on the A6 - and yet a supermarket would generate considerably more traffic still. He pressed the cabinet to defer the item to enable proper public consultation.
Susan Jackson, a Scotforth Road resident also addressed the cabinet. She stated that the area had a strong community and that her family had chosen to live there because of this. She believed that a supermarket placed on Lawson's Field would destroy this community and damage the city as a whole. She had gathered over 90 statements of use of the field for community activities going back over 30 years and planned to submit a Town Green application to protection the field. She said that it should rightfully be the council's job to do this.
Jane Fletcher, Green Councillor for Scotforth West, pointed out that national and regional goverment guidelines oppose the siting of supermarkets on out-of-town sites as these increased carbon emmissions, distributed goods inefficiently and leeched money away from the local economy.
Green Councillor Emily Heath (Scotforth West) said that the issue had been dealt with improperly and the only reason that the report had eventually been made public had been because of the public outcry when the whistle had been blown on it. She pointed out that such strategies destroy public trust in the council and noted that even with only a few days warning opposition had proved fierce and it seemed likely that proper consultation would unearth substantial opposition to the supermarket proposal.
She asked why had the report been restricted? Why had the proper three months notice not been given? Why were ward councillors not consulted? This was clearly an attempt to pass a matter through to a point were it could be presented as a fait accompli, as the Centros Miller proposal had been. She also pointed out to the chair of the meeting, Councillor Roger Mace, (who was clearly in support of the supermarket proposal), that when a grass verge in his Nether Kellet constituency had been mooted for sale, he had been up in arms and had been vehement that such matters should never be considered without full public consultation. She asked that he should apply the same standards to this item.
Regeneration Director John Donellon and Chief Executive Mark Cullinan both stressed that the lack of notice and restriction on the item had been an 'oversight'. Both of them said, at different times in the meeting that those who know them would know that they would not attempt to push any item through secretly or improperly. Sadly this didn't cut much ice with the viewing public, who only knew that a piece of land recently the subject of a major planning controversy and Public Inquiry in which the council was soundly defeated, had been secretly brought to cabinet in a misleadingly titled report, restricted from public view, in which the piece of land was only vaguely referred to, for approval to have it put our to tender for a supermarket development, which was sure to be controversial, without the proper period of public notice, or any of the proper consultation.
Councillors seemed to have little grasp of the financial issues involved and were unwilling to challenge the officers, who appeared to be herding them rather like sheep. The officers said that the 2008 books wouldn't balance if this land were not sold off to a supermarket.
John Barry pointed out that is unlikely that even if the process goes ahead that any money could be seen within the timeframe as it will be delayed by the Town Green application and there will undoubtedly be another public inquiry. It is unlikely to get through such a procedure (which will actually cost the council a great deal of money), particularly as a lower impact development proposal has already failed.
Councillor Mace fed John Donellon the question of what works the council would be unable to pursue. without this money. John Donellon said after some hesitation that it was mainly refurbishment, then he thought a bit more and said 'playgrounds'.
There were no figures and no-one asked to see any. John Barry pointed out that earlier in the year cabinet had determined that the council's built assets should be assessed for potential sales value. Apparently this had not been done.
When asked why not, John Donellon stonewalled saying that the assets that had appeared to be available at that time were no longer available although it was not specified what he was referring to.
The meeting was bizarrely like a dumbed-down version of 'Yes Minister' with most councillors doing nothing to question secrecy, improper procedures and woolly accounting, and actually colluding in open contempt for the electorate.
What had cabinet councillors to say when asked to defer the item in order for proper consultation with residents, businesses and local organisations to take place? John Gilbert (Lib Demr, Scotforth East) said, "there is no need to defer, marketing will take some time and people will have time to consult later as much as they want". The fact that it is the councillors who are supposed to consult their constituents seems to have passed him by.
Labour Councllor for John O'Gaunt, Eileen Blamire, said "How would doing a
consultation help us? What good would that do? I need a reason and I can't see one."
And the Conservative leader of the Council, Councillor Roger Mace said "we've had lots
of emails, I have received over 100, so there has been a consultation already". Despite the fact that these were 100% asking for the item to be deferred he blithely voted for the land to be marketed.
The only councillors who voted for deferment were the two Green councillors on the Cabinet, John Barry and Maia Whitelegg. The Councillors who voted for the land to be marketed, without delay for consultation or proper notice and planning procedures to be observed were: Roger Mace (Con),
Evelyn Archer (MBI),
June Ashworth (MBI),
Eileen Blamire (Lab),
Abbott Bryning (Lab),
John Gilbert (Lib Dem),
Val Histed (Con) and
David Kerr (MBI).
Ironically a series of ‘public consultation’ workshops were scheduled to begin soon, under the auspices of Councillor Stuart Langhorn, looking at the Council’s draft Corporate Plan and budget proposals for the three-year period commencing 2008/09.
Just three weeks ago Councillor Langhorn said, “It is really important that the public tell us what they think about the proposed priorities. "The council is here to provide services for the people of the district; it is only right that the public help to shape those priorities."
And back then Councillor Mace said; “I am pleased that despite differences between the five political groups in cabinet that are highlighted from time to time, we have been able to come together on this occasion in support of this draft document. Cabinet is showing its confidence that the proposals are broadly appropriate. In sending the document out to public consultation, cabinet is not asking in ignorance what it should do, but is seeking confirmation that the consensus it has reached is a reasonable basis for establishing the council's programme for 2008-9. “When the consultation is complete, the next challenge for the council will be to translate our collective intentions into an agreed action plan which can be financed within our available resources.
However there is no mention in the draft corporate plan of a supermarket. It seems that, before Tesco got in touch, they had the budget under control, but now apparently, they don’t. And now they don’t need any consultation either.
PEDESTRIAN ACCIDENT ON KING STREET
11/10/07: A pedestrian was knocked down on King's Street near
the pedestrain crossing by the Market this lunchtime, but members of
the public were quick to help the lady before the police and ambulance
arrived. Traffic inevitably backed up King Street but was diverted
by a quick-thinking member of the public until police took over.
DIVERSITY FM ON AIR
11/10/07: Lancaster & Morecambe’s Community Radio Station, Diversity FM, has been on the air for one month now, broadcasting across the district on 103.5FM, the station offers a mix of live and recorded material round the clock.
The station offers live shows from 11am – 4pm every day, with a mix of presenters bringing their own style of show to the airwaves. Content will be broad and will include a variety of music and features of local interest. The rest of the time the station broadcasts pre-recorded material.
Volunteer Coordinator Duncan Moore said, “The music shows we will be broadcasting are very diverse and include gospel, deep-south American blues, soul, world music and dance. There will of course be other content that the people of the district will find of interest, documentaries about local subjects, interviews with local people, comedy and drama written by local writers and discussion programmes that deal with local issues.”
The station has gone through a few minor teething problems as presenters have been learning that not all of their usual conversational content is appropriate for live broadcast and there have been one or two complaints about language and some of the more ‘alternative’ sounds chosen for play by volunteer presenters. However it’s a great listen with some excellent sounds and I haven’t heard anything unsuitable for family listening on it (but I keep hoping!-) – the team have overcome endless hurdles to get this station up and running and are doing an amazing job.
Whilst the station is about creating radio, it has a wider purpose. Diversity FM is an open project that encourages people from all corners of the community to volunteer to work on the station and no experience or knowledge of radio production is necessary. It aims to provide training, resources and support that will help strengthen the skills, abilities and confidence of local people so that they can take leading roles in the development of their own communities and in the wider district.
There are over 80 volunteers creating the programmes giving local people new opportunities to express themselves creatively and a new voice on local issues.
Voluntary organisations and small businesses can promote their work and take advantage of cheap advertising rates as Diversity FM have “a talented creative team who work in-house with the latest technology to produce quality adverts and public information announcements.” Check them out on 103.5 FM or listen online at www.diversityfm.co.uk.
Anyone of any age or background interested in working as a volunteer on Diversity FM can contact Angela or Duncan at email@example.com or 01524 383394 or write to Diversity FM Fleet Square, Lancaster LA1 1HA.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: ANGRY RESIDENTS CAMP ON PROPOSED SECRET SUPERMARKET SITE
8/10/07: A group of angry local residents moved on to the council-owned field between the Texaco garage and the pumping station on the Scotforth A6 south of Lancaster this morning.
Calling themselves the Lancaster Citizens' Alliance the group are up in arms about the discovery that the City Council cabinet had scheduled a secret discussion of plans to sell off the land to a supermarket. Their message: they will not allow the council to sell off their town for what they call "dodgy development".
The occupation will last for 24 hours and will be followed by a protest outside the Cabinet meeting tomorrow (Tuesday 9 Oct) at Lancaster Town Hall from 9.30am onwards which all are invited to join.
Residents are concerned about the way the Council is selling off Lancaster piecemeal, following up the universally criticised Kingsway development with extensive retail development proposals from Centros Miller, more for Lawson's Quay (Parliament Street), a giant science and industry park for the green belt between the university and the city, and now this supermarket, leading to a town crippled by gridlock, and having only "clone town" shops that are to be found in any high street in the country.
"The council is blinkered when it comes to recognising the historical value of our town, the vibrancy and high quality of the local traders." says Stephen Dickinson of Scotforth. "They sold off our market - it's now half dead. Now they want to see off the rest of the town centre with Centros Miller's proposed monstrosity and this mega supermarket in Scotforth. The time has come to say 'Enough!'. It's time for our councillors to listen to us!"
Against a background of passing cars hooting support for the protesters, South Road resident Ian Chamberlain told Virtual-Lancaster:
"I am just shocked at how such important decisions are being discussed in secret. If it hadn't been for Councillor Heath blowing the whistle on it, we wouldn't have found out about it until it was too late.
"On South Road we are very aware of just how busy this road is. It cannot take any more cars. The whole infrastructure of the city would have to be changed around this supermarket.
"I have talked to a number of local residents and we are all concerned because this would mean the end of the local shops and of Booths. Booths sells ethically and locally-sourced produce - it's a better store and it supports local suppliers.
Another supermarket would mean that for a short-term gain the council would ensure that the area will achieve none of its goals in terms of tourism, industry and trade.
"Are these the same councillors who say they support tourism? What tourists consistently go for is small, independent shops. This proposal will destroy local suppliers and businesses.
Local resident Deirdre Mason said: "The council may love the idea of Tesco's, Centros Miller and the Bailrigg Science Park, but local residents are concerned about the threat to local businesses and the unique character of the city! These developments will be the death of Lancaster. Time to say ENOUGH! to all these sordid schemes. Let's send a clear message to all these developers: they are not welcome in our town."
MORECAMBE TRADERS STUNNED TO DISCOVER COUNCIL'S PLANS TO CLOSE YORKSHIRE STREET
8/10/07: Traders in Morecambe's Yorkshire Street - one of the last bastions of local independent trading the area - were stunned to discover, when chatting to a workman, that the street is to be closed off for three months in the new year for regeneration work as part of the Winning Back the West End plan.
"I saw this man measuring something in the street as I was passing and asked him, chattily, what he was up to", said a local trader. "I was shocked when he told me and immediately phoned the Town Hall, which confirmed the news.
"Local traders are desperately worried about the impact this will have on business," he said. "It is incredible that the council should be planning such a lengthy street closure without any prior warning. What were they going to do, send us a letter for Christmas?"
A meeting was arranged with local traders to take place on Thursday evening to look at ways in which the disruption can be minimised.
Update: 12/10/07: Council officials sent their apologies to the meeting arranged for yesterday (Thursday) evening and did not turn up. About 30 Yorkshire Street traders were present though to discuss their concerns - and while they were in their meeting a letter was delivered to all their premises inviting them to a drop-in information session at the Clarendon Hotel next Wednesday from 4.30-7pm.
Traders are not impressed by what they see as an attempt to split them up and sideline their very real concerns about access and loading.
They are calling for a proper meeting to discuss ways in which the disruption can be managed.
City Council Regeneration Officer Tom Brown told Virtual-Lancaster last Tuesday: "Lancaster City Council is committed to making the West End of Morecambe a great place to live, work and play.
Public consultation on the Masterplan was undertaken in September and December 2004. In February 2005 Lancaster City Council agreed the West End Masterplan, part of which included the classification of Yorkshire Street as an area in need of ‘high’ intervention.
"As a high priority Masterplan project proposals were developed to revitalise and regenerate Yorkshire Street and in 2006 we consulted on these plans, which included its possible pedestrianisation. Following the consultation, and the strong message received from traders objecting to pedestrianisation, the plans were reworked and have now resulted in the current scheme which briefly consists of:
* Retention of one-way traffic network and short term parking, to maintain the life of the street
* High quality paving and surface treatments
* Create the feel of a quality shopping area through quality design.
"We have already started the process of consulting residents and traders to inform them of the plans. Their comments will be taken onboard and used to shape the development.
From our initial findings we believe the majority of people are in favour of the plans.
We are talking to those who have some concerns to see how we can allay any fears they may have regarding car parking arrangements and access to the street. We are committed to minimising disruption during the implementation of the improvements and will work to mitigate disruption to businesses. "
It's not immediately clear at this point how not turning up to a meeting translates in regeneration-speak as "talking to those who have some concerns", but we are following developments with great interest and there is certainly still time to sort out this muddle. A generous half a million pounds has been allocated by the council for the much-needed Yorkshire Street facelift – now it’s just a matter of making sure that it survives the operation!
ASA UPHOLDS COMPAINT AGAINST LANCASTER CHAMBER OF COMMERCE'S UNTRUE LINK ROAD ADVERT
8/10/07: The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld a complaint against Lancaster Chamber of Commerce for its advertisement supporting the Northern Link Road proposals. The advert carried a list of local businesses and claimed that they had all contributed to the cost of the ad and all supported the Northern Link. In fact many of the businesses named had declined to to make any contribution toward toward the costs and some were not aware that they were to be named in an advert. Folly, the Lancaster-based digital arts organisation, actually issued a press release denying any support for the Link and clarifying that they had never given consent to be included in the ad, which had come as a big surprise to them!
The ad was timed for use at the Public Inquiry into the Link Road by local estate agent David Taylor, claiming to speak for the Chamber of Commerce in support of the Link.
The Chamber of Commerce has declined to make any comment regarding the ASA's decision, as has the Lancaster Citizen, in which the advert appeared.
24 HOUR PROTEST CAMP PLANNED AGAINST COUNCIL'S SECRET SUPERMARKET SCHEME
6/10/07: The discovery that Lancaster City Council is secretly considering selling a field south of the city for a new supermarket has sparked a mass of complaints to councillors and a 24 hour protest is planned to take place on the designated site at Lawson's Field, which is the first field past the Texaco garage on the west side of the A6 as you leave the city southward - just a few hundred yards from the Booth's supermarket and close to the Ray's Drive bus stop.
The protest will take the form of a camp, beginning at 'High Noon' on Monday 8 October, at the field, running through the day and overnight, and culminating in a protest at 9.30am outside Lancaster Town Hall on Tuesday morning, in time for the City Council Cabinet meeting, which will be taking place at 10am.
Organisers tell us that the city is under attack on a number of fronts by corporate developers - the supermarket plan is one of a long string of controversial developments courted by the City Council currently, which include the Centros Miller development proposal for the City's Canal Corridor, which people fear will kill off the city centre and cause traffic chaos, the further shopping development proposed for Parliament Street, the giant science park being proposed at Bailrigg, another greenfield development aimed at narrowing the green gap between the city and Bailrigg and the disasterously ugly developments already in process at Kingsway. They propose to unite the dity in defence against this onslaught which they believe is being supported from within the Town Hall - at the city's expence!
Locals say that the proposed supermarket would generate thousands of extra car trips on roads that are already over-congested, breach government guidelines on out-of-town shopping developments, and destroy local businesses. They are disgusted that not only has there has been no public consultation - but in fact the City Council Cabinet was planning to discuss the matter in secret, with the report originally being withheld from public disclosure. You can read the report here (See page 11 onwards).
There will be a planning and banner making session this afternoon, Saturday, from 1.30pm at the basement - the cellar underneath Single Step Wholefoods shop at 78a Penny Street, Lancaster (Bring
banner making materials, ideas and offers of help) and another
meeting at 7.30pm tomorrow, Sunday evening, in the Gregson Bar to find out more and finalise plans.
4/10/07: You may remember back in January, a proposal for a new phone mast in Golgotha being quietly introduced by HG 3 with limited consultation with the public. Labour councillor Jim Blakely raised public awareness and objections were raised about the proximity of the mast to houses (see archive news).
At the City Council meeting on Wednesday 26 September, Lib Dem councillor Janie Kirkman asked the Council to pledge support to the Telephone Mast Bill currently going thorough parliament.
Andrew Stunnell’s (Lib Dem MP for Hazel Grove) private members bill, if agreed by parliament, will require mobile companies to prove the need for their mast to be there. Currently the burden is on local residents to prove that the mask should be elsewhere, no matter how near it may be to their home.
Labour Councillor Jim Blakely requested again (his original proposal being stalled in April) that local planning policy is improved to make it harder for masts to be erected near houses. He also requested that the Council publish important information held, including telecommunication operators' future plans for coming years.
"We need to tighten planning policy on phone masts. Our policy can be improved and this should be done quickly" he said, and stated his priority to be "setting a limit on how close masts can be to houses and schools. Planners should not have to deliberate over health concerns, instead they need clear policy to say where masts cannot go. I'm pleased the council will now publish the mast register and roll-out information from phone companies, these will allow people to be prepared for mast proposals coming in the future and be ready to campaign against them if necessary."
Councillor Kirkman has also been actively opposing the siting of a T-Mobile Telephone mask pole in her ward, Scotforth East.
"I was shocked by the attitude of the mobile companies - they seem to think they have the right to site a telephone mast wherever they want - regardless of what the local population thinks.
"It is shocking to think that you need less permission to put up a 15 foot mast than you do to put up a conservatory on your house - it is clearly wrong. Most people nowadays use a mobile phone - but this should not mean mobile phone companies can just ride rough shod over people's rights and feelings. Mobile companies have forked out billions for the right to operate. It therefore seems ridiculous that they can then ignore planning laws everyone else has to obey. They argue this is because of commercial needs - but small local firms manage to remain within the normal planning laws and so should the mobile companies."
T-mobile have submitted their prior-approval application for a mast at the Bowerham Road/Hala Hill junction. As yet, planning policy hasn't been changed but residents have until 17 October to object.
How do you feel about masts being erected near your home? A necessary evil or should more research be carried out as to their possible affects on health? You can use the Virtual Lancaster forums to make your feelings known.
Jim Blakely's Stop the Masts campaign website can be found here:
LANCASTER MARKET FOR SALE AGAIN
4/10/07: The Lancaster
Guardian reports Lancaster Market is up for sale - for a cool £6
The market will be auctioned later this month by Boultbee (Lancaster) Ltd, which
also owns Marketgate Shopping Centre.
Graham Cox, head of property services at the city council, said: "Boultbee
have decided to offer the market building for sale as an investment and have
included it in an auction sale." Read
the full story on the Lancaster Guardian web site
BEHIND OUR BACKS: COUNCIL'S SECRET SUPERMARKET
4/10/07, updated 15:55: A flurry of complaints to Council Cabinet members
after local Greens have revealed the City Council was to secretly discuss the
sell off of land in Lancaster for a new supermarket has prompted the report to
suddenly be made available to the public.
Lancaster City Council's cabinet is due to make a decision on
a report on Tuesday 9th October 2007 (10.00am at Lancaster Town Hall) about
whether to sell off fields at the edge of Scotforth for a new supermarket development.
Green Councillors for Scotforth West Emily Heath and Jane Fletcher
exposed the secrecy, concerned about the way the decision might be
taken, without any opportunity for public consultation or debate.
The revelation, reported earlier on virtual-lancaster,
prompted a flurry of angry emails to Cabinet members.
"It is probably not a coincidence that a public
version of the cabinet report (which also includes items about Nightingale
Hall Farm and Heysham Mossgate) has just been published," says Emily. "It
looks almost identical to the previous confidential version to me -
the actual amount of rental income the Council gets for the land has
been removed and replaced with 'small income' (which it is)."
The local councillors are concerned that any sell off of the land and the subsequent building of another supermarket would have a huge impact on south Lancaster,
in terms of additional traffic and the threat to small shops.
The land in question (known as Lawson's Bridge) is between the
railway line and the A6 (Scotforth Road), immediately to the south of Ray's
Drive. There is a long history of controversial planning proposals for this
site - most recently it was allocated in the Lancaster District Local Plan
(1996) for an executive housing estate. However, local residents and the
Green Party campaigned against the proposal and it was eventually thrown out
by a planning inspector.
The land is currently rented to a farmer for use as pasture and has
no other designation in the Local Plan.
Greens point out the land
is also well used by Scotforth
residents for dog-walking and other kinds of recreation, and there is a
community woodland area at the northern end which is threatened by the
Potential impact of a new supermarket include the thousands
of extra car trips each day on south Lancaster's already congested and polluted
roads. Any large scale development of this kind could could put local shops
out of business - including the Scotforth Booths store, which is easy to access
from surrounding residential areas without a car, and which has good policies
on promoting local, organic and fairly traded produce.
National and regional planning policies urge against allowing out-of-town supermarkets,
a decision introduced by the Conservatives in the 1990s.
There is no mention of an out-of-town supermarket in the Council's
current or emerging planning policies - so there has been no opportunity for
the public to have a say on whether they think it is a good idea.
The item was not
included in the Council's 'Forward Plan' which is supposed to alert the public
to forthcoming major decisions and allow some 'pre-decision scrutiny'.
"This is probably the biggest and most controversial decision to affect south Lancaster for many years, and yet it is being rushed through without any public consultation or debate," says Emily Heath. "However, I am hopeful that the cabinet will agree to defer the decision to allow proper scrutiny of the proposals."
The land sale would of course be subject to planning permission being granted
by the City Council's planning committee and officers argue the Council would
play a major role in the design of any eventual building. No planning application
has been submitted yet, but several supermarket chains have expressed a strong
interest in buying the land. The Council would have to sell to the highest bidder.
The Council is in a difficult position as regards its remaining property assets
in the area. It apparently needs to sell some of these to fund (amongst
other things) expensive repairs to Lancaster and Morecambe Town Halls. However,
councillors argue the decision on the future of the land is not so urgent that
it cannot be deferred to enable public debate and consultation.
What do you think?
Let the City Council cabinet members know what you think about the idea
before Tuesday 9th October, to express your concerns and urge them to defer their
decision so that public debate can take place.
Mace (Council Leader):
• John Gilbert: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Evelyn Archer: email@example.com
• David Kerr: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Jon Barry:
• Maia Witelegg:
• Emily Heath:
15 - 30 September 2007
Next stories: 16 - 31 October 2007
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