It was a year of ups and downs across the Lancaster district, as GAYLE ROUNCIVELL discovered when she looked back at 2017. Here’s part one of our two-part Review of the Year.
A state-of-the-art garden village – one of only 14 in the UK – would be a “once in a generation opportunity” for Lancaster. Plans for a new 3,500 home community at Bailrigg have been hailed by the university and chiefs as a game changer for the city. The government plans to give Lancaster a share of £6m to create a village with sustainable transport and green space.
The skyline of our city is set to radically change after a 630-bed student willage was given the thumbs up. The village – including a modern 121ft 11-storey tower – will be built on ‘eyesore’ wasteland next to the one-way system and will be visible for miles around.
A police investigation was launched after the vicar of Lancaster received “vitriolic” homophobic hate mail through the post. Rev Chris Newlands, Church of England vicar at Lancaster Priory, was sent a handwritten letter. Mr Newlands, who is openly gay, told the Guardian that his message of achieving equality for all people was now more important than ever.
Hundreds of jobs are under threat at Morecambe Bay’s health trust as part of a review of “back office” staff. The cost cutting proposals include outsourcing or privatising departments, the chairman of University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust warned. The “back office” departments include finance, procurement, HR, payroll and estate and facilities, which includes cleaning and maintenance.
One of Lancaster’s major road bridges is to close for six months as part of a £4m programme of works. Greyhound Bridge is to close to allow Lancashire County Council to carry out extensive repair and replacement works on the 100-year-old structure. Traffic travelling towards Lancaster over the River Lune will be redirected via Skerton Bridge, which will become two-way for the duration of the works.
Schools sent out letters to parents about an online game dubbed a ‘perverts’ playground’. Roblox, which is similar to Minecraft, is aimed at youngsters between eight and 12 but parents say the game is a way for perverts to access children through their phones and kids as young as eight have seen hard core porn images while playing the game.
A student from Morecambe was hit by a car which ploughed into pedestrians in a terrorist incident in London. Owen Lambert, 18, a student at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, was on a politics visit and had just come out of Parliament when “the car came out of nowhere”. Owen was taken to a nearby hospital along with other casualties and treated for a head wound. The attacker, 52-year-old Briton Khalid Masood, drove a car into pedestrians on the pavement along the south side of Westminster Bridge and Bridge Street, injuring more than 50 people, four of them fatally.
Schools across the Lancaster district are in severe crisis as headteachers warn “there are no more efficiencies to make”. Class sizes will increase, teacher and support staff roles will disappear and children will suffer if current government funding levels remain the same, a public meeting heard. One headteacher said “it’s never been as bad as it is now.”
Record numbers of “desperate” families are approaching the district’s foodbank for help. Latest figures show that demand has almost doubled in the last 12 months with changes to the benefits system being blamed for much of the increase. Some food recipients have been going without money for up to seven weeks, it has been claimed.
Lancaster City FC dedicated their title win to former captain Neil Marshall, who sadly passed away last year after a battle with cancer. The Dolly Blues won on the final day of the season to seal promotion to the Evo-Stik Premier Division.
A restaurant chef who has courageously lived with cancer for almost a decade has been hailed a “superhero” for running in memory of his son-in-law. Norman Were, who worked in Lancaster restaurants for more than 40 years, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008 and given six months to live. But the dad-of-two from Morecambe has defied the prognosis by continuing to live life to the full. Now at the age of 73, Norman is preparing to run around Regent’s Park in London to raise money for the UK Sepsis Trust. His son-in-law Al Fletcher died last year aged just 45 after contracting sepsis.
Thousands turned out to march around Lancaster city centre to protest about cuts to school budgets. Organisers said more than 2,000 people attended the event, which demanded immediate action to tackle what school governors described as a “systematic starvation of funds to the education system.”
Lancaster stood united with Manchester in the wake of the terrorist attack at Manchester Arena which killed 23 people, including the attacker, and injured more than 500. Crowds gathered in Dalton Square for a candlelit vigil after the terrifying blast following a concert by US superstar Ariana Grande. Local youngsters also told how they were caught up in the incident.
Cat Smith vowwed to get her claws into the Conservatives’ “coalition of chaos” after being re-elected MP for Lancaster. Labour’s Ms Smith retained her Lancaster & Fleetwood seat in the general election with an increased majority. The Conservative party won the most seats nationally but not enough for an overall majority. Meanwhile, Conservative David Morris retained his seat in Morecambe & Lunesdale albeit with a reduced majority.
The Heysham M6 link road could become “stacked up” with lorries post Brexit if the UK fails to get the right deal with the EU, a transport boss warned. Alistair Eagles, CEO of Heysham Port-based Seatruck Ferries, said a lack of space at the port could result in gridlock if customs and border checks become more rigorous.