Review of the Year - Part 1

Helen Reid has been suffering with health problems due to damp in her council house.  It has gotten so bad she has had to sleep in her living room for the past six months.
Helen Reid has been suffering with health problems due to damp in her council house. It has gotten so bad she has had to sleep in her living room for the past six months.

As we head towards the end of the year, Guardian reporter GAYLE ROUNCIVELL looks back on the highs and lows of life in the Lancaster district which we have reported on throughout 2016.

JANUARY

Mary Riordan

Mary Riordan

* Lancaster fire station could be demolished to make way for a new £2.4m modern base for firefighters and paramedics in the city. The new building would accommodate two fire engines and seven ambulances plus rapid response vehicles.

* Electricity North West said they would not be rewarding any of the 22,000 claimants any compensation after the Storm Desmond power cuts. Around 55,000 customers in lancashire, mainly from the Lancaster district, lost power when the electricity sub-station in Caton Road flooded during the storms in December 2015. But Electricity North West described the storm as ‘exceptional circumstances’ and said they did not fall below required standards.

FEBRUARY

* St John’s Hospice started off 2016 having cleared its deficit – thanks to generous Lancaster Guardian readers. Two years ago the hospice was in deficit by £500,000 but with the help of our Save Our Hospice campaign it can now carry out its vital work in the community with a clean slate.

Smoke covers Lancaster city centre after a bad fire on Thursday morning. Photo by Darren Andrews.

Smoke covers Lancaster city centre after a bad fire on Thursday morning. Photo by Darren Andrews.

* A mum-of-two said she had been forced to sleep on her sofa for six months following a catalogue of errors by her landlord, lancaster City Council. Helen Reid was spending her nights in her living room because her bedroom walls were mouldy and damp.

MARCH

* The family of a vulnerable disabled pensioner caught her carer helping herself to hundreds of pounds after planting an air freshener camera in her bedroom. Mary Annabell Riordan was recorded taking money from the drawer of 75-year-old Pauline Guthrie while she was in the bath. She stole a total of £960 between September and October 2015.

* The owner of a Lancaster gym said she had to watch as her whole livelihood was ripped up in front of her eyes after a blaze gutted Inspire gym and caused chaos in lancaster city centre. Penny Street and much of the surrounding area was engulfed in smoke as the fire took hold at the gym, after it broke out in a sauna inside the top floor changing rooms and spread to the floor below.

Fire officer Tim Murrell tweeted this photo of fire crews tackling the blaze at Inspire Health and Fitness in Lancaster on Thursday.

Fire officer Tim Murrell tweeted this photo of fire crews tackling the blaze at Inspire Health and Fitness in Lancaster on Thursday.

APRIL

* A 43-year-old was charged with murder following the death of a Lancaster man. John Houston, 41, was found dead in his home in Laburnam Grove on the Marsh. He was described as a “quiet man” who would “never harm anybody”. Neighbours spoke of their “utter disbelief” when they heard a murder investigation was under way.

* Defiant Lancaster parents prepared to go on strike in protest over new primary age tests. Headteachers across the district also made a stand over “poor and ill-conceived” new SATs tests which they said test children way beyond their reach and experience. A day of action was planned for many parents to keep their children off school to take part in educational activities away from the classroom.

MAY

Murder victim John Houston.

Murder victim John Houston.

* The Lancaster Guardian launched its new CancerCare Counts campaign. The charity is looking to expand its services for young people, particularly those aged 13 and over, and want to create a new youth centre. Our campaign aims to help raise funds as well as awareness to help CancerCare’s work in the local community.

* A major redevelopment of St George’s Quay would see five new blocks housing 419 student bedrooms with the Carlisle Bridge arches as its ‘gateway’. The plans include the demolition of the St George’s Works Mill, currently derelict, which would make way for two six-storey buildings with pedestrian and cycle links into the city. Luneside East Ltd said the three, five and six storey blocks would reflect the industrial history of the site.

JUNE

* Anti-social behaviour in the centre of Lancaster has increased massively, with Cheapside, Church Street and Market Square among the worst affected areas. New powers may be brought in to tackle youth-related anti-social behaviour after it soared by 53 per cent and general anti-social behaviour rose by 22 per cent. Consultation has begun of a public spaces protection order which would give police the power to stop people drinking and to confiscate alcohol.

* Lancaster leaders said they feared for the future of the district after the country voted to leave the EU. The vote in the Lancaster district was 51.1 per cent in favour of leaving and 48.9 per cent against. The turnout was 72.69 per cent.

* Keep an eye on our website for part 2 of our review

Photo Neil Cross
Parents have taken their children out of school in protest at new SATs and forced academies meeting at  Ashton Memorial, Lancaster

Photo Neil Cross Parents have taken their children out of school in protest at new SATs and forced academies meeting at Ashton Memorial, Lancaster