From the Guardian files

A flu epidemic broke out in Lancaster 25 years ago this week.
A flu epidemic broke out in Lancaster 25 years ago this week.

What was happening around the district five, 10 and 25 years ago this week.

25 years ago

As the flu epidemic took an increasing toll of hospital staff, the Royal Lancaster Infirmary was preparing to admit emergencies only, if necessary. A major operation planned for a patient in the intensive care unit had to be postponed because it was impossible to give full post-operative nursing care. Routine, non-urgent day surgery had been cancelled and hospital chiefs also were preparing to bring forward planned Christmas ward closures.

With the run-up to Christmas expected to bring a record amount of traffic into Lancaster, pressure was mounting for urgent action to be taken to ease the city’s worsening road chaos. City and county road officials were being faced with fresh demands from councillors, traders and environmental watchdogs to do something before the city centre ground to a complete halt.

Comedy and compassion shared the stage when Lancaster University honoured two distinguished local residents – award winning comedienne Victoria Wood, and matron of St John’s Hospice Sister Aine Cox. To tremendous ovations from a packed Great Hall, they each received the university’s highest award of an honorary degree from the Chancellor, Princess Alexandra, in tribute to their public service. A similar award went to Robert Smith, a volcano expert.

10 years ago

Lancaster City Council had admitted it had not met its own expectations for street cleaning in 2004. Under the council’s review of priorities, a key objective of improving the cleanliness of streets in Lancaster, Morecambe and towns in the surrounding area had fallen short of the target performance. Although they had not set a specific target, the coalition cabinet had hoped to achieve an improvement in street cleaning that would be readily noticeable. Coun Ian Barker, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “This is one area where we haven’t been successful this year, but we’ll be working very hard to improve the current situation. It remains a priority for us all on the coalition and we think it’s very important.”

Morecambe MP Geraldine Smith hit out at what she claimed to be the Government’s failure to introduce a national cockling licensing scheme. She criticised the decision to merely extend the current permit system in an effort to better regulate cockling in Morecambe Bay following the tragedy in which 23 Chinese people died. Together with South Lakeland’s Conservative MP Tim Collins, Miss Smith had also tabled a joint parliamentary motion calling on ministers to introduce such a national scheme. Concerns had been raised too about the closure of land providing access to parts of Morecambe Bay.

5 years ago

Demolition of the former Regal cinema and Gala Bingo buildings was well under way in the centre of Lancaster. The contractors had begun the lengthy process of removing the main central column of the former cinema. The rest of the building would then be demolished.

Legal orders which must be confirmed before the controversial Heysham-M6 link was built had sparked 400 objections – and just two expressions of support. The documents, published by Lancashire County Council, included a compulsory purchase order on 50 landowners with whom it had not been possible to reach a deal to buy land needed for the scheme. Opponents said the £139m road would not solve congestion in the district.

Traveller parents claimed education chiefs had failed to consult their community over proposals to close Skerton Primary School. And families – who said the school had developed a special understanding of their needs – were threatening to boycott mainstream education rather than move their children elsewhere. Of Skerton’s 107 pupils, 17 were classed as ‘White Romany’ and the Skerton learning Centre, from which specially-trained staff work with traveller children across the district, was based on site.