Memorial should be our shining light

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As one of the most iconic buildings in Lancashire, the Ashton Memorial sits like a sentinel overlooking the beauty of the Lancaster district.

Visible during daylight hours from the M6 motorway, the city of Lancaster, Morecambe Bay and the villages of the Lune Valley, it dominates the skyline but is largely invisible at night.

And with the longer nights and shorter days over the winter months, the city has even less of an opportunity to show off one of its most treasured possessions to the wider world.

Former Mayor and Halton ward coun Paul Woodruff, wants to change all this, and is calling for the 103-year-old structure to be flood-lit at night like it has been in the past.

Coun Woodruff said: “I have been campaigning for the last 12 months to get this magnificent monument lit up.

“It stands in splendid isolation and is visible from all over the district, and there must be hundreds of thousands of vehicles that pass it weekly, unnoticed.

“It has to be one of the finest advertisements for our great historic city and to inspire tourism.”

Coun Woodruff and fellow independent Coun Keith Sowden put forward a motion in July last year, asking Lancaster City Council to re-instate the floodlights but it was voted out.

Councillors did agree, however, to ask the council to prepare a report on the matter, looking at cost, possible sponsorship and energy efficiency among other things. The council initially said it would look at the proposal as part of the budget process for 2012/13, but so far a report has not materialised, and the process has now been delayed for another year The budget for 2013/14 will be set in February.

Last year, structural problems with the Ashton Memorial were also identified.

These included the breaking up of plasterwork on the ceiling, unstable steps at the front (which are currently roped off), and issues with damp and water penetration in the upper floors.

The council, which is responsible for the management of the Ashton Memorial and Williamson Park on behalf of the people of Lancaster, said it would complete the repairs to the steps by March 2013, using an agreed budget of £120,000.

The council is still waiting to find out how much it will cost to fix the ceiling.

Coun Woodruff said that the cost to replace the existing floodlights in 2011 was £6,897 and £1,000 – 2,000 per year to run them.

The majority of people that the Lancaster Guardian spoke to in the city were in favour of the idea, despite the associated costs, and the Lancaster and district Chamber of Commerce also said it would be happy to support the lighting of strategic public buildings in Lancaster.

Chief executive Ann Morris said: “I remember when the Ashton Memorial was beautifully lit alongside the Castle and Priory.

“They all looked wonderful and made an impressive display of the city’s assets.

“I’m not clear on the ‘business benefits’ other than within the scope of tourism related events and activities.

“We would certainly wish to support the lighting of strategic public buildings as part of such events.”

Lancaster City Council, said that the “currently limited use of the floodlighting is in line with the council’s current priority of reducing energy use”.

But Coun Woodruff added: “The council has spent £27,500 on lighting the museum as part of the Square Roots Project but you can only see them from Market Square.”

Coun Ron Sands, Cabinet member with responsibility for tourism, said: “Floodlighting the Ashton Memorial on a regular basis could potentially have benefits, but at the same time the council has to be mindful of the increased costs that such a proposal would have.

“More detailed work would be required to look into these implications in more depth so councillors could take a considered decision, should a proposal be put forward as part of the budget process.”