Review of 2018 - Part 2

This week we feature the second part of our look back at some of the stories which made the news across the Lancaster district in 2018.

Thursday, 17th January 2019, 9:00 am
St George's Works during demolition work. Picture: Vahé Agababian


A 12-year-old boy made a daring rescue after two younger children got into difficulties while swimming in the River Lune. Brave schoolboy Thomas Burrow, who attends Ripley, jumped into the river to help the children while swimming at the Crook o’Lune near Caton. His mum Karen said she was “very proud” of Thomas for his quick thinking and wanted to warn people of the dangers of swimming in the river.

Thomas Burrow, aged 12, rescued a five year old boy from the River Lune.

A £9m proposal for a two-mile long flood wall along the River Lune between Lancaster and Halton was revealed. Lancaster City Council submitted plans for a flood management scheme which would see a wall being constructed between the Bay Gateway bridge near Halton and Skerton Bridge. A section of wall would also be constructed on the west bank of the river off Halton Road/Main Street. The wall would primarily be to protect businesses in Caton Road, many of which were severely flooded following Storm Desmond in December 2015.

Asylum seeker Solomon Yitbarek told how he was forced to run for his life after being unlawfully deported back to his home country. Solomon, 27, knew his life was at risk when he arrived at Addis Abbaba airport in Ethiopia. Now back in Lancaster, Solomon told how he ran for his life before going on an incredible journey to safety.


A whistleblower surgeon who won £102,000 for unfair dismissal said he was “too frightened to return to the NHS” and that the “very sight of the NHS logo” made him feel sick. Peter Duffy said a 10 year campaign against him left him ill and feeling unable to work in the NHS again. The consultant urologist said he had been torn away from his family and his professional career was left in tatters after speaking out about allegations of medical negligence. He was awarded £102,000 by an employment tribunal in Manchester.

Solomon Yitbarek.

Overcrowding at Lancaster Farms prison was forcing prisoners to share cells and eat, sleep and use the toilet in spaces designed for one. Latest Ministry of Justice figures showed that 545 prosoners were crammed into just 495 spaces at the prison in July. Campaigners said the unchecked rise of the prison population was responsible for the large increase in assaults on staff and other inmates.

Cash-strapped Lancaster City Council has spent more than £44,000 on a chauffeur driver service for its mayor and deputy during the last three years. The figure is the second highest spend in the county, with councillors deciding it would be more cost-effective than buying or leasing a vehicle to transport the mayor – this year being Coun Andrew Kay – around.


Lancaster and Morecambe would share one MP if plans to change parliamentary boundaries are adopted by Parliament. Lancaster University would be effectively annexed from Lancaster under the proposals, becoming part of a much more rural North Lancashire seat. The Boundary Commission has published its recommendations for changes to parliamentary boundaries across England, which would reduce the number of MPs from 533 to 501.

HMP Lancaster Farms

More than 400 ladies walked and ran through the night, raising money for St John’s Hospice. The carnival-themed 12th annual Moonlight Walk had an exciting addition this year with Lancaster samba-reggae drumming band Samba Espirito accompanying the ladies as they set off from the hospice. Over the last 12 years the Moonlight Walk has raised more than £1m for the hospice.

Schools across the Lancaster district were to be visited by parking wardens in a crackdown on parents and guardians who stop on zigzag lines outside school gates. The plan was revealed at a Lancashire County Council meeting where councillors were also told which parking perils could – and could not – be tackled be the authority’s attendants. And members heard that a “flying squad” was now visiting problem parking areas where restrictions might previously have gone unenforced.

Lancaster University was named as the best in the north westsdsd Lancaster – which previously won a separate UK University of the Year award from The Times for 2018 – was ranked as the sixth best in the entire country, a position it retains from last year’s rankings. The university also topped the regional charts of employment prospects, with 89 per cent of students going on to find professional work or further education after graduation.


Comedian Phil Jupitus outside Lancaster Music Co-op.

Thousands of people including high profile celebrities signed a petition to save Lancaster Music Co-op after the city council issued it with an eviction notice. The notice served on the co-op, which has been providing rehearsal and recording space for musicians in Lodge Street for the last 33 years, gave them just six months to leave the building. Thousands of people have signed a petition to save the co-op, and high profile supporters such as wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham, comedian Phil Jupitus, BBC radio DJ Marc Riley, and punk band Sleaford Mods threw their weight behind the campaign. Lancaster MP Cat Smith also raised concern that the eviction could “seriously harm a major part of Lancaster’s cultural offering”,

Bus users in Lancaster said changes to the Stagecoach routes had led to overcrowding and commuters being left stranded at bus stops. Lancaster University staff and students were particularly affected by the changes, with many being late to lectures or struggling to return home due to a lack of double decker buses to cater for the number of travellers. A “huge increase” in the number of students in the city had also exacerbated the problem.

Drug crime in Lancaster had increased by almost a quarter according to the latest police recorded figures. There were 252 drug-related offences between July 2017 and June 2018, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. This included trafficking and dealing substances such as heroin and cocaine, as well as possession crime. The figure was up by 24 per cent on the previous year, when 203 incidents were recorded.


One of the Bowerham community’s most established businesses shut its doors for the final time. Paul Smith, who ran Bowerham Butchers with his wife Elaine, said he was forced to close the shop due to escalating rent costs. The well-known business had been a stalwart in Bowerham since it first opened as a purpose-built butchers in the late 1880s, and Paul himself had run it since April 2003.

The demolition of Lancaster’s historic St George’s Mill signified the end of a celebrated business empire that spanned many decades in the city. The mill, at St George’s Quay, was the last standing part of the massive Williamson linoleum industry. Lancaster & District Heritage Group said they were “naturally saddened and disappointed” that the mill was knocked down. A new development of 419 student flats with commercial space will take its place.

Hit and Run victim Lauren Hodkinson

Record crowds in the region of 48,000 descended on Lancaster to enjoy a two-night festival of light, music and fireworks. The event saw Lancaster’s streets, gardens and heritage buildings transformed through illuminated artworks and installations. Local, national and international artists and performers drew inspiration from this year’s World War One centenary anniversary and the theme of Home. The event was hosted by lancaster Arts City, Lancaster City Council and Lancaster BID.

Services in the Lancaster district marked 100 years since the end of World War One. Commemorations began with a sombre rendition of Battle O’er by lone pipers at Lancaster Castle and the war memorial in morecambe at 6am, followed by traditional services and parades. The day concluded with the lighting of beacons across the district. The Ashton Memorial was also lit in red.


A major new project to give the Lancaster region a stronger and more competitive advantage was launched. The launch of the Lancaster Story featured a number of influential speakers including Si Bellamy OBE, head of Eden Project International. The launch was the culmination of intensive work by organisations and individuals from across the wider Lancaster community, who came together in 2017 to develop a ‘place brand’ to attract investment, jobs, students, visitors and people to live in the area. The brand puts the spotlight on the Lancaster region as an area which celebrates its culture and heritage, energises entrepreneurial excellence and is the location of choice for businesses and people wanting to relocate.

A former Lancaster University student who faced life imprisonment after being found guilty of breaching terror laws said that “history will vindicate us, even though this jury did not”. Laura Clayson, 28, who was president of Lancaster University Student Union up to 2015, went on trial with 14 other people after helping to block a deportation flight to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone. The protesters were found guilty of breaching terror laws. Lancaster MP Cat Smith said the verdict was a sad day for human rights.

Staff and suppliers were left in shock after Lancaster pub company Mitchell’s went into administration just two weeks before Christmas. Fourteen members of staff at the firm’s head office in Moor Lane were immediately made redundant after Duff & Phelps Ltd were appointed administrators.

Several pubs across the Lancaster district were affected, as well as others in Yorkshire, along with many local suppliers who said they were owed thousands of pounds. Around 120 members of staff were affected.

A young woman who was the victim of a hit and run collision which left her fighting for her life the day before her 21st birthday said she was “lucky to be alive”. Lauren Hodkinson is recovering from severe head injuries which left her needing to have part of her skull removed. The brain injury also meant she had to learn to walk again. She still suffers from memory lapses and is waiting to undergo further surgery in the new year.

Paul Smith inside Bowerham Butchers.
Laura Clayson. Photo by Kristian Buus.
Students and staff queuing in the Lancaster University underpass for buses.