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City student flat developments, abortion, girl’s health in school, disappearing swifts, new MOT, betting curbs and history plea

The Caton Court student accommodation project on Bulk Road in Lancaster. PIC BY ROB LOCK'19-3-2018
The Caton Court student accommodation project on Bulk Road in Lancaster. PIC BY ROB LOCK'19-3-2018

Readers’ letters, May 31

As a result of the most recent collapse of the Canal Corridor Project, Lancaster citizens are being consulted once again regarding how that area should be developed.

As residents of the town centre, LCCRA is eager to participate in that process. There is hesitation and concern, however.

I am sure we are not alone in harbouring a lack of confidence in another process when we consider our little town’s position, caught as we are between the unstoppable expansion of the universities and the city council’s seeming inability to push through anything progressive at all other than granting permission for more and more student accommodation.

There is nothing wrong with purpose-built student accommodation – it frees up the terraces of traditional houses to, once again, fulfil their role as family homes.

Local businesses have developed to take advantage of this opportunity and have provided employment, consolidated unviable buildings and have kept the profits within the district.

However, the enormous Bulk Road project heralds a new and foreboding future. That this was allowed to happen by the city council now surely tells us one thing – that anything goes, no matter how out of scale and damaging it is to the character and feel of our lovely town.

A recent article in Private Eye magazine regarding the “studentification” of provincial towns names Lancaster as the “locus classicus (best known example) of student housing blight” and implores university chancellors to “wake up to the architectural vandalism they are allowing”.

Well, it surely is time that both the universities and the city council should wake up. Many long-term and native Lancastrians are becoming genuinely upset by the permanent effect that that particular huge complex now has on our historic skyline.

No doubt it looks impressive to the overseas shareholders who stand to receive the dividends.

The canal corridor is an opportunity for city and universities to come together to build something that truly benefits everyone, both long-term residents and students, by redressing the balance. Mixed housing, artisan retail, innovative cultural quarter, business start-up units to help keep graduates in the town, and beautiful, appropriate architecture – something that builds real long-term community in the city centre and something to be proud of. Let’s be in these magazines for the right reasons.

James Mackie on behalf of LCCRA, Lancaster City Centre Residents’ Association (LCCRA)

Abortion

Irish women have won an historic battle. The referendum on May 25 on the question of the repeal of the 8th amendment to the Irish Constitution – which effectively prohibits in almost all circumstances – delivered a resounding yes to its abolition.

By the end of the year the Irish Parliament is set to legalise abortion on demand up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The battle will now be taken to Northern Ireland, where women are still denied the right to choose whether they will or will not continue with a pregnancy.

What is too little recognised, however, is that on this island abortion remains a criminal act unless women have secured the opinion of two doctors to the effect that a continuation of pregnancy will put at serious risk their physical and/or mental health.

This is fundamentally demeaning to women and the time is right to demand a change to the 1967 Abortion Act to reflect a woman’s full sovereignty over her body. It is her right to choose whether she will or will not continue with a pregnancy.

J McNally, Long Marsh Lane, Lancaster

Student flats

I can’t wait to see what the “exciting ground floor retail offering” at the newly-proposed CityBlock development on Penny Street is going to be, and can only hope that Mr Bargh’s definition of ‘exciting’ matches my own!

Stephanie Bruntlett, Forton

Girl’s health

Can you imagine not being able to access a toilet when you most need to? For girls all over the UK, being refused this basic human right is a reality when they are at school and on their period.

A recent survey by Plan International UK found that 68% of girls aged 14-21 had a rule that they couldn’t go to the toilet in lesson time at school. This rule exists in my school, with some teachers letting girls go and some refusing. Not only does this have hygiene and safety risks but it can make the situation for students very awkward, and causes huge anxiety.

Girls are worried about leaking, or having to explain in front of the whole class why they need to be excused.

You might be even more shocked to learn that 16% of girls have missed a day of school because they were so worried about not being able to go to the toilet in lesson time. Surely there is no excuse for allowing menstruation to affect a girl’s education.

It’s imperative that schools provide pupils with free access to toilets, adequate sinks and waste disposal bins, and give teachers support to openly discuss periods without embarrassment or shame.

There’s more about the changes we need to see at plan-uk.org/locked-out. I wonder, will your local schools commit to recognising the needs of those who menstruate?

Eva (17), A member of Plan International UK’s Youth Advisory Panel

Wildlife

After a delay due to the weather, our summer visitors, the swifts, are gracing our skies again...but so few of them!

They’ve flown thousands of miles north to return to their nest sites in our buildings.

Swifts are the all-brown ones with the biggest wingspan and short tail – not to be confused with swallows (with the long v-shaped tail and red throat), or the more squat martins.

The main difference is that swifts don’t build nests.

They just zip into a small hole high up in a building – often in the eaves.

The trouble is that our buildings are getting so hole-free these days that swifts are losing their homes, and hence their numbers are dropping steeply.

I should be delighted to hear news of anyone who knows where they are nesting in our area because it’s possible to put up special nestboxes (best near to existing sites) to help these marvellous birds.

For more details and to report sightings, please see www.swiftconservation.org.

Shan Oakes, by email

New Mot

Once again this Government is doing its best to make things as difficult as possible for the less well-off in this country to stay on the road.

The new MOT test has become much harder, which will not bother the rich because they can just say “fix it”.

The rich will also have the majority of new cars on the roads, the less well-off will be the ones that have to pay.

You can expect the MOT test to go up in price.

This is just another move to force the poor off the road.

Dave Croucher, By email

Betting

The Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport has just reduced the maximum stake on fix-odds betting terminals from £100 every 20 seconds to £2.

This is a positive step, but it still doesn’t address the issue of online betting.

For some, gambling addiction will move from the real world to the virtual world, online.

Fixed-odds betting terminals and, to a lesser extent, The National Lottery and the like are a tax on the poor.

It beggars belief that these machines, up until now, have had so little regulation from central Government. The same applies to the loan shark industry.

It is allowed to roam this country taking money with menace like a modern day Dick Turpin.

There is no situation so dire that a politician can’t make worse. Regulations in this country can be quite severe when it comes to parking, fishing and dog ownership, just to name a few.

But multi-national companies and wealthy individuals can ‘rob’ people with impunity, sometimes causing them to take their own lives, as they see it as the only way out of the nightmare they find themselves in.

The welfare of the people should be the supreme law.

The vulnerable in our society need more protection on these important matters.

John Booker, via email

History

My name is Paul Rasmussen and I’m the membership Secretary of the Lancaster & District Male Voice Choir.

I am researching the history of the choir and would be most grateful if any readers had any information about us.

We have been in existence since 1899 and have some information about our history, but some areas are very sketchy.

Paul Rasmussen, rpaul842@aol.com