It’s been a tumultuous year right across Lancashire: Here, the LEP reflects on a hectic first six months ...
Flood Help - December saw severe flooding in parts of Lancashire. Then Prime Minister, David Cameron, visited some of Lancashire’s worst hit areas and promised to help the county and people affected. He said: “We recognise that the response to flooding is not a matter of a few days and a few weeks.” He also pledged “to stay with it for the long course”.
Broughton Bypass - Work began on the Broughton Bypass - 40 years after the campaign started for the congestion-busting road scheme. Council leader Coun Jennifer Mein said: “This is a very big day. It is a long time since people first mooted the necessity of a Bypass for Broughton, so I am absolutely thrilled.” Since January work has been ongoing on the bypass. A new date has been set for completion and the road is aiming to be finished by August 2017.
“I taught David Bowie” - Music legend Davie Bowie passed away on January 10. James Dodding, a Garstang teacher, told the LEP of how he remembers the “exceptionally quiet and courteous” David Bowie he once taught, in the mid 1960s in London. James said: “I remember writing in his report that he was totally dedicated and hard working. He was exceptionally quiet, showed courtesy at all times and carried out his course work with care and a great sense of detail.”
Lancashire: Giving the gift of life - The Lancashire Evening Post launched a campaign to recruit organ donors and save lives. The goal was to get at least 2,016 people to sign up to the donors register throughout 2016. Among the case studies we spoke to was Imran Najeeb, who donated one of his kidneys to his own mother.
HS2 Ready - Plans to make Preston railway station ready to link up with the high-speed HS2 railway began to be drawn up. Coun Jennifer Mein, the Lancashire County Council leader, said: “This is the most extensive and ambitious transport plan Lancashire has ever put forward.” It was said the aim was to create a more modern railway station for Preston and in doing so creating jobs, generate £324m over the coming decades and bring over 75,000 visitors to the city.
Fracking - A public inquiry was held on two controversial fracking applications at Little Plumpton and Roseacre, after the county council refused planning permission. The inquiry took place at Blackpool FC in front of Inspector Wendy McKay and featured passionate speakers from both sides of the argument. Protesters also took to the streets to oppose fracking.
A royal in town - Prince Harry visited Weeton where he met soldiers who helped during the flood crisis and told them, “I take my hat off to you.” Harry also went on to visit the local primary school and residents affected by the floods in St Michaels on Wyre.
Refugees flee to Preston - we spoke to a number of people who have fled conflict and political chaos in their home countries and are now seeking sanctuary in Preston. Among them was Mostafa, a designer and cameraman from Syria who made the journey to the UK on foot after fearing his life was at risk from Isis
Laughing gas craze - Dog walkers complained of empty gas canisters and vomit in car parks in Cadley, along with complaints of ‘bedlam’ from groups of youths. Police warned of the dangers of inhaling nitrous oxide, otherwise known as laughing gas
City in a jam - Preston was ranked in the 25 most congested towns and cities in the UK. It was reported that “the city’s roads are so snarled up that commuter journeys can take around 50 per cent longer than they should”. However, council highways chiefs hit back, highlighting the £434m City Deal was set to bring four major road schemes to improve the traffic in the local area.
Grave worry - a Fulwood resident upset at the ‘over-development’ of north west Preston erected a cheeky fake gravestone by the roadside, stating ‘RIP Fulwood - killed by concrete’. Michael Swinburne said he had seen the area change beyond recognition in the 47 years he has lived there.
Hillsborough: The Untold Stories - following the verdicts in the inquests into the deaths at Hillsborough, the Evening Post ran an eight page spread telling the stories of some of the Lancashire people caught up in the Hillsborough tragedy. Gerard Baron from Preston was the oldest person killed in the tragedy when Liverpool fans were crushed in the stadium in Sheffield. His son Gerard Jnr told how losing his dad at Hillsborough completely shaped his life and how became disillusioned with the UK and emigrated. And Preston man Mark Aspden spoke for the first time about how the crush left him in a coma but against the odds, he pulled through
End of the road for potholes? - the county council vowed to spend £23.5m on highway repairs and improvements. Work finally began on repairing the county’s roads, after a high number of complaints from residents about their cars being damaged due to poor road conditions. It wasn’t just potholes that were repaired, with money also being spent on rural roads, foot ways, bridges and street lighting.
Closure of Chorley A&E - The accident and emergency department controversially closed, due to staff shortages, which resulted in a huge backlash from the community. For the first time in 60 years, Chorley found itself without an A&E in April. A campaign by the LEP and local residents, #fighttheclosure, saw a number of stories on why the department shouldn’t close. With stories of how it saved peoples lives to MPs plans to save it, the campaign battled hard to save the A&E.
Fire Heroes - A huge blaze broke out at Total Polyfilm, a plastics manufacturer in Walton Summit near Bamber Bridge. It took 60 officers around five hours to get it under control. Incident commander Jerry Cragg said, “Without the efforts, skill and professionalism of firefighters from across the county this would have been an even worse incident.”
Political pint-scoring - The EU referendum debate was in full swing, with both campaigns doing everything they could to push the vote their way. At the Waddington Arms, near Clitheroe, drinkers were treated to an IN or OUT ale. Punters at the pub were given either a Vote In or Vote Out glass and mat, depending on their political persuasion - and leave votes won the day, much like the real vote...
Queen’s tribute to fallen soldiers - In May, the Queen joined wounded veterans to unveil a memorial, paying tribute to soldiers killed whilst serving in the Preston based Duke of Lancaster’s regiment.. Her Majesty unveiled the statue of a bronze lion, at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. Family and friends of fallen soldiers were among those at the private service to unveil the statue. The writing on the base of the statue which reads “Our kingsmen. Lions of England” is a tribute to those that have given their lives and continue to fight for our country. The Queen went on to meet with injured servicemen and women, giving her time to thank them and speak with them. A month that saw the Queen and country thank our local regiment.
Brexit - Voters in Lancashire were among the areas which showed support for leaving the European Union in the referendum. All 14 districts in Lancashire voted to leave, with Blackpool returning the largest majority in the whole of the North West. Brexiteers Boris Johnson and Michael Gove had taken to Preston Flag Market on June 1 as the campaign ramped up. Prime Minister David Cameron, who spearheaded the Remain campaign, promptly resigned after its failure, sparking a leadership race.
Bowled over at Guild Hall - Businessman Simon Rigby (left) revealed further plans for the redevelopment of the Guild Hall in Preston. Among his schemes was a new venue called LeVel, a 10 pin bowling alley, a crazy golf course and karaoke booths. Mr Rigby spoke of how he was happy to be “investing further into Preston”.
Ron Atkins celebrates 100th birthday - The UK’s oldest living ex-MP, Ron Atkins, turned 100 years old in June. The former Preston North member revealed his secrets to longevity: good genes, an active lifestyle and wild Atlantic salmon.
Don’t miss Part Two tomorrow ...