Lancashire Post 2017 The year in review: January to April
In part one of our three-part special, Tom Acey and Nicole Sherwood look back on the stories that made the news in Lancashire every month this year.
National tragedy for Hemmings
PNE boss Trevor Hemmings suffered a loss in January, when his racehorse Many Clouds died after suffering a severe pulmonary haemorrhage during his shock defeat of Thistlecrack at Cheltenham. The 2015 Grand National winner was described as a ‘people’s horse’ by breeder Aidan Aherne, who
persuaded Preston North End owner Hemmings to buy him as a foal. Since then, a film has been made about Many Clouds and his story.
£70m boost for Red Rose business
Lancashire received a significant economic boost when Theresa May pledged a £70m investment to the county as part of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ proposal. The cash was to be shared between at least six large projects in the area, a represented a significant chunk of the overall £556 investment in the North of England. Among the projects set to benefit from the cash were Blackpool, which is to get a 21st century conference centre and hotel at the Winter Gardens to re-establish the resort as a leading national conference destination. Other schemes winning funding include key transport infrastructure improvements for Blackburn and Darwen on the M65 motorway, the extension of the Lomeshaye Industrial Estate at Nelson and a North West Burnley “growth corridor” to unlock new housing and employment opportunities in Padiham.
NHS crisis: 12 hours to wait in A&E
The winter saw high demand for A&E services at both Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble hospitals. NHS figures reveal that more than 400 patients in Preston and Chorley were made to wait in A&E for 12 hours or more, an eight fold rise since 2012. The increase in demand reflected a worrying trend across the country, with 185,017 people facing such a wait compared with just 48,128 four years ago.
Never had it so rough
Government figures showed that Preston has the largest concentration of homeless sleepers in Lancashire, with the number having doubled in the past year.
The figure of 17 was the sixth-highest number in the North West, having increased from just three in 2010.
A spokesman for the Foxton Centre, a community outreach project for homeless people in Preston, said the news reflected a “worrying trend”. Attempts to target beggars with warning letters and magistrate notices had fallen short the previous year, as there weren’t enough staff available to support the campaign.
‘Train firm left me feeling like a criminal’
A train passenger was unjustly detained by police after being accused of ticket fraud. Local businessman Steve Morrissey was horrified when Virgin trains staff claimed he had boarded the train at Preston, and underpaid by nearly £250, when he had in fact boarded at Lancaster as his ticket stated. “I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life” said Morrissey, after the accusations had led to him missing an important business meeting in London. The dispute was the latest in the a series of rows about the nonsensical disparity in Virgin train prices, with tickets sold at £350 from Preston, compared with £93 from Lancaster.
Super-sized meaty square
Preston-based restaurant Solita celebrated the refurbishment of an iconic Georgian space with a special one-and-a-half kilo ‘Winckley Square burger’. Though marketed by the restaurant as an “ultimate sharing dish”, owner Franco Sotgiu conceded that some would probably attempt the 14-inch, 8,000 calorie sandwich as a solo challenge - “at their own risk!”. In its entirety the burger would consist of a brioche bun, huge steak patty, a whole lettuce, onions, gherkins, thousand island sauce, along with the small matter of a dozen slices of bacon and cheese.
- not for the faint-hearted.
Hall inferno: Collapse fear
A devastating fire seriously damaged the historic Alston Hall mansion near Longridge, with firefighters unable to enter the Grade II Listed building due to fear of collapse.
The blaze was spotted by a pair of astronomers, who noticed smoke in front of their telescope as they viewed Jupiter from a nearby observatory; one described the “orange glow” of the inferno which persuaded them to call 999.
Incident commander Shaun Walton said that the response was an exercise in “containing” the flames rather than fire fighting, such was the extent of the blaze.
An investigation later deemed the fire to be an accident, rather than an act of arson.
You don’t ass, mule not get
Reverend Martin Whiffen of Chorley United Reformed Church had an unusual request for the church’s Palm Sunday procession - to help him find a donkey! The Reverend said that recreating the procession was the “obvious” way to celebrate the occasion, but for a faithful retelling of the story, they would “really need a donkey”. There are in fact around 44 million donkeys across the globe, but it seemed that none were available for the CURC’s event; the church was eventually forced to make do with a Shetland pony instead.
Dad aged 58 dies suddenly in India
Tributes poured in for a popular former pub landlord and ice cream man from Fulwood who suddenly passed away in Goa, India. Paul Atkinson was at a gym lifting weights when he suffered a heart attack and collapsed. Long-time friend Uenkata Reddy described him as not having “a bad bone in his body”, while cousin Dianne Russell said he was a “loveable dear friend” who was “gone way too soon”. Paul was know for his love of football and travel, having visited countries as far-flung as Cuba and Thailand.
Who’s paying for the £450k frack police costs?
The financial implications of the fracking development dispute at Preston New Road were laid bare as Lancashire Police estimated an extra £450,000 per month would be needed to cover the site.
In a climate of severe public service cuts in recent years, with a total of 1,300 Lancashire Police staff lost since the beginning of austerity, additional police overtime and resources were required to manage the situation as anti-fracking groups protested.
Representatives on both sides remained unrepentant, with a spokesman for Cuadrilla, the shale gas company responsible for the development, insisting that “peaceful, law abiding protests” would not require a police presence at the site.
Tin of paint? Then get off my bus
A retired civil servant was horrified after being thrown off the Number 44 Preston Bus - for carrying a tin a paint. June Bamber, 61, was returning from a shopping trip with her four-year-old granddaughter when the bus driver suddenly stopped and ordered her to get off. The driver even threatened to call the police if they refused to leave. June said her granddaughter was “shivering” as she was so frightened, and made an immediate complaint to the company. Preston Bus later admitted it had been a mistake and issued an apology.
Korean Billy’s reet gradely Lanky talk!
A Korean vlogger tried his hand a several Lancashire phrases as part of his YouTube series exploring accents from around the UK. Seong-Jae Kong, otherwise known as ‘Korean Billy’, once spent six months in Preston as an exchange student at the University of Central Lancashire. ‘Billy’ attempted words and phrases such as ‘jiggered’, ‘gradely’, ‘baggin’ and ‘corporation pop’. The video featured him putting the words into context and giving English synonyms to explain their meaning. The vlogger had previously given his version of the Scouse accent in a another video imitating local dialect.