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Councillor urges Prime Minister to re-think right-to-buy scheme

A council in Cumbria has written to the Prime Minister, urging the government to drop it's plans to extend the Right to Buy scheme.

Under the plans housing association tenants will have the chance to buy the properties they live in at vastly reduced discounts.

But Peter Thornton from South Lakeland District Council says that will reduce the amount of social housing that's available for people in need damaging an area that's already struggling to meet the demand for homes.

19 year old Anna Driscoll is one of the many people struggling to find a home in South Lakeland.

She's still living with her parents and has been on the social housing waiting list for four months.

She is worried that the government's plans will make it even more difficult to secure social housing.

But not all people are of the same opinion. A prominent Conservative councillor in Cumbria says his party has got the right policy.

Tune into Lookaround at 6pm tonight to see the full report with Tim Backshall.

Masterplan for Ulverston leisure facilities

Ulverston Leisure Centre Credit: South Lakeland District Council

A project is being launched to draw up a ‘masterplan’ for the Ulverston Leisure Centre site.

South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) is to look at what is possible for the site at Priory Road.

The masterplan will examine how the leisure complex could potentially be re-modelled and improved to meet the future needs of the Ulverston area.

The leisure facilities on the site are run by North Country Leisure (NCL) on behalf of SLDC.

The council and NCL are working together on the masterplan, which has been prompted by GSK’s (GlaxoSmithKline’s) need to relocate its sports centre as part of possible future redevelopment plans of its site on North Lonsdale Road, Ulverston.

The first phase of GSK’s development of a new biopharmaceutical factory would include the construction of a production facility, to be built between 2015 and 2021, followed by a new sports hall, football pitches and bowling green as part of the second phase.

The council is investigating how a new GSK sports centre could potentially link with the town’s existing leisure facilities.

Since NCL took over the contract to run the district’s leisure facilities in April 2014, the number of users of the Ulverston centre has significantly increased, with a 45% increase in all-inclusive memberships compared to this time last year.

Currently the Priory Road site is home to a swimming pool, gym, sports and social club, tennis centre, a full-size artificial pitch, all-weather tennis courts and new 3G pitch, as well as grass rugby and football pitches and associated parking areas.

Ulverston Leisure Centre facilities Credit: South Lakeland District Council

“This is very much a study, to see what we could potentially achieve on the site and how we respond to future opportunities to improve leisure facilities in Ulverston. The first thing we will need to know is, what could the site accommodate?

“No firm plans or proposals for change are going to come forward at this stage and the groups using the Priory Road facilities will be kept informed about the masterplan.

“This study will see what may be possible on the site. It will shape the way we go forward. If a realistic project opportunity does emerge, we would begin an extensive consultation with the local community.’’

– David Sykes, SLDC’s Director of People and Places

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South Lakeland District Council's cabinet announced

South Lakeland District Council Leader Peter Thornton announced the new cabinet at a meeting of the Full Council last night.

The new Cabinet membership, and portfolio responsibilities, is as follows:

  • Leader of Council, Portfolio for Promoting South Lakeland and Finance – Cllr Peter Thornton
  • Deputy Leader of Council, Portfolio for Environment and People – Cllr Sue Sanderson
  • Portfolio for Innovation and Improvement – Cllr Jonathan Brook
  • Portfolio for Health and Wellbeing – Cllr Graham Vincent
  • Portfolio for Economic Growth, Town Centres and Small Businesses – Cllr Giles Archibald
  • Portfolio for Housing and Strategic Growth – Cllr Heidi Halliday
  • Portfolio for Culture, Arts and Events – Cllr Chris Hogg

Cllr David Williams, Leader of the opposition group on SLDC, also announced his Shadow Cabinet:

  • · Shadow Leader - Cllr David Williams
  • · Shadow Deputy Leader – Cllr Tom Harvey
  • · Shadow Culture, Arts and Events – Cllr Roger Bingham
  • · Shadow Innovation and Improvement – Cllr James Airey
  • · Shadow Economic Growth, Town Centres and Small Businesses – Cllr Janette Jenkinson
  • · Shadow Health and Wellbeing – Cllr Ben Berry
  • · Shadow Housing and Strategic Development – Cllr John Holmes

£100k to tackle domestic abuse in South Lakeland

Credit: South Lakeland District Council

Support for victims of domestic abuse in South Lakeland has been boosted by a six figure grant award.

A joint bid by South Lakeland District Council (SLDC), the Springfield women’s refuge and Impact Housing Association has secured £100,000 to fund programmes over the next two years to support victims of domestic abuse, deliver more counselling services and also develop education sessions with school-age children and young people.

The money is coming from a £10 million pot announced by the Government to tackle domestic abuse issues.

The £100,000 awarded to South Lakeland is the full amount requested in the bid and South Lakeland is the only area of Cumbria to be allocated money from the fund.

The money will be used to support both female and male victims of domestic abuse through a number of projects, including:

  • A ‘Recovery Toolkit’ programme delivered in partnership with Barnardo’s, working with domestic abuse victims to aid ‘trauma recovery’, build confidence and help victims to make choices in the future to avoid controlling or abusive relationships
  • Prevention work – delivering training for teachers in schools about ‘healthy relationships’ and how teenagers can spot the signs of a potentially abusive relationship. This will cover issues such as peer pressure and ‘sexting’
  • ‘Building better relationships’ sessions for abusive men, delivered in partnership with Cumbria and Lancashire Community Rehabilitation Company (formerly probation services)
  • Supporting the existing work of the Springfield refuge

“The award of this money is excellent news and it is a great credit to everyone involved that this funding has been secured for South Lakeland.

“No-one should have to live with or suffer domestic abuse and the important and innovative programmes that this funding will support will have a positive impact on the lives of many.

“The council has a clear commitment to work to tackle issues of domestic abuse in South Lakeland and I am delighted that we have been able to work with partners to secure this funding."

– Cllr Graham Vincent, SLDC portfolio holder for health and wellbeing

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Life-saving buoys stolen from Windermere

Two buoyancy aids were taken Credit: South Lakeland District Council

Two potentially life-saving buoyancy aids have been stolen from a jetty in Windermere.

They were taken from the new floating jetty at Bark Barn, near Belle Grange on the western side of the lake, sometime between Tuesday 3 March and Monday 9 March.

The rescue buoys are designed to be thrown to people who are struggling in the water, and are worth around £100 each.

They had recently been donated.

“It really is disgusting that someone would do this.

"This is the first time I’ve known any life-saving equipment to be stolen from around the lake in my 20 years working here.’’

– Martin Dodgson, SLDC Lake Warden

South Lakeland District Council freezes council tax

Credit: PA

Council Tax has been frozen for the fifth year running by South Lakeland District Council as part of its budget for 2015/2016.

Councillors voted to approve the budget last night.

£800,000 worth of savings need to be made over the next year, and the council claims the biggest of these will come from improvements to the efficiency of its own back office.

Free lunch networking event for South Lakes businesses

Retailers are being invited to think about innovative ways to boost their businesses at a free lunch and networking event in Bowness.

The ‘Retail Special’ business lunch, organised by South Lakeland District Council (SLDC), is being held at the Laura Ashley Hotel The Belsfield, in Bowness, on Wednesday, 11 March from 11am to 1pm.

Guest speakers will be encouraging retailers to think about everything from their shop window first impressions to their on-line offering.

Visual display trainers from York-based ‘Made You Look!’ will be offering handy hints on how to create eye-catching window and interior displays and on how retailers can raise their profile and increase sales.

There will also be a presentation from a second speaker about how retailers can complement and enhance their high street trading by using effective on-line promotions, sales and marketing.

The council’s Invest in South Lakeland economic development team holds regular free working breakfasts/lunches and networking events throughout the year across South Lakeland.

The lunch at the Belsfield is open to all South Lakeland businesses and any that may be wanting to re-locate to this area.

“These events help the council to engage with businesses and provide a forum for businesses to discuss issues that directly affect them.

“They also provide attendees with an ideal opportunity to network with other businesses and make new contacts.

“This lunch is aimed at retailers in South Lakeland to offer some useful advice and support as part of our commitment to work with local businesses to encourage growth in our town centres.’’

– Councillor Giles Archibald, SLDC portfolio holder for town centres and small business

For further details and to register for the lunch on 11 March, visit: www.southlakeland.gov.uk/business-and-trade/business-events/

£120k fine for council over bin lorry deaths

A Cumbrian council has been fined £120,000 after two women were killed by reversing bin lorries in the space of nine months.

South Lakeland District Council was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following an investigation that found the local authority had failed to tackle the risks from reversing vehicles.

Carlisle Crown Court heard the first incident happened on a single-track lane off Easedale Road in Grasmere on 2 June 2010. Mary Cook had been walking down the track while on holiday with her husband when she was struck by a reversing rubbish truck. The 54-year-old from Nottingham died from her injuries.

The driver pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving in a separate prosecution. However, the HSE investigation also found that it was normal practice for 7.5 tonne bin lorries to reverse down the long track to reach a holiday rental home, without a council employee walking behind to guide the driver.

The court was told the council should have reviewed all its bin collection rounds following the incident to eliminate reversing whenever possible, or to make sure employees guided drivers from behind vehicles when there was no other option but to reverse.

This did not happen and instead reversing was actually introduced at St Mary's School on Prince’s Road in Windermere where the second incident occurred.

The council had been carrying out fortnightly collections of recycling waste from outside the school gates for a term when it changed its system and instead began reversing the trucks onto the school grounds to collect the rubbish.

On 17 March 2011, council employee Dorothy Harkes, 58, from Ulverston, was walking behind a rubbish truck to guide the driver when she was struck, causing fatal injuries.

The driver of the vehicle was also convicted of causing death by careless driving but the HSE investigation concluded that there had been no need for council trucks to reverse onto the school grounds.

South Lakeland District Council was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay £50,000 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

“Both the drivers have already admitted their part in Mary and Dorothy’s deaths but our investigation found the council had not done all it should have to protect the public and their employees from the danger of reversing rubbish trucks.

“The lane that Mary Cook and her husband had been walking along was heavily used by holidaymakers and yet the council failed to make sure measures were in place so that its vehicles could reverse safely.

“What’s particularly disappointing is that the council actually introduced reversing as part of its collection of recycling waste from St Mary's School, rather than trying to eliminate it wherever possible following Mary’s death.”

– Mark Dawson, HSE’s Principal Inspector for Cumbria and North Lancashire
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