Fleetwood man’s incredible act leaving families ‘in tears of happiness’ on the beach

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A chance sighting on Cleveleys beach inspired Michael Gray to set up Fleetwood Beach Wheelchairs, which has now been nominated for a Lancashire Tourism Award.


(Image: Fleetwood Beach Wheelchairs)

Most of us can enjoy a trip to the beach, with the biggest downfall being sand lingering in-between our toes, in our shoes or in the car afterwards.

But for some people navigating a sandy or pebbled beach in a wheelchair or mobility aid is impossible.

It’s something Michael Gray, who lives on the Fleetwood promenade, was appalled to witness when he spotted a family with a child in a wheelchair setting up a picnic – on the edge of the beach they were unable to access.

Just yards away, on the sandy beach, was another young family enjoying lunch together. The only difference? They could all walk.

The cruel, stark contrast horrified Michael, so much so that he contacted his local council and Rotary Club to see what could be done to make the beach accessible for all.

“The seed for my idea was planted in 2017 when I was at Cleveleys beach and I saw the family on the pavement, scooters, joggers and bikes rushing by, and another family was setting up with their towels on the beach,” Michael told LancsLive.

“I thought it was wrong. Why can’t this family with a disabled child get on the beach? It was outrageous and I just felt I had to do something about it.”

With the help of the Healthier Fleetwood Partnership, which helps residents to live happier and healthier lives, the Rotary Club, and the Fleetwood and Wyre councils, Michael gradually grew his vision from an idea into reality.

To gain more knowledge and understanding of what setting up a safe wheelchair accessible service for the beach would mean, he spoke to North Berwick Beach Wheelchairs in Scotland, a thriving scheme which has been running since 2015 and now has sites in Edinburgh and East Lothian.

(Image: Fleetwood Beach Wheelchairs)

Following thorough trials in 2018 and 2019 using chairs borrowed from Newcastle-based Adventure Mobility and successfully applying for charitable grants, gaining sponsors, receiving personal donations and setting up as an official charity, Fleetwood Beach Wheelchairs was born, operating for the first time on September 12, 2020.

And despite a period of closure because of coronavirus restrictions, since May more than 400 people have used the Central Promenade-based service, which is run entirely by volunteers and the first of its kind in the north west.

The ambition was to get three chairs in the first three years, but due to the service’s popularity, there are currently nine available, with a 10th arriving soon.

The impact it has had for families, who are now able to take their adult children on the beach for the first time or the grandparents who can can help their grandchildren to build sandcastles, is immeasurable.

Michael said: “The benefits it gives to families is tremendous but it is also so rewarding or our volunteers, especially coming out of lockdown and wanting to give back to the community.

“Families have been in tears when they’ve seen their adult child go on the beach for the first time in 35 years – it’s bucket list stuff for some people.

“I can walk out of my front door and go on the beach and it doesn’t cost a penny, and the same should be the case for them.

“It’s about making memories – just to see the sheer delight on their faces and it’s so impactful to bring that joy to someone.”

(Image: Fleetwood Beach Wheelchairs)

Michael and his team of volunteers can facilitate and support a wide range of disabilities, with adaptable wheelchairs, a hoist for carers to transfer loved ones from one chair to another, pummel seats, neck braces and lumber supports all available.

The service relies heavily on volunteer availability and weather conditions but visitors are welcome to contact the freephone number when they are at the beach or prior to their visit to book.

It is also open weekends 10am to 4pm and as much as possible in school holidays.

Michael now hopes Fleetwood Beach Wheelchairs will inspire other schemes to open in seaside towns across Lancashire and beyond, with visitors currently travelling from Cumbria, Yorkshire and Merseyside to use his.

The service was recently named as a finalist in the Accessible and Inclusive Tourism Award category for the Lancashire Tourism Awards 2021, alongside Brickhouse Farm Holiday Cottage and Mrs Dowsons Farm Park.

Michael is “delighted and thrilled” to receive a nomination, which he says is recognition of the volunteer team’s hard work and dedication.

“It is recognition that we are providing a unique service – there is nothing else like this in the north west,” added Michael

“Hopefully others will be inspired and take the plunge and help to meet the demand for disabled people, because there is a lot of it out there.

“It doesn’t cost me a penny to walk out of my house and onto the beach and disabled people should be able to go on the beach for free too.”

Award winners will be announced on Wednesday, February 22 and the full list of nominees can be found here

For more information on Fleetwood Beach Wheelchairs, to make a donation and to book a session, click here or call 03000111003.



Trams cancelled between North Pier and Fleetwood due to ‘unsafe buildings on Blackpool Promenade’

Home | Blackpool Gazette

‘Unsafe buildings on Blackpool Promenade’ caused a number of tram services to be cancelled and the road to be closed for safety reasons.


Blackpool Transport said the decision was taken to cancel the trams this morning (November 29) following “instruction from the police for safety reasons”.

A tram replacement bus – which will “run as closely to the tramway as possible” – will be available between Pleasant Street and Fleetwood.

The replacement service will run every 30 minutes and will be in addition to the Service 1, which also runs every 30 minutes.

A spokesman for Blackpool Transport said: “We’re working as hard as we can during unplanned circumstances to offer the best possible service with the resources we have available,” a spokesman for Blackpool Transport said.

” Please allow extra time for your journeys and treat our teams with respect, they’re also battling with the difficult situation and doing their best.”

The replacement tram service will only operate as far as Pleasant Street due to increased congestion on Dickson Road caused by the closure of the promenade.

“We will review the situation and operate as close to the town centre as possible once traffic stabilises,” the spokesman added.

'Unsafe buildings on Blackpool Promenade' caused a number of tram services to be cancelled

‘Unsafe buildings on Blackpool Promenade’ caused a number of tram services to be cancelled

Blackpool Council also reminded motorists that road closures remained in place between Bank Street and Talbot Square “following damage caused by storm Arwen”.

Springfield Road was also closed between the promenade and Abingdon Street.

The disruption comes after a number of bricks plummeted to the ground falling from a building opposite the Metropole hotel on Friday, November 26.

Bricks littered the ground after falling off the front of the building on Friday, November 26 (Picture: The Gazette)

Bricks littered the ground after falling off the front of the building on Friday, November 26 (Picture: The Gazette)

Firefighters from the resort’s Forest Gate station helped with a “small number of evacuations from adjoining properties”, the fire service said.

Electronic signs dotted around the resort warned of the emergency, which came after hours of strong winds of up to 60mph.



Government accreditation hat-trick just the ticket for South Fylde rail volunteers’ group

Home | Blackpool Gazette

The South Fylde Line Community Rail Partnership has been fully accredited by the Department for Transport for the third consecutive year.


The accreditation is formal recognition by the DfT that a community rail partnership operates to a high standard and that its objectives and activities are supported by the Government.

It also provides assurance to others, including potential funders and partners, that the Partnership conducts financial propriety, adopts a collaborative approach and is a trustworthy and suitable entity for receiving public funds.

In order to become accredited, Partnership chairman Tony Ford worked with volunteers to submit detailed reports outlining the achievements of the previous 12 months, including activities such as The Hidden Gems Art Project and Wooden Owl Sculptures at St Annes station, and the establishment of a new Friends Group at Kirkham and Wesham station.

Tony Ford, chairman of the South Fylde Community Rail Partnership

Tony Ford, chairman of the South Fylde Community Rail Partnership

Richard Watts, chairman of Community Rail Lancashire added: “This is recognition of the hard work carried out by the Community Rail Partnership management group as well as the many station volunteers who do so much to keep the stations along the line welcoming gateways to the communities they serve.

“It is also a tribute to the hard work of Tony Ford who co-ordinates a lot of this activity. There are lots of plans for the development of the line so 2022 looks like being another busy and rewarding year. Well done to everyone.”

Coun Karen Buckley, leader of Fylde Council, said: “The dedicated work of the team of volunteers means we have many vibrant and beautifully maintained train stations across the borough.

“We are lucky to have so many people who give up their precious time to help to keep Fylde fabulous. Even during the very difficult months of the pandemic, our stations were a sight to behold.

“Huge congratulations to Tony and his team, as well as all the other lines across the county and Community Rail Lancashire for this well-deserved recognition of their continued high standards in all aspects of their work.”



St Annes music teacher who sexually abused 14-year-old pupil is jailed

Home | Blackpool Gazette

A St Annes paedophile who repeatedly sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl while working as a private music tutor in the late 1990s has been jailed for his crimes.


Gary Fox, 62, of Clifton Drive North, was found guilty of seven counts of indecent assault at Preston Crown Court in September.

Today (November 26), he was sentenced to six and a half years in prison. He was also given an indefinite Sexual Harm Prevention Order and must sign the sex offenders register.

Investigation officer Mick Cross, of Lancashire Police’s public protection unit, said: “Gary Fox, a married man, made a deliberate decision to pursue a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl. He must have known known that this was wrong, especially as she was his student and he had a duty of care to her. It did not stop him. He effectively groomed and then sexually assaulted a child in order to satisfy his own sexual urges.

Jailed: Gary Fox

Jailed: Gary Fox

“I would like to commend the bravery of the victim for having the courage to effectively re-live her ordeal through these court proceedings. I hope that the conviction and sentence give her some sense that justice has been achieved after all this time and that it gives others who may have suffered such abuse the confidence to come forward and report it to us confident in the knowledge that we will investigate sensitively and professionally, regardless of the time passed or who the alleged perpetrator.”

Fox met his young victim while giving private music lessons. He soon started making inappropriate comments towards her before escalating to physical abuse.

Howard Gough, head of the North West CPS Rape and Serious Sexual Offences Unit said: ‘’Gary Fox was in a position of trust as a music teacher when he exploited a young girl for his own sexual gratification.

“I would like to commend this brave woman for finding the courage to stand up to the man who manipulated and abused her all those years ago, and for her ongoing support of the police investigation and subsequent successful prosecution of him.

“I wish her the best for her future, safe in the knowledge that a very dangerous man is now serving a prison sentence thanks to her strength and fortitude in standing up to him.”



Blackpool’s Ride The Lights returns for Christmas edition

LancsLive - Latest news, sport, business and more from Lancashire

Its back for a special performance to mark Christmas 2021


Ride the Lights

One of Blackpool’s most popular free events is coming back for Christmas.

The annual Ride The Lights event, which usually takes place at the end of August ahead of the Illuminations Switch-On, will see a special repeat performance on Sunday, December 5.

Ride The Christmas Lights will give cyclists of all ages a chance to ride along a traffic-free promenade beneath the famous Illuminations. It will start at 4pm in the afternoon and finish at 8pm, when the Promenade will be reopened to traffic.

Riders are encouraged to decorate their bikes with colourful lights and lanterns to add to the festive atmosphere!

The event is part of a spectacular programme of events and entertainment being staged in Blackpool during November and December.

It includes a Christmas By The Sea village on the Tower Festival Headland with a free-to-use skating rink, magical forest, log cabins, artificial snowfalls, light installations and themed projection shows.

Alongside the village is the Star Flyer, Europe’s largest aerial ride and a short distance away is the Winter Gardens Wonderland with indoor and outdoor festive market stalls, virtual reality experiences, and funfair rides.

The Christmas programme is complemented by an extended Illuminations season which sees the famous lights shining every night until January 3. On selected dates throughout the period, many of the resort’s major attractions will be open.

The resort will also be inviting families to say “goodbye” to 2021 and get ready to say “hello” to 2022 with a celebratory fireworks display that will take place late afternoon on the Tower Festival Headland on New Year’s Eve.

The free fireworks display, which will be launched around 5pm on December 31 from the beach in front of The Blackpool Tower, will create a stunning finale to end the year.

Cllr Lynn Williams, Leader of Blackpool Council, said: “Ride The Christmas Lights event will provide a unique opportunity for families to cycle along a traffic-free promenade and experience everything that Blackpool is offering for this festive season. Our Christmas By The Sea village is already proving a huge success with residents and visitors, and it is truly heart-warming to see so many people getting into the Christmas spirit.

“By staging the Ride The Christmas Lights and Family Fireworks in the afternoon and early evening, we hope it will give the whole family an opportunity to come out and celebrate together.”

Both Ride The Christmas Lights and New Year’s Eve Family Fireworks are weather-dependent. 

Ride The Christmas Lights, New Year’s Eve Family Fireworks and some elements of Christmas By The Sea are part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.





‘Shop local – and help businesses survive’ plead Lytham traders

Home | Blackpool Gazette

‘Please shop local’ – that’s the festive message from Lytham traders after a bumper turnout for the town’s Christmas lights switch-on whetted the appetite for a busy build-up to the big day.


A record crowd turned out to watch comedian Steve Royle turn on the Lytham lights, and Suzanne Taylor, chairman of the Lytham Business Partnership, says it is imperative that the enthusiasm is carried through by the public to ensure the tills keep ringing.

“It was wonderful to see so many people at the switch-on and the lights look wonderful,” said Suzanne.

“But we need those people to shop local and do all they can to support local businesses in what is an especially vital festive season after last year’s was hit by the pandemic.

A bumper record crowd turned out for Lytham's Christmas lights switch-on. Picture: Gregg Wolstenholme

A bumper record crowd turned out for Lytham’s Christmas lights switch-on. Picture: Gregg Wolstenholme

Lytham and St Annes Christmas Lights Switch-On events

“How people shop over the coming four weeks will really affect many local businesses’ fortunes in the following four months – even whether some of them survive – so I am urging people to get into the ‘shopping local’ habit.

“During lockdown, online shopping has grown so much but the local businesses really need you. The numbers for the switch-on was great to see – I hope that’s a sign of a really busy few weeks to come.”

Lytham’s Christmas lights will shine to the end of January in a bid to entice more shoppers and Coun Brenda Blackshaw, of the Lytham Christmas team, said: “The switch-on was wonderful and it was brilliant to see so many people there.”

Meanwhile, Veli Kirk, chairman of the Enterprise Partnership of traders in neighbouring St Annes, said: “I go round the shops in St Annes every day and hear of how they are battling back after the pandemic.

“We should use this opportunity to really come together as a community and help each other have a really successful Christmas.

“St Annes and Lytham have a wonderful range of independent traders – let’s all work together to make it a super festive season.”



Man left with fractured nose, jaw and eye socket after nasty Blackpool street attack

Home | Blackpool Gazette

A man was left with a fractured nose, jaw and eye socket after he was attacked by a group of men in Blackpool.


Police were called at around 11.40pm on Wednesday, November 17 after a man reported being assaulted at the junction of Kent Road and Princess Street.

Officers attended and found the man, aged in his 30s, with serious facial injuries. He suffered a fractured nose, jaw and eye socket and was taken to hospital for treatment.

Detectives believe the victim was attacked by a number of men who made off from the scene before officers arrived.

A man in his 30s was assaulted at the junction of Kent Road and Princess Street in Blackpool at around 11.40pm on Wednesday, November 17. He suffered a fractured nose, jaw and eye socket and was taken to hospital for treatment. Pic: Google

A man in his 30s was assaulted at the junction of Kent Road and Princess Street in Blackpool at around 11.40pm on Wednesday, November 17. He suffered a fractured nose, jaw and eye socket and was taken to hospital for treatment. Pic: Google

Lancashire Police are now appealing for information and the force is urging any witnesses to come forward.

Det Con Dan Knowles, of Blackpool CID, said: “This was a serious assault which left the victim with injuries including a fractured nose, jaw and eye socket.

“The attack took place late at night but I believe someone will have seen what happened.

“I’m also keen to trace anyone who might have dashboard mounted camera footage which has recorded the incident.”

Anyone with information can contact police on 101 or email 4912@lancashire.police.uk quoting log 1698 of November 17.

Alternatively you can contact independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online at crimestoppers.org.



North West in Bloom competition honours green-fingered Fylde groups

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Fylde volunteers and staff are celebrating after being honoured in the North West in Bloom (NWIB) competition.


The borough landed 22 honours in the annual contest and seven ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ Awards.

Ansdell in Bloom, Lytham in Bloom, Elswick and Lytham Hall Kitchen Garden won gold medals and were overall winners in their respective categories.

The Fylde Sand Dunes Project received recognition with a Level 5 Outstanding It’s Your Neighbourhood Award along with a highly commended certificate.

Lytham in Bloom won a gold medal and was overall winner in the Best Small Coastal Resort category

Lytham in Bloom won a gold medal and was overall winner in the Best Small Coastal Resort category

Case for improving South Fylde rail line through Lytham and Blackpool Pleasure B…

Coun Gavin Harrison, deputy chairman of the tourism and leisure committee for Fylde Council, said: “It is such a pleasure to see the participants from various organisations, groups and of

course volunteers in the community who presented their premises with such enthusiasm receiving well-deserved recognition.

“I believe residents will be proud to witness the huge achievement in all categories.”

Andy Mills, Fylde Council Ranger, and Amy Pennington,from the Lancashire Wildlife Trust, receive their award from Coun Harrison

Andy Mills, Fylde Council Ranger, and Amy Pennington,from the Lancashire Wildlife Trust, receive their award from Coun Harrison

2021 NWIB Discretionary Awards:

Art in the Community – Ansdell in Bloom

RHS Parks Awards Small Parks – Gold medal for Lowther Gardens, Lytham

Highly Commended Award – Fylde Sand Dunes Project

Best Urban Community gold medal and category winner went to Ansdell in Bloom

Best Urban Community gold medal and category winner went to Ansdell in Bloom

Best School Category – Lytham Hall Park Primary School

Outstanding Contribution for North West in Bloom – Tony Ford

Outstanding Contribution to Work Within Horticulture – John Hornyak

2021 NWIB Awards:

Best Urban Community –Gold medal and category winner for Ansdell in Bloom

Best Small Town – Silver gilt medal for Bloomin’ Warton

Best Village– Gold medal and category winner for Elswick in Bloom; Silver gilt for Weeton in Bloom

Best Small Accommodation – Gold medal for Queens Hotel, Lytham; Gold medal for The Eagle at Weeton

Best Small Tourist Attraction – Gold medal and category winner for Lytham Hall Kitchen Garden, Apiary and Garden Hub

Best Small Village – Gold medal for Little Eccleston in Bloom

Best Small Coastal Resort – Gold medal and category winner for Lytham in Bloom

Best Large Village – Gold medal for Staining in Bloom; silver gilt for Wrea Green in Bloom

Community Effort Award – Park View4U Queen Elizabeth II Park



Car left stranded on tramway after smashing through concrete fence in Bispham

Home | Blackpool Gazette

A car was left partially stranded on the tramway after it smashed through a concrete fence in Bispham.


The incident occurred in Queen’s Promenade, near the Highlands Pub, at approximately 7.20pm last night (November 29).

Pictures from the scene show the silver car smashed through the concrete fencing separating the road and tramway.

Police attended the scene but said they were unable to release any further details as it was a “damage only” collision.

The silver car smashed through the concrete fencing separating the road and tramway (Photo by Liam Otley)

The silver car smashed through the concrete fencing separating the road and tramway (Photo by Liam Otley)

North West Ambulance Service confirmed they did not attend the incident.



Mum and son’s deaths not directly linked to missed opportunites, coroner ruled at inquest

Home | Blackpool Gazette

A coroner has accepted that there were some missed opportunities to help a mother and son who died within a month of each other after they had both suffered with serious mental health problems.


Marshall Metcalfe with mum Jane and his two sisters

Marshall Metcalfe with mum Jane and his two sisters

But Andrew Wilson said he could not say conclusively that any issues with the way professional duties had been carried out had effectively caused the lives of Jane Ireland and her son Marshall Metcalfe to be shortened.

Marshall, 17, of Heeley Road, died on May 7 2020 in Royal Preston Hopsital from massive injuries after falling off the roof of Blackpool’s Sainsbury store.

Just one month later, on June 7, Ms Ireland died at the home she shared with her son from the combined effects of a large dose of methadone, fatty liver disease and bronchial pneumonia.

A verdict of suicide was recorded in the case of Marshall, after the inquest heard that he had made his way to the top of the building, climbed past barriers and allowed himself to fall after climbing onto a wall.

However, a narrative verdict was recorded in the case of Ms Ireland, as the coroner could not conclude that she had intended to take her own life.

Ms Ireland died after injesting methadone but she was also suffering from fatty liver disease and bronchial pneumonia.

The pair had both been suffering from schizophrenia and had both been under the care of the Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust mental health services in Blackpool.

An independent investigation carried out before the inquest found that, although many aspects of Marshall’s care had been ‘adequate, if not excellent’, ‘opportunities were missed’ to help him.

Lancashire social services were also involved and admitted lessons had been learned after a serious communication lapse between departments.

Jane Ireland was described as talented theatrical make-up artist and a loving mother of three.

Marshall had been a popular pupil at school, keen on sport, coping well in class and with lots of friends.

But Ms Ireland’s mental health issues were linked back to 2010 after she was subjected to vicious domestic abuse which saw her partner bite her nose off, which required several operations and shattered her mental wellbeing.

Despite moving from Burnley with her children to a new life in St Annes, her mental health gradually deteriorated further and she was eventually hospitalised after two drug overdoses.

A year before her death she was hearing 13 different voices in her head, including that of the God Yarweh and there were concern she was drinking to excess and not taking her antipsychotic medication.

Marshall’s mental health, meanwhile, had begun to dramatically decline two years begore his death and he had two lengthy spells in The Cove unit in Heysham for children and adolescents with complex mental health needs, the final stay lasting from February 2019 to January 2020.

During Marshall’s lowest point in The Cove in the summer of 2019, his ability to communicate had deteriorated and he was making grunting noises and rolling around on the floor.

One issue that caused concern was that social services were no longer involved in Marshall’s care when he entered The Cove and no social care arrangement was in place when he left.

Mr Wilson said he was concerned that social services had not remained involved in his care after Marshall was admitted to The Cove and he intended to send a Prevention of Future Deaths Report to Gillian Keegan, the Minister of State for Care at the Department of Health and Social Care.

When he left The Cove in January 6 2020, the team at the unit believed his mother was the best person to care for him but believed social services should have been involved apart his discharge.

The inquest heard that a lack of communications between the social service and mental health teams of Ms Ireland and her son had meant that her deteriorating mental health was not flagged up.

Marshall’s sister Holly had raised concerns that her mum was not well enough to look after Marshall because of her own mental health problems.

But the coroner raised the point that no alternative accommodation for Marshall appeared to be available and that he came from a loving family.

Marshall’s health had not deteriorated upon his discharge and he appeared to be taking his medication.

Holly Ireland said she would consider the full outcome of the inquest before making a statement.



Granny and Grandad may be at risk of Covid this Christmas as Blackpool Victoria Hospital top doctor Dr Jim Gardner says ‘protection offered by two vaccine doses is waning’

Home | Blackpool Gazette

There are fears pensioners are at risk of Covid because of waning protection offered by two vaccine doses.


Scores of elderly patients continue to die in Blackpool within weeks of catching the disease, with 15 deaths recorded in the past seven days.

And, just weeks before families plan to celebrate the Christmas festivities with their families – including grandmothers and grandfathers – the Victoria Hospital’s medical director struck a sombre note during his weekly coronavirus briefing.

Blackpool Victoria Hospital

Blackpool Victoria Hospital

He said: “It’s important to say, I think, that when you look at these numbers, the majority of patients who are poorly with Covid are over the age of 55 – and mostly … towards over 75 and 85.

“We wonder, don’t we, whether that has been a wearing off of some of the effectiveness of the vaccine, which may well have been delivered in early 2021 – perhaps in March or so on.”

Dr Gardner said data from the UK and abroad showed how effective the third ‘booster’ jab is proving to be.

In a plea also issued to anti-vaxxers, he said: “As community numbers are still high – we are still seeing in Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre the prevalence per 100,000 in the high 300s – we can see, in terms of people becoming really poorly and coming to hospital, those numbers have been dropping and we think that is to do with vaccination.

“So the Covid boosters are now available to anybody over the age of 40 who has had their two doses. It’s very easy to book that online – that’s now on the NHS UK website.

“For anyone who hasn’t even begun a course of Covid vaccination, the impact is compelling. I’d still urge people – for whatever reason if you haven’t started the immunisation programme – to start it; if you haven’t had your second dose, to have your second dose; and if you are eligible for a booster, have a booster.

“It just really looks like it’s the most effective way of us controlling this problem.”

There are 34 people within 14 days of their first diagnosis in hospital on the Fylde coast, including 28 on general wards at the Vic, four in intensive care, and two at the Clifton Hospital in St Annes, Dr Gardner said on Wednesday.

He also announced a further 11 Covid-related deaths, taking the Vic’s toll to 886.

Those who have had their booster by Saturday, December 11 will have a ‘very high protection against Covid’ by Christmas, the Department of Health and Social Care said.

Research has shown that two weeks after a booster, people are less likely to have symptoms of the disease.

The British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Diabetes UK are among 16 charities now encouraging vulnerable people to take up the offer of a top-up jab.

So far about 16 million people have had a booster vaccine or a third dose across Britain.

People aged 40 and over and the clinically vulnerable are eligible to get a booster six months after their second jab, and they are able to book their appointment after five months has lapsed.

Eligible people are encouraged to get their booster as soon as possible after data showed falling levels of protection from symptomatic disease and hospital admission six months after people have had their second jab. The charities will also encourage patients to get a flu jab.

A study previously published by the UK Health Security Agency showed in adults aged 50 years and over, protection against symptomatic infection was 93.1 per cent in those whose first two doses were of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.

Those who had an initial course of Pfizer saw protection rise to 94 per cent.

Those here have been advised to take a test before visiting crowded indoor spaces – which could include busy shops or Christmas parties.

And in Northern Ireland people are being urged to work from home where possible in a bid to curb cases.

It comes amid a spike of cases across Europe and concerns that the crisis could engulf Christmas celebrations for a second year running.

On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Government sees no need to introduce fresh restrictions in England despite rising cases across much of Europe.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that Europe is likely to experience more than two million Covid deaths by March as it urged people to take a “vaccine plus” approach to tackling the virus.

The WHO said the European region remains ‘in the firm grip’ of the coronavirus pandemic, with reported daily deaths rising to almost 4,200 a day – double the 2,100 deaths a day at the end of September.

Dr Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, said: “In order to live with this virus and continue our daily lives, we need to take a ‘vaccine plus’ approach.

“This means getting the standard doses of vaccine, taking a booster if offered, as well as incorporating preventive measures into our normal routines.

“Taken together, wearing a mask, washing hands, ventilating indoor spaces, keeping physical distance and sneezing into your elbow are simple, effective ways of gaining control over the virus and keeping societies going.”

Meanwhile, new estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest that more than nine in 10 UK adults have antibodies for Covid.

And separate ONS figures show that a total of 169,767 deaths have occurred in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, the ONS said.



Festive lights are shining bright for Fleetwood after bumper switch-on

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Fleetwood is all lit-up for Christmas after a spectacular switch-on extravaganza at the weekend.


For the first time, the event was staged over two days with a range of activities across the town on both Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday evening saw the return of the lantern parade down Lord Street after last year’s cancellation, with mascots in fancy dress and a huge turn-out from the Fleetwood public.

Fleetwood Old Boys Band, an ever-present fixture in the town’s big events, were part of the parade and there was also a heritage bus – a late replacement for the Fisherman’s Friend tram which couldn’t make the journey to Fleetwood after a building collapsed close to the tram track in Blackpool.

Festive lights are shining bright for Fleetwood after bumper switch-on. Ravenswood Photography

Festive lights are shining bright for Fleetwood after bumper switch-on. Ravenswood Photography

The switch-on itself then took place at the Marine Gardens with Chaucer Primary School pupil Kayden Butterworth getting to press the switch after reaching the final of a find the elf competition.

There was also a switch-on concert featuring Larkholme School choir, the Starmaker theatre group and father-and-son singing duo Wal and Dion Mitchinson. Organisers were delighted with the turn-out on Saturday night, in bitterly cold and blustery conditions – especially as there were fears that Storm Arwen might cause the event to be cancelled.

Julie Dalton, secretary of Fleetwood Christmas Lights Committee, said: “On Saturday morning we were worried about safety but thankfully the weather calmed down as the day wore on.

“We couldn’t have been more pleased with the turn-out, especially as it was so cold. The Fleetwood people did us proud, we were humbled.”

The event was jointly coordinated by Wyre Council, Fleetwood Town Council and the Festive Lights Committee.

Although the blustery weather caused the festive funfair in the Marine Gardens to be cancelled, there were still plenty of activities over the weekend.

In the Marine Hall and gardens there will be a magical Festive Fayre starting each day, featuring delicious festive food and drinks, Christmas crafts and gifts for festive shopping.

There will be a festive funfair, Christmas-themed walkabout theatre acts, live singing, competitions and lots more to experience.

Traditional Victorian Carol singers performed festive hymns throughout Saturday, while on the Sunday the Mount Pavilion underwent a true festive transformation to become Santa’s Grotto.

Now, in the run-up to Christmas, Lord Street will feature dazzling white festive lights and two illuminated trees for some festive cheer.



Council had told Blackpool stores to take Christmas decorations down – despite display being likened to Fifth Avenue in New York

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Scrooge-like council chiefs who had ordered traders to remove their Christmas decorations have had a change of heart following an outcry.


Stores inside the council-owned Stanley Buildings on Church Street had been told to remove the festive trimmings because they were said to be damaging the listed building.

But after the display was likened to ‘Fifth Avenue in New York’, it was announced the decorations will be allowed to remain in place.

Traders from Mankind, Lingerie Lounge and Hermosa Boutique had clubbed together to pay for the decorations out of their own pockets.

The decorations outside Lingerie Lounge

The decorations outside Lingerie Lounge

Sirge Smart, who owns Mankind menswear store, said: “It has cost us a lot of money and we have not asked the council for anything, and we have had customers in every day who say the decorations look amazing.

“The building is in total disrepair anyway and outside there are chunks of masonry missing, and all we have done is put in two tiny bolts to fasten them to a window ledge.”

Chrissy Thomas Griffin, owner of the Lingerie Lounge, said the decorations “made everyone smile”.

She added: “The council served us all notices the day after they were installed ordering us all to remove them

The decorations on Church Street

The decorations on Church Street

“Their letter said it was because it is a listed building. But we have not drilled into anywhere and used existing hooks they installed themselves, and used a professional company to install and insure.”

Coun Tony Williams told a meeting of the full council: “If you have seen the Christmas decorations outside, they are stunning. It is like Fifth Avenue in New York.

“I was shocked when Sirge contacted me and said someone from the council had gone to these shops and said you will have to take the decorations down as this is a listed building.”

Coun Mark Smith, who is a ward councillor for the town centre, also praised the display and added: “It does really brighten up the town and it would be nice if all the units did the same.”

Council leader Coun Lynn Williams said the display would be allowed to remain in place.

She said: “They have drilled into the fabric of the building. They will be staying up.”

But she added the traders would be asked to “make good the damage” when the trimmings were taken down.



Four men arrested after ‘violent incident’ in Fleetwood

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Four men were arrested after police were called to a “violent incident” in Fleetwood.


The incident occurred in Addison Road on Sunday evening (November 28), police said.

Officers rushed to the scene and arrested four men on suspicion of affray.

A spokesman for Lancashire Police said: “Whilst the investigation continues our increased police presence in the town remains.

Four men were arrested after police were called to a "violent incident" in Addison Road, Fleetwood

Four men were arrested after police were called to a “violent incident” in Addison Road, Fleetwood

“Violent incidents and the use of weapons will not be tolerated and will be dealt with robustly.”

Anyone with information can call 101 or report it online via doitonline.lancashire.police.uk.

Lancashire Police have been approached for more information about the incident.



Lancashire credit union president and Royal Marine charity stalwart gets his OBE from Princess Anne

Home | Blackpool Gazette

The president of a Lancashire credit union has been presented with an OBE in recognition of his long time voluntary service with a national ex-servicemen’s charity.


Veteran Ron Bell, 66, was invested as an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in the 2020 New Years’ Honours list for ‘Services to the Royal Marines’ following his seven-year tenure as national chairman of the charity.

He is also a founder member of the Blackpool Branch of the Royal Marines Association which was re-formed in 2003.

A local businessman and former Blackpool councillor who represented Talbot ward with his brother Gary from 2007 to 2011, Ron has also been involved with the credit union CLEVR Money since its launch in 2009 and has been its president since January 2016.

Ron Bell with wife Brenda at Windsor Castle

Ron Bell with wife Brenda at Windsor Castle

Ron received his medal from The Princess Royal Princess Anne at Windsor Castle in a recent ceremony following an 18-month delay due to Covid. His wife Brenda was able to watch proceedings while daughter Kerry, son-in-law Andy and grandson James were there to help celebrate afterwards.

He said: “It was a great honour to be awarded the OBE and have it presented by Princess Anne in the State Apartments in Windsor Castle. She was very well briefed on each recipient and wanted to chat about the Royal Marines as her father was the Captain General Royal Marines for 64 years.

“She also asked about CLEVR Money as she saw tremendous value in the work we do and was very interested to know how it was going. I was delighted to be able to tell her what a fantastic job the credit union is doing in helping local people to access fair credit and avoid bad debt.”

As the local credit union, CLEVR Money provides savings and loans for people living or working on the Fylde coast and Preston. A not-for-profit, community focused ethical company, the credit union ensures people have access to affordable loans and aren’t forced into borrowing from payday lenders and loan sharks.

Jackie Colebourne, co-manager of CLEVR Money, said: “Ron is an extremely hard working president who gives up huge amounts of his time to support causes which are close to his heart, and he plays an invaluable role at CLEVR Money.

“As part of the Blackpool branch of the RMA, Ron proudly represented the town as national chairman of the charity where he chaired a team that revitalised the charity’s services and increased its membership massively during his time with them.

“We are absolutely delighted to see Ron being recognised for his dedication to helping others and, on behalf of the staff and board of directors, we want to congratulate him on this well-deserved honour.”