SPAR stores reopen as cash only after suspected cyber attack causes “total IT outage” across Northern England

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Some of Lancashire’s SPAR stores have reopened as cash only this morning (Monday, December 6) after a suspected cyber attack led to a “total IT outage” across its Northern branches.


The IT problem – which has been described as a ‘total outage’ – led to the closure of all SPAR stores across the North of England yesterday (Sunday, December 5).

Lawrence Hunt & Co Ltd, which operates 25 branches across Lancashire, said the outage is affecting tills, credit cards and back office systems across the SPAR network.

The website for Preston food distributor James Hall and Co, which provides stock to hundreds of SPAR shops across the North, also remains offline today.

A spokesman for James Hall & Co said: “We are currently aware of an online attack on our IT systems. This has affected around 330 SPAR stores across the North of England over the past 24 hours and we are working to resolve this situation as quickly as possible.

“It is currently impacting stores’ ability to process card payments meaning that a number of SPAR stores are currently closed to shoppers or only taking cash payments.

“We apologise for the inconvenience this is causing our customers and we are working as quickly as possible to resolve the situation.”

Some SPAR shops have confirmed they are back open, but shoppers can only pay with cash, whilst a number of stores remain closed.
A 'total IT outage' has led to the closure of SPAR shops across Lancashire

A ‘total IT outage’ has led to the closure of SPAR shops across Lancashire

This morning, the SPAR shop in Broadfield Drive, Leyland, said: “Our store is back open but we are operating cash only as our systems are still down. Thank you for all your ongoing support.”

Yesterday evening (Sunday, December 5), Lawrence Hunt & Co said: “Unfortunately due to a total network outage affecting tills, credit cards and back office systems, it looks like we will remain closed for the whole of Sunday.

“Apologies from the whole of the Hunts team for the massive inconvenience to all our customers.

“We hope our partners will get us back up and running very soon.”

Lawrence Hunt & Co Ltd have been approached for an update.



Blackpool woman snaps picture of ‘UFO’ over beach near Coral Island

Home | Blackpool Gazette

A woman from Bispham believes she has photographed an unidentified flying object in the night sky over Blackpool.


Zowie Sinclair says the saucer-shaped object was caught on camera as it appeared above the beach opposite Coral Island at 8.41pm on Saturday, October 30.

The 37-year-old mum said she and a friend had taken a stroll down to the seafront that evening, but the pair hadn’t spotted anything unusual in the night sky.

But later on, after looking at pictures she had taken on her phone, Zowie was startled to notice a strange silver object suspended in the sky above the beach.

Zowie Sinclair says the saucer-shaped object was caught on camera as it appeared above the beach opposite Coral Island at 8.41pm on Saturday, October 30

Zowie Sinclair says the saucer-shaped object was caught on camera as it appeared above the beach opposite Coral Island at 8.41pm on Saturday, October 30

The beach was busy with gulls at the time and one of the sea birds can be seen gliding through the air above the sands, close to the larger, mystery object.

But Zowie, who has an interest in UFOs, does not believe the object to be a bird nor a drone. Instead, she believes the object might be of extraterrestrial origin.

She said: “When I noticed it, I felt like I needed to share it because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

“Me and my friend decided to go and take her three-year-old daughter for a walk down Blackpool front to the arcades and thought we would go and look where the sea was, so we walked down to the beach and sat on the steps, this was opposite Coral Island.

A close-up shot of the strange silver object photographed by Zowie Sinclair in the sky above Blackpool beach, near Coral Island on October 30

A close-up shot of the strange silver object photographed by Zowie Sinclair in the sky above Blackpool beach, near Coral Island on October 30

“I decided to take a picture but it was dark and couldn’t really see anything, so I put my phone on night mode and took the picture.

“We never noticed anything at the time, and neither did anybody else. I definitely don’t think it was a drone because there was no sound and we didn’t see anything.

“I feel like the shape and how bright it is points to it definitely being a UFO. The beach was really quiet at the time too and we didn’t hear or notice anything.

“I’m not sure what other people will think, but to me, looking at it again, it looks like it could be spinning. That might be why there appears to be light waves reflecting off the disc shape?

“I’ve never seen a UFO but I’ve always wanted too and I can’t believe I might have caught one on my phone by accident.

“I can’t believe how close I was when taking this picture without realising it was there. It just amazes me as I really do believe in UFOs and I’d love to know if anyone else has seen something similar?”

Zowie is eager to hear from any Gazette readers who might have witnessed anything unusual in the skies over Blackpool recently…



Blackpool Tower Circus needs £1m revamp to safeguard its future

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

Blackpool Tower Circus needs £1m revamp to safeguard its future


Blackpool Tower Circus
Blackpool Tower Circus

Council chiefs have agreed to spend £1m to safeguard the future of the historic Blackpool Tower Circus after surveys found the ceiling in need of urgent repairs.

A town hall report reveals the ceiling of the circus inside the Grade I listed Blackpool Tower has been “closely monitored for some time” after a survey showed the structure “to be in poor condition.”

The report warns not doing the work “would not allow the Circus to continue to operate.”

The estimated cost of repairs is £643,629, which will be paid by the council through prudential borrowing with annual repayments over 25 years totalling just over £1m from the Strategic Leisure Assets portfolio.

Coun leader Coun Lynn Williams approved the investment as an urgent decision.

A report setting out the reasons says temporary repairs to stabilise the ceiling were made in 2020 but since then “further significant deterioration to the ceiling has occurred.”

This led to a further detailed survey who findings “require that permanent works are to be completed, in order to stabilise and safeguard the ceiling on a more permanent basis”.

The work will be done while the Circus is closed for the winter, with operator Merlin expecting to welcome audiences back for the 2022 season.

In previous years the attraction has hosted a pantomime, but no shows were scheduled for Christmas this year.

The Circus dates back to 1894 and is the oldest permanent circus arena in the world, able to seat an audience of 1,300 people.

It is the fifth ceiling in the council’s portfolio of listed buildings to require urgent investment.

In 2018, the ceiling of the Empress Ballroom inside the Grade II* Winter Gardens was restored at a cost of £750,000, while a £1.1m refurbishment of the Tower Ballroom ceiling was completed earlier this year including a £750,000 government grant.


In August 2019, the council also spent £13,000 on repairs to the council chamber ceiling within the Grade II listed Town Hall, and in October this year it was revealed repairs are needed to the roof of the Grade II listed Central Library which will cost £290,000.

In 2019 the council appointed experts to survey ceilings at all its historic buildings as part of a £240,000 contract to ensure they were safe.



Blackpool Christmas shopping: How shoppers contended with bad weather and new Covid rules on Small Business Saturday

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Amid fears the new Omicron variant of Covid may deter shoppers from heading out on their Christmas shopping, it was more the weather that those pounding the streets had to contend with on Saturday.


As our pictures and video show, plenty got their heads down and hoods up to grab those all-important gifts on the first weekend of December.

New face covering rules also came into force in England on Tuesday in response to concerns over the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

On Sunday, a South African health researcher said early data suggests the Omicron variant of coronavirus is highly transmissible, but has a less than 1% chance of re-infection and typically results in “milder” disease.

Shoppers brave the bad weather

Shoppers brave the bad weather

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, Professor Willem Hanekom, director of the Africa Health Research Institute in South Africa said: “We know three things that we didn’t know last week, the first thing is that the virus is spreading extraordinarily fast in South Africa, the increase in cases is much steeper than it’s been in the past three waves so it seems that Omicron is able to spread very easily and virtually all the cases that we see in South Africa right now are Omicron.

“The third little bit of data we have already relates to clinical cases and how severe the disease is. The only data suggests the disease may occur more in younger people and mostly younger people who are unvaccinated and overall so far the disease has appeared to be milder but again I want to say we have to be cautious – these are very early days.”

On the retail front, it was Small Business Saturday with politicians and business leaders calling for shoppers to support small businesses to help them tackle the fresh uncertainty they face heading into the crucial festive trading period.

Shoppers brave the bad weather

Shoppers brave the bad weather

The aim is to encourage people to spend money in smaller shops, recognising the contribution of independent businesses to communities during the lockdown.

Michelle Ovens, director of Small Business Saturday, said: “We all need to show small businesses our love this weekend. Not only do they make a massive contribution to our economy, but an immeasurable difference to all our lives.

“Despite demonstrating incredible entrepreneurialism and agility, alongside the support they’ve shown staff, customers and communities, many are still facing a really tough time.

“Small Business Saturday is a fantastic chance to get behind these firms and say a big ‘thank you’ for how amazing they are.”

Research by Small Business Saturday supporter American Express found that while small business confidence is starting to rebound, challenges included the cost of goods, rising energy costs and product shortages.

Figures show Black Friday sales failed to boost high street footfall despite a resurgence in consumer confidence and bricks-and-mortar shopping.

Total UK footfall fell by 15.7% in November on the same month in 2019 as the harsh weather deterred some customers from shopping in stores, according to BRC-Sensormatic IQ data.

However it was still comparatively strong at the second highest figure for this year, only second to October.



Lytham eatery’s response to angry guest who said dogs near food ‘should be illegal’

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

They defended allowing dogs into the tearoom


The Black Sheep Tea Room's Merino Afternoon Tea
The Black Sheep Tea Room’s Merino Afternoon Tea (Image: Tripadvisor)

A restaurant owner in Lancashire has responded to an outraged guest on Tripadvisor who said dogs in eateries “should be illegal” after their visit in the summer.

The Black Sheep Tea Room in Lytham St Annes is rated as #22 of 117 restaurants in the area according to reviews left by previous guests. It is rated 4.5 stars overall.

The Black Sheep also boasts a Travellers Choice award with 120 of its 156 reviews rating the Tea Room as ‘Excellent’.

The Black Sheep Tea Room sells a range of brunch dishes, as well as sweet treats which are available to order from their Black Sheep Bakery.

One guest, who rated the Tea Room as 5-stars, said it was “simply gorgeous”.

The user said: “Went there this afternoon and got the all-day small breakfast. Well worth it – lovely food and great service (they know how to do a perfect poached egg here – which is always a bonus).

“Would definitely recommend it to anyone. Although we didn’t have room for them after the breakfast – the cakes looked really good (and the helpings were quite large) will definitely make room for one next time.”

A second user praised the tea room for being dog-friendly after their visit in June.

They wrote: “Great service and dog friendly. Lots of gluten free options and the food was lovely. We sat outside and was a really nice spot. Will be back!!”

Others also joined in on praising the “needed” dog-friendly spot with one writing: “Visited Lytham and wanted a cuppa and a sit down after a braising walk in the cold on the green.

“We needed a dog friendly cafe. Was very pleased to find this very friendly cafe that readily accepted our four legged friend. After being refused at two previous cafes. We found this very friendly place with seating upstairs and downstairs. Menu with plenty of choice in drinks and food.

“Enjoyed a horlicks and hot buttered crumpets my husband had a nice pot of tea. Will definitely return when we are next in the area. Good luck with your business.”

However, after their visit in June, one guest said dogs in eateries “should be illegal”.

Kids Afternoon Tea at The Black Sheep Tea Room
Kids Afternoon Tea at The Black Sheep Tea Room (Image: Tripadvisor)

The user rated the Tea Room one-star and said: “Why food and eatery establishments allow smelly sniffing dogs allowed next to people eating food is beyond me.

“The food was very good until people with a dog sat next next to us. Promptly left. Dogs are animals with all sorts of fleas and moulting hair etc. Should be illegal.”

The owner at The Black Sheep Tea Room responded just two days later.

They said: “Thank you for your feedback, we allow dogs in the downstairs part of the tearoom and the outside roof terrace. We do have the main seating area upstairs where dogs aren’t allowed thus catering for everyone’s needs.

“I do think your rating is unfair as you seems to enjoy the food and it clearly states on our board outside that we are “doggy friendly”. We do find most dogs to be clean and well behaved as we do with our customers. Kind Regards.”



Two arrested after man suffers serious stab wounds in Blackpool bar

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Two people have been arrested after a man suffered a serious stab wound in a bar in Blackpool on Sunday morning.


Officers were called at around 5.15am to reports of an assault at Flamingo on Queen Street.

A man aged in his 20s was found with a stab wound to his lower back. He was taken to hospital where he remains in a serious but stable condition.

Two people – a man from Birmingham aged 29 and a boy from Birmingham aged 17 – were arrested at the scene on suspicion of assault GBH. They remain in custody.

Police were called to the Flying Handbag at 5.15am on Sunday.

Police were called to the Flying Handbag at 5.15am on Sunday.

Police are appealing for information about the incident and are asking anybody who witnessed it to get in touch.

Det Ch Insp Lee Wilson, of Blackpool Police, said: “A man is in hospital being treated for his injuries and an investigation has been launched to establish what occurred and who is responsible.

“We appreciate this will have caused concern in the community but we will have extra patrols in the area to offer reassurance, and anybody with concerns or questions is welcome to speak to an officer.

“Two men arrested at the scene remain in police custody.

“We are now asking anybody with information to get in touch with us as soon as possible. Perhaps you saw the incident, caught something on mobile phone footage that could help our investigation, or perhaps you think you know who is responsible. Whatever information you have please come forward in confidence and let us know.”

Anybody with information is asked to call 101, quoting log 275 of today (December 5th). Alternatively you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.



Tributes to lifeboat mechanic after sudden death at just 32

Home | Blackpool Gazette

A lifeboat mechanic who served for more than six years as a Lytham St Annes RNLI volunteer has died aged 32.


Kerrith Black has died in his sleep, aged 32

Kerrith Black has died in his sleep, aged 32

Kerrith Black, known to all as Kez, passed away in his sleep and he leaves his partner Kayleigh and their 18-month-old daughter Aluna Rose Black, as well as his parents Roy and Andrea Black. A cause of death is not known.

Kez joined the Lytham St Annes RNLI crew in 2014 and three years later rose to become a lifeboat mechanic, a volunteer who is highly trained to look after the lifeboat engines and equipment at sea.

He was unable to continue his volunteering for the RNLI when he moved to Preston last year, with his new home beyond the maximum travelling range stipulated for calls to emergencies at sea via pager alert.

But a spokesman for Lytham St Annes RNLI he was always considered part of the “Lifeboat Family” and if he had moved back into Lytham St Annes at any time he would have been warmly welcomed back on the crew.

Kez was a former pupil of Ansdell Primary School and Lytham St Annes High School and his father Roy is a long-serving Shannon Launch and Recovery System driver at the RNLI station in St Annes.

Ben McGarry, a Lytham St Annes RNLI crew member who had earlier stepped up to mechanic and encouraged Kez to also take the role, said everyone at the station was absolutely shocked at Kerrith’s death.

“It was a dreadful shock when we heard of his loss – we couldn’t believe it and are so sorry for his family,” he said.

“Kez was just a really genuine lad who would do anything for anyone and really enjoyed being part of the lifeboat crew.

“He really took to the role and was aways wiling to learn and was a great guy to have around the station – a proper team player.”

A private, family-only cremation service is to be held at Lytham Crematorium and there are hopes for a ceremony is his memory at the St Annes lifeboat station, but that is still to be confirmed and a date announced.

The station spokesman added: “Kez was held in high regard by his fellow crew members and the station’s condolences go to his family and friends.”



Neil Critchley provides humorous response when asked who he’d like Blackpool to draw in the FA Cup third round

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Neil Critchley has joked he’s got a “few cats to kick” before he turns his attention to who his Blackpool side might draw in the third round of the FA Cup.


The Seasiders now enter the competition at a later stage following their promotion to the Championship.

Fellow second tier sides and Premier League clubs are also included in the draw for the first time this season.

Pool pulled off a cup upset last season, beating then top flight side West Brom on penalties before being narrowly knocked out in the fourth round by Brighton & Hove Albion.

After being asked who he’d like to face in the third round after Saturday’s dismal 3-0 home defeat to Luton Town, Critchley provided a predictably humorous response.

“There’s 48 hours between now and then and I’ve got a few cats to kick,” he told The Gazette.

“But it’s the third round and it’s always exciting,

Neil Critchley's Blackpool side lost 3-0 to Luton yesterday

Neil Critchley’s Blackpool side lost 3-0 to Luton yesterday

“We’d love to get a big team at home or a big team away maybe, that’s the excitement of the draw.

“I’ll be looking forward to it, but I need to go home and recover first.”

The draw takes place at 7pm on Monday before the final second round tie between Boreham Wood and St Albans City, which is being televised on ITV.

Blackpool will be ball number seven.

Third round ties will take place over the weekend of Friday, January 7 to Monday, January 10, with winning clubs picking up £82,000 in prize money.



Thornton house fire believed to have been ‘started deliberately’

Home | Blackpool Gazette

A fire at a home in Thornton may have been started deliberately, police said.


Emergency services rushed to a house fire in Mill Close, off Fleetwood Road South, at approximately 10.30pm on Thursday (December 3).

Firefighters equipped with two breathing apparatus used one hose reel and one positive pressure ventilation unit to extinguish the flames.

The fire caused damage to the property but officers confirmed no one was injured.

Police launched an investigation alongside Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service as they believed the fire was “started deliberately”.

A spokesman for Lancashire Police said: “We are appealing for any relevant CCTV, ring Doorbell or dash cam footage taken between 10pm and 11pm in the area.

“This includes Fleetwood Road South, Amounderness Way and the area around Norcross Roundabout.

“If you live nearby or believe you can help, please check your footage and upload it.”
A fire at a home in Mill Close, Thornton may have been started deliberately, police said

A fire at a home in Mill Close, Thornton may have been started deliberately, police said

Emergency services were also called to a suspected arson attack in Mill Close at around 8pm on Thursday, November 11.

Firefighters equipped with two breathing apparatus used one hose reel to douse the flames.

The fire was deemed suspicious and police launched an investigation into the cause.

The fire caused damage to the property but police confirmed no one was injured

The fire caused damage to the property but police confirmed no one was injured

If you have any information regarding Thursday’s fire call 101 or visit, quoting log number LC-20211202-1515.

Footage can also be uploaded to police by clicking HERE.

Alternatively, independent charity Crimestopper can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via



Poulton-le-Fylde Band in festive singalong concert at Blackpool Grand Theatre

Home | Blackpool Gazette

A Christmas concert to get people in the festive mood is being staged at Blackpool Grand Theatre.


Poulton-le-Fylde Band are staging a Christmas concert

Poulton-le-Fylde Band are staging a Christmas concert

Poulton-le-Fylde Band will perform a programme of festive songs and carols at the theatre on Monday December 13, beginning at 8pm.

And this will be one concert where audience members will not be sitting in silence – they are actively being encouraged to sing along!

The concert has become something of a recent tradition at the Grade II listed theatre.

Poulton-le-Fylde Band is among the longest-established bands in the country, having been in exitance since since September 25, 1875.

The band has a long competitive history and believes that taking part in competitions raises its standard.

However, members also love to stage concerts and the Christmas concert is one of their favourites.

For ticket details visit



Blackpool beaches dog ban in summer extended for three more years

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

The dog control PSPO (public space protection order) was introduced in 2018


An aerial view of the beach at Blackpool
An aerial view of the beach at Blackpool

Dog control orders including a ban on the pets being allowed on Blackpool’s main beaches during the summer have been renewed for another three years.

The council approved the move following consultation with residents and the Blackpool Association for Responsible K9’s (BARK).

An overwhelming majority of the 616 survey responses said dog owners should be fined for not carrying poo bags.

Just over 90 per cent agreed dog walkers should be required to show they have the means to pick up dog mess when challenged by authorised officers such as a dog warden, police officer or police community support officer.

Those who do not comply, should be given a fixed penalty notice.

But there was less concern about dogs being let off their leads on beaches, with just over 60 per cent of respondents agreeing with a dog ban on the beach between North Pier and the Solaris Centre (MIrror Ball area) between May and September.

The dog control PSPO (public space protection order) was introduced in 2018 to prohibit dog fouling and ban the walking of dogs in certain areas on a permanent or temporary basis.

Places where dogs are not allowed at any time include children’s play areas, multi-use games areas, ball courts, BMX and skate parks, bowling and golfing greens, the Stanley Park boating lake and ornamental ponds, Marton Mere lake, and the playing areas of all marked sports pitches when in use.

A council report says: “The order aims to prevent a variety of activities deemed as anti-social behaviours to ensure that public spaces can be enjoyed, and are enforced via staff within the authority to issue fixed penalty notices.”

As well as public consultation, the council also took into account views from Blackpool Association for Responsible K9’s (BARK).

The order also rules dogs must be kept on a lead on all public roads, on Blackpool Promenade between North and South Pier, in public parks and gardens, in cemeteries and churchyards, car parks, on tram tracks and adjacent footpaths, at the Marton Mere nature reserve, the Cenotaph, the arboretum on Moor Park Avenue, the grassy embankments on South Promenade, and around Starr Gate tram stop.

A person in charge of a dog must put it on a lead if requested to do so by an authorising officer, even if the dog is outside one of these lead-only zones.

Failure to comply with the rules may result in a £100 fixed penalty notice.