Glasson Dock community 'divided' by sudden changes to village by port bosses

The peaceful community of Glasson Dock has been left 'frightened and divided' according to some residents who say their lives are being blighted by planned changes at the port. GAYLE ROUNCIVELL reports

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 4:20 pm

Life in Glasson Dock for some of the residents has always focused on its close-knit community, and the cooperation between residents and Lancaster Port Commission, who own the port .

But that all changed three days before Christmas, when residents were told they must stop using two parcels of land to park their vehicles.

The notices said residents had until January 6 to move their vehicles off the land, which is owned by the port.

Pictured from left, Jeremy Price and Tony Young with Dave and Sally Maddocks, who are co-chairs of the Glasson Residents' Group, opposite a fenced off car park. Photo by Kelvin Stuttard

Early in the new year, fences were erected around one piece of land, and residents photographed a car they say was being removed without permission by a fork lift truck.

Signs went up around the village on the land controlled and owned by the port and yellow lines were painted on some of the land, which the port said was to prevent obstructions occurring which would prevent port operation.

Within a matter of weeks, some of the residents suddenly felt unwelcome in their own village.

Sally and David Maddocks are joint chairmen of Glasson Residents' Group, which they set up earlier this year after the concerns were first raised.

The space where cars used to park is now fenced off and yellow lines added. Photo by Kelvin Stuttard

The couple have lived in Glasson for 11 years, but say port tenants Glasson Grain have stated they can no longer use a parcel of land to the rear of Railway Place, which is owned by the Port and leased by Glasson Grain.

"We have always got on very well with both Lancaster Port Commission (LPC) and Glasson Grain," Sally said. "But then suddenly we are all being told we are trespassing. It flies in the face of every bit of cooperation we have ever done.

"We share a bit of land which we have maintained, but all of a sudden they put up a fence 1.5m from our back door.

"It's always been give and take, so we were astonished after so many years of living amicably side by side.

A crane and fencing left opposite houses in Glasson Dock. Photo by Kelvin Stuttard

"It's having a terrible toll on us. People are frightened and angry.

"I have lived in Lancaster for 42 years and I have never experienced anything like this in my whole life. There was a total disregard for the community.

"The port is a statutory body so they don't need permission to do work on their land, but they have got responsibilities, and they are just not acting responsibly.

"They don't seem to understand the link with having a happy community; they have managed to divide a very close community."

The fencing which was erected behind house in Railway Place, which has since been removed by unknown persons.

Sally said the situation has been made harder by Covid, because the residents have been unable to meet up to discuss the issue or to protest.

"When we needed to rally the neighbours we couldn't," she said.

When the residents' group tried to contact LPC for a meeting, they say they were refused, and instead told to raise their concerns with Thurnham-with-Glasson Parish Council, who were due to meet with the port.

When questioned about their intentions, LPC told the residents and the parish council it was "port operational reasons and to protect for security and site health and safety".

Sally's husband David said: "There had been no consultation, it had come completely out of the blue and wasn't the way things were done in our community.

"Some people moved their vehicles and had to spend quite a lot of money to park them somewhere else. There's now a severe shortage of parking in the village.

Glasson Dock. Photo by Kelvin Stuttard

"This has created a great deal of consternation. There was a growing feeling that the port commission was taking actions that weren't responsible.

"This dispute is polarising and dividing this community just at this time of national emergency when all parties should be coming together in a spirit of co-operation and not exploiting the emergency to push through unpopular actions whilst normal methods of protest and opposition are not possible."

LPC later held a meeting with Thurnham-with-Glasson Parish Council, which was followed by a parish council meeting, during which councillors recounted to the residents what they were told.

David said: "We were told that the port commission claimed that for their organisation to be viable they had to significantly increase their income so they had agreed with Glasson Grain that they would increase their annual tonnage of imports from 150,000 tons of cargo to 250,000 - an increase of two thirds.

"They have already closed off two parcels of land in the village which are nowhere near 66 per cent more land, so presumably they want even more land in the village."

David said residents have seen no business plan or other documentation and are still not able to speak to LPC directly.

The residents' group has now asked Lancaster Port Commission to halt its expansion plans to allow for community engagement.

They say their "legitimate,deeply felt concerns and reasonable requests for consultation and compromise" have been dismissed with "alacrity and lack of consideration".

And they accuse Glasson Grain and Lancaster Port Commission of "breathtaking arrogance" for failing to show concern for the residents' fears.

"The disdain and disinterest that these people have for the residents is incredible," some members said. "People are frightened of what the village will become.

"We have always attempted to be reasonable,considerate and ready to discuss and compromise, however it is now very apparent that Glasson Grain and LPC have no intention of entering into such a relationship with the local residents and instead prefer to steamroller over any objections or concerns which the residents of Glasson may have."

The residents' group has also written to both the chief executive and trustees of LPC, saying they felt LPC had acted irresponsibly in executing major changes without consultation.

"These major changes have had a huge impact on our community’s quality of life and wellbeing already and we would like you to cease work on the changes until you have had the meeting with the parish council at the end of February as a gesture of goodwill and reconciliation towards the community," they said.

"The main concern we have is that there has been absolutely no consultation with residents regarding the intentions of Lancaster Port Commission and Glasson Grain in respect of the recent attempts to enclose and change the use of the land."

LPC chief executive Elsabe White said in a letter to the residents' group that the port had secured the land behind Railway Place "to prevent corporate manslaughter liability or prosecution from the Health & Safety Executive" in case of an accident.

"The cottages do not hold a right of access across the East Quay nor have any easements been created. As a result, the port is well within its rights to erect a fence line at not more than 2m in height," the letter said.

"The port existed many years before the current residents took occupation of these cottages, harsh but a reality.

"My role is to preserve the operation of the port and to execute the commission’s statutory duty to make the most of our assets. The East Quay is a valuable asset and in this respect it will be used to support port operations."

A further letter from Glasson Grain to residents of Railway Place asked them to remove all personal possessions from the land immediately.

The letter said the "port operational land leased to Glasson Grain Limited" had been "subject to trespass by members of the public".

Thurnham-with-Glasson Parish Council said: "There have been two full meetings along with various phone calls between the Lancaster Port Commissioners and Thurnham-with-Glasson Parish Council.

"At the most recent meeting a considerable amount of discussion on the way forward concerned the development of an engagement plan for the Port Commision.

"It was suggested a future village liaison meeting with the commissioners, a written explanation from the commission to the residents for their earlier actions, an open meeting for stake holders and the community, port commissioners also in future to attend some parish council meetings.

"Councillors strongly supported the inclusion of residents in the liaison meetings.

"The Port Commissioners present were taking the proposals back to their next full board meeting on Tuesday April 13 and are going to communicate any decisions on an engagement plan as soon as could be arranged.”

Beverley Lamb, chairman of Thurnham-with-Glasson Parish Council, added: “We were very sorry to lose Sally Maddocks as a parish councillor, who resigned as a point of principle as she felt there would be a conflict of interest by her being an affected local resident and being able to support the community as a whole including business."

County Coun Gina Dowding - who attended the second virtual meeting between LPC and the parish council - said she is looking into whether LPC need any form of planning permission or to meet any regulations.

"The port commission has a community responsibility to talk to the people that their business affects," she said.

"I have written to them to suggest that they put their plans on hold until they have explained what they are doing. They need a community engagement plan to ensure they give plenty of notice and consult the community.

"They need to talk about what they are hoping to do and take on board feedback. It's an acknowledgement that the people in the community matter; their lives are being affected."

Lancashire County Council's Highways department has confirmed that new double yellow lines painted on land off Victoria Terrace are on private land.

However, they said there have been no requests from the landowners to introduce restrictions on the land, and as such, the yellow lines are not enforceable by the council's civil enforcement officers.

If the landowner wished to introduce a private parking enforcement, this would involve additional signage as well as the double yellow lines.

The residents' group has also registered a complaint with the Department for Transport regarding the actions and governance of Lancaster Port Commission, and has written to Lancaster MP Cat Smith for her backing.

Ms Smith said: “I continue to speak with and make representations on behalf of all my constituents who have contacted me on this issue in Glasson Dock. I hope that a resolution can be found that resolves present difficulties and sees good relations between local businesses and residents in the village.”

Paul Monk, chairman for the Lancaster Port Commission, said: "Since 1750, the Lancaster Port Commission (LPC) has been responsible for the Trust Port at Glasson Dock.

"LPC is an independent statutory body governed by its own unique legislation and has a statutory responsibility to regulate, maintain and improve the port and provide benefits such as employment (over 100 employees work on the port estate), flood defence protection, on-going security (working with Marine Security & Resilience, Border Force and Anti-terrorism to ensure the safety of everyone in Glasson Dock), making sure all port users adhere to regulations and laws regarding potentially hazardous cargoes, looking after the environment by implementing policies and adhering to strict environmental regulations in all our operations, and crucially ensuring Health and Safety of employees, port users and the wider public. As custodians, LPC is acutely aware and proud of the cultural heritage of the port and of Glasson Dock, and the importance of this to the local and wider community and will continue to support positive tourism to the benefit of the village.

"In the past, ineffective boundary enforcement afforded some members of the public access to some port-owned, port operational land. Regrettably, instances of security breaches, vandalism, break-ins and fly-tipping, as well as H&S near-misses, had now prompted the port to act to secure all of its boundaries.

"It is understandable that some residents, who had mistakenly come to believe they have a right to port-owned land, may feel aggrieved. However, LPC has no option but to comply with all relevant legislation to ensure the safe and sustainable operations of the port, and to keep all stakeholders, including the public safe, whist discharging our statutory duty to ensure that port land is clearly separated from other land, as the principle activities of providing harbour and docking facilities, together with ancillary operations, are inherently dangerous. Not to do so would constitute a gross dereliction of our duties and render us liable to potential H&S prosecution.

"Over past decades, declining cargo throughput over the Glasson Dock quays has had a negative financial impact on the Port, resulting in the deterioration of port infrastructure.

"We are now addressing these issues along with tidying up port land and the dock, from where we have recently removed fly-tipped vehicles and a shipwreck at our own cost.

"Since then, we have received many positive messages of support from the local community. To safeguard the future viability of the port and to ensure the port is properly funded, the commission is looking to restore historical cargo throughput levels.

"In this regard, the outline of a business plan is being explored and as discussed with the parish council as well as city and county councillors, a finalised plan will be shared with stakeholders, including the local community.

"To enhance communication, the commission will continue to work closely with duly democratically elected local councillors, who are best placed to represent their communities and residents, and LPC has further offered to attend future parish council meetings with local residents in attendance.

"Change will always be met with a degree of resistance, and it is understandable that some residents are unhappy. Sadly, there had been instances of intimidation and verbal abuse as well as threats towards port staff as logged by the police."

"This kind of behaviour has no place in society and will not be tolerated by the commission. In the meantime, we will continue to support the local village in a positive manner, and we look forward to a mutually beneficial and respectful relationship with all stakeholders.”

Glasson Grain did not respond to a request for a comment.

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The residents

The current situation has made life difficult for many of the villagers.

Mike Ashworth is disabled and is now struggling to park near his home Victoria Terrace.

"I am disabled and there's nowhere to park within a mile now," he said.

"I used to own a boat, and was able to take it on the land to the rear of the house but now we've been told it's not allowed because the land is owned by Glasson Grain.

"There's nowhere for the port to expand; the village has got a finite amount of land available. Traffic going past the house is already terrible.

"It's just a horrible situation. It's a pleasant village; I moved here six years ago because I liked the village so much and I'd been coming here for 35 years.

"I honestly wouldn't have moved here if I had known this would happen."

Tony Young has lived in Glasson for 61 years. He said he is "absolutely astounded and saddened by the actions and division caused in the community by Glasson Grain and Lancaster Port Commission".

"They are now showing complete disregard and contempt for Glasson and the surrounding area," he said. "They have more than enough space which is not used without causing disruption to the residents."

Another resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said he had "concerns" about changes to the way Lancaster Port Commission was managing the dock, and felt they were becoming "more heavy-handed".

And Dee Hennessy, who now lives in Quernmore Park but previously lived in Railway Place for several years, said: "I heard with dismay and concern that the cultivated land behind the house I lived in some years ago is under threat. I cannot believe this could be possible.

"This land has always been maintained by the residents – particularly those who have lived there over many years – for use as an invaluable communal amenity. It is inconceivable to imagine that all that hard work and all that investment of time and effort and love could be threatened in this way.

"Railway Place is a very special community - and it is precisely because of the shared space behind the houses and the wonderful view it affords of the river that it is somewhere that really needs to be protected for both present and future residents."

Ray Wilson has lived for 11 years on a boat in the harbour, paying rent and a fee for car parking. Just before Christmas he was asked, along with other residents, to move his car and van by January 6.

He did not do this but asked that he be given a couple of days' grace as he had to go away for essential business. However, while he was away, his car and van were moved allegedly without his consent, which was photographed by other residents.

The car and van were taken by fork lift truck to a nearby fee-paying car park. Ray was then given notice to quit his boat and was later told it was going to be towed out of the harbour, although this is yet to happen.

A spokesman for LPC said: "Whilst we cannot comment on individual cases, we will continue to support boat owners to understand that the inner dock at Glasson Dock operates as a commercial working dock, and not as a Leisure Marina, such as neighbouring Aquavista Limited.

"Glasson Dock does not provide live-in facilities such as parking, gangways for safe vessel access, electricity/water supply points, or after-hours access to port premises.

"Apart from the obvious Health and Safety concerns and liability of the port, there are serious public health issues as the port does not provide any sanitation, ablution, or waste removal facilities, such as those available at Aquavista.

"Mooring fees include a berthing space for vessels only and does not include for parking as parking on port land is expressly prohibited under our byelaws. Boat owners who want to legitimately live on their vessels are referred to Aquavista next door, where all facilities mentioned are provided."

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Glasson Dock

Lancaster Port Commissioners first met in 1750 and agreed to form a Port Harbour in 1780 at Glasson Dock, which was fully completed by 1791.

At this time Old Glasson was a small fishing and farming village, but the creation of the port changed Glasson dramatically.

To assist the transportation of goods into Lancaster the Glasson Branch canal and canal basin were built in 1823-25.

Terraced houses on Tithe Barn Hill and Ten Row were built in the late 18th to 19th Century to accommodate dock workers.

A shipyard opened in 1834 and a dry dock in 1837, now sadly filled in. Shipbuilding was an important trade in Glasson for the next 70 years.

In 1883 a railway was opened, and the London and North Western Railway acquired the terrace known as Railway Place. The railway was closed in 1930 and removed in 1967, and was developed by Lancashire County Council into a popular walking and cycle track into Lancaster.

Nowadays, Glasson Grain operate a grains and fertiliser import/export business from Glasson Dock. They are LPC’s key tenant and are a wholly owned subsidiary of Wynnstay PLC.

Other thriving businesses in the village include the Lantern O'Er Lune bistro, Lockkeepers Rest café, the Shop, the Dalton Arms and the Smokehouse. The Victoria pub is awaiting planning permission to re-invigorate the entrance to the village.

There is a small village school that has just opened a nursery, a church and a village hall that, among other things, hosts the weekly post office service. In non-Covid times there is a weekly mobile library and various social groups.

There is an active parish council, a Glasson Action Partnership and two active Facebook pages, Glasson Dock Past and Present and Glasson Residents’ Group.

The village population is around 330. Glasson Dock is becoming increasingly popular with day tourists during Covid times and the necessity to have a staycation.

Its conservation areas mean it is a popular meeting place for bikers, walkers with or without a dog, fisherman and families making their memories.

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Lancaster Port Commission

Lancaster Port Commission has been looking after the Port of Lancaster, currently operating at Glasson Dock, since 1750. It is a Trust Port and has responsibilities towards the navigable channel of the River Lune, for both commercial and leisure vessels.

Trust Ports are independent statutory bodies, with responsibility to manage, maintain and improve a harbour, for future generations.

They are run by a Port Board of Commissioners and have no shareholders, so stakeholders are a particularly important influence on a Trust Port, in the absence of any other accountable organisation or government department.

The list of stakeholders includes harbour users, local and central government, MP, employees and elected representatives.

Trust Ports are subject to the Companies Act of 2006 which puts a duty on all companies to have regard to stakeholder interests as well as the impact of their operations on the community and the environment.

The Board of Commissioners are subject to a set of principles, based on the Nolan Principles of public life: independence, accountability, openness, selflessness, integrity, objectivity, honesty and leadership.

Residents photographed Ray Wilson's car being removed without his knowledge. The boat he had been living on is just visible in the bottom left of the photo.
This former car park used by residents has been fenced off with signs prohibiting its use. Photo by Kelvin Stuttard
Glasson Dock, with Ray Wilson's boat pictured on the right. Photo by Kelvin Stuttard