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Support mounts for local Visitor Information Centres as closure date looms

Morecambe Visitor Information Centre is located inside The Platform

Residents have spoken out against the closure of local Visitor Information Centres with their date of closure just weeks away.

Beyond Radio has received numerous emails and messages from people who are worried about the imminent shutting of the centres.

The VICs inside the Platform building in Morecambe and the Storey Centre in Lancaster, provide information and help to tourists and locals alike.

We exclusively revealed that the VICs were under threat due to budget cuts, back in January.

The closures were then confirmed in February when Lancaster City Council finalised its budget.

They said at the time that the VICs would shut at the end of the 2023 season, which is traditionally in September.

An official closure date is due to be announced soon.

Residents said the decision was "complete madness".

Sue Saunders said: "It’s such a shame as it is a much needed resource not only for locals but for the many growing number of people who visit the town and surrounding areas. "I know organisations etc are into the internet apps and social media and say it’s the way forward but there are many other people who either by being unfamiliar, choice, age, financial or disability reasons can’t or won’t use them.

"Are they being discriminated against? Having that friendly voice goes a long way.

"I’m unsure if any local councillors have taken this on board!"

Pamela Billingham said: "It is hardly possible to think of a more short-sighted decision about visitor facilities in an area which depends so much on tourism.

"These two centres contain so much information which is useful to visitors to the area, and in fact locals too find them very useful.

"I am always picking up leaflets from the Lancaster Visitor Information Centre regarding local events (e.g. concerts and transport info).

"Tickets can also be obtained at both venues. Surely we can afford this from the combined populations of Lancaster and Morecambe.

"It fills me with despair."

Linda Bottomley said: "Why are they closing (tourist centres) in Morecambe?

"I was born in Morecambe and think it's absolutely ridiculous, as a seaside resort people need to know where things are if they have never been."

Jane Bailey said: "It would make much more business sense to leave it open until the Eden is actually built and open. The tourist office is an essential to our seaside town and not every event happening locally can be found via Google.

"The personal face to face is an important part of making tourists feel welcome."

Michael Glen said: "I’m appalled that this going to close. Not only is a great information centre, pleasant staff and an absolute necessity for Morecambe and the valued visitors to our stunning town."

Caroline Eames said: "This is complete madness, closing at a time when Morecambe is on the up! 

"Their argument is that everyone does everything on line these days but that is not true - all this is doing is further disenfranchising those who can't do things online, those who are older or have lower incomes and so is discriminatory. 

"I went in to pick up some tickets for The Platform and the staff were helping some older people, including one in a wheelchair, find somewhere for dinner. They could not have been more helpful or kinder. One of the older people had an Android phone but needed help with directions. 

"I am appalled by some of the decisions that the council make - no consultation, no explanation and they are supposed to work for the people of our area."

Lancaster City Council said earlier this year that they would move towards promoting tourism online, and there would still be access to tourist information at other council buildings.

The VICs cost £250,000 a year to run.

The city council has also had talks with other organisations about them running a visitor information service. 

More information about the future of tourist information in the town is due to be announced next week.

Meanwhile The Platform was also due to close, in the initial budget proposals.

But after a public outcry, the council gave the concert venue a stay of execution until at least April 2024.

Talks have also taken place between the council and other interested parties about keeping The Platform open.

But as yet there has been no official confirmation about the long-term future of the venue.

Councillor Phillip Black, leader of Lancaster City Council (pictured below), speaking to Beyond Radio in May, said: 

"There is talk about a partnership arrangement, not selling it off, but bringing a partner organisation in to help with the maintaining and running of it.

"We'll be starting a new budget cycle in September/October time, it would be extremely premature for me to talk about what the funding position would be with the Platform, but I can tell you that our ambition would be for us to retain it."

Phillip Black

A Lancaster City Council spokesperson said this week: "Like many local authorities, Lancaster City Council is battling against unprecedented pressures of steep increases in its operating costs, increasing demand for services, and below inflation funding from the Government. 

"In February 2023, as part of the annual budget process, full council agreed a number of savings to address the council’s significant financial deficit.

"These savings are in the process of being implemented and more information will be released in due course. Details of the council’s financial challenge and more information can be found on the council’s website.”

Read more: Visitor Information Centres and The Platform under threat due to council budget cuts - Beyond Radio

Council pledge to keep Platform open after budget rethink - Beyond Radio

INTERVIEWS: Full breakdown of "painful" Lancaster City Council budget plans revealed - Beyond Radio

Annual figures for Platform and Visitor Information Centres released - Beyond Radio

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