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Visitor Information Centres closure date announced as council seeks someone new to run The Platform

Lancaster and Morecambe Visitor Information Centres will close on September 9

The date when Morecambe and Lancaster Visitor Information Centres will close has been announced along with plans to find a new operator for The Platform.

The centres which have provided information to tourists and locals alike for many years, will close on September 9 due to council budget cuts.

Lancaster City Council is also calling for 'expressions of interest' from potential future operators of The Platform arts and concert venue.

The council has confirmed it will stop running the venue from March 2024, again due to budget cuts, so is looking for somebody else to take on the lease.

Lancaster City Council was originally due to stop running The Platform in October, but the venue was given a stay of execution after a public outcry.

Talks have since taken place between the council and other interested parties about keeping The Platform open, and now the council is officially seeking someone new to take it on from April 1 2024.

The Morecambe Visitor Information Centre (VIC) is based inside the Platform building on Marine Road - formerly home to Morecambe railway station - and the Lancaster VIC is inside the Storey Centre on Meeting House Lane in the city centre.

Lancaster City Council announced plans to close the VICs in January 2023, which were confirmed in the council's budget in February.

Residents have been reacting to the impending closure of the VICs. One said he was "appalled" by the decision and another described it as "complete madness".

Read more: Support mounts for local Visitor Information Centres as closure date looms - Beyond Radio

It has also been announced today that from September 12, the box office for The Platform will operate from the building's foyer on Tuesdays and Thursdays between noon and 4pm. The ticket office for events at The Platform was previously looked after by the VICs.

Meanwhile the council has also announced it intends to replace the VICs with a £294,000 plan to modernise the way it provides tourist information.

The government money will be spent on a new and improved destination website, along with digital screens and interactive touch screen kiosks in locations across the district.

The council said that closing the VICS is "part of a long-term review of how the council provides tourist information, both online and in-person, and will complement the existing tourism marketing undertaken by the council and other partners".

The £294,000 funding, which the council received via the government's UK Shared Prosperity Fund, "will ensure a strong visitor information offer can continue to be provided via other means".

“With Eden just around the corner we are expecting many more people from across the country to be eyeing a holiday in our district," said Councillor Catherine Potter (pictured below), cabinet member with responsibility for the visitor economy, community wealth building and culture.

“We want people to be able to access everything they need before they get here so they can see the wealth of attractions and activities we have to offer and plan their trip accordingly.

“We also need to release Lancaster’s untapped potential and make more people aware of its fascinating history. All this means we need to up our game and improve our digital offer so people can quickly pick up the visitor information they need at all times of the day, as well as investing more in marketing campaigns to draw people in.

“The one-off external funding from the UKSPF allows us to make these changes and ensure we are able to provide information to the widest possible audience.

“We do, however, recognise that not everyone has access to the internet and we’re in discussion with our partner organisations to ensure we’re providing accessible information in a wider range of public and privately-owned venues than is currently the case.

“We’re keen to work with local venues to ensure the widest possible network and details of how businesses can get involved will be released in due course.

“Unfortunately, the council’s finances mean we can no longer stretch to providing VICs, which cost around £250,000 each year to run, but by improving our digital offer we will reach more people than ever before and in more locations than just the two shopfronts we have at the moment.”

The council said the budget cuts were due to "unprecedented pressures caused by steep increases in operating costs, increasing demand for services, and below-inflation funding from the Government".

It has found £2.4m in savings as part of the 2023/4 budget, which also included saving around £450,00 a year by restructuring senior management, saving around £500,000 a year by deleting vacant posts and efficiencies in back office support functions, and a comprehensive review of the council’s land and buildings, minimising energy and maintenance costs, which saved around £400,000 a year.

The council said the savings will "protect essential frontline services such as waste collection, street cleaning, and maintaining parks, beaches, and open spaces".

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is part of the UK government’s Levelling Up agenda and provides £2.6bn of funding for local investment by March 2025. 

READ all the background to this story BELOW.

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

Top rock singer launches campaign to save Morecambe concert venue - 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

Conservatives vote for budget by mistake as chaos ensues at Morecambe Town Hall - Beyond Radio

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