What are the new proposals for Lancaster’s Canal Quarter development?

By Nick LakinThursday, Lancaster Guardian, 19th December 2019

Hotels, housing and a multi-storey car park alongside community, education, commercial and cultural spaces all form part of a new vision for Lancaster’s “Canal Quarter”. Nick Lakin reports…

Lancaster City Council’s multi-million pound blueprint for the western edge of the city centre reveals proposals for a “vibrant, sustainable and active Canal Quarter”, where “contemporary development and hidden heritage can combine” to create “a diverse residential, commercial, cultural and recreational neighbourhood”.

A public consultation is now underway seeking the city’s views on the council’s draft Strategic Regeneration Framework (SRF) for the Canal Quarter, a substantial area of land bounded by Lancaster Canal, Moor Lane and St Leonard’s Gate.

A list of dates and locations for public engagement events can be found at the bottom of this story.

The report states that previous visions for the site, which have spanned more than 15 years, have been “too dominated…by undeliverable development propositions”.

It also notes that this is the first time the community and other stakeholders have had a direct input into shaping the overall development.

Within the site, four seperate areas have been identified for different types of development.

These are:

1. Stonewell Courtyards – buildings and open space between St Leonard’s Gate and Moor Lane, which could incorporate a mix of uses including primarily retail (including food and drink), cultural uses, and hotel accommodation.

“Given the nature of this area and an assumption of utilisation of existing buildings opening into courtyard spaces as a network of places to spend time and enjoy, it is assumed that these uses will be relatively small and niche/boutique in nature.

“There is recognised to be some potential for uses above ground floor to include business and retail, but these uses are not assumed to dominate the mix within the area.”

2. The Ropewalks (there were previously rope-making factories here) – incorporating an area of land between Lancaster Canal and Edward Street, Lodge Street and Brewery Lane.

It is described as “a key connecting area of the Canal Quarter, needing to deliver uses that create vitality and energy within the area.”

The land could be used flexibly with particular potential for residential, commercial (office), cultural and artistic uses and hotel accommodation.

3. Coopers Fields (named after the barrel making industry here) – to the north of the site incorporating the large existing car park between Alfred Street and St Leonard’s Gate.

This is the council’s preferred location for the delivery of a strategic, contemporary 300-400 space multi-storey car park.

It could also include residential with a mix of housing types such as terraces, townhouses and apartments, including student accommodation.

4. Moor Lane South – which would be delivered as a later phase – mainly due to the fact that it currently accommodates a large amount of surface-level car parking, which will need to be retained at least whilst redevelopment of the car parks at Coopers’ Field is ongoing.

The area is also dominated by the council owned Moor Lane Mill building which is currently partly used for office accommodation.

Commercial development intertwined with residential uses appear to be the most appropriate land uses, but the area is able to respond flexibly to market conditions, and could offer the potential for a variety of uses, dependent upon how the earlier phases of the redevelopment of the Canal Quarter are delivered. This area is also being considered by the Council as an additional strategic car parking location (should one be needed), although it will be preferable to rationalise the quantum and arrangement of car parking within this part of the site.

The 123 page document “presents a vision for the area, supported by a set of design and development principles, to guide future investment over the next 15-20 years”.

It has been prepared by Lancaster City Council in consultation with major landowners, stakeholders and the local community and has been supported by a professional team led by Avison Young and Planit-IE.

It has set out a relatively detailed map of potential uses for each section of the site.

Clear messages from engagement with stakeholders and the public on developing the document showed that arts and culture, architecture and heritage, and a mixed use development incorporating independent businesses, and innovative, creative and digital industries are crucial elements of the site.

Green space, eco-friendly design, car parking and traffic, pedestrian access, accessibility for all, and sustainability were also considered key issues.

The document states: “The Canal Quarter is unique in both its history and its future potential.

“The production of the SRF represents an important milestone for the area – too dominated in its recent past by undeliverable development propositions.

“It also represents the first time that the community and stakeholders have had direct input into a vision and framework for the comprehensive regeneration of the area.”

Coun John Reynolds, Cabinet Member with particular responsibility for Planning Policy, said: “Our ambitious vision is for a vibrant, sustainable and active Canal Quarter, integrated with the Lancaster Canal and served by areas of new public open space.

“A Quarter where contemporary development and hidden heritage can combine to create a diverse residential, commercial, cultural and recreational neighbourhood.

“In the last 12 months the Council has taken, and will continue to take, a clear leadership role in the regeneration of the site.

“But it cannot achieve our vision for the Canal Quarter alone.

It will require continued energy and realism from landowners, developers, businesses and local residents to create a genuinely desirable and attractive place to live, work and play.”

The document can be found online at https://www.lancaster.gov.uk/sites/canal-quarter/get-involved


“The market analysis and stakeholder engagement undertaken during the production of the SRF has identified a shortage of Grade A office floorspace across Lancaster generally and the city centre specifically.

“In addition the prominence of digital and creative businesses and growth within this sector across Lancaster is recognised to represent a specific market opportunity that could and should be reflected in the ultimate mix of uses brought forward across the SRF area. As such, high-quality office and business uses that create employment opportunities and support the emerging economic growth sectors within the SRF area are an appropriate land use and will be supported in principle. This includes any potential for new commercial/ education facilities for Lancaster University which would help create a new presence for the University within the city, thus fostering improved linkage between the higher education sector and the creative and knowledge-based industries, which in turn will enhance the economic and social sustainability of the city.”


“There is a recognised shortage of hotel accommodation across Lancaster City Centre.

Increasing the supply and choice of hotels would help support the wider visitor and economic aspirations for the city. The SRF recognises the potential to deliver a mix offers across the City Centre as a whole – ranging from boutique small scale to high-volume (including, where appropriate, budget hotel accommodation).

“Hotel uses are therefore considered an appropriate land use within the Canal Quarter.”


The County Council, in their role as Highways Authority, are continuing to work to implement the Lancaster District Highways and Transport Masterplan. This will include the delivery of new bus rapid transit and cycle superhighway proposals through the city, as well as reducing the impact that the current

ring road one-way traffic network has on the city.

Both Councils are working to identify strategic car parking locations to prevent inefficient car trips around Lancaster’s road network, including identifying opportunities for the further rollout of electric car charging points. The Canal Quarter is ideally located at the northern gateway to the city as a preferred location.

However the SRF is not seeking a net gain of car parking through redevelopment. Changing car ownership levels and the proximity to Lancaster’s sustainable transport options (bus station and other bus stops, railway station, existing cycle and pedestrian network, especially along the canal) means that there is already choice for non-car travel. Development that embraces these transport policies will help the Council make progress towards its future ambitions.


The vision for the Canal Quarter seeks to the site’s inherent qualities, retaining and accentuating its unique characteristics.

Creating a sustainable mix of uses will be key to generating a vibrant district which is welcoming and inclusive to a broad spectrum of people and users, at all times of the day, week and year.

An emphasis is placed on the creation of high quality architecture, new build, retained and refurbished, complemented by dynamic streets and spaces which extend life and activity into the public realm.

A sensitive, phased approach to delivery will encourage incremental growth over time, ensuring that the Canal Quarter is embedded into the fabric of the city, the psyche of its people and the Lancaster way of life.

The Canal Quarter Strategic Regeneration Framework (SRF) has been prepared by Lancaster City Council in consultation with major landowners, stakeholders and the local community. It presents a vision and illustrative masterplan, supported by a set of design and development principles, to guide future investment in the area over the next 15-20 years.


In January 2019, Lancaster declared a ‘Climate Emergency’ after city councillors voted unanimously

to work towards making the city council as an organisation carbon neutral by 2030. If this ambition is to be achieved then bold actions are required. As a significant development site for

the city, the Canal Quarter has a clear role to play in reaching this goal and in setting a precedent for future development within the city.

Encourage low or zero carbon energy generating technologies.

• To help achieve Lancaster’s goal of becoming zero carbon by 2030, development proposals will be required to consider on-site energy production in both the short and long term, with details of how energy production will be operated, maintained and potentially adapted over the life of the development.

Exceed the Building Regulations requirement for reduced energy and water consumption (e.g. on-site power generation and water harvesting).

Embrace new ideas and seek to harness the latest technology. This should be considered throughout the design and construction processes as well as the fit out or occupation stages (e.g. off-site or modular systems could improve the amenity of existing residents during the construction phase).

• Introduce smart technology to control heating and cooling to prevent wasted energy and save on bills.

• Integrate green roofs / green walls to improve biodiversity.

• Creation of a flagship retrofit project to set precedent for future development.

Exhibition and public engagement events

Thursday January 9 (12pm-4pm) – St Nicholas Arcades

Saturday January 11 (10.30pm-1.30pm) St Nicholas Arcades

Wednesday January 15 (1pm-4pm) The Gregson Centre

Saturday January 18 (1pm-4pm) – Marketgate Shopping Centre

Tuesday January 21 (3pm-7pm) – The Storey

Thursday January 30 (12pm-4pm) – Lancaster City Museum

Big Wheel at Christmas

The city centre of Lancaster is looking very festive and a lot like Christmas as you can see from this photograph of the big wheel and skating rink in Dalton Square taken from the Town Hall by Ryan Downie.

If anyone overcomes their fear of heights and takes a ride on the Big Wheel perhaps you can let Lancaster Vision have a photo looking towards the Town Hall.

And here is a view from the top of the wheel looking towards the Town Hall.

Postcards of Lancaster, Morecambe & Heysham – a unique pictorial insight into a history of this fascinating area

If you missed Andrew Reilly’s presentation this evening to the Lancaster Civic Society then you missed a real treat.

This photographic record shows the three areas since before 1900 and you can trace how the modern city and coast, that we now know, has developed over time.

Fortunately Andrew has created a video of his presentation and it is now available to view by clicking the link below.

Put on the kettle, make a cup of tea, relax and enjoy.

Social Evening – Lancaster Civic Society

Wednesday 11th December 2019 7-30 pm – Council Chamber, Town Hall, Dalton Square, Lancaster, LA1 1PJ

Andrew Reilly of Lancaster & District Heritage Group and Lancaster Past & Present will be presenting a short talk about old postcards of Lancaster, Morecambe and Heysham

Followed by a festive quiz, mince pies, soft drinks and wine.

This is a FREE event and all are welcome

New Space Announced for Digital Businesses in Lancaster

A new digital space is being created at White Cross Business Park in Lancaster

The renovation plans for Fraser House which is an 11,500 sq ft building in central Lancaster have been created by the Lancashire County Council’s economic development company Lancashire County Developments Limited, which owns the site.

Co-working areas and small modular offices will be created on the ground floor and self-contained office space, suitable for fast-growing companies, provided on the upper floors. All floors will have high-specification digital connectivity, which is essential for the sector.

The increasing adoption of industrial digitalisation has led to a growing base of companies in the county who develop software to serve key industries. Lancashire’s digital, creative, software and computer science economy is worth £1.3 billion in GVA, employing 36,000 people in the county.

Digital lancashire’s Michael Gibson said: “We are delighted to see this substantial investment by Lancashire County Council in Lancaster’s growing digital sector. Digital Lancashire has lobbied for three years on behalf of its members and the community for better office space in the city, including its survey and report Nowhere to Grow that helped change the debate. It’s fantastic to see the County Council back this work with investment in dedicated office space that will give digital and tech companies the space and infrastructure to thrive.”

Digital Lancashire have worked tirelessly over the last three years to address the chronic lack of quality fit-for-purpose office space in the city. It undertook a survey of local digital and tech businesses that led to the report, Nowhere to Grow, which shone a light on the size and scale of the sector and the challenges they faced. It also illustrated the huge opportunity this created for those willing to invest. Other work has included creating tours of city businesses and Baltic Creative and Sensor City in Liverpool so decision-makers could see the scale of opportunity and how it was being realised elsewhere.

County Councillor Michael Green, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Environment and Planning, said: “There is already a growing digital sector in Lancaster and surrounding areas, so the renovation of Fraser House will provide a high-quality base for these companies”.

“Our aim is to appeal to fast-growing digital companies and start-ups, as well as providing co-working space and facilities where people can network and collaborate on projects. This is especially useful to freelancers and smaller companies.”

“Fraser House will enhance our offer at White Cross and encourage this growing sector to use Lancaster as a base for their work.”

Local partners including Lancaster University and Lancaster City Council, alongside local business owners and Digital Lancashire members, have helped to co-design the space to ensure it responds to the needs of the community.

It is hoped that renovation work could start in November, with the new hub opening in autumn 2020.

Lancaster Vision supports the initiative Digital Lancaster – Digital One. Click the link Digital Lancaster – Digital One to visit our page.

Businesses can express advanced interest in the space by contacting maya.dibley@lancashire.gov.uk

For further information about Digital Lancashire and to keep up to date with future developments visit digital-lancashire.org.uk