The Canal Quarter

Lancaster Vision feels that this area has been awaiting redevelopment for too long and can and should become a an important link in a vibrant city

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Lancaster vision’s response to the Lancaster City Council proposals for the regeneration of the Canal Quarter – 8th February 2020

Canal Quarter Strategic Regeneration Framework – Comments from Lancaster Vision

Lancaster Vision generally support the Canal Quarter Regeneration Framework [SRF], however we would make a number of specific points:

  • We are of the view that the future success of the Canal Quarter is largely dependent on connectivity with the city centre. At present the A6 inhibits pedestrian flows between the two areas. We are surprised by the lack of firm proposals to resolve this issue in the SRF.
  • We are particularly pleased to see that although student housing is identified as a potential future use for parts of the area it would be a precondition that any such applications must be supported by an evidenced need and pipeline supply assessment.
  • We are extremely disappointed that the SRF makes no mention of any plans to provide social housing within the area. References are made to affordable housing, key worker, and retirement housing but not to social housing. Following the local elections in 2019 Lancaster City Council announced proposals to establish a Community Wealth Building Partnership. One of the principles underpinning this partnership is the “Socially just use of land and property” In line with this principle we believe that the City Council should commit to a substantial programme of social housing building across Lancaster District. In 2018 the Government removed the restriction on Local Authorities borrowing to build social housing. Lancaster is in the fortunate position of still having a Housing Revenue Account and is able to take advantage of this opportunity. It is generally recognised that one of the major barriers to the provision of social housing is the high cost of housing land that is privately owned. Lancaster has a particular opportunity in that the authority owns a number of sites in the Canal Quarter that would be suitable for the provision of social housing. Lancaster Vision believe that the SRF should identify and reserve some of the Council owned land within the Canal Quarter for social housing. A local social housing building programme also has the potential to make a significant contribution to moving towards the achievement of net zero carbon targets by embracing the highest possible sustainable building standards.
  • We welcome the focus on cultural industries. We believe that consideration should be given to the provision of an outdoor performance space.

James Wilkie, Vice Chair, Lancaster Vision

Worthington kickstarts £250m Lancaster Canal Quarter

The long-stalled Canal Corridor North project, now rebranded as the Canal Quarter, has moved forward with Worthington Properties purchasing part of the site from Lancaster City Council’s former development partner British Land.

Worthington has bought a 2.5-acre plot previously owned by British Land, including the derelict former Mitchell’s brewery, and is now planning to help the council develop a refreshed masterplan for the area.

British Land had been attached to the Canal Quarter since 2012 after buying the site from Centros, but a development agreement between the council and British Land was terminated in April last year, with a council report arguing it had become “inevitable” the developer’s retail-led proposals could not be brought forward, citing legal and funding issues.

British Land’s proposals were for an £180m project, including 250,000 sq ft of retail; 70,000 sq ft of food & drink space; an 82-bed hotel; 1,000 units of student accommodation; an underground car park with 786 spaces; and an ‘arts hub’ building. Lancaster University came on board as a backer of the scheme in 2016.

Worthington’s landholding covers buildings totalling more than 116,000 sq ft; the remainder of the 16-acre site, which also includes Duke’s, the Grand, and the Musicians’ Co-Op alongside the Lancaster Canal, is owned largely by the council with a smaller number of buildings in other private ownership.

In November, the council put in its own bid for the British Land plot, but the developer accepted the offer from Worthington Properties instead.

The developer will now work alongside the council to bring forward a refreshed masterplan for the rebranded site, with GVA and Planit-IE already on board as consultants.

This revised masterplan is likely to cut back on the amount of retail previously proposed by British Land, and instead will include more business space for SMEs; a wider range of residential accommodation; re-use of historic buildings; an increased city-centre presence for Lancaster University; and an arts hub.

More detailed plans for the site are expected to come forward later this year.

Proposals for the revamp of the Grand Theatre have already come forward, with designs for an extension by architect 3DReid approved earlier this month. This features an additional 4,200 sq ft to the grade two-listed building, along with internal alterations.

Cllr Janice Hanson, Lancaster City Council cabinet member with responsibility for economic development and regeneration, said: “Attracting investors like Worthington Properties, who show commitment to investing in the area and can bring a fresh approach to the regeneration of the city’s Canal Quarter site, is a positive step forward.

“The masterplan for the area is still in its early stages and the council is looking forward to working with the public, businesses and its partners to develop a scheme that reflects the views of the community and realises its key objectives for the site that will achieve significant economic benefits for Lancaster.”

Russell Worthington, development director of Worthington Properties, added: “We’re keen to work with the council and other stakeholders, including Historic England, to help devise the new masterplan that has the best interests of the city at heart, is sympathetic to its history, and will benefit the city for many decades to come.

“We want to support the council’s aspirations to deliver a project that’s ambitious and achievable, allowing many different uses and benefitting all parts of the community.”

Article by Charlie Shouten, North West Place, 29th January 2019