/ City reveals change to ambitious transformation plans
City reveals change to ambitious transformation plans
Lancaster’s ambitious plans to transform acres of prime land and buildings are being re-shaped after extensive discussion.
The city council is rethinking the scheme to redevelop the area known as Canal Corridor North, with a more diverse mix of uses, including further housing and business opportunities combined with retail space.
After working alongside its commercial advisors GVA and following months of detailed assessment with its development partner, British Land, the parties have concluded the plan as envisaged should be withdrawn.
Key to this decision was a determination not to expose council taxpayers to the level of risk which had arisen following a number of constraints around commercial terms.
Instead the city council today announced its commitment to press ahead with new proposals for a multi-use development for the 16-acre site, which it is rebranding, The Canal Quarter.
The council, supported by Lancaster University, has reiterated its belief the area will have a crucial role in the growth and development of Lancaster as a vibrant, modern city.
Councillor Janice Hanson, cabinet member with responsibility for planning and regeneration, said: "We have a huge obligation to get this major development right. We’d very much like to thank British Land for the considerable expertise they have brought to this highly complex process up to this point, but we have agreed to conclude our partnership.
"While the city council remains absolutely committed to the regeneration of the site, the new proposal will be a different scheme, one which supports greater multi-purpose use and is easier to deliver.
“We now want to bring forward for the people of Lancaster an exciting transformation that delivers on everyone’s ambitions for this great city. This includes working with partners to achieve our aspirations for high-calibre arts and culture provision."
The council has identified seven key factors the re-shaped scheme must focus on.
Significant and wide-ranging economic benefits without exposing the city council to an unacceptable level of financial risk.
Less reliance on additional retail floor space, thereby instilling confidence in the future of the existing city centre shopping area.
New uses for historic buildings, capitalising on the canal side setting as part of the physical transformation and regeneration.
A range of residential accommodation to suit a variety of purposes.
An increase in Lancaster University’s presence in the city centre.
Providing more business space especially for Lancaster’s thriving digital sector. This will provide units for future expansion and shared spaces for collaboration.
Delivery of an arts hub that achieves the goal of making Lancaster the North West’s primary cultural centre outside of the main cities.
Councillor Hanson said the authority recognised the need to end the uncertainty generated by the long-running history of Canal Corridor North.
Therefore, it wants to agree an overall plan as soon as possible and for development to be delivered in visible stages. This includes a possible on site start date of 2019 – two years earlier than envisaged in the previous scheme.
The council also wants to take advantage of the latest in green energy development to make the site as self-sustainable as possible.
Key to the decision to ending the partnership with British Land was not to expose council taxpayers to an inappropriate level of risk. The financing of the new proposals will have to take into account these same considerations. They need to be worked up in more detail before costs will be available. What we do know is that by building in phases, the level of exposure is reduced and the city’s finances are helped by a faster return on investment.
The city council and the University of Lancaster believe this series of developments offer the city a fantastic opportunity. We want residents and all stakeholders to be proud of their city and feel they have a role to play, so there will be ample opportunity as a new scheme is developed for public consultation.
A report will go to Full Council on April 11. This is likely to ask authority to progress with the re-shaped scheme and get under way with discussions with the many stakeholders. Dates for public consultation will be published in the near future.
Commitment to an arts hub, comparable with any in the North West, is undiminished. Lancaster is rightly proud of its arts and cultural heritage and the city council wants to help existing and new providers develop and flourish.
The council wants to see Lancaster as the North West’s primary cultural centre outside of the main cities and recognises the importance of the Musician's Co-op and the role it plays. Discussions will take place with Lancaster Music Co-op and other city cultural assets, such as the Dukes, Grand and Ludus, as the proposals develop.
The proposal is for a mixed-use development that will contain a variety of elements. There’s scope for a range of residential housing, exciting public spaces, retail, leisure and food and drink outlets. There will also be space for the university to increase its presence, including some student housing. We are keen that outside of term time this could be used as extra bed spaces for visitors to the city, so it could form a dual purpose.
Including more dwellings in a new scheme provides the potential to cater for all sectors of the housing market including an element of affordable housing and different tenures. We want the city to be able to offer good quality, affordable homes to buy or rent for key workers and others. More people living in the city supports our shops, services, cultural and leisure facilities.
An appropriate amount of car parking within the development would be retained, but proposals for this to be underground will not now be taken forward. Any car parking will need to be in-keeping with the scale of development and not dominate the scheme. It will be located to minimise the need to drive through the city centre and managed to incentivise more use of the park and ride site at junction 34.
Although the council will no longer be in a formal partnership with British Land, we will still be working with them as a major land owner. Negotiations will take place over their holdings as the council progresses these plans.
Although we are nowhere near this level of detail yet, we are proposing a balanced mix of uses. Retail will play a part in this, but not to the level that was originally envisaged. We want the new scheme to be part of a wider thriving city centre and give certainty to existing traders and potential investors to encourage continual improvement to our commercial offer for locals and visitors.
To date, previous schemes have been led by private developers (Centros and then British Land). The council’s role has been limited to essential due diligence and the exercising of its statutory functions (principally planning). What we are very clear about is that it is only through the rigour of the recent due diligence carried out by the council that we are now able to present a way forward that we are confident in asking the whole city and wider region to support.
Embedding green initiatives in the design will be a guiding principle for the regeneration. There are many UK and international examples of sustainable development that we would want to consider. We should also explore the opportunity for flood mitigation measures, such as underground water storage, to help other areas of the city.
With support it is anticipated the first stage could start as early as next year. That’s two years earlier than previously thought. Therefore residents and businesses would see the Canal Quarter coming to life much sooner under this proposal.