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Councillors back plans for 388 student flats at gateway to Lancaster

An image of how the proposed scheme might look on the one-way system into Lancaster

Plans to build 388 new student flats on the one-way system into Lancaster took a major step forward after councillors backed the scheme.

Lancaster City Council planning regulatory committee met for talks today (November 7) on the plans for the two-block student accommodation to be built on the site of a closed-down carpet shop and car wash close to Bulk Road, Parliament Street and Caton Road.

They agreed to grant planning permission subject to several conditions, following a vote.

The application by PPG Lancaster is to knock down the former carpet store and car wash on Caton Road/Bulk Road and built an eight-storey building and a six-storey building to house a total of 388 studio flats for students.

The new complex would be opposite the Caton Court student village, which was built on Bulk Road in 2018.

Related Story: New 388-bed student block on Lancaster one-way system set for planning decision - Beyond Radio

At the meeting held at Morecambe Town Hall on Monday, two people spoke out against the development.

Councillor Jean Parr (pictured below), a city councillor for Skerton West, said she was concerned the flats would not be affordable, would "restrict access to our universities to only the better off" and that Lancaster University could gain a "reputation for expensive rooms".

Henry Legat, who also spoke out against the plans, said there was a "lack of parking", the "location was not desirable for students" and there was a "lack of demand for more student accommodation".

Duncan Melville, from the applicants PPG Lancaster, said it was in a "great location for a car-free student scheme" and there had been "overwhelming support for regenerating the site from residents".

Mr Melville said that Caton Court, the student accommodation block opposite this site which was built in 2018, had "100 per cent occupancy" and there was a "need for more than 5,400 student beds in Lancaster".

Council planners said the scheme would "bring regeneration to this important city centre site" and help "meet the district's housing needs".

Most councillors spoke in favour of the plans.

Councillor Robert Redfern, Labour, said: "If we don't vote for this, we're going to end up with an eyesore."

Councillor Keith Budden, Conservative, said: "We've got to make a decision on what's in front of us. Is it perfect? Who knows? But I'm supporting it."

Green councillor Jack Lenox (pictured below) said there was "a crying need for city centre accommodation that isn't student accommodation".

"I think (the plans) look nice in some ways," said Councillor Lenox.

"There's nothing else coming forward at the moment. It seems the best of what we've got on the table."

But Councillor Roger Dennison, of the Morecambe Bay Independents, said: "I can't support it.

"Caton Court really clashes with the area. I just think this is a tower block too far."

Councillors voted 13 to 2 in favour of granting planning permission, subject to conditions and a potential legal agreement involving County Highways.

Councillors Dennison and Greenwell voted against, with all other councillors on the planning committee (Budden, Thornberry, Lenox, Brookes, Frea, Guilding, Thomas, Redfern, Bryning, Boyd-Power, Cleet, King and Tyldesley) voting in favour.

Further talks will now take place between council planners and County Highways over a financial contribution from the developers towards road improvements in the city centre.

Building could begin in time for the accommodation to open prior to the October 2023 student intake.

The eight-floor block would be built on the site of the former carpet store and warehouse, its car park and the former car wash, and would have its main entrance on Bulk Road. The ground floor would include a games room, laundry, cinema/gaming room, yoga/dance studio, private study rooms and meetings rooms, private dining, reception space and office accommodation.

The six-floor building, to be built on largely derelict land, would have lounge areas, games rooms, gym, laundry, and study space at ground floor level, and a main entrance on Parliament Street. 

Changes to the original plans include cutting 53 studios from the scheme and changes to the design to reduce the "massing effects" of the buildings.

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