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'Garden village' plan for thousands of new homes and new road south of Lancaster officially put on hold

An artist's impression of the proposed garden village. (JPT)

A controversial plan to build thousands of new homes and a new road south of Lancaster has officially been put on hold.

Partners involved in the scheme have decided to suspend further work on the project and "re-evaluate" the proposals.

The overall plan could have seen at least 3,500 new homes built south of Lancaster - with a figure of up to 9,185 having also been quoted - as well as road and transport changes.

An £140 million grant, part of the funding for the scheme, will be returned to the government.

The partners said the decision "comes amid increasing costs driven by construction inflation in recent years, which have increased the pressures on and risk to the public purse, and other circumstances that would impact on the final delivery".

The proposed new South Lancaster to M6 road scheme would have included a new road between the M6 at junction 33 and the proposed Bailrigg garden village in south Lancaster, as well as a new Park and Ride on Hazelrigg Lane.

The idea for the Bailrigg Garden Village was to create a distinct community, with new homes and a mixed-use village centre between Lancaster city centre and Galgate.

This decision to suspend further work on the plans follows extensive talks between the partners Lancashire County Council, Lancaster City Council and Homes England.

They said they still aim to develop plans for this part of south Lancaster, "create sustainable communities and unlock long-term traffic issues".

The partners behind the South Lancaster project said it "aimed to provide residents with greater travel choices, including delivering investment in public transport infrastructure, alongside new roadbuilding which would help ease traffic congestion through the village of Galgate, and would have unlocked access to the proposed Bailrigg Garden Village and surrounding settlements".

They said the project would also have included new education and health facilities, utilities and active travel and bus provision to support new housing and jobs.

Councillor Phillip Black, the Labour leader of Lancaster City Council (pictured below), said: “I am pleased that the County Council and Homes England have taken the sensible decision to suspend and re-evaluate plans for South Lancaster in light of inflationary pressures and rising costs.  

“However, as a Government Planning Inspector recently acknowledged, there is an overriding need for housing within the Lancaster district.  All parties involved recognise that the South Lancaster area still has a part to play in meeting this housing need in the future, but now is the time to evolve our strategic vision of housing developments in our district.

“The decision to stop work on the current plans provides a genuine opportunity for alternative, place-based development proposals to emerge in tandem with the necessary infrastructure (transport, including sustainable transport, schools, healthcare and employment). 

“That is our next big challenge, to deliver the right kind of housing, in the right places, that is affordable, with the right infrastructure, to create vibrant and integrated communities in a manner that also responds to our local climate change mitigation aspirations.  

“We will work with our partners and our local communities to develop this new vision.”  

County Councillor Aidy Riggott, a Conservative and cabinet member for Economic Development and Growth at the county council (pictured below), said: "We've been working hard to try and deliver these transport and community improvements, and unlock access to the proposed Garden Village, but we're not able to continue with the proposals in their current form.

"In particular, we're faced with rising costs due to inflation, which would have affected how we can deliver these improvements within the current plans.

"It's still our aim to develop plans for this part of south Lancaster, and unlock long-term traffic issues and help people to get around. We'll re-assess the proposals to make sure that they deliver against our aims and are affordable."

Cat Smith, the Labour MP for Lancaster, said: "I welcome today’s decision by Lancashire County Council, Lancaster City Council and Homes England to suspend work on the Bailrigg Garden Village.

"Whilst recognising the need to build new homes in our district I was always concerned that the size, scale and environmental impact proposed for development was a poor choice for meeting that need. I welcome the decision to suspend further work on the Bailrigg Garden Village but I urge all parties work to deliver new transport solutions, particularly to relieve the congestion in Galgate and the address the air quality issues the village faces.

"The plans for the project included new education, health, utilities and active travel and bus provision. We continue to need education provision in the south of Lancaster, and I will look to work constructively with Lancashire County Council to find solutions to the pressure on school places.

"I welcome the councils and Homes England saying it is still an aspiration to develop plans for the city and south Lancaster to tackle longstanding traffic issues, and that it is the aim to work with the local community to develop future proposals."

City councillors for Ellel ward also welcomed the news. “The South Lancaster project was always an alarming combination of over-ambition regarding developers' capacity to pay for it, alongside uncosted climate and nature impact," said Councillor Sally Maddocks, of the Green group (pictured below).

"This decision removes the uncertainty that has hung over so many Ellel residents for so long. There will be huge relief all around Galgate. “But this was never just a local issue. As construction costs have risen with inflation, the original £121m funding gap between the actual infrastructure costs and the Housing Infrastructure Fund grant has widened very considerably. The financial risk to the taxpayer had become ever starker.” Councillor Paul Tynan, also of the Greens, said: “The city council now needs to take stock and think more clearly how to address the district’s acute housing needs, and traffic congestion issues, by alternative, sustainable means. “And I call on Wain Homes developers to stop pursuing its ridiculous 108-home scheme in the fields off Highland Brow in Galgate, now that the hope of building an underpass of the West Coast Mainline from A6/Hazelrigg Lane has been extinguished.”

Pauline Schaffer, director of Infrastructure Funding at Homes England said: " We have been working with Lancashire County and Lancaster City Councils for several years on this project and appreciate the challenges it has faced and the position that has been reached.

"We remain committed to supporting our partners in Lancashire and will continue working with them outside of the HIF programme with a focus on place-based development under our new strategic plan."

Pressure has been mounting for a rethink on the plans in recent times.

Many residents have been calling for a complete overhaul of the plans due to rising costs of building materials and other changes in economic circumstances since the project was first mooted.

A recent consultation was held on updated proposals for the road, which the partners said was "designed to keep the project on track to meet the necessary timelines, while detailed discussions took place between the partners".

They said there were more than 400 replies to the consultation. Issues raised included people concerned over the loss of wildlife and landscape, possible flooding, the impact on existing properties and construction-related issues. They said that "people were positive about some of the planned public transport improvements".

In January of this year, highways bosses said proposals to build a new road and reconfigure Junction 33 as part of the South Lancaster to M6 Road Scheme now needed to change.

In December 2022, residents protested outside Morecambe Town Hall against the scheme.

Read more: Pressure mounts for rethink on controversial South Lancaster homes and roads plan - Beyond Radio

Major changes planned for controversial south Lancaster housing and roads scheme - Beyond Radio

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