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Lancaster Canal Quarter revamp is officially backed by council

An artist's drawing from the Canal Quarter masterplan

A plan to transform the derelict Canal Quarter area of Lancaster into a “vibrant district which is welcoming and inclusive” has been backed by the majority of city councillors.

Most Lancaster city councillors voted in favour of formally adopting the Canal Quarter Masterplan during a meeting on Wednesday, with only Conservative councillors abstaining.

The aim of the masterplan is to bring back into use many of Lancaster’s important buildings and derelict sites across 6.5 hectares of land, to "create a vibrant, sustainable, and active place which is integrated with the city centre and the Lancaster Canal", said the council.

The idea is to create a new sustainable mixed-use neighbourhood with approximately 580 new homes for families and individuals.

The masterplan includes "safe pedestrian and cycle friendly streets" with new pedestrian access to Lancaster Canal.

Space has also been set aside for business, retail, food and beverage outlets to complement what's currently in the city centre.

The masterplan also includes two new public squares to provide "lively social spaces" for events along a new Brewery Street. 

Councillor Nick Wilkinson of the Green group, cabinet member with responsibility for regeneration, skills and digital innovation, proposed that the plan be formally adopted by the council, during Wednesday's meeting.

Councillor Wilkinson said: “I appreciate the plan has been in development for a number of years.

"It's a good plan. It's a big step forward from the previous plan.

"The plan for the Canal Quarter is now predominantly residential-led with some 500 plus homes proposed on the site.

"It includes the Music Co-Op, the Grand and the Dukes, as well as commercial elements, which are complementary rather than competing with the existing city centre offering."

He said the idea of the masterplan was to "boost Lancaster's housing, commercial and leisure offer" and there had been a number of rounds of public consultation and talks with landowners and businesses.

The masterplan sets out the preferred development and land use for whole site, of which the council owns two-thirds, with one third owned privately.

The sites will be brought forward in phases as funding opportunities become available.

But Conservative councillors spoke about their concerns about the plan.

Councillor Keith Budden (pictured below) said: "Talking about 10-15 year delivery on site, it's a lifetime for a lot of people. That's a concern of mine."

Councillor Wilkinson said: "I think for the past 40 years the council has been trying to develop the site in one go and it hasn't worked.

"I'll give you some assurance, of the sites that have been identified, there is the Cooper Fields site where we have a planning application coming later this year for council-led social housing, the Nelson Street site and Edward Street sites that we're looking at now. Things will be moving, you'll see some stuff built in your lifetime definitely!"

The Coopers Fields site on the upper and lower St Leonardgate car parks will see the building of 139 new affordable homes.

Councillor Phillip Black, leader of Lancaster City Council from Labour (pictured below) said: "It has been a long long time that this land has been in need of regeneration and development. A number of proposals have come forward over the years that have not been as sensitive to the fabric of the city.

Phillip Black

"I think it's brilliant that we're finally at the point that we can bring ideas that have been talked about for so long, into fruition. It's an exciting proposition."

The masterplan includes proposals for:

  • 580 new homes for urban living in the city centre to cater different people’s needs and lifestyles
  • Brewery Street: a new pedestrian-only street running east-west through the site, connecting the city centre to the Lancaster Canal
  • Around 7,000sqm of vibrant non-residential uses in a "walkable neighbourhood" with "active frontages to new public spaces"
  • Three new pedestrian access points to the Lancaster Canal
  • A network of new high-quality public realms that will "prioritise pedestrian and cycle movements over private vehicles in line with the council’s aspirations to tackle climate change"
  • Podium parking solutions
  • Two new public squares along Brewery Street: the Theatre Square and the Brewery Square
  • Two new green public open spaces, one to the north of the site and the other one to the south of Moor Lane

Councillor Andrew Gardiner, Conservative leader on the council, said: "10-15 years. No real structure of financing it. Talking of third parties.

"The problem is, this is Lancaster. The Bay Gateway (took) 60 years before the Conservatives delivered it. Can I have confidence? The answer is no.

"Also the '15 minute city' that's been built in. My group will not support this.

"Yes I want to see this area developed but I want to see a plan that says that we've got this person in place, with this finance, with this partnership, that we will deliver. I want to see the full puzzle put together and show the people of Lancaster, Morecambe and Carnforth, that we're working to build a great city. I have concerns. There's not enough detail for me."

Councillor Caroline Jackson of the Greens, deputy leader of the council, said: "This is an excellent opportunity for us to support the housing that we really need.

"You throw in '15 minute neighbourhoods' or whatever, just throw it in and somebody will get annoyed. Actually, they are so close to the middle of town, why wouldn't you move on your feet and your bike from place to place? This is an area where we hope people will be able to get around really easily and not get too much mixed up with cars, but there will still be car travel through the area."

The 'Third Party' developments proposed as part of the masterplan are:

  • Maple Grove Developments 'Heron Works' - a mixed-use development of hotel, office, residential, commercial and leisure including the opening up of the canal
  • Riverstone Developments Stonewell courtyards and Brewery site - proposals include new residential uses along with opportunities for community, commercial and culture uses, a hotel and office space
  • The Grand Theatre - a new reception, foyer and rehearsal space and associated alterations
  • The Dukes Theatre - a newly orientated entrance to the rear of the theatre, with a foyer space, bar and new prop shop, and new studio spaces will be provided for local artists, students and performers. 
  • Lancaster City Centre Movement and Public Realm Strategy - a revamp of traffic in the city centre
  • Lancaster Music Co-Op - a revamped rehearsal facility, recording studio and music space in the currently derelict, council owned building at 1 Lodge Street

During a vote on Wednesday night at Morecambe Town Hall, all councillors voted in favour of formally adopting the plan, except Conservative councillors Andrew Gardiner, Paul Newton, John Wild and Keith Budden, who abstained.

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