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New 388-bed student block on Lancaster one-way system set for planning decision

A CGI image of how the new student blocks could look on the one-way system into Lancaster

Plans for 388 new student flats on the one-way system into Lancaster will go before the city council's planning committee on Monday, November 7.

The two-block student accommodation would be built on the site of a closed-down carpet shop and car wash close to Bulk Road, Parliament Street and Caton Road.

Lancaster City Council planners have recommended the scheme be approved.

This comes after several changes were made to the planning application.

But Lancaster Civic Vision, a local heritage group, say the new buildings would make Bulk Road look "dark and oppressive".

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.

If the scheme gets final approval, 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.

Several objections to the scheme have been withdrawn following the changes, including from County Highways and the Environment Agency.

But Lancaster Civic Vision continues to object, saying that the scheme is "bland in the extreme".

They also said that while there are "minor improvements in massing and spacing", they feel "no further student accommodation is required" and that "a proposal of this size and bulk will hinder views".

United Utilities say the amended scheme is "no longer acceptable as the scheme has failed to evidence why the surface water cannot discharge to the Mill Race (the body of water that flows underneath Lancaster)". 

There have also been three letters of objection from residents, saying "more flats will make an already unsightly area even worse" and "land should be utilised to provide low-cost homes for homeless individuals and families".

Lancaster City Council planning committee, a group of elected councillors, will meet on Monday, November 7 at Morecambe Town Hall (10.30am start) to discuss the plans.

Planners say that planning permission should be granted, subject to various conditions laid out in a council report.

They have asked the committee to delegate a final decision back to the Head of Planning, subject to outstanding issues (including drainage) being resolved, a potential legal agreement, and following the expiry of a consultation period on November 11.

Their report, published in advance of the meeting, says their recommendation is despite the fact that the development "does not conform to the policy intention to deliver commercial, leisure or retail on the site".

But the report says that "all other requirements are considered to have been satisfied".

These include "ensuring the proposal does not present a flood risk and is safe for the lifetime of the development, that safe access can be provided, and appropriate connections are made between the site and the city centre to encourage sustainable travel.

It also says "the development would not lead to adverse highway conditions" and "takes account of the need to preserve and enhance heritage asset".

"On balance, it is considered that the impacts identified would not significantly or demonstrably outweigh the benefits of the proposal, in particular the opportunity that the delivery of this scheme could have in terms of bringing regeneration to this important city centre site and the contribution the proposal would make to meeting the district's housing needs," says the report.

There are also separate plans to build a five-storey student accommodation block at 1 Bulk Road.

A planning application has gone in to demolish a former pub and create 19 flats above a commercial unit.

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