Lancaster canal district delays and concern over focus on student developments

An update on Lancaster Canal District development activities has been given to councillors, after concerns were raised about delays and ‘long overdue’ progress.

Questions have also been asked about the construction of new homes for the elderly in central Lancaster alongside student apartments, to develop a more mixed population and help the local economy.

Talks are underway at various sites by private developers and the city council, it has been reported. In addition, new planning documents and website information have been created. But rising costs are making it difficult for builders and developers to plan ahead, Lancaster City Council’s latest plenary meeting said.

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Lancaster’s Canal District covers approximately six acres of land east of downtown. Since homes there had been cleared in previous decades, it has been isolated from other changes in Lancaster. Over the next 10 years, the city council hopes that some important buildings, underutilized and abandoned sites can be regenerated and new high quality buildings and developments can be realized.

Ideas include improving the Lancaster Canal Corridor, developing a Brewery Square and Stonewell Court around the historic buildings, creating a north city center ‘gateway’ around the gate Saint-Léonard and rue Phoenix, and the creation of a new public square.

Artist impression of the canal district

Private developers would be interested in programs including new housing developments. But some councilors want to see a mix of homes for all ages, including seniors, not just more flats aimed at students at Lancaster University, the University of Cumbria campus or local colleges.

Green Party councilor Tim Dant asked about the canal district during a question and answer session.

He said: “Perhaps the most anticipated and long-awaited project that Lancaster City Council is involved with is the redevelopment of the Canal Quarter, where the council owns a significant amount of land.

“However, I noted that in a third quarter project monitoring report submitted to cabinet, the canal district is ‘on hold’, still awaiting a detailed business case and the project has yet to commence. The could the portfolio holder give us a timeline of when we can see real development?”

Green Coun Tim Hamilton-Cox is a cabinet member for sustainable economic development.

He said: “Many recent and current elements of the work being undertaken in the Canal District have been widely publicized. Most recently, the planning portfolio holder was cited for the appointment of PRP consultants in December to undertake the master plan stage

“The council’s Canal Quarter website pages have also recently been updated to reflect the adoption in the council’s local plan of the Canal Quarter Strategic Regeneration Framework, a supplementary planning document, which also summarizes the next steps.”

PRP Architects is expected to develop more detailed development options early this year, in response to the requests and opportunities set out in the framework,

“Project monitoring for Canal Quarter was an issue during Q3, but regular quarterly reporting will be reinstated during Q4 as ‘Phase 2 – Master Plan Preparation’, as it this was the next step agreed by the cabinet in 2021.

“Further consultations with stakeholders and the community will be initiated after engagement between the cabinet and other advisors, and approval of the general direction of the proposals. Engagement of members (advisors) is expected around April or May .

Artist impression of the canal district
Artist impression of the canal district

“It is also important to note that the speed of development delivery has many external influences. Inflationary pressures across the economy are the most notable. These have an impact on construction and labor costs at all levels, making it difficult to project the viability of the development.

“Last spring, some councilors participated in a pre-application discussion for the former Mitchell Brewery private site. I understand there are ongoing discussions with the board about the viability of this plan.

“Also last year, the council invested in determining the feasibility of combining private and council-owned properties to deliver a low-profile development programme. Progress on this is also the subject of sustainability discussions.

“At the end of last year, the council commissioned PRP to produce a block design for a residential project for a low-profile site in the canal district which is 100% owned by the council. This scheme is currently being assessed for viability.

He added: ‘You can see the City Council has no lack of aspiration to develop the Canal Quarter. ”

Earl Dant, a retired Lancaster University professor, also asked about homes for the aged and for those in need of care.

He said: “The Canal District is next to the student quarter of Lancaster. Can we get assurances that we will get something for the elderly and those who need care? We need to see older people in Lancaster’s bars, shops and clubs as well as young people. ”

Councilor Hamilton-Cox said, from memory, the need for additional care facilities was included in the new framework. But the council would work with PRP Architects on the issue.

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