A HUGE £67.8m housing development finally looks set to go ahead at Lancaster’s derelict Moor Hospital.
Owner of the former mental health institution, the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), has struck a deal with developers the PJ Livesey Group and Story Homes to build 440 new homes and apartments at the landmark 15.76 hectare Quernmore Road site.
New jobs will be created during the construction work.
The homes will range from one-bedroom apartments to four bedroom family homes.
The scheme will include 262 new-build homes, while the others will be created through conversion of the listed annexe building and Campbell House.
Outline planning permission was granted for new homes on the site in June 2008, but the scheme has been delayed by the economic downturn.
While the plans have been welcomed, fears have been raised that local amenities are currently insufficient to serve so many new homes.
The developers say that once plans have been drawn up, a community consultation programme will be put in place.
But a local campaigner is pleading for residents to have more of a say in developing the scheme.
Dr Steve Dealler, who lives nearby in Standen Park House – part of the old hospital complex already converted into homes – has led a campaign to secure community input into the redevelopment, which included a public meeting.
Ideas at the meeting included using part of the site for community facilities like a music college or nursing home.
“They should be asking local people about how the development can fit in with the rest of Lancaster and they should be consulting people before they draw up their plans, not afterwards,” said consultant microbiologist Dr Dealler.
“What about all the extra cars on local roads, the need for more school places and an on-site shop?
“They really ought to be thinking mighty hard about those types of thing.
“If they don’t we will end up with another blank and empty housing estate; if they do I think they will find it easier to sell the homes.”
Bulk ward city councillor, Tim Hamilton-Cox, said: “This is really good for jobs in the local economy, for the extra housing it will bring, and for the fact that it breathes life back into a landmark building and beautiful site.
“It’s also a great opportunity to make this part of Lancaster a more sustainable location: development needs to bring with it community facilities and much better and safer transport links to local schools and the town centre.”
Deborah Mclaughlin, North West executive director at the HCA, said the aim was to deliver a scheme to meet the aspirations of local people.
Georgina Livesey, of PJ Livesey, said: “As a company we are used to working with listed buildings and can see the potential of Lancaster Moor to become a thriving community in a truly beautiful setting.”
Steve Errington, managing director for Story Homes, which will lead development of a site masterplan including existing parking and woodland, said:
“As well as regenerating the area and bringing affordable/quality housing, the development will boost the local economy not only in terms of jobs but also the procurement of materials and services from local companies.”
Andrew Dobson, the city council’s head of planning, said: “Provision has been made in the legal agreement for a contribution to improve the bus service in that area.
“At the present there are no proposals for a shop but the council continues to encourage one if the developers can find a viable operation to bring onto the site.”
The HCA is funding a £3m programme of work to prepare the site for development which will start later this month.
It includes upgrades to the main access, demolition of outbuildings, asbestos removal and further survey work.
PJ Livesey will begin stripping out modern additions inside the building later this month and hopes to submit detailed planning and listed building applications in March 2013.
Story Homes hope to have a detailed planning application in by next summer.
The Moor Hospital, which was built in 1882, closed in 1999.