Canal Quarter and Lancaster economy ‘need homes for old as well as students’

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

By Robbie Macdonald, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Monday, 21st March 2022, 9:30 am

Questions were also asked about building new homes for older people in central Lancaster alongside student flats, to develop a more-mixed population and help the local economy.

Talks are ongoing about various sites by private developers and the city council, it was reported. In addition, new planning documents and website information have been created. But rising costs are creating difficulties for builders and developers to plan ahead, the latest full meeting of Lancaster City Council was told.

Lancaster’s Canal Quarter covers around six acres of land east of the city centre. Since homes were cleared there 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, under-used sites and dereliction can be regenerated and new high quality buildings and developments achieved.

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The Canal Quarter plans were up for discussion by councillors last week.

Ideas include enhancing the Lancaster Canal corridor, developing a Brewery Square and Stonewell Courtyard around historic buildings, creating a northern city centre ‘gateway’ around St Leonard’s Gate and Phoenix Street, and creation of a new public square.

Private developers are said to be interested in schemes including new housing developments. But some councillors want to see a mix of homes for all ages including older people, not simply more flats aimed at students at Lancaster University, the University of Cumbria campus or local colleges.

Green councillor Tim Hamilton-Cox, cabinet member for sustainable economic development, “It is important to note that the speed of development delivery has many external influences. Inflation pressures in the wider economy are the most notable. These are impacting on construction and labour costs across the board, making projections about development viability difficult.

“Last spring, some councillors were involved in a pre-application discussion for the privately-owned former Mitchell’s brewery site. My understanding is that there are ongoing discussions with the council over that scheme’s viability.

“Also last year, the council invested in determining the feasibility of combining private and council-owned property to bring-forward a discrete development scheme. Progress on that is also subject to discussions over viability.

“At the end of last year, the council commissioned PRP to produce a block design for a residential scheme for a discreet site in Canal Quarter which is wholly-owned by the council. That scheme is currently in the process of being assessed for viability.

“You can see that there is no lack of aspiration on the part of the city council to deliver development in Canal Quarter. ”

Green Party councillor Tim Dant said: “The Canal Quarter is next to the student quarter of Lancaster. Can we get assurances that we will get something for older people and for those needing care? We need to see older people in Lancaster bars, shops and clubs as well as young people. ”

Coun Hamilton-Cox said, going by memory, the need for extra-care facilities was included in the new framework. But the council would work with PRP Architects on the issue.