Lancaster councillors have backed proposals for a major £250m redevelopment of dilapidated land in the city.
Councillors voted in favour of supporting the principle of the development at the Canal Corridor North site, as well as giving financial support for the scheme, at a meeting this week. The motion passed with 35 votes in favour, 11 against and two abstentions.
A full planning application for the site is expected by the end of 2018.
But the chairman of Lancaster Grand Theatre says he is “disappointed” that the venue hasn’t been included in the proposals.
Mike Hardy said a new foyer had been included in original plans for the development back in 2008, but since then he had not had any communication about any money allocated to The Grand.
He added that the theatre had managed to raise £500,000 towards the £1.5m projected cost for the extension, and that any additional financial help would be “very welcome”.
Council and Labour group leader, Coun Eileen Blamire, said: “This is an important milestone in progressing a scheme which could transform a tired area of Lancaster city centre, attracting new shops and restaurants, establishing an exciting new home for arts organisations like The Dukes and Ludus Dance, and creating hundreds of new jobs.
“It would bring new investment with the potential to deliver a real economic boost for the district, and give residents and visitors more reason to spend time and money in the area rather than travelling elsewhere.”
She added that the council and its officers “will continue to be diligent in ensuring that the deal reached in the negotiations that follow will be in the best interests of this authority and everyone in the district.”
The city council’s Conservative group said it supports the development, as long as the council agrees to back the existing small businesses in the city centre.
Group leader Coun Peter Williamson said: “We want to ensure that the financial arrangements for these proposals are sensible and sustainable. The Conservative group wants the scheme to go ahead. We also want to ensure that whatever deal we end up with is one that benefits all the investors – council taxpayers, the university and British Land.”
A key part of the project is the development of an enhanced arts and cultural facility to ‘anchor’ the overall scheme.
Lancaster City Council has been granted £300,000 by the Arts Council to work up proposals and has also submitted a £4m capital funding bid to the Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund.
Coun Janice Hanson, cabinet member with responsibility for regeneration and planning, said: “This is a positive step towards our goal of achieving a comprehensive redevelopment for the Canal Corridor site.
“Over the next few months we’ll be negotiating further with British Land, Lancaster University and other key partners to agree final proposals which achieve the best for the city and the wider district.”
The Canal Corridor Development has been pursued as a regeneration priority by the city council since 2004 and remains a key project in the Local Development Framework.
Lancaster City Council currently holds a development agreement with British Land for the site, which includes land between Stonewell and the former brewery site.
Lancaster University is also closely involved with the project to ensure a scheme that brings an important and unique offer to the North West which complements the growing success of the university.
The proposals include an arts centre, food and drink establishments, retail and student accommodation. Developer British Land is set to invest £100m into the project, with a further £80m for arts and £70m for student accommodation.
Responding to the Lancaster Grand Theatre, Coun Hanson said: “During its debate on the scheme, the council did acknowledge the concerns raised by the Grand Theatre about the impact they felt that the proposed Arts Hub could have on their offer.
“We can assure those involved in running the theatre that it is entirely in the best interest of the scheme and the overall transformation of the city centre that the theatre plays a key part in the project and be part and parcel of an enhanced arts and cultural offer for the city.
“Indeed decisions have already been made to alter the existing development agreement to accommodate the Grand Theatre’s desire for more space and enable it to enjoy the potential benefits the scheme will generate in terms of increased footfall, better servicing facilities and by operating in much more dynamic surroundings.”