Imposing old hall in student flat makeover

New look flats in Brock Street
New look flats in Brock Street

A prominent city building is to get a major makeover after plans for student flats were given the go-ahead.

The former Bensons For Beds shop in Brock Street is to be converted into student accommodation over three floors, with new retail space on the ground floor.

The building dates back to 1844 when it was built as an Oddfellows Hall.

The plans, submitted by Inayat Munshi, who also owns the Sultan of Lancaster across the road, include dormer windows on the roof to make the best use of the space - which will comprise of 35 studio apartments.

The notoriously narrow pavement at the front of the building is also due to be widened.

Surprise was expressed at the city council’s planning committee meeting at Lancaster Town Hall on Monday that this wasn’t a Listed Building.

Council leader Eileen Blamire described the building as “imposing”, adding: “It’s a real improvement.”

The current oversized fascias on the ground floor are to be removed and a new contemporary shop frontage introduced which incorporates reduced fascias, which will expose the cills to the first floor windows. New timber sash windows are also to be installed on all three floors above.

There will be cycle storage for 10 bikes inside the building.

Coun Malcolm Thomas said that the development would receive criticism because of the dormers on the roof.

He said: “I think that the dormers should be restricted to the rear of the building only.”

The committee did not agree however, and Coun Thomas’ motion was not carried.

Coun Keith Budden called for the stone quoins – which overlap the corners of the building – to be reinstated, along with the stone plaque above the gable end door, which is also to be re-introduced.

Coun Marsland said: “It’s making good use of the building that’s there. It’s a good use of a nice building.”

The Oddfellows Hall was constructed to serve local branches of the Oddfellows society – a benevolent and mutual aid organisation at a time before the creation of the Welfare State.

After that, the ground floor of the building was used for residential housing.

It is not yet clear when work will start on the building, as Mr Munshi was not available to speak to as the Lancaster Guardian went to press.