Lancaster garden village ‘conflict of interest’ with uni?

Sections of the Bailrigg Garden Village
Sections of the Bailrigg Garden Village

The future of the proposed Bailrigg Garden Village in Lancaster will be discussed at a council meeting tonight, Tuesday October 3.

Councillors will decide whether to bring Lancaster University onboard in terms of key decision making and the shaping of the development.

But there have been questions over a “conflict of interest” due to the university owning land asssociated with the project.

A report to the council’s cabinet outlines the proposed “governance structure” that will lead the development of up to 3,500 homes, public space and services, and commercial elements in south Lancaster.

Lancaster City Council, Lancashire County Council/Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP), and the Homes and Communities Agency would lead the project.

But councillors are being asked to vote on whether to give the university a “place shaping role” on the Strategic Project Board to have “advisory and non-voting representation...through its corporate and innovations arms, whilst its landowning and estates arm engages in the process solely through the Landowner and developer group”.

The report states that The Homes and Communities Agency accept this position.

The report says: “...The University of Lancaster is also an important partner in assisting with the delivery of the project, however it also has significant landowner and development interests in the project which have to be taken into account.

“Using the model governance structure for a Garden Village in the HCA guidance the university, as a developer interest would normally sit within the Landowner and Developer advisory group. The HCA’s initial view on the proposed governance structure was to contain the university’s interest in this area.

“However the university as a partner in the project is far more than just its estates development and landowner interests.

“It is one of the main economic drivers in the district, a significant employer in the Garden Village and has a wealth of academic, technical; and innovation expertise which can be brought in to help the project deliver something truly unique and transformational.

“The challenge therefore is to facilitate an important place shaping role for the university within the project without creating a conflict of interest with its estates and development interests.”

The report also notes that government ministers are keen to see the development making progress.

The council would then be able to look at more detailed plans for the garden village, including how it would appear on the landscape, whether to have one “centre” or several, whether the university would need to provide greater public access to its campus, and whether it would want to accommodate the main commercial facilities - including one or more supermarkets.

The report also states that a new road connection at junction 33 and its associated transport hub is crucial to the development of the Bailrigg Garden Village.