Controversy rages over student housing

CityBlock 3 and Sainsbury's.'Lancaster Student Accommodation.
CityBlock 3 and Sainsbury's.'Lancaster Student Accommodation.

An architectural feat – or a complete eyesore?

The latest Cityblock student housing building, in Penny Street, Lancaster, has been officially opened and features a Sainsbury’s on the ground floor.

But the development has been described as “disgusting” by critics who argue it should be nominated for the “carbuncle of the year award”.

Meanwhile others said the design, which mixes old with new, is attractive and a “well laid out architectural solution”.

The six-storey block has been built around Victoria Court, which is not a listed building, and is fully occupied by students for the next academic year. Lancaster City Council’s planning committee granted permission for the development in 2010, despite warnings from the Victorian Society and Lancaster Civic Society, who said that the proposal constituted a “large unattractive decorative box”.

Lancaster City Coun Keith Sowden said he was shocked to see the finished building as he sat in traffic on Penny Street.

He said: “Victoria Court has had a disgusting square concrete block dumped on top of it.

“Whilst the rest of the country, has blown up Harold Wilson’s copies of Communist concrete, we are destroying our magnificent, unique architecture and replacing it with police station mark two.

Where on earth are we going? We desperately need development but without destroying the best things we now have.”

Lancaster resident Tim Warnford said: “In the Guardian’s reporting of the opening of the new was stated that ‘the old facade has been uniquely fossilised within the development’.

“I would suggest that the unique method deployed here is hardly one that will attract any nominations for good design awards, rather it has in fact been nominated for Building Design’s Carbuncle of the Year Award.”

Roger Frankland, vice-chair of Lancaster Civic Society, said that the building dwarfed and dominated its neighbouring buildings adding: “We can only hope that the materials weather sufficiently over time to make it less ugly.”

There were others however who complimented the building.

Mark Beeching, owner of in Penny Street, said: “I was fascinated to see how a challenging site had been adapted to an attractive and well laid out architectural solution and hope the additional student spending power it brings will be appreciated by local shops and businesses.”

Trevor Bargh, CEO of City Block, said that the design had been supported by English Heritage and Places Matter.

He added: “We wouldn’t expect everyone to like it – it’s different and it’s innovative.

“We have, however, had over 100 people go out of their way to say that they do like the unique architectural design.

“It has been a complicated project. Certain areas are not yet finished so perhaps some opinions are premature.

“I do hope that people will grow to appreciate its unique design.”