Planning hurdle for science park

Artist's impression of the proposed science park at Lancaster University"
Artist's impression of the proposed science park at Lancaster University"

Plans for a science park near Lancaster University look set to be renewed by city councillors.

The 34,000 square metre science park off Bailrigg Lane would house technology and knowledge-based businesses and an innovation centre. It could create 1,000 jobs.

Outline planning permission – effectively permission in principle – was granted for the scheme, which is being developed jointly by the city and county councils and Lancaster University, in July 2009.

Detailed permission was granted for a new access to the proposed park from the A6, along with an internal spine road and landscaping.

But since then the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA), which funded the city council’s £2.3m purchase of the land, has been abolished.

The council had hoped the NWDA would contribute towards more than £8m of infrastructure works including roads, drainage and power supplies.

It has therefore been looking for alternative sources of funding and secured £3m from the Government’s Growing Places Fund through the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership.

The planning permissions now need renewing and city council officers are advising the authority’s planning committee to do so when it meets on Monday – despite concerns raised by highways authority Lancashire County Council about the traffic impact. The planning report says County Hall is “concerned about the effective functioning of the A6 and its traffic light junctions, especially in Galgate and Scotforth”.

But it adds that the highways authority stopped short of objecting and says several measures will help mitigate the effect on roads.

These include new traffic lights at the Hala and Galgate junctions with technology which responds to traffic conditions, as well as a cycle path connecting with the existing network and new bus stops close to the access road.

The report says that only 11,000 square metres of the park will be allowed to be built until the impact of the new traffic signals has been assessed. If they do not deliver significant improvements the remainer of the park will only be able to go ahead if targets around the number and direction of the new journeys generated are met.

Five letters of objection from nearby residents have been received, some of which also raise fears about traffic.

Other concerns raised include loss of green space and over the height of the development, which would include three-storey buildings.

But the report concludes: “It is considered appropriate to deliver a high quality science park which has the potential to deliver high quality jobs, retain skilled graduates within the district and help transform the local economy.”