Lancaster should be prepared for a “no deal Brexit” type scenario over the proposed Canal Quarter scheme after developers British Land put their land up for sale.
Lancaster City Council formally ended its partnership with British Land in June, opting to rethink the scheme with a more diverse mix of uses, including the potential for housing with arts, business and retail space.
But British Land own 2.4 acres of the 16 acre development area, including the former Mitchell’s of Lancaster brewery site.
This section of land has now been put up for sale on the open market, reportedly for £6m, although the Lancaster Guardian has not been able to confirm this figure.
British Land did not wish to comment.
The council registered itself as an interested party for the land, and has now agreed to transfer £186,000 from its Capital Support Reserve to its Canal Quarter Reserve, to be used for professional advice for development, public/stakeholder engagement and site/project management.
Councillors also agreed to increase borrowing if needed and allow the chief executive to pursue external funding bids and commission consultants.
Lancaster University said it is “continuing to have dialogue” with Lancaster City Council about future proposals for the site, but has ruled out purchasing British Land’s property itself.
Lancaster City Coun Charlie Edwards said: “The council needs to prepare for all eventualities including a no-deal Brexit type situation where British Land sells the land to a higher bidder and the council are cut out of the equation completely. We need to put protections in place at that point to make sure it’s not the same standard development and identikit, faceless, town centre eyesore. Lancaster deserves so much better!”
A spokesperson for Lancaster University said: “With the withdrawal of British Land (BL) from the project the university is continuing to have dialogue with the City Council about the future proposals and how the development is taken forward in the future.
“The university is not considering a land purchase of BL’s interests.”
The council report noted that there had been interest in the site from both national and local developers.
Coun Janice Hanson, cabinet member with responsibility for regeneration and planning, said: “The decisions made at council pave the way for us to develop plans that will deliver on everyone’s ambitions for this great city. As part of this we will be working closely with the community and will have more news soon on how everyone can get involved. We’ve registered as an interested party to maintain the option of purchasing British Land’s holdings, but our ambitions do not rely on buying them.
“While there are many benefits in looking at the site as a whole, the council is a significant land owner in its own right and would be able to develop a scheme with or without British Land’s property.
“In the event it was purchased by another party, we’d be willing to work with them on a scheme for the benefit of the whole city.”
The council also agreed that options for uses on the site, worked-up by design consultants Planit, will be subject to full public and stakeholder engagement. The engagement plan will be informed by an in depth look at how Winchester City Council conducted a similar public consultation exercise to develop plans for their own centre.
This is seen as a model for how the public can get involved, and participate in the city’s future.
Discussions have taken place with officers at Winchester and lessons learned from their experience will feature in the engagement plan.