Lancaster student flats plan in jeopardy over noise row

The Sugarhouse.
The Sugarhouse.

Plans for student flats in the historic Gillow building will fall through unless the council withdraws its demand for soundproofing tests – say developers.

Bargh Estates and CityBlock Ltd have told Lancaster City Council they can’t get funding for their planned development on North Road unless they lift a call for pre-occupation noise tests.

Meanwhile students have launched their own bid for the planning condition to remain in place.

Lancaster University students’ union are worried that if the flats aren’t soundproofed adequately then tenants will hear noise coming from the union’s nearby Sugarhouse club.

This, they say, could cause complaints which may force the Sugarhouse to close.

The union has launched a campaign called Prove You Can Build It Right, urging the council to keep this condition in place.

Students’ union President Josh Woolf said: “We’re concerned that allowing this development to go ahead without testing of soundproofing measures creates an unacceptable risk to the welfare of students living in the flats, as well as leaving the Sugarhouse exposed to noise complaints from its new neighbours.

“If the developers really believe their design is good enough they should have no objection to pre-occupation testing and proving through full public scrutiny that this is the case.

“The Sugarhouse is important to our members and important to Lancaster’s nightlife and we want to make sure it can exist in harmony with its neighbours so it can continue to thrive.”

In a letter to the council, a representative of the developers wrote: “The inclusion of (the condition) has prevented the applicant from securing funding for the development. Without such funding the development cannot progress.

“The applicant remains absolutely committed to delivering the proposal bringing a listed building back into a viable long term use but cannot do so unless the council removed (the condition). The council’s position is frustrating.

“The applicant is satisfied that required noise levels within the building can and will be achieved; indeed, they would not proceed with the proposals if there was any doubt as the amenity and well-being of students occupying the building is of paramount importance.”

The council put the soundproofing test condition in place when they agreed planning permission for the 32 flats in December 2016.

It asks for the developer to carry out “pre-occupation noise monitoring within the building” and if the scheme “exceeds predicted noise levels, details of improved acoustic mitigation shall be agreed in writing with (the council)”.

The developer’s bid to lift the restriction is likely to go before the council planning committee on September 18.

Trevor Bargh, CEO of CityBlock Ltd, said: “CityBlock’s priority is ensuring all parts of the proposed development at the Gillows building provide a high quality of living and comfort for students, particularly when it comes to noise disturbance.

“Our proposal for developing the building into student accommodation will bring an important historical building in a conservation area back into use and deliver significant regeneration to the area.

“We have submitted designs supported by independent noise assessors showing that the scheme, including bedrooms and living spaces, will be properly soundproofed. However, one of the planning conditions requires the building to be built and once completed, acoustically tested and assessed by independent consultants.

“We feel this is an impractical condition, and as such we have submitted an application to the planning department to remove it.

“Doing so will allow us to focus on rejuvenating the Gillows building, a much-loved local landmark with a huge amount of heritage in Lancaster, which has sadly been left stagnant for way too long while we spend time debating regulations.

“We in no way wish to infringe on the Sugarhouse’s history, legacy and success in the city. Rather, we wish to further support it by welcoming a new wave of students to the local area who will no doubt spend a portion of their time socialising with friends at the nightclub, making great memories during their time here. However, The Sugarhouse also has a duty to operate in a reasonable manner so as to not cause a noise nuisance to local residents.

“We’re calling upon the council to remove the planning condition in order to allow this important development to proceed, which we believe is in the interests of all parties involved.“