Lancaster City council claims business magazine report on Frontierland restaurants and homes was ‘incorrect’

Lancaster City Council and a number of individual leading councillors on its cabinet have claimed a report published in a business magazine on plans for a development of restaurants, a hotel and homes for Morecambe’s former Frontierland theme park site is incorrect.

Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 1:06 pm

The city council published an official statement on its own website on Tuesday, alleging a report earlier this week in a Lancashire business magazine about a ‘masterplan’ commission with Lancaster-based HPA Architects was wrong.

Instead, the council said HPA’s activity was about feasibility work for valuation of the site and that all development options for the disused Morecambe site remained open. No decisions had yet been taken and public consultation would happen, the city council statement added.

Earlier this week, Lancashire Business View magazine had published a report with artist’s impressions apparently illustrating how the Frontierland site in Morecambe could look in future, with contemporary new restaurants, homes, hotel and shop spaces. There was a street-level impression and a bird’s eye view of potential new buildings and layouts at the triangle-shaped plot of land

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Gaps in the blue hoarding surrounding the former Frontierland site on Morecambe Promenade allow views within. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

Three larger buildings at the front, looking like restaurants or hotels, had curved and streamlined architectural elements perhaps reflecting Morecambe’s landmark art deco Midland Hotel. Built in the 1930s by a railway company, the Midland is celebrated for its design and features inspired by ocean liner ships and the sea.

Behind the three larger buildings in the artist’s impression were smaller street developments of town houses and apartments,

However in response to the article, Lancaster City Council’s stated: “Contrary to recent reports, Lancaster City Council can confirm that it has not commissioned HPA Chartered Architects to develop a master plan for Frontierland in Morecambe.

“The council stepped in to purchase the land in 2021 following the failure of successive private sector schemes. HPA was asked to undertake some initial feasibility work to help inform the valuation and purchase. This is not a master plan but work necessary to support valuation evidence base required prior to the council agreeing to purchase the land.

“The council has still to consider development options for the former Frontierland sites and no decisions have yet been made regarding the future use of the site. The published article is, therefore, incorrect.”

The statement added: “The council will, of course ensure that the community is at the heart of the vision for the site. It will be providing Morecambe’s communities with the opportunity to provide their views throughout the process of designing the plans.”

The article was removed from the Lancashire Business View website today.

Morecambe Bay Independent councillors Tricia Heath and Cary Matthews, who are also city council cabinet members, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “An article, which spread across social media, claimed that Lancaster City Council had commissioned a company to develop a master plan for the Frontierland site. This simply is not true. Lancaster City Council is committed to going out for full consultation on any future aspirations for the Frontierland site and that commitment remains steadfast.

“As Morecambe Bay Independent cabinet members on Lancaster City Council, we will continue to ensure that any proposed development on the Frontierland site achieves the best possible regeneration results for Morecambe and its residents.”

Labour group leader Coun Eric Lewis, who is also a cabinet member, said: “The city council’s purchase of Frontierland delivered on a commitment made in Labour’s 2019 local manifesto. We are keen to see useful, attractive and appropriate development take place on the site. That can only be delivered through consultation and partnership with local residents and organisations.”

Conservative group leader Coun Richard Austen-Baker said: “This is complete news to me. I’ve not seen anything like this in cabinet papers and I’m chairman of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee. For a decision to be made, there would have to be an officer’s report and it would have to come with cabinet papers.

“There’s a city council cabinet meeting next week so whether there’s something coming-up then, I don’t know? But I have not seen any papers yet. ”

How the incident happened is unclear. Lancashire Business View said it had removed the article, which was taken from a press release from HPA. It could reflect a simple press release error or some other factor, such as informal or unapproved impressions of how the site could be developed being accidentally or prematurely circulated.

On Tuesday night, Lancashire County Councillor Charlie Edwards suggested the city council had reacted to some negative public comments on social media to the report and images, which he had earlier shared shared on his Facebook page. Although there were also some positive public reactions too on his site.

He wrote: “Here are draft plans for the Frontierland site. 161 dwellings. Restaurants. Hotel. Let me know your thoughts.”

Later he posted: “Update (7pm Tuesday). The council has released a statement saying this isn’t their plan! I think they have seen people’s comments on social media and thought it best to distance themselves. People power will prevail.”

The Local Democracy Reporting Service has contacted HPA Architects for comment, along with various political parties at Lancaster City Council.

The city council is led by Greens and Eco-Socialists but Morecambe Bay Independents, Labour and Conservative councillors also have important roles in the cabinet or on committees.

Lancaster City Council’s press office said it had no further comments to make today.

PUBLIC REACTION ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Public reactions to the Lancashire Business View article posted by Coun Charlie Edwards on his Facebook page were wide-ranging.

Brendan Hughes posted a comment stating: “It looks like a housing estate! I have genuine fears the retail side of it will just be empty units on the edge of the estate. Surely this isn’t the answer, Charlie.”

Catrina Wilson said: “I hope this happens.”

Casey-Marie Taylor wrote: “We need some leisure places and more houses for young people who aren’t students. I’m 18, looking at moving out and every single house at the moment are either student houses or won’t take us cause we’re 18-20 it’s so stupid!”

William Ormerod said: “I think this is a great idea! Housing and business investment leading to financial improvements in the area.”

Mark Lay wrote: “Will the houses be actually for sale or just rented? The reason the council has been purchasing empty businesses to then lease-out is to bring in a steady flow of income. I can see them doing the same for the Frontierland estate.”

Emily Alice Ward said: “It is great to see that plans are getting put together for the land use. However with all the empty units in town and across the West End, surely money could be put in their direction to preserve the beautiful original buildings?

“I appreciate that the council has considered the housing issues we have with additional housing but with the lack of facilities for young children (aside from bowling and arcades and the jump rush, which are great, but not always affordable for large, low income families on a wet weekend, of which we have many) perhaps a similar set up to Salt Ayre? There is no soft play in the area any more, so soft play, cheap swimming and a place where children can join indoor sports teams would be a great idea.”

Natasha McCrone wrote: “ I was hoping we could build something that would make people want to come to Morecambe, like an ice skating rink or a new Bubbles. Completely against the retail and housing plan when so many properties are derelict in Morecambe already.”

Terran Brown wrote: “Why can’t the space be used for public benefit rather than private housing? Not convinced this is the right way.”

Helen Miller wrote: “Should of been developed into indoor pool like the Sandcastle in Blackpool and an ice rink.”

Jade Johnson said: “Now the Eden Project is coming, this site needs development and sorting-out. The place is an eyesore. Council needs to give the town a facelift. It’s embarrassing what Morecambe has become.

All the shops that have been left derelict for years need a face lift. Get Morecambe thriving again. Spending thousands on the prom, making it lovely, but then you turn around and see a sore site.”

Karolina Madejska wrote: “Absolutely shocking. Once again nothing to attract any visitors or anything for family days-out or kids. Just constantly houses after houses.”

Bryan Page wrote: “I think we need either a site for festivals or something totally unique to being people into Morecambe.”

Steve Bankmoore said: “Looks better but shame as there are already lots of empty shops, especially in West End that could be done-up and used. Maybe use the land for things that would pull people to area, like a kids swimming space, a boat lake or a few rides?”

Dan Hartley said: “Far better than the eyesore that the site is now. The town needs investment. It’s a simple as that. To those saying houses shouldn’t be built on the land, what do you suggest. Shops? Another theme park? A new Bubbles? If this goes ahead they should make 25per cent of the homes available to first-time buyers and housing associations. The rest will get bought-up and rented-out.”