Canal Quarter framework due in December

A “high level” masterplan for the long-awaited Canal Corridor scheme in Lancaster, now known as Canal Quarter, is set to be completed by early December by council advisors Planit IE and GVA.

The 16-acre area of Lancaster city centre covers Duke’s, the Grand, the former Mitchell’s brewery, and the Musicians’ Co-Op alongside the Lancaster Canal. The site has been earmarked for a large-scale regeneration for a number of years; most recently with British Land proposing a £250m mixed-use development with homes, retail, student accommodation and cultural space.

In April, Lancaster City Council announced it was to terminate the development agreement with British Land due to legal issues and an increased funding gap of £20m which the council was expected to fill. However the council maintained it was “absolutely committed” to bringing forward a scheme on the site.

GVA and Planit IE have been working since the start of the year to create a development framework based on public feedback, and this is due to be discussed by the council in December. This would then become a supplementary planning document which would guide any projects coming forward in the area.

The need for an over-arching plan for the Canal Quarter is particularly pertinent as the council does not own all of the plots within the development area. Following the termination of the development agreement British Land put its section of the site, about a third of the land, on the market. While the council put in a bid, British Land has accepted an offer from another party. While the name of the new purchaser is yet to be disclosed, this is expected to be revealed in the coming weeks.

The consultancy team progressing the Canal Quarter plans to public consultation stage is due to be announced next week.

According to a report to the full council, the masterplan “stresses the importance of appreciating the site’s many existing assets, such as heritage and cultural assets, and exploiting opportunities more fully, such as proximity to Lancaster Canal and city centre”.

Drone footage below released by Lancaster City Council shows the Canal Quarter area

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Let’s hope that this is a deliverable plan to replace the previous debacle. To those of us who know it, it’s always been a great opportunity for a cultural and high density resi quarter. The best outcome would be to move the cinema out of its current ridiculous location onto this site (unlocking part of the retail core for say M&S to go into a fit for purpose unit) Having a cinema and both theatres together would support and attract restaurants and bars close to lots of student resi. The signs aren’t that good, as LCC are trying to evict the much loved and respected Musicians Co-Op. They should be accommodating them as part of a diverse and locally distinctive scheme.

By Gene Walker

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