CityBlock wins through in Lancaster planning appeal

Lancaster-based student accommodation business CityBlock has won its appeal to have a planning condition removed at The Gillows in its home city.

The 98-bed scheme was given planning permission with conditions attached in December 2016, with CityBlock originally targeting completion this year.

The contentious condition regards noise from the Lancaster University Student Union’s Sugarhouse nightclub. It meant that CityBlock would have to accept acoustic testing following completion of the project, a condition it described as “impractical”.

In August 2017, the developer asked Lancaster City Council to remove the condition, saying that it was affecting its ability to fund the project. In addition, LUSU had objected to the scheme originally, and then launched the Build it Right campaign to keep the condition in place last year, citing concerns both for student welfare and to head off the threat of the Sugarhouse being threatened with noise pollution sanctions at a later date.

Trevor Bargh, chief executive of CityBlock, said: “We are pleased with the Planning Inspectorate’s decision to support our appeals against a planning condition that was found to be unnecessary and unreasonable. We regret that we had to appeal the original decision but are excited about being able to finally progress the development and restore the Gillows building, which we believe is one of the finest historic buildings in Lancaster. Having owned the building for over 20 years we are eager to undertake the necessary works to ensure its future.

“We are committed to ensuring the new development provides a quiet, quality living experience for our students; student wellbeing is always our number one priority across all of our developments.

‘’This process has resulted in significant delays in bringing forward the development of our listed building into occupational use. However, we are now confident that our high specification will exceed the original conditions that were proposed.

“We would like to thank Lancaster Civic Society for helping to bring this this matter to a common-sense conclusion and will now proceed, working alongside LUSU and Lancaster University positively to deliver an excellent facility that is fit for purpose.”

A spokesman for Lancaster City Council said: “The Gillows scheme already benefited from planning permission to convert the building to student accommodation. The recent appeal sought to change some of the detail regarding noise assessment, in relation to the nearby late night uses surrounding the site.

“This was a finely balanced case, highlighted by the fact that planning officers recommended approval, while the planning committee itself considered that the proposals could negatively impact upon The Sugar House. Unfortunately the Planning Inspector has disagreed and while there is obvious disappointment in that decision, we recognise the fine balance involved in this case.”

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