Lancaster ‘raring to get on’ with £250m Canal Quarter

Lancaster City Council is “raring to get on” with the £250m Canal Quarter, with the collapse of developer Worthington Properties “in no way putting anything at risk”, according to the council’s assistant chief executive.

The city council has been working with Avison Young and Planit IE since 2018 to deliver a top-level masterplan for the long-running development site, previously known as Canal Corridor North. The draft planning framework underpinning the scheme has been released this week for consultation.

November saw Worthington Properties, which owned a 2.5-acre site within the 16-acre masterplan area, fall into administration, leaving some speculation over the future of the wider regeneration plan.

However, speaking to Place North West, Kieran Keane, chief executive of Lancaster City Council, said the Canal Quarter has “in no way been put at risk” following the collapse of Worthington. He stated: “We’re raring to get on.”

Worthington bought its plot, including the derelict former Mitchell’s brewery, from the council’s previous development partner British Land at the start of this year. The council put in its own bid for the plot, but lost out to Worthington.

Aside from the Worthington site, the remainder of the 16-acre Canal Quarter regeneration area, which also includes Duke’s, the Grand, and the Musicians’ Co-Op alongside the Lancaster Canal, is owned largely by the council with a smaller number of buildings in other private ownership.

As the council is the majority landowner, the administration of Worthington “doesn’t put any substantial part of the development at risk in any way”, according to Keane.

Although Worthington bought the site from British Land, Keane said there was no development agreement in place with the council, so Worthington’s proposals would have have had to be brought forward under the principles established in the emerging masterplan.

The site was owned by a joint venture between Worthington and fund manager Revcap, with the latter now taking full control.

Keane said progress on the Canal Quarter was “moving to the exciting next phase”.

“Throughout this year, the process has outlined the uses, location and scale of the scheme,” he said. In its latest guise, Canal Quarter is set to include offices, an arts venue, retail and leisure, and up to 1,000 homes.

Public consultation events have been held with various organisations throughout the course of this year, which has led to the creation of the draft supplementary planning document. The draft has now been launched for its statutory eight-week consultation, with the masterplan due to be revealed in full in the spring.

While the council is now working towards a detailed design phase, Keane said: “The supplementary document sets the boundaries for what the council will or will not accept in the area, so any landowners will need to take a look at that.”

Canal Quarter has been in the pipeline for several years. British Land had been attached to the scheme since 2012 after buying the site from Centros, but the development agreement between the council and British Land was terminated in April 2018. The council said at the time it was “inevitable” that the developer’s retail-led proposals could not be brought forward, citing legal and funding issues.

Consultation events on the draft SPD are being held throughout January, or on the website.

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