Masterplanner sought for Lancaster Canal Quarter

The long-awaited regeneration of the 16-acre site west of the city centre, which is to feature homes, hotels, offices, and a prominent cultural and artistic offer, has taken a step forward.

Lancaster City Council has gone out to tender for a masterplanner for the site, which is largely council-owned, following the creation of a strategic regeneration framework for the project, drawn up by consultancies Avison Young and Planit-IE. 

The project brief for the role of masterplanner, applications for which close on 18 April, says the “regeneration of the Canal Quarter area is critical to enhancing Lancaster’s role as a sub-regional centre and boosting its housing, commercial, cultural and leisure offer”. 

Over the next 10 years, “key sites and dereliction within the area will be addressed”, paving the way for the creation of a mixed-use project that will “complement the existing town centre and provide for balanced place-making”, the council said.

The project brief adds that the masterplan is to integrate “two major private land/development interests in the area into a viable and coherent area-wide scheme capable of clear, phased or concurrent delivery, through a mix of major private/public investment and grant aid”. 

Lancaster Local Plan

The council owns the majority of the 16-acre site

The main privately-owned site within the Canal Quarter, previously known as Canal Corridor North, is the 2.5-acre former Mitchell’s Brewery. The site was previously owned by a joint venture between Worthington Properties and fund manager Revcap. 

However, following the developer’s collapse in 2019Revcap went into partnership with Riverstone Developments to bring forward the site’s redevelopment. 

The joint venture is progressing plans for a mixed-use scheme at Mitchell’s Brewery that have been “well received” following pre-application meetings with the city council, according to Paul Rogers, the authority’s strategic projects manager.

Elsewhere, Maple Grove Developments, part of Eric Wright Group, has an option to redevelop another site within the Canal Quarter, the former Heron Chemical Works. 

Speaking to Place North West, Rogers said the council is working with the private sector developers that have land interests within the Canal Quarter, and is “committed to working with the private interests to help realise quality, sustainable developments and this may require to a variety of interventions”. 

“The critical thing is we get the right scheme,” he said. 

Aside from the two privately owned sites, the rest of the area is made up largely of surface car parks and cultural assets – including Duke’s, Lancaster Grand Theatre, and the Musicians’ Co-Op – which are under council control. 

Rogers added that, while the council wants to make a “significant contribution to housing need” as part of the regeneration project, the number of homes that could be delivered on the site will depend on how the masterplan develops and the resolution of key issues including traffic flow, car parking, and the provision of public space. 

A previous retail-led iteration of the Canal Quarter scheme was brought forward by British Land in 2013 but the partnership between the council and the developer was terminated in 2018 and British Land sold its interest in the site to Worthington the following year.

“We have moved away from the retail-led scheme proposed when retail was seen as the saviour of town centres,” Rogers said. 

He added: “Previous iterations [of the Canal Quarter plan] shifted the centre of gravity of the city centre. We are not doing that now. We are going for a mixed-use commercial, housing and leisure offer, which will complement and strengthen the city centre.” 

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