Lancaster City Council has grant planning consent for Castle View, the mixed-use regeneration scheme for the city centre proposed by developer Centros.
The 15:4 decision in favour of Centros's outline plans for the 10-acre site follows three years of masterplanning and consultation during which the scheme has been substantially revised.
David Lewis, associate director of Centros, said: "This is a great decision for Lancaster, as it will secure the city centre's future by enabling it to compete successfully with Preston and other centres in the North West.
"The site is quite unusual in that it slopes upwards from the existing city centre to a canal and includes two theatres and the city's unique Musicians' Co-operative. It has offered us the opportunity to create a truly mixed-use scheme featuring retail, residential and commercial uses while also fostering a vibrant cultural quarter and providing some six public spaces."
The plans were resubmitted this year following feedback from residents, English Heritage and architectrual watchdog CABE on proposals made in 2007. The retail element was reduced by 14% and the number of homes increased by 20%. The site of the Debenhams department store also switched from the south side to the north.
The development will provide 320,000 sq ft of new retail space, including a 97,500 sq ft Debenhams department store.
Up to 179 town houses and apartments will be built in a residential zone, many of them around a new public park leading up to the canal. The canal will be enhanced by restaurants and cafés. All of the listed buildings on the site will be retained, with those that have fallen derelict being completely restored and brought back to active use.
The scheme will also provide some £3m of highways improvements aimed at easing city centre traffic flows, a major sticking point of the consultation.
Further benefits include major improvements to both the Dukes and the Grand theatres, as well as completely new premises for the Musicians' Co-operative.
Lewis added: "As well as giving Lancaster's retailing the critical mass it needs to compete, we believe that our investment will also trigger much further investment in the city, particularly by adjacent retail property owners who will benefit immensely from the increased footfall the development will generate.
"Even in the current economic climate, the scheme remains viable, and the strong backing of Delancey will enable us to deliver this project in about four to five years time."
Following completion of the S106 agreement, Centros's development team – including 3DReid, Montagu Evans, Mayer Brown, Waterman Group and Halogen – will move on to the detailed design and other reserved matters. It is anticipated that a start on site could be achieved during 2010/11, with completion in 2012/13.