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Development of the ‘Canal Corridor North’ site by urban regeneration company Centros has finally been given the go ahead by members of the City Council’s planning committee, with councillors voting 15-4 in favour of the project.
The £150m plan consists of a Debenhams outlet, retail spaces, a public open area, cafes, offices, and up to 179 houses and apartments, 25 per cent of which Centros promise will be ‘affordable’ housing. The development is predicted to bring up to 1,000 full and part-time jobs to the area. Associate director, David Lewis, said: “This will regenerate an underused and part derelict site in the city centre. Lancaster is the biggest city in the country without a department store – this will satisfy the demand.” He added: “To do nothing would be a backwards step.”
The plan has caused controversy in recent months due accusations of a lack of consultation on the project, concerns over the increased level of traffic congestion and the potential implications for Lancaster’s status as a ‘historic city’, as well as the effect on local and independent high street shops.
Green Party City Councillor Anne Chapman, who opposes the development, feels the proposed plan is too big, and would take away too much trade from smaller businesses, suggesting that developing the existing city centre would be more beneficial.
“Something more sympathetic to the area, developing existing derelict buildings for either retail or office use would be more what Lancaster needs” she claims.
Cllr Chapman’s main concern is also the affect the new development would have on the already struggling traffic system in Lancaster, an issue Centros has said it would try and improve. There are also fears that trade may also be taken away from neighbouring towns and markets in the area from the influx of locals choosing to travel to Lancaster for their shopping.
However, the development will also bring a lot of prospects to the city of Lancaster, with the creation of new jobs and an increase in tourism potentially leading to larger investment from external sources. Indeed, supporters argue that many of the positives are being overlooked.
Centros claim another of their projects, The Lanes Shopping centre in Carlisle, has proven highly successful, bringing affordable brands into the city and bringing more customers.
Centros must now apply for ‘reserved matters’ permission to determine the final layout of the project, and is due to finish the site in 2012.
By Jason Brown, Caroline Swan, and Keziah Nassiwa