LUSU opposes student flats

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LUSU has initiated a campaign to oppose the proposed flats near The Sugarhouse.

The property development would transform the Gillows building ­- which sits beside the Sugarhouse ­- into 90 student flats.

The Grade II listed building previously housed the Mojo nightclub and a furniture showroom. A proposal by CityBlock would see the building developed with a glass facade at the rear.

However, LUSU has opposed the development ­ stating that its proximity to The Sugarhouse will result in noise complaints. The union said in a statement that “locating flats here will lead to restrictions being placed on the Sugarhouse that could impact its viability and damage the wider economy of Lancaster.”

Students are being encouraged to oppose the plans on the city council website, that explains why the Union believes the development “threatens the welfare of intended tenants and the future prosperity of dozens of city centre businesses.”

The message explains: “The development could threaten the future viability of the Sugarhouse, jeopardising Lancaster’s wider night­time economy by destroying linked trade.” The development has been proposed by CityBlock Lancaster ­who currently own three student blocks in Penny Street.

CEO of CityBlock, Trevor Bargh, said the Gillows Building was the “perfect location for student location” and responded to the Union’s concerns saying: “We have completed a noise assessment and we have identified the required acoustic configuration of the building. We are aware of the noise issues and intend to create a rear façade that will be effective in ensuring that the Gillows conversion will be of the highest standard to satisfy any concerns.”

There have also been suggestions that the Council will sell St Leonard’s House (located behind the Sugarhouse) for student accommodation ­and Bargh says this is an indication that “other property owners agree it is a good location.” A spokesperson for the company added that “the site is not a new purchase. We have owned the property for over 20 years and have invested millions of pounds into the Gillows property.”

The Sugarhouse Assistant Manager, Patrick Hall, said on Facebook that the club was “facing a crisis” ­and that problems would arise as a result of noise from “customers coming, going and stepping outside for a cigarette.”

“Love it or hate it”, he explained, “The Sugarhouse is essential for the survival of Lancaster nightlife. Without it the thousands of students that drink in the great bars we have might choose not to come into town at all.”

Owner of the Bentley’s club, Robert John Allan, backed the campaign­ telling Hall on Facebook: “I’m 100% behind you personally and professionally.”

Dalton Rooms had conditions placed on its licence five months ago, following a number of noise complaints. Lancaster City Council put measures on the venue including closing off the front doors after 2am. Hall cited this incident in his post, stating that “luckily [Dalton Rooms] were able to make enough alterations to survive.”

A noise assessment submitted to the planning committee ruled out the noise from the Sugarhouse as presenting a significant problem, because a living room area will act as “a buffer zone, such that the bedroom is not directly facing the nightclub.”

Noise complaints are not the only concern relating to the development.­ Lancaster Civic Society warned against the development encouraging the growth of “student ghettos”. Martin Widden, of the society, commented: “The Society would very much like to see the city council adopt a policy that places a limit on the proportion of accommodation in any area that is aimed particularly at the student market.”

“The council must strike a balance between the needs of students, of residents, and of tourists and visitors.”

However, the developments have received a warm reception from many others, including Bulk Ward City Councillor, Tim Hamilton-­Cox, who said that the plan “brings investment and breathes new life into a substantial and historic listed building”. He continued saying that “by default it seems that the ‘quarter’ is turning into a student village around The Sugar House night­club.”

The Gillows Building was first developed as a factory for the cabinet makers Gillows & Co in 1881. The old furniture showroom was transformed into a number of nightclubs: Liquid, Elements and most recently, Mojo.

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