Thursday, 22 March 2012

Centros: new draft masterplan for city centre


Centros' revised draft masterplan for the Canal Corridor North Development Site
Following Lancaster City Council’s Cabinet approval of the principles for a five-year extension to the Canal Corridor North development agreement, which was originally due to expire in October 2011, Centros has released its revised master-plan proposals, pictured above, for the development of the Canal Corridor North site. These have been worked up in consultation with the both the City Council and English Heritage, who vetoed their previous proposals. This new scheme is estimated to reflect a proposed investment in Lancaster in excess of £100 million.

Centros director, David Lewis, explained:
“Since the public inquiry in 2009, we have revisited our previous proposals whilst liaising with English Heritage to address their concerns. This week’s decision by the Council’s Cabinet represents a key milestone in the delivery of this major regeneration in the city centre.

"Once legal formalities are concluded, we will be in a position to prepare a new planning application. In the meantime, we intend to continue our engagement with both statutory consultees and local stakeholders, as well as the public.”


You can read the heritage assessment report for the Canal Corridor site on the City Council website here.
Those with an interest in local history and architecture will also find it an interesting read.  The new plan integrates more of the existing buildings, including the now listed brewery, bringing them back into use.

The revised scheme comprises:
· An open pedestrian shopping street leading from Stonewell to a new public square, with multiple pedestrian links to and from Moor Lane, the canal towpath and St Leonard Gate
· A new department store, a variety store and around 30 other new shops including a supermarket
· New cafés and restaurants
· A broad surface-level Toucan crossing at Stonewell and landscape enhancement of lower Church Street, including a shared surface with pedestrian priority
· New public squares in the centre of the scheme – also on St Leonard Gate, on Moor Lane, St Anne’s Place, Stonewell and adjacent to the canal / Heron Works
· A new public park leading up from Alfred Street to the Lancaster Canal
· Re-housing of the much-admired Lancaster Musicians’ Co-operative in the restored Brewery Building
· Creation of a restaurant quarter adjacent to the Lancaster Canal – utilising refurbished Joseph Storey buildings and the courtyard
· An enhanced canalside environment
· Re-engineering of the Parliament Street/Caton Road highways network to provide much-improved road access for the city - as before
· 800 car parking spaces including part undercroft below the new retail street - providing direct pedestrian access to Stonewell, the historic city centre and both theatres
· New residential accommodation, including a terrace of cottages on Alfred Street.

The significant changes to the scheme include:

· Removal of the proposed pedestrian bridge over Stonewell
· Upgrading of the public realm on lower Church Street, Stonewell and lower St Leonard Gate, including a much-improved pedestrian crossing
· Retention and re-use of the listed malthouse building and adjoining brewery tower and courtyard buildings
· Retention of parts of the Joseph Storey/Heron Works
· Part retention of Swan Court
· A 20% reduction in the overall commercial floorspace to 34,500 sq m.

At the end of last year, Centros agreed terms with Mitchell’s of Lancaster to acquire its interests in the development site. It is anticipated that a new planning application will be submitted at the end of this year. On superficial reading, the new scheme appears to be a significant improvement on the previous efforts, with   listed buildings restored and integrated into the plan. With these and additional public space included the development is likely to feel significantly more relaxed than the previous stock shopping precinct plan. However many still have serious qualms about entering into a 250-year deal that leases most of our city centre space to a company based in a British Virgin Islands tax haven. It will put them almost on a par with the Victorian era's Lord Ashton as Lancaster's most powerful lobbyists - after the nuclear power station, a French holding.

Centros to meet with It's Our City on Tuesday
Local group It’s Our City (IOC), who campaigned tirelessly against Centros’ previous, flawed development proposals, (which indeed fell at the Public Inquiry stage) are reserving judgement until they have had the opportunity to scrutinise the full proposals in detail and consult locally. Centros has invited their ‘leadership’ to a meeting at the Dukes next Tuesday 27 March at 7.30pm. As the group has an informal structure its supporters are requested to email Mark.McVicar@centros.co.uk directly should they wish to attend as spaces are limited to 30.

Bury St Edmunds £5million down on Centros link passage deal
Scrutiny is called for. Suffolk's 'Coastal Scene' reported in 2010 that, rather than build a promised £6 million link between the new Centros-built Arc shopping centre and the city centre, a critical part of the development plan, Centros instead gave the St Edmundsbury Borough Council a parcel of land worth just £750,000. Council leader John Griffiths said: “Once it became clear that Centros were not going to make the anticipated profits on the Arc necessary to widen Market Thoroughfare, the borough council tried everything - including the use of a compulsory purchase order - to force them to do so.'
To no avail.

Delancey
According to their website portfolio Centros was acquired by Delancey in 1999. According to their latest press release Centros 'is owned by funds advised by property investment company, Delancey'. The small print could prove expensive. During the last development agreement, the companies set up by Centros as guarantors for their proposals were restructured, leaving them with barely £200 in assets - making Centros' guarantees to the City Council worthless should liability arise. A new proposal for this 250 year scheme will need to prove that its guarantors are more than letterheads - for the forseeable future.

The Centros page on the Delancy portfolio website may look familiar - the image currently shown is the artist's impression of Centros previous proposal for Lancaster - which was chucked out by the 2007 public enquiry.

15 comments:

It's Our Car Park said...

Don't make this proposed development something which only concerns 'it's our city' and the LCC/Centros. This is a huge chunk of Lancaster and concerns us all.

It's not a question of who's side are you on. It's a case of what do you think should be done?

Anonymous said...

I am writing to express my feelings and concerns regarding the lack of retail infrastructure within our city and the number of derelict and disused buildings and land around the old Mitchell’s Brewery buildings. I like many have to travel to many miles to Preston and Manchester to satisfy my shopping requirements. This is not environmentally friendly and much needed revenue and jobs are benefited from elsewhere.
We are desperately in need of better facilities to be able to compete with our respective neighbours in the North West. As a City we aspire to be like York as a historic place to visit. At present we are a million miles away due to our extremely poor retail offering and the waste land areas right in the city centre. We need to attract tourist and shoppers and regenerate and restore Lancaster to its former glory.
I want to express my full support to the Canal Corridor North retail development scheme proposed by Centros.
I hope the right decisions are taken by you the Council for the benefit of the majority.

LancastrianWhoWantstoShop said...

I am writing to express my feelings and concerns regarding the lack of retail infrastructure within our city and the number of derelict and disused buildings and land around the old Mitchell’s Brewery buildings. I like many have to travel to many miles to Preston and Manchester to satisfy my shopping requirements. This is not environmentally friendly and much needed revenue and jobs are benefited from elsewhere.
We are desperately in need of better facilities to be able to compete with our respective neighbours in the North West. As a City we aspire to be like York as a historic place to visit. At present we are a million miles away due to our extremely poor retail offering and the waste land areas right in the city centre. We need to attract tourist and shoppers and regenerate and restore Lancaster to its former glory.
I want to express my full support to the Canal Corridor North retail development scheme proposed by Centros.
I hope the right decisions are taken by you the Council for the benefit of the majority.

Tumphy said...

I would love to be able to shop in Lancaster. I feel there are too many derelict buildings as no-one is drawn to come into Lancaster. Suitable parking would ensure a busy and bustling centre.

I've been to many towns and cities of a similar size such as Bristol and York, as well as the bigger cities around the country and I see businesses attracted to set up premises. The draw of retail businesses would attract large enterprises looking for regional offices at low rents. we are ideally placed for the M6 and west coast main line with Liverpool and Manchester airports only an hour away and Glasgow only a 2 and a half hour drive. We should have lower rents and business strategies to attract all sizes and shapes of business. Lancaster has changed many times over the centuries...lets see some positive change. Those that complain about destroying derelict buildings have had ample opportunity to club together to buy and renovate these, yet this has not happened. It is time for positive change!

Mick Fishwick said...

I must say the St Leonard’s Gate area and Lancaster would be improved hugely by this scheme. The City needs this type of investment and like all cities it must continue to develop if it is to move on. Such a large area of derelict buildings and unused land is a shameful waste and a poor reflection on the City. This looks to be a sympathetic scheme with a good blend of old and new and it would be great for the City to develop the canal and a restaurant quarter, quite apart from the need for higher quality retail outlets. Why can’t we look forward to a City that can bring in the quality of lifestyle and the revenues of a Manchester, or even a Kendal? I used to live in Newcastle and watched the development of its Quayside from a derelict wasteland to a vibrant social centre with a great range of restaurants, cafes and retail outlets. It enhanced the City enormously and it is nice to see somebody with the same sort of vision for Lancaster.

Billy Pye said...

In, response to 'Anonymous' we would like to point out that the text he/she writes appears to be one of those model messages that a Centros supporter has cut and pasted onto a public blog - it is vaguely and tediously familiar. Perhaps it came via Centros itself or some other entity with a vested interest in the site. Certainly, the 'arguments' that the post contains are those advanced by Centros and which are often parroted by supporters of the scheme. There is nothing wrong with this kind of campaigning of course - so long as the public can see who is behind it and we are sure that 'Anonymous' would agree - or perhaps not. Its Our City itself has written model letters to city councillors and have invited our subscribers to send them - some will send them and some will write their own letters. We have done this in an open and public way. We would like to point out that the city council has not yet agreed to go forward with Centros at all and consequently there is no planning application on the table from Centros to support or oppose. Unless Anonymous is suggesting that Centros should just be allowed to build whatever they like without any scrutiny at all. Its Our City's view is that there should be a competition to find the most suitable development for this site with all the people of Lancaster being given a proper say in the final decision. Clearly, Anonymous takes a different view for reasons best known to the author of the post. In terms of the dereliction of some of the buildings on the site, the question of who has allowed these buildings to become dilapidated raises itself. Don't you think so Anonymous? Perhaps you will address that matter in your next post or when you send your text in the form of a letter to the Lancaster Guardian. We shall see.
Billy Pye – It’s Our City

Cathy Skidmore said...

I want to express my support for the Canal Corridor north retail development scheme. I believe it is time for Lancaster to move forward and make the most of what it has to offer. Lancaster is an attractive and historic city, but this area of the city seriously needs some investment and creative thinking. As a destination, Lancaster needs to improve its retail and leisure amenities in order to compete with other cities in the North West and this is would be plan would be a great way to kick start this.

I hope the right decisions are taken by you the Council for the benefit of the majority.

Anonymous said...

Strange how eerily similar two of the messages in support of the Centros scheme area, isn't it. A hive mind at work, perhaps? And another supporter apparently works in PR ...

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Fishwick - the St Leonard’s Gate area would be considerably improved if property owners Mitchells perhaps weren't apparently leaving a lot of their buildings, like the old Tramway pub, to rot. They have already been chastised by the Council for the state of the building.

John Freeman said...

I'm a bit puzzled by the comment stating Lancaster has an "extremely poor retail offering" and talks about "the waste land areas right in the city centre".

Are these comments really being written by someone living in Lancaster?

St. Nicholas Arcades has been revamped recently and now has a strong anchor store in the new Next. The owners are clearly determined to make more of their shopping centre, as are the owners of Marketgate, despite the unfavourable economic conditions.

Sainsbury's has investeed heavily in upgrading its store on Cable Street.

In addition, the City Council is rolling out its 'Square Routes' project in association with local business which has already seen improvements to the city centre, and we've been told the County Council will at some point upgrade all the precinct's paving as part of this, hopefully by year end, which is currently a mess. Now the electricty companies etc appear to have finished their works in the centre I'm sure it must be on the agenda to come through on this promise.

Yes, there are empty retail stores in Penny Street, New Street and elsewhere - but this is a problem in many other towns and cities, a combination of intransigent landlords who refuse to reduce rents or, for the most part, invest in the improvement of their properties.

There's also the issue of, we are often told by local business, high business rates.

And given that there ARE so many empty shops, how is effectively doubling the number of retail units going to help? Will the rates and rents in the new Centros development be less than those in the city centre? If so, surely city centre businesses would be well within their rights to complain about such differences in costs and challenge the Council on any disparity?

How would such a huge retail development impact on Morecambe? Would it damage business there?

As far as I can tell, one reason for new build and new retail proposed is on the grounds that new build will be planned to make it easier for large lorries to deliver to these new shops. Given Lancaster's long-standing traffic issues, let's hope Centros and the Council have some solution to this.

You only have to see the problems being caused by lorries delivering to the new Tesco on King Street to realize more big lorries in the one way system surely isn't going to improve or town.

Anonymous said...

It's fairly typical Centros tactics. Fake telephone polls, fake comments. Like a debenhams will come and suddenly we'll be Manchester? What are you smoking? As for Kendal, it's main attraction is the finest collection of charity shops in the North West and a shopping centre with a miniscule indoor market that makes Lancaster's look like Picadilly Circus.

When did you last go into debenhams and buy something decent that you'd wear twice? In the 1970s?

How many slacks or blazers or same old boring viscose frocks with frilly necks and brass bits or please-please-fancy-me-if-I-just- cripple-myself shoes can any aspiring loser need?

There must be an easier way to shoehorn the ambitious overweight into structured clothes and kitten heels than messing up a whole town with a cowboy development. It's not like it's ever going to fix their depression wagon. Get real. We need a bit of new life, something modern and 21st century to get us noticed, not the same old tacky grunge that's going out of business everywhere.

Environmentally friendly? There is no aspect of this scheme that recognises or contributes to this environment. There are no viability studies, no models to take into account fluctuations in interest rates or rents over the next 250 years, or changes in fuel costs, nothing but flim-flam. A cheap prefab scheme that has been parachuted into weak and dodgy administrations for the last 30 years or more at massive cost to local trade, character and initiative.

How can we make a fresh start with all these old boys rubbing each other's backs and fixing up deals on the quiet and faking and fiddling everything? Bunch of parasites the lot of them. They treat us like we're a herd of stupid sheep to be fleeced. The contempt and manipulation is disgraceful. If people want to support a scheme, they should write to the planning department with their proper names and addresses and let their letters be seen along with the rest of the planning documents - just as the objectors do, and not pretend to be what they clearly aren't.

Hala Lad said...

Why can't the council get around town and do some market research to see if people do want this. As only the people with strong objections bother to protest really. Everyone I know just wants all the dead buildings flattening and any sort of shopping development to be built as Lancaster is stuck in about 1970 at the moment! Plus the jobs would come in handy. I never shop in Lancaster because its crap and have to go to the Trafford Centre instead. Please can the green party types blocking this go back to drinking their parsnip wine and let the 90% of the town who want this get some better shops and jobs!!!!

John Freeman said...

The Council has done market research - and the response to these proposals has been mixed, and not just from the Green Party but business, too. Yes, people would like to see more open shops, but the concerns remain - is adding more shops when so many are closed the correct strategy? If you're going to 'flatten buildings', couldn't the land be used for other things that would create jobs - small industrial units, affordable housing etc.?

City Dweller said...

sorry for coming into this so late in the day, but John Freeman has a good point:

"... is adding more shops when so many are closed the correct strategy? ..."

Before the public meeting earlier this year, I had a walk around Lancaster and counted 44 empty retail units within the one way system... since then, the market has closed and the figure is now probably closer to 50 empty shop units.

Of course these aren't huge spaces suitable for the likes Debenhams and Harrods ;), but neither are the vast majority of proposed units on the Canal Corridor.

Personally i think the reason retailers aren't coming to Lancaster is the cost of rent and rates... we have plenty of available space.

Anonymous said...

Not sure what the obsession with Debenhams is. John Lewis would be a better proposition - or can we not attract them? Having been to a number of Debenhams stores recently, many appear shabby and dated, plus the clothing choice is bland. Lancaster needs to compete on quality and this development needs to be exactly that: polished, well fitting and a game changer. More retail space is needed because the shops that do want to come in find existing units not fit for purpose.

The restaurant quarter is a great idea but again the offering needs to be high quality.

To add to this, the recently closed market building was never suitable for use as a market. Therefore it should house a new large anchor store.

I'm in support but it needs to be done right. I spent 35 minutes last week out of an 1 hour's shopping trip and bailed out early because the selection is currently so poor!