Monday, 16 July 2012

Campaigners seek open review of city development plans

Lancaster's old Tramway pub, part of the
area earmarked for development.

Campaign group It's Our City will be lobbying councillors in advance of this week's Full Council Meeting which will discuss developments plans for Lancaster - with most of that discussion taking place behind closed doors.

On Wednesday, Lancaster City Council will decide whether to extend the Development Agreement with preferred business partner Centros to develop the "Canal Corridor". Previous plans from the company were rejected after an inquiry but a new proposal is now in the works (see news story).

Although documents relating to the proposals have been published by the Council, many of them – and much of the discussion about the plan, which may see a large part of Lancaster signed over to a private company for 250 years – are hidden from all of us in the commercial interests of Centros.

It's Our City has decided the theme for Wednesday's lobby will be 'Pirates of the Caribbean Tax Haven: The Curse of Crinkly Bottom'  reflecting concern not just at the proposals but the Council's past mistakes over local development.

"The Development Agreement prevents any other developer from taking an interest in the Canal Corridor site," a spokesperson for the group told virtual-lancaster. "IOC takes the view that the Council should not extend the agreement with Centros but should instead seek proposals from several developers.

"They should give the people of Lancaster a say in which proposals go forward. 

"We're calling on people who want to see an open process to find a suitable development proposal for the Canal Corridor site to lobby the Council on Wednesday asking them not to extend the agreement with Centros."

IOC hope the the lobby will draw attention to the fact that in their view, there has never been an open process for selecting a developer for this site and that Centros have been given an unfair advantage by the Council from the start. 

"We hope that it will also raise the question as to whether the City Council should be doing a deal with a developer whose controlling partner has its legal residence in the British Virgin Islands - a so called tax haven," they say. "As we know, this City Council has a checkered history of doing deals without proper consideration which then return to haunt the city: Blobbygate, Lancaster Market, and now, it appears, the Storey."

While the development is still being discussed, some of the buildings earmarked for development - many left to rot for several years by their former owners - have been sold, including the old Tramway public house on St. Leonardgate.

• The Full Council meeting takes place on Wednesday 18th July at Morecambe Town Hall at 2.00pm and the lobby will begin at 1.30pm.

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