|Disused Mitchell's Brewery building|
Image courtesy British Land
Lancaster Vision is the section of Lancaster Civic Society that focuses on the long-term future of Lancaster District and its economy and wrote some months ago to the chairman of the Canal Corridor property owners British Land to ask for an update on their plans for the Canal Corridor North.
British Land launched a consultation on the site in 2013, but has not updated the associated web site - www.canalcorridor.info - since then.
The last news item connected with the company's plans for Lancaster was published on the British Land web site in June 2013, announcing the appointment of a team of professional consultants to work on the regeneration of the 10 acre Canal Corridor North site in Lancaster city centre. The development team included new architects, planners and building specialists.
"Having already appointed urban regeneration specialist, Centros, to manage the development through the planning and construction processes, British Land has now appointed a new architectural team consisting of Chapman Taylor and Richard Griffiths Architects," the press statement read.
"GL Hearn, Gleeds and Jones Lang LaSalle have also been appointed as planning consultant, quantity surveyor, and letting agent respectively – with Mayer Brown continuing as transport consultant and Waterman Group as structural engineer and environmental consultant."
Since then, all has gone quiet and on receiving no reply to their letter, Lancaster wrote to British Land last week, this time to Richard Wise, Head of Retail Development, to seek a response.
"Lancaster has seen very little retail investment in the last two decades," he said in 2013, "and this strategic site, bordered by a canal and with two active theatres, offers the opportunity to create a strong, experiential shopping, leisure and cultural destination."
"The letters set out the view that Lancaster District has a number of special features that make it a very attractive place to live, work and visit," say Lancaster Vision.
"This is not just our view - it emerged strongly from a seminar organised by Lancaster Vision in February 2014 under the title The Big Opportunity - Unlocking Lancaster’s Potential, and attended by representatives of local business, developers, transport undertakings, education, of Lancashire County and Lancaster City Councils, and indeed of British Land."
Martin Widden, a spokesperson for Lancaster Vision, points out that major changes have occurred in Lancaster District recently, including the opening of Lancaster Castle to the general public and construction of the Heysham-M6 Link Road, due to open in summer 2016.
These developments will help to bring more business into the District, he argues; but Lancaster Vision is convinced that the local economy has the ability to perform much better. Much more could be made of its diversity of assets, including its history and heritage, its natural environment with river, canal and proximity to some of the most beautiful land and seascapes in the country, its educational institutions and its varied retail specialists.
“Lancaster and District has great potential, much of which is only partly realised," he says. "The Canal Corridor North site is the major regeneration opportunity in central Lancaster, and we would like to see it developed.
"It could add a significant new level to the variety of retail and leisure on offer in the District, encouraging increased economic activity, and building further on the strong economic case for retail developments in the City. It will also provide an opportunity for more housing to be developed in the centre. This would bring very important benefits to the District.”
If the major movers and shakers in the District’s economic development continue to drag their feet on this, Lancaster is at risk of missing its big opportunity.
• Lancaster Civic Society is online at www.lancastercivicsociety.org