Tuesday, 25 May 2010

City Council, Centros, Mitchells and English Heritage partner on new Canal Corridor plan

After the recent Secretary of State’s decision on the Canal Corridor North development in Lancaster, Lancaster City Council, which owns much of the land and the other majority landowner, Mitchell's, English Heritage and development partner Centros have agreed, following initial discussions, to work in partnership to take the necessary steps to develop further the options for redeveloping the Canal Corridor site.

The Council has issued a statement saying the partners fully understand the role of preserving the city’s heritage assets and will now work collaboratively with all parties.

"Collectively, we need to deliver a development proposal which will ensure sustainable economic, environmental and social regeneration for the city.

"Whilst all partners are committed to working to this aim, the city council will also be working with all other interested parties and will be consulting with the communities of the district, to ensure the early redevelopment of this important site within the city."

Following the recent High Court decision that has now been made regarding the judicial review, the city council is now in a position to continue its work in reviewing the Conservation Areas.

This will assist in establishing the heritage values of the site that need to be taken into account in the development proposal.


Gavin said...

The ideal situation would be to start again from scratch and invite fresh, innovative ideas to develop a new plan for the area - preferably using the area's heritage as a plus point rather than a problem to overcome.

The reality will probably be the Council and Centros trying to modify the existing plans (which they are oddly convinced are fantastic) just enough to fall inline with the Secretary of State's advice and convince English Heritage they won't get anything better than the compromise offered.

We will end up with a botched plan with a few nods to heritage, probably retaining the fascias of some of our historic buildings while clone-town springs up just behind.

Just look at the mess that is Kingsway - unbelievably that actually had English Heritage approval - and is essentially a giant orange block of flats sat on top of the original stone fascia. If we give the go-ahead for additions that destroy rather than complement the aesthetics of the original buildings then what's the point?

It's the people of Lancaster who are going to have to live with it, so why can't we have genuine alternatives presented to us? e.g. "Here are 10 outline schemes, which ones would you like us to develop more detailed plans for?" instead of "Here is the plan, it will be built by 2014, if you don't like it your options are to take legal action against us or go over our heads and petition for the scheme to be called-in."

Here's hoping against hope for some genuine community engagement this time.

Chris Satori said...

English Heritage has a statutory duty in regulating and advising on the development as does the Council. The developer is the Council's preference, at present, not English Heritage's, as that's not a decision they are (or could be) involved in.

The proposal would be owned by Centros. Relabelling statutory consultation and regulation as a 'partnership' and non-statutory stakeholders as 'parties' is maybe a wee bit confusing.

The difference is, that for a Centros application to succeed, it is legally obliged to obtain the signed agreement of the other three listed 'partners'. But only to demonstrate that it has solicited and considered views from the 'parties'.

The Centros strategy is to identify 'champions' within the organisations whose approval they require and to work with and through them. Their partnership building strategy in Portsmouth involved party jaunts to the Yacht Races, which did not in any way affect the high levels of professionalism of the officers involved.

However it's clear that some non-statutory stakeholders in Lancaster have strongly held views on this development and other ideas. Their partnership building has created the 'Carnival of Culture' and other community-oriented processes, such as well-supported public meetings and community planning sessions.

Unfortunately the chances of these two sets of partnerships partnering up are slight as Centros has presented as a bit outdated and unreliable.

Their plans have failed to demonstrate sustainability on economic, cultural and environmental grounds. Hence their rejection to date.

Their efforts to skew local council elections with a creatively interpreted telephone poll wasn't well received either.
Their Blackpool Debenhams development isn't thriving and this one would compete with it.

Unless Centros, IOC and other stakeholders (the 'parties') can resolve their differences this development will be beset by delay and expense, just as in Portsmouth, as there are a number of effective and dynamic individuals and groups locally who would obstruct it in favour of alternative proposals that more clearly meet their needs.