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3DReid's North Canal Corridor set to fail

3DReid’s North Canal Corridor project looks set to be scrapped following the announcement by Lancaster City Council that it is to withdraw from the public enquiry

It follows the unprecedented decision in March by the developer Centros, not to take part in the inquiry. Heritage groups had lambasted the property firm both over its plans and its decision to pull out of the public hearing. However Centros’ chief executive Richard Wise again defended the move claiming the inquiry ‘had not been of their making’ and that the possible expenditure – expected to be up to £1million – would havejeopardised some of the community benefits proposed.

Wise also fired a salvo back at English Heritage saying the organisation had behaved ‘questionably’ and that the government needed ‘to bring it to heel’. He said: ‘Their contribution to this development has been erratic at best and is likely to send shockwaves throughout the property sector as well as local authorities trying to achieve regeneration of their town and city centres.’

The application, the first to be called-in for a public inquiry in the north-west since 2001, involved the demolition of 30 historic buildings, 18 within conservation areas.

William Palin, secretary of SAVE said: ‘We are delighted that the council has acknowledged that there is no point in continuing its defence of this application.

‘SAVE has argued from the outset that this is completely the wrong scheme for this sensitive and finely textured site. In commissioning an alternative conservation-led ‘blueprint’ for the site from Richard Griffiths, SAVE has demonstrated the benefits of an adaptable, phased approach, which makes the best of the historic fabric. Now the council has a real opportunity to change direction and promote a new scheme worthy of this unique and beautiful city.

‘…this must be the end of the line for this ill-conceived scheme. Centros, having declined to turn up and defend its own application, has seen the council’s efforts to promote it fall apart.’

The scheme was also being opposed bylocal group It’s Our City.

Readers' comments (4)

  • What a load of guff from Centros, PR puff to shift the blame from everyone but itself. Of course the inquiry had not been of Centros' making - the plans were called in by the Secretary of State, as is perfectly legal, following requests by national organisations and local residents. It was not just English Heritage.

    Centros ignored massive local opposition and ploughed on with this dreadful scheme, which would ruin Lancaster's Canal Corrider with a crass, oversized and unwanted retail clone town development. Far too many historic buildings would be wiped out, and the setting of listed buildings spoilt. There were also major concerns over traffic, air quality, the effect on the viability of the existing town centre, and tourism. All of these were to be explored at the inquiry, with many expert witnesses giving their time and expertise freely (see the It's Our City website for its inquiry Proofs of Evidence). No wonder Centros chickened out.

    What needs to be brought to heel is developers who manipulate the democratic consultation process; PR exercises by hired firms isn't genuine consultation.

    To blame English Heritage is laughable. EH tried to work with Centros, but Centros refused to alter its plans for a bridge to link this development with the town centre. That bridge would have seen demolition of key townscape buildings, and ruined the setting of a historic church.

    EH raised concerns both before and at planning committee stage, as did SAVE, the Victorian Society, the Georgian Group, and Lancaster campaign group It's Our City. The plans were called in as many wrote to ask for this, and the inquiry was not only about heritage issues.

    Lancaster Council got into bed with Centros, and together they tried to drive a coach and horses through national planning policy, and it backfired.

    Lancaster's own Conservation Officer, at the inquiry, raised his own concerns about the scheme, possibly he should have been given the chance to have more input before it ever got to inquiry stage. Instead, Centros used Montagu Evans as its hired 'consultants' for historic environment matters, and as we know, he who pays the piper calls the tune. But the real price is now being paid, with the plans being shown for what they are, simply a money making scheme for Centros.


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  • Also in AJ: 26th June Tricorn Centre to stand empty another five years

    "The site of the Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth, demolished in 2004, could remain empty for a decade after developer Centros said it wants to extend the planning agreement for its £500 million shopping centre by five years

    In a letter to Porstmouth City Council in February, John Marsh, development director at Centros requested the extension so that the developer was given a ‘..platform to revise and improve the scheme.’

    The letter stated: ‘Due to the worsening economic and financial crisis, which has led to the current poor demand in the retail sector, we cannot progress the Northern Quarter development on the basis of the reserved matters consented in the scheme as it currently falls short of any reasonable financial expectations. We will continue to undertake a detailed review of the scheme to ensure the development has the flexibility to meet current and ongoing retailer requirements, and to improve the financial viability of the scheme.’ "

    Centros Lancaster (a shell company registered in the Virgin Islands?) blamed cost for failing to attend the Lancaster inquiry.

    It needs to be questioned on its finances. Let's hope Lancaster isn't similarly blighted for years.

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  • In an email to Centros on 28 November 2008, Heather McManus of Lancaster CC said "I'm not aware that EH are changing tack on this issue ... EH has always advised that it is uncomfortable with the bridge". EH itself could scarcely have been more unequivocal: in its letter to the Council on 28 May 2008 EH stated that a scheme predicated on the footbridge and demolition of buildings in Stonewell "is one which we would have to advise Lancaster CC to refuse" (all quotes from documents obtained under FOI).

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  • Lancster City Council planning report to committee 13 14 Oct 2008

    English Heritage: ....Recommends that the wider scheme be refused, on the basis that the inclusion of the bridge link will cause a level of damage to the existing townscape, character of the Conservation Area and the setting of Listed Buildings, which is unacceptable. The scheme will not replace the existing historic environment with a built form of sufficient quality to justify the demolition of buildings within the Conservation Area.

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