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MBLA hits back at critics after controversial Lancaster scheme wins consent - image

MBLA, the practice behind this contentious £4.5 million residential development on the eastern edge of Lancaster, has hit back at critics who have panned the scheme.

The Manchester-based practice has finally won the green light for the eight-storey residential building, which straddles a Grade II-listed bus depot facade on Lancaster's Kingsway, after two rival submissions were rejected by the council.

Despite strong backing from English Heritage (EH), a number of residents and the Lancaster Civic Society lodged objections against MBLA's design for Lancaster-based developer Work Sharp. The Lancaster Guardian even described the design as a 'monstrosity' and asked its readers to vote out the eight councillors that backed the scheme.

But George Mills, a director of MBLA, said the building fulfilled the council's brief to provide 100 one- and two-bed apartments and parking on a site that is 'fundamentally a traffic island'.

'This eastern end of Lancaster is actually pretty run down and unlike the central core of the city. In our view [the scheme] uplifts the area,' Mills said.

He added that the residential element of the design would be cantilevered over the bus depot's listed facade, so that 'people driving in from the M6 will see a new urban space over-sailed by our cantilevered development'.

The scheme was put on hold last month after Lancaster Council's planning committee failed to reach agreement on the scheme. However, the project finally gained consent after eight councillors voted in favour of the scheme, with seven against and four abstentions.

Retired local architect Edward Mason said the project was 'gruesome' and described EH's decision to back it as 'unbelievable'.

He said: 'Just when I thought that housing design was improving in Lancaster and the worst of the '50s and '60s horrors had been demolished, the council go and shoot themselves in the foot.'

Work is scheduled to start on site this summer and is expected to take 15 months.

by Max Thompson

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