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14 March 2018, 12:33 | Updated: 14 March 2018, 12:37
Lancaster's Green Party has come up with its own plan for the city's canal corridor regeneration.
They say the City Council's current proposals for land around the old Mitchell's brewery are too risky.
Last year, the authority agreed in principle to work with British Land and Lancaster University on a development mixing retail, food, accomodation and the arts.
Bulk Ward Councillor Tim Hamilton-Cox spoke at a meeting at the Gregson on Tuesday night: “The proposals put to councillors in October last year included the Council being locked into 25- or 30-year leases for the arts hub and underground car park where the Council would be on the hook for paying the rents to British Land regardless of the income earned by both. This is exactly the same situation as with Lancaster market and ended up with the Council incurring big six-figure losses each year - as the rents from market stalls declined - and having to buy itself out of the lease. British Land is 'de-risking' the scheme for itself by transferring risk to the taxpayer.”
Green group leader Jon Barry said: “The Council-led approach that we are suggesting would remove many of the risks to the Council associated with British Land’s scheme. These risks include the need for the Council to gain 7% income per year on the Council’s £25m input into the project and having to pay upwards of £1.5m rent for the car park and arts hub. We need to end our association with British Land as the main developer. It would then be fantastic if all the political groups on the Council would work together for a scheme without these risks that would truly benefit local citizens.”
Councillor Eileen Blamire, leader of the council, has previously said: “It is important to remember that no firm decisions have been taken on the level of investment – if any – on this scheme.
“The option to support the delivery of the Canal Corridor North scheme was published in the public version of the Council’s report on 31st October 2017.
“The key resolution says that in principle it (the council) is prepared to invest (in equity and/or loan capital terms) in the overall scheme, to help achieve an affordable and financially sustainable outcome from the city council’s perspective.
“No decision has been made on the extent of that investment at this time.
“In a democratic vote, the council has simply authorised its officers to negotiate with British Land and Lancaster University to ensure the best deal possible for the city, the wider district and taxpayers, and to develop any further capital financing options to enable the council to take a longer term stake in the car park and/or the arts hub, if appropriate in support of the evolving scheme.
“The council, the university and British Land all want to see arts and cultural elements in the scheme.
“All future decisions in relation to any potential investment will be made by the full Council.”