(Featured image via Stephen Richards, licensed CC BY-SA 2.0.)

City councillors voted to approve a student accommodation plan in December, overriding LUSU's concerns about soundproofing.

A meeting of the Planning Regulatory Committee on 9th December 2019 voted unanimously to approve a proposal to turn 50 St Leonards Gate into student accommodation. 50 St Leonards Gate is about 30 metres from the Sugarhouse, and will join a growing collection of student accommodation near the nightclub: St Leonards House, operated by Homes for Students, and Gillows, owned by CityBlock, both opened to students at the start of this academic year.

Both of these developments were subject to significant scrutiny in the planning phase to ensure they were rigorous enough to withstand the noise from the nightclub. After the Sugarhouse sale was leaked in September 2019, CityBlock CEO Trevor Bargh complained that he had spent over £400,000 on soundproofing that would be wasted if the Sugarhouse were to close.

The planning process involved a battle of wits between different consultants over noise assessments. LUSU contracted Renew Planning, a London-based consultancy, to make detailed objections to the proposal. In turn, the City Council got their own assessments through Lancaster-based Martec Environmental Consultants. Both of these came up against the developer's own consultants, Preston-based Red Acoustics.

The result of the objections meant that the application, due to be approved last January, took until December. The final report from City Council officers deemed the changes to the plans by the developer to be a 'suitable mitigation strategy', whereas LUSU was still of the belief that the final assessment fell short in two areas: concerns over the ventilation system and the opening of windows, and concerns that the noise assessments did not involve a worst-case scenario reading.

Potential future noise complaints constituted one of the main reasons why LUSU decided to sell the nightclub at a Trustee Board meeting on 17th January 2019, decision that was walked back in December. Despite the concern, a SCAN report revealed that no complaints had been made in the September-November period, when Gillows and St Leonards House had first opened.

The 50 St Leonards Gate proposal is being made by Carl Rayson, a Preston property developer, through his company Quadrant Development Holdings Ltd. In March 2018, his wife Katie Rayson incorporated a company called The Sugar House Lancaster Ltd. This was a full six months before the planning application was submitted. This company is currently dormant and its purpose is unclear.