A developer's proposal to squeeze over 50 student flats and two shops onto a disused bowling green beside the Bowerham Hotel has been dismissed.
53 flats would have been located on top of and behind the two retail units: 'a small, local food store', and a sandwich shop, hair/beauty salon, delicatessen, or second-hand shop. The developers are AG Enterprises (Lancaster) Ltd, run by local business partners Andrew Mitchell Barker and Graham Roger Cass, who also own the Bowerham Hotel.
The application for planning permission was initially made in December 2018, and rejected by Lancaster City Council's planning committee in February 2019. The developers then appealed the City Council's decision to the Planning Inspectorate, which has recently dismissed the appeal.
The appeal decision, written by Planning Inspector George Baird, who visited the site in February 2020, concluded that 'the proposed scheme would not provide acceptable living conditions for future occupiers.' Baird determined that 'several of the studio rooms, would receive inadequate levels of daylight.'
His decision report included a phrase that student landlords ought to take notice of: 'there is no reason why students should be expected to accept lesser standards of accommodation than the general population.'
Other reasons given for the appeal's dismissal included the building's 'bland and uninteresting' design, 'that the living conditions of residents would be unacceptably affected', and 'that the proposal would unacceptably affect the safety and free flow of traffic on Bowerham Road.'
Labour's Cllr Sandra Thornberry, who chairs the council's planning committee said: 'There is always a risk that developers will successfully challenge an appeal and costs be awarded against the council. But we will always be prepared to explain and defend decisions that have been correctly made. The decision made by the Planning Inspectorate shows that our response to this proposal was fair and well-informed. We can be confident that our decision-making process protects key areas of the district and its residents.'
The rejection of the Bowerham Road development comes in a controversial year for student housing in Lancaster following the Caton Court crisis and questions raised about developments due to open later this year, all as the University continues down its path of unsustainable student number growth.