Lancaster economic development cannot be led by retail

Lancaster City Council is going to progress with new plans to transform the Canal Corridor North site in Lancaster according to this Bay radio article. I suggest their ideas are deeply flawed and will not assist employment and hence economic development in the City.

What Lancaster needs most, if it is to be economically successful and continue to be a great place to live and work, is more office space. This was point made strongly on Business Question Time at the North Lancs EXPO by both Michael Gibson and Marcus Angell. Michael, Chair of Digital Lancaster cited 16 businesses in Lancashire who are looking for office space. Marcus, Managing Director of SilverDoor and Citybase Apartments (a National company) pointed out he had no opportunity to expand in Lancaster. There is no single Grade A office space in Lancaster.

Situated almost equi-distant between London and Glasgow, and close to the M6, Lancaster should be a magnet for business. Bringing employment to the City brings spending power. More opportunities to spend, can only follow more prosperity, otherwise all we do is to dilute the existing offering.

But what the Council plans propose are more retail and food outlets. These are not likely to create significant new jobs but rather to simply replace existing jobs in the City Centre. More profits will go to larger employers whose head office staff do not spend their disposable incomes in Lancaster. There is also a risk of reducing the vibrancy of the existing retail offerings which are located in an attractive Georgian stone environment. In contrast, steel and glass are functional and, since stark and commonplace, are less likely to attract tourists.

I argue that Lancaster needs more sustainable, full time, career employment. Only then will there be demand for more retail, restaurants and the Arts. We cannot rely on tourists alone. Rapidly developing digital companies, such as Fat Media or SQDigital, cry out for office accommodation.

What Lancaster needs is businesses moving in. To move in they need office space, not shops.

Lancaster City Council please take note.

Malcolm Martin FCIPD
Author Human Resource Practice.
Malcolm lives in Lancaster and owns and runs Employer Solutions from offices in the City.

Training Courses

Click here to register for one of our Training Courses.