Tag Archives: Bailrigg Garden Village

Bailrigg Garden City

Back in subtext 179, on 7 June 2018, in an article introducing the then-new idea of a Bailrigg Garden Village on land between Galgate and Scotforth, your correspondents speculated on how many dwellings, exactly, we would be talking about here. We reported that, ‘according to a table on housing supply shown to subtext, the planners currently forecast Garden Village construction to start in 2021/22, with 205 houses built between then and 2023/24, a further 700 built between 2024/25 and 2028/29, and a further 750 built between 2029/30 and 2033/34.’ That’ll be 1,655 dwellings in total then. Cut to 25 June 2021 and…

‘Lancaster councillors are to discuss plans for a major £260m transformation to south Lancaster which is set to see more than 9,000 new homes built.’


Hang on, what?

Where did this figure – actually 9,185 dwellings – come from? Are these houses really likely to be built? Cut to an extraordinary meeting of Lancaster City Council in Morecambe Town Hall on Wednesday 25 August 2021, where councillors formally agreed ‘that Lancaster City Council enters into a legally binding Collaboration Agreement with Lancashire County Council, for the purposes of recovering funds through the use of planning powers’ in order to ‘repay Lancashire County Council for the forward provision of infrastructure related items pursuant to the delivery of the South Lancaster Growth Catalyst’. The publicly available council documents for that meeting are at:


The council meeting began with seven addresses by members of the public in opposition to the plans – meanwhile, a demonstration took place outside.

Subsequently, it turned out that the announcement of 9,185 houses should have come as no surprise to anyone, because the figure had been announced in the 11 March 2020 budget by Rishi Sunak MP! Campaigners at Dynamo, the Lancaster cycle campaign, spotted this on 2 April 2020, noting that HM Treasury had explicitly announced that £140m from the Housing Infrastructure Fund would ‘unlock up to 9,185 homes’ in South Lancaster:


Between then and June 2021, this figure went largely unmentioned. With hindsight, it’s difficult to work out why – were we all distracted by something?

subtext attended several of this summer’s public meetings in an attempt to work out what we are, and are not, likely to be seeing over the next 20 years.



First up was the North Lancashire Green Party’s online public meeting on Wednesday 14 July, ably chaired by Dr Emily Heath. Billed as a discussion, in reality this was a chance to hear from several of the scheme’s most prominent critics, including Cllr Caroline Jackson, Cllr Tim Hamilton-Cox, Cllr Gina Dowding and, from the garden village-sceptic group CLOUD, Mary Breakell and Tony Breakell.

‘It’s big!’, stated Cllr Jackson, meaning both a big issue and big in terms of land area, with (we were told) plans to build on over 1,000 acres of current farmland, stretching from just west of Lancaster University almost to Glasson Dock, and likely to be agreed by the city council as a condition of accepting £140m of Housing Infrastructure Funding (HIF) from the government. It would be ’15 times the size of Halton’, ‘6 times the size of Carnforth’ or ‘the size of Nelson or Darwen’.

Besides government funds, the only significant money coming in for this would be £98m of ‘Section 106 money’, i.e. money obtained from the developers, and Cllr Jackson did not see how this could fund the local amenities needed by such a major new town, since we ‘can’t expect people to walk or cycle from as far as Glasson Dock’ to visit facilities in Lancaster.

Cllr Hamilton-Cox had slides, figures and pictures – most of these came directly from the ‘final draft masterplan’ for the Bailrigg Garden Village project, published in March 2021 by ‘JTP on behalf of Lancaster City Council’ (JTP is a firm of architects) and available at:


Officially these are just ideas, but certainly, the vision for a (rather attractive looking) new town is there: the first phase, to be implemented between now and 2031, would focus on Burrow Heights, while the second phase, starting after 2031, would develop land west of the canal and north of Conder Green Road (the road from Conder Green to Galgate). The JTP masterplan includes a map, shown by Cllr Hamilton-Cox, indicating on a satellite image the possible locations that could be used – it did make the place look a bit like a new golf course, but the details were clear. There’s even a little heart emoji on Tarnwater Lane, because that’ll be the ‘heart’ of the new community. Aah.

One thing that was lacking in the JTP masterplan was any estimate on the numbers of dwellings, but this is where Cllr Hamilton-Cox could help. We now knew the number of homes forecast as part of the South Lancaster Growth Catalyst (Bailrigg Garden Village’s official name) bid, and it did indeed come to 9,185 in total:

– 8,085 in the garden village or ‘new town’, made up of 4,585 in phase 1 and 3,500 in phase 2;
– 600 elsewhere in South Lancaster; and
– 2,000 new student rooms on campus, which apparently was only equivalent to 500 homes for the purposes of counting homes, for some reason.

These figures were later confirmed as appearing in the City Council papers for Wednesday 25 August’s meeting in a Facebook post by Cllr Alistair Sinclair. Cllr Hamilton-Cox claimed that plans to use land east of the M6 (a significant portion of this is now owned by Lancaster University) had ‘dropped off the radar’ and could be disregarded. However, the ‘Bailrigg Spine Road’ running west from Hazelrigg Lane under the railway line (see subtext 195) would be ready for September 2025, with the remodelled Junction 33 of the M6 complete by July 2027.

Did Lancaster have to do this, though, especially after 2031 when the current local plan expires? According to Cllr Hamilton-Cox, the ‘quid pro quo’ of accepting the HIF money was a commitment to deliver that many houses. It was ‘in the small print’, although the meeting wasn’t shown any of this small print.

This issue – does signing the deal commit the council to deliver that many homes? – remains the biggest point of disagreement between the two sides. On the ‘No’ side, the report by the Director for Economic Growth & Regeneration to the emergency council meeting, released to the public on Monday 23 August, sought to reassure councillors that the housing numbers of 9,185 ‘are not Planning figures, but assumptions based on the potential capacity of sites across the broad area for growth within the Local Plan. They provide a projection of what can be delivered to fund road and other infrastructure, but they are not absolutes. These numbers also may or may not be delivered within the HIF timeframe.’ On the ‘Oh yes it does!’ side, the Lancaster Civic Society stated on Monday 6 September that they ‘understand that by entering into this agreement the City Council is now faced with the dilemma of enabling the provision of over 9000 new homes in South Lancaster or accepting the financial consequences of failing to do so’:


What about the council’s requirement that all developments should contain 30% affordable housing? Cllr Hamilton-Cox believed that this could be waived if the developer could demonstrate that this requirement would make the scheme unviable. If the council didn’t approve the HIF bid, could the site be developed anyway? Cllr Hamilton-Cox noted that the local plan forecasts 1,300 new homes by 2031, and current housing plans, not including the garden village, would deliver these anyway. Developers would need good road access from the M6, such as would be provided by a remodelled Junction 33, to build on such a scale.

Jill Bargh, whose family sold some land east of the M6 near Hazelrigg Lane to Lancaster University, and which still owns land west of the Lancaster Canal, told the meeting that most farmers with land west of the canal weren’t planning to sell. It’s very good quality land which is much valued by farmers. Cllr Hamilton-Cox countered that ‘some farmers are very willing to sell their land for development’, but Mrs Bargh’s contribution raised an important point: you can only develop a piece of land if the owners of that land are willing to sell it to developers, and if not enough of them are willing, then the development is unlikely to happen.



On to an online briefing by Lancaster City Council on Wednesday 11 August, where the first speaker, Cllr Caroline Jackson, was trying to sell an arrangement which, your correspondent suspected, she was not entirely supportive of. This would be a legally binding collaboration with Lancashire County Council and Homes England: we would accept £140m from Homes England as part-payment for road and other improvements that will cost £241m; and the bulk of the remaining funds would be borrowed by the County Council and be recovered over time by the City Council by means of a ‘roof tax’ on developers. To cover the cost, developers would need to build 9,185 houses. Lancaster had a number of highway problems and the new road would help with most of these. We don’t have a viability study and, for that reason, we don’t know whether we will get any affordable housing in the development, because the developers may decide that this is not viable.

Following this less-than-ringing endorsement, over to council planning officer Jason Syers, who gave an upbeat outline of why the scheme should be supported. It might look like a ‘great big slug’ of a development, but this was how to plan development in a sustainable way, to create truly walkable neighbourhoods. The figure of 9,185 homes came from a ‘desktop exercise’ and didn’t form part of any planning case. Local people will have the opportunity to contribute as part of discussions on the eventual Area Action Plan.

When would the viability study be available and would it be published? Mr Syers described the study (which, possibly contradicting Cllr Jackson’s earlier point, does seem to exist) as being ‘a bit like a graphic equaliser’, containing a sensitivity analysis of the range and breadth of risks. The viability study would not be a public document due to ‘commercial sensitivities’.

What was to stop the council setting up its own development vehicle, providing council housing to Passivhaus standards? Mr Syers thought that the authority could look at being the provider of some housing provision, but not all, due to cost constraints. Affordable housing was not the only solution anyway; we wanted mixed use neighbourhoods. Kieran Keane, City Council Chief Executive, noted that there were several things local authorities would love to do, including the use of development vehicles, but they still need to borrow the funds.

Why did this decision need to happen so soon, on 25 August? ‘This has been going on for some years,’ assured Mr Syers, sounding at times like the commander of a Vogon Constructor Fleet: while he didn’t actually say that ‘you’ve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaints, and it’s far too late to start making a fuss about it now’, your correspondent detected similar levels of frustration in his voice.



The last big event prior to the Council meeting was the online Lancaster Youth for the Environment (LYFE) public meeting on Thursday 19 August, with former Labour MP Alan Simpson (appearing via a recorded interview), Jenny Bates from Friends of the Earth and Cllr Kevin Frea, City Council Cabinet member with responsibility for the climate emergency. In the chair, Millie Prosser from LYFE claimed that the plans made ‘a mockery of the climate emergency declaration’.

Alan Simpson felt that we have to engage in transformative thinking and we ‘cannot go on with our current notions of growth and recovery’. Cars had been barred from large parts of Copenhagen. The South Lancaster plans had ‘rang all sorts of alarm bells’ with him. Banks were withdrawing from projects that weren’t ‘climate compatible’.

Jenny Bates focused, like the majority at this meeting, on the proposed Galgate by-pass. Not even electric cars were clean and we needed to cut car miles. Copenhagen was encouraging longer cycling trips. Building a large road would just feed more traffic.

Cllr Frea claimed that the council had a carbon budget of just 4.8 million tonnes between now and 2100, and just building the road would use up 2.8% of this.

Cllr Hamilton-Cox believed that the development would not enable the City Council to meet its 5-year housing supply target – between now and 2034, the garden village would account for less than 2 years’ supply. Cllr Gina Dowding claimed that council officers had told her in writing that the development wouldn’t meet our 5-year housing supply. Cllr Faye Penny suggested we should instead use the Canal Quarter in Lancaster or the Frontierland site in Morecambe for housing.

Cllr Anne Whitehead was one of only two voices to cautiously speak in favour of the HIF funding, asking people present to consider the alternative: a ‘free-for-all’ where developers would be likely to win planning objections on appeal. This yielded a comment that ‘as if 9,000 houses in South Lancaster isn’t the embodiment of a developer’s dream’.

Further comments were made on flood risk – including the point that the proposed road under the West Coast Main Line will be 2.4m below the level of the adjacent Ou Beck, so how would this be kept clear of water? Towards the end, Cllr Sinclair seemed to sum up the mood of the meeting: ’59 councillors are not the receptacle of all the wisdom in the district.’



Onward, then, to Morecambe Town Hall on 25 August and the full council meeting, where subtext won’t offer a very long report, because thanks to the wonders of modern technology it’s possible for you to watch the proceedings yourself, as a Teams recording, at:


The best speech in opposition to the plans was probably that of Cllr Richard Austen-Baker (starting 1 hr 31 mins into the recording), who focused entirely on the possible risks to the council: ‘I don’t know, from reading through this contract, what the potential risks are, over such a long period of time’. If we didn’t recover sufficient funds from developers through the roof tax, would the county council address this by deciding not to provide some of the promised infrastructure?

The best speech in favour of the plans was, according to some of those who heard it, that of Cllr Anne Whitehead, but this was given during the ‘exempt’ part of the meeting when the cameras were off and visitors were excluded, so we’ll never be able to hear it.

A proposal to say ‘no’ was lost by 30 votes to 19; following some votes on amendments, the final proposal to say ‘yes’ was carried by 31 votes to 16, with 2 abstentions. The agreement with Homes England was signed the following week.


Mary Rose’s letter on Bailrigg Garden Village (see below) offers a counter to subtext’s mildly optimistic tone. As Prof Rose reminds us, many Galgate residents are unconvinced that city council planners are taking their concerns about future development – on traffic, air quality and especially flooding – seriously.

The city council planning committee’s recent decision to permit development at Ward Field Farm has particularly annoyed villagers. Ward Field Farm is on your left as you leave Galgate on the A6 northbound and its land abuts the north bank of the River Conder. Given the ongoing serious risk of flooding, one might expect an application to build houses there to receive short shrift. Not so. The landowner now has permission to build up to 68 houses on the site and the tenant farmer faces eviction.

Conveniently for the landowner, Ward Field Farm lies just outside the Bailrigg Garden Village zone – if it lay within the zone then permission would probably have been refused, since the plans for Bailrigg make clear the importance of protecting the ‘buffer’ between Galgate and Lancaster, and not doing anything to increase the flood risk.

But surely, given that every other square inch of land between Lancaster and Galgate comes under the remit of the garden village consultation, it’d be premature, to say the least, to let a developer build on Ward Field Farm before the final shape of the garden village is known? Not so – as the council officers reminded the planning committee, ‘refusal of planning permission on the grounds of prematurity will seldom be justified where a draft Local Plan has yet to be submitted for examination.’ In other words, until we finalise the Local Plan, it remains open season in places like Ward Field Farm. Ho hum.

Hence the vote by 6 (Labour) to 5 (Conservatives and Greens) to approve the development plans. Read all about it at https://committeeadmin.lancaster.gov.uk/mgAi.aspx?ID=39599



Presented with such an open goal, how have the Conservatives been behaving? We’re pleased to report that their opposition campaign has so far been robust and dignified, with one of their more colourful councillors berating Lancaster & Fleetwood MP Cat Smith this week in a self-penned press release that subtext was lucky enough to receive directly from the author. Blaming the MP for Labour councillors proposing to build ‘thousands more houses in Galgate’ (‘thousands’ meaning ’68’), the press release lamented her ‘refus[al] to meet with her residents from the CLOUD campaign’, and slammed her as ‘out of touch’ and an ‘absent MP.’

On an entirely unrelated note, subtext would like to send its best wishes to the ‘absent’ Cat Smith, who is heavily pregnant and awaiting the imminent birth of her first child.


Dear subtext,

I am an enormous fan of subtext and have been over a number of years. I have been especially impressed by reports on UA92 and much more. This meant I was surprised to see the report on Bailrigg garden village which seemed to lack your usual depth, questions and challenges. Bailrigg garden village has been in the public domain since January 2017 and the ‘issues and options’ drop ins followed Local Plan drop ins in February 2017 and consultations in October 2017. In other words it has been around for rather a long time.

Am puzzled by the housing numbers that you quote since there is a bid in to the Housing Infrastructure Fund – something in the region of £150m on the basis of there being 3,500 houses. This is to justify some funding for the reconfigured motorway junction, the crossing of the mainline west coast railway to access the site, to develop the bus system etc. Maybe a first question to ask is what are the infrastructure costs associated with this particular site? Given recent history of expenditure overruns on say the Bay Gateway the track record is not encouraging.

This week’s Lancaster Guardian (paper edition) includes a two page special report entitled: ‘There’s a sense that Galgate doesn’t count: seven months on from the major flooding that hit Galgate, residents are becoming increasingly concerned about new building developments that could leave them at even more risk than ever before’:


You seem to be dismissing the community impact of Bailrigg garden village as something that only affects Burrow Heights and the tone is ‘well so what?’ Galgate, Bailrigg village, Burrow Heights and Scotforth are Bailrigg garden village’s neighbours. The November floods affected all those areas and additional building simply adds to concerns. Did you attend the recent open meetings around the Health Innovation Campus? Those meetings highlighted how the local communities felt about drainage from University development flowing into the Ou Beck and the Burrow Beck – residents were anxious and angry. Did you read about the angry flood meetings in December following last year’s floods? Residents were not reassured by Lancaster City Council that Bailrigg garden village would solve all that, far from it.

Another question to ask is what relationship, if any, does the university have to Bailrigg garden village? It isn’t at all clear and with a venture that is causing so much local concern it would be interesting to know. Where will people work who live in Bailrigg garden village? I have long been confused by seeming conflicting employment projections from the Health Innovation Campus.

2,000 jobs are quoted in the publicity – how has that figure been arrived at?

There is also massive worry about air quality in South Lancaster, highlighted in research from LEC. You commented on the very vague ‘plans’ for rapid bus transport and the belief that the reconfigured motorway junction would solve air quality for Galgate. But would it? What will happen to Scotforth and the Pointer roundabout, already hardly quiet, if spiralling costs or planning issues and personal choice mean people still use their cars to take their kids to school, to go to the supermarket, etc.?

I am a retired member of the University and I am a Galgate resident so you could say I am an interested party. You normally provide an excellent set of insights and hope this letter might be helpful.

Best wishes,

Mary Rose


Dear subtext,

Thought this might be of interest. A group of squatters recently occupied one of Gary Neville’s properties in Manchester in part to protest against the lack of affordable housing in the city and Neville’s role in gentrification. Their collective statement (cited in the below piece) directly takes aim at the UA92 plan and its relationship to the wider marketisation of HE.


Best wishes,

Toby Atkinson


It’s consultations galore at the moment. The city council is presently carrying out an ‘Issues and Options’ consultation on Bailrigg Garden Village, including several drop-in events during June. For details, go to:


The first drop-in session was on Wednesday 6 June in the Bowland Suite at the Lancaster House Hotel, so subtext dropped in to take a look. The room was busy, with over 20 people poring over the maps, diagrams and artists’ impressions.

At the moment, Bailrigg Garden Village is just a shaded area on a map, the ‘Bailrigg Garden Village Broad Area of Growth’. It’s bigger than you might imagine – north to south it goes from Collingham Park to the outskirts of Galgate, while from west to east it includes the canal, the railway line, the A6, campus, the M6, Forrest Hills and a large part of the Conder Valley. Council officers were keen to stress that much of the land in the shaded area will not be developed but instead ‘retained as existing’ or designated as ‘Village Greenspace’ – how much development, and where, is the main subject of the consultation. An initial meeting with local landowners – subtext was told there were between 60 and 80 with ‘land interests’ in the area – took place this week.

Three ‘spatial options’ have been worked out, and all of them situate the majority of Garden Village development in Burrow Heights, to the west of the railway line. The village centre is likely to be close to Burrow Road. None of the options envisage any residential development east of the M6, due to the risk of flooding in the River Conder catchment area, and there’s not much scope for significant university development there either. Despite the name, the existing Bailrigg village looks like surviving largely intact.

The three options are the ‘concentrated village’ (Burrow Heights, basically), the ‘dispersed village’ (Burrow Heights plus most of the land north of Burrow Heights and Bailrigg, not including the land either side of Burrow Beck which would be left as ‘greenspace’) and the ‘concentrated village with possible site extensions’ (covering the same area as the ‘dispersed village’, but only Burrow Heights would be developed in Garden Village style, the rest being earmarked for regular residential development). The first option scores highest for all the policy objectives, except (predictably) meeting our future housing needs.

How many dwellings are we talking about? The likely density is between 30 and 50 dwellings per hectare. According to a table on housing supply shown to subtext, the planners currently forecast Garden Village construction to start in 2021/22, with 205 houses built between then and 2023/24, a further 700 built between 2024/25 and 2028/29, and a further 750 built between 2029/30 and 2033/34.

What about transport links, then? There will hopefully be funding to reconfigure Junction 33 of the M6, although no plans for this were on display at all, except for an ‘illustrative transport sketch’ showing a pair of red arrows pointing to where Hazelrigg Lane currently passes under the M6 at the southern end of campus. Despite many calls for ‘Bailrigg Halt’ railway station, this seems highly unlikely to happen. Instead, we get ‘Bus Rapid Transport’ (more buses, in other words, although probably more bus lanes as well) and a ‘Cycle Superhighway’ between Bailrigg and the city centre.

Our verdict? subtext was cautiously impressed, although if we lived in Burrow Heights we might be a little more sceptical! Readers are encouraged to attend a drop-in session (six more are planned), question the officers, and respond to the consultation. The deadline for responses is 11 July 2018.