Lancaster Musicians Co-op launches petition against eviction notice

'This is a vital resource to Lancaster’s musicians and has an impact far beyond the city it serves. We must fight to save its future'

Lancaster Musicians Co-op (LMC), a non-profit organisation dedicated to providing musical services at affordable rates, has launched a petition opposing a council eviction notice.

The co-op, formed in 1985, claims it has been “in limbo” for more than a decade after the council served a demolition order on its site, in Lodge Street, in order to develop the land.

But Lancaster City Council says the eviction notice, served on 12 October, follows “significant” safety concerns about the site.

In the petition, LMC said it has offered music rehearsal rooms, equipment hire and recording facilities to the people of Lancaster and surrounding areas for the past 33 years, making it “the beating heart of the city’s music scene”.

Musicians who have passed through its doors have gone on to be part of acts such as James, The Prodigy, Maximo Park, British Sea Power and the Lovely Eggs.

Other people who have used LMC’s facilities have gone on to successful careers in the music industry, including Stereolab/Elastica producer Paul Tipler and sound designer for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Claire Windsor.

But it added: “For the last 16 years we have been in a state of limbo after the city council, who own the building, teamed up with a big property developer and earmarked our building and the land surrounding it for commercial development. A demolition order was served on our premises around 12 years ago as part of the development plans.

“During this time, we have been unable to move forward as the city council quashed negotiations for a long-term lease and stalled any attempts by us to renovate and improve the building. At the time, we had a successful planning application approved to totally revamp the interior of the building to create a new purpose-built recording studio, rehearsal rooms and venue. But without a long-term lease we could not move forward with any of our plans.”

The petition said a long-term lease would offer security and access to funding, but instead LMC has had “a very frustrating 16 year waiting game”.

“During that time we were told Lancaster Music Co-op would be accommodated as part of any redevelopment of the site,” said the co-op. “However in April 2018, Lancaster City Council severed ties with the big developer and in July issued Lancaster Music Co-op with a huge list of impossible demands and repairs on the building.

“Although we have been working our way through their list of repairs, we have now been issued with an eviction notice. We must now fight Lancaster City Council to save Lancaster Music Co-op. This is a vital resource to Lancaster’s musicians and has an impact far beyond the city it serves.”

In response, Cllr Eileen Blamire, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “The Musicians’ Co-op plays an important role in the Lancaster district’s music scene and the council is very supportive of its valuable work and wants to see it thrive.

“They currently occupy the building at 1 Lodge Street at the low rent of £200 per year under a tenancy at will which has been in existence for 33 years.

“Unfortunately a recent condition survey of the building raised a number of significant issues, particularly in relation to the roof and electrics, which need to be urgently addressed if they are to safely continue their occupation of the building.

“As a precautionary measure a six month notice has had to be formally issued. This will provide a ‘holding period’, during which the council will work constructively with the Co-op to gather more information on the issues affecting the building and develop a range of solutions.

“The council takes health and safety very seriously, and we hope that by working together with the Co-op the issues can be resolved.

“Our aim is that the Co-op continues to provide a home for musicians for many years to come and develops a real partnership with the council to promote music in Lancaster, which is one of our many strengths.”

A spokesman for LMC said a second local petition was being collected to ensure the issue is debated by full council, and that the co-op hoped to work with local councillors to find a solution.

The co-op is also forming a steering group and consulting expert advice for its campaign, and is raising funds on GoFundMe for its efforts to have the eviction order quashed and carry out renovations.

A documentary on its work, Glass Roof: 30 years of Lancaster Musicians’ Co-operative, will be released this month and a fundraising compilation album is to be released on Bandcamp.

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