On paper Lancaster ought to be thriving.
It is a compact city and that makes it ideally suited to digital and creative businesses that flourish in higher density places, where it is easy to mix with others.
This is one reason why London’s Shoreditch, New York’s Williamsburg, Manchester’s Northern Quarter, and the east side of Berlin are so popular with start-ups. It is why a sprawling town like Luton is not.
The quality of life here is good. Morecambe Bay and the Lake District are close enough to see. Our parks are beautiful.
It is affordable too, especially when compared to our larger and noisier neighbours, Manchester and Liverpool.
Lancaster is well connected. Yesterday afternoon I met a client in the Lakes. Tomorrow morning I have a meeting in London. The M6 and the West Coast Mainline serve us well.
Our university is one of the best in the UK and last year was ranked first in The Times Good University Guide.
Having lots of smart people here is a massive asset. In the United States, away from the coasts, it is the college towns like Boulder, Colorado, that are prospering. There is no reason why Lancaster cannot prosper too.
But there are problems. One is a serious lack of good quality office space. Sterile business parks are anathema to digital businesses.
Beautiful existing buildings in the city centre, which we have in abundance, need to be reimagined and made fit for purpose.
After years of neglect the Storey, where Hotfoot Design is based, offers an attractive home to digital and creative businesses above a great café.
It is a real success story. There should be 10 more like it. They should be encouraging of culture, nestled among cafés, bars, and independent retail. More and better spaces for digital and creative businesses to start and grow will create a critical mass of people with money to spend in the city.
The new Canal Quarter, and an imaginative rethinking of the city centre as place to live and work, offers Lancaster the chance to realise its immense potential.
By Guy Cookson, Partner at Hotfoot Design