City centre retail park to take shape

An artist's impression of the new retail park
An artist's impression of the new retail park
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A city centre retail park looks set to finally take shape – 15 years after it was first given the thumbs up.

The multi-million pound project to revitalise a huge area of wasteground behind Stanley Street, Preston, got the green light from planners this week, after a long-standing wrangle between “two battling landowners” was settled. The Queens Retail Park, which will be behind the Homebase store and include the site of the former Booths distribution depot, could have a two-storey shopping block, a multi-storey car park, petrol station, car wash and a pedestrian link to nearby Church Street.

But site owners The Brookhouse Group admit they cannot say exactly when construction will begin until they have “tweaked” the plans, which have been gathering dust for years.

“The important thing now is that we get something coming out of the ground,” said planning consultant Alyn Nicholls, who is advising Brookhouse. “We cannot give any commitment to a start date because there are elements we just don’t know yet.

“It is fair to say there have been two battling landowners. The problem has been to try to find common ground to get this development going.

“But we have moved to a position where we are working well together to actually make it happen.”

Brookhouse has recently bought the portion of the site owned by rival firm Countryside Properties. Now outline planning permission has been granted, the company will have to return to the city’s planning committee with a more detailed dossier before any development can begin.

Brookfield councillor and committee member John Browne said, before agreeing outline consent this week: “This has gone on for a very long time. I will believe it when I see it.”

Coun Elizabeth Atkins added: “Things have improved; there is one landowner now and I think we should be optimistic.”

A new retail park, bounded by Stanley Street, Queen Street, Grimshaw Street and Church Street, was first suggested back in 1999 when the city’s planning committee approved a scheme for a superstore, shops and residential units. In 2006 plans changed to include four 18-storey tower blocks totalling 605 flats. That too was agreed.

The current plans were submitted back in 2012 and for the past two years the two landowners have been trying to resolve a dispute over funding.

“Two years ago there was agreement in principle to move forward,” said consultant Mr Nicholls. “Brookhouse decided they needed to acquire the Countryside land and move it along.

“Brookhouse will now develop the site and they will keep it within their own portfolio as a long-term investment.

“So they have an interest in it being commercially successful and an attractive development in order to protect their investment.”