Conservation area set to be scrapped

St Augustines area

St Augustines area

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A conservation area in Preston city centre could soon be de-designated.

St Augustine’s Conservation Area was classified on December 2, 1986, as part of a long-term strategy to save St Augustine’s Church.

But despite the classification, no grant assistance was awarded by English Heritage - now Historic England - and the defunct church building deteriorated to such a state that it was beyond practicable and economic repair.

In 2004, the main body of the church was demolished and after redevelopment, was opened as part of Cardinal Newman College in 2010.

As part of its duty, Preston Council is required to review its conservation areas. The last time this are was looked at was in 1996.

A consultation exercise took place for four weeks and the council received responses from Historic England and the Victorian Society.

Historic England said it would not object to the de-designation. A Historic Places Advisor visited the area in 2015 and commented that he experienced “no real sense of place or defined boundary”.

The report to council adds: “He goes on to say that the demolition of the main body of St. Augustine’s Church, combined with poor housing development and public realm has impacted heavily on the overall character and appearance of the area. He suggests the overall townscape character, public realm and vistas have been lost to such an extent that it no longer holds together as a coherent or legible place.”

The Victorian Society raised objections and rejects the conclusion that cumulatively, alterations have been detrimental resulting in an area without historic character. They assert that fundamentally, the conservation area retains its special interest.

Residents living in conservation areas are required to gain special permission for work such as tree felling and replacement windows and doors.

Coun Drew Gale, who chairs Community and Scrutiny committee on Preston Council, said: “Conservation areas are important to the city council, but we must be mindful of the costs and other burdens put on residents as a result.”