Old Preston pub could become education centre

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A former pub could be converted into an educational centre for blind children if plans are given the green light.

An application has been lodged to change the former Acregate Hotel in New Hall Lane into the Able to Learn Centre.

Two previous similar applications had been rejected after fears over insufficient parking, but The Al Qalam Tarbiyah Centre now hopes to be given the go-ahead for the plans.

A statement submitted by AZH Consultancy said that local Islamic scholar, Mr M Shoeb Nakhuda, had been approached in 2009 by a concerned parent in Preston who wanted help finding an Islamic school for his blind child.

Mr Nakhuda later decided to teach the child himself, and the statement said: “The three-year journey was a very humbling experience for Mr Nakhuda, who having acquired these skills is aiming to pass on the benefits of his knowledge to as many blind Muslim children as possible by opening an Arabic school for the blind.”

The statement said Preston’s Muslim community had pulled together and “raised sufficient funds to allow the purchase and conversation of this site dedicated to providing facilities for blind Muslims”.

It said: “The applicant intends to establish an educational centre focusing on children with disabilities, primarily blind children.

“In order to allow disabled children to learn in an inclusive environment and to subsidise and absorb the higher than normal cost of educating disabled students, the centre will also cater for able bodied children.”

If plans are approved, the ground floor of the centre will be open to everybody, not just Muslims.

Coun Veronica Afrin, who represents St Matthew’s ward on Preston Council, said: “My personal view is that parking would be my only concern, from the families’ view. Other than that, it would be a good use of the pub.

“There are lots of these premises around now and we are looking for innovative uses, but the parking, the safety of children and families would have to come first.

“Other than that I would like to see it brought back into some kind of use.”

The pub has been disused since 2010.