Preston pulls £125,000 Christmas cracker

SHINING BRIGHT: An artist's impression of how the new Christmas lights will look in Preston
SHINING BRIGHT: An artist's impression of how the new Christmas lights will look in Preston
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Preston city centre will be transformed into a brightly lit Christmas wonderland as part of a £125,000 bid to attract shoppers.

The city’s Business Improvement District (BID) has revealed a bumper programme which will include £60,000 investment in new blue and white festive lights, taking influence from Oxford Street in London.

More shopping streets than ever before will be illuminated, including parts of Church Street. The lighting scheme is completely new for this year, with the exception of lights in Friargate Brow which are made to measure, and those in upper Friargate, which are owned by the city council.

From Saturday, December 13, there will also be a Winter Wonderland running on the Flag Market featuring an Alpine bar, ice rink and chalet-style Christmas market, which has seen its run extended from two to three weeks.

BID committee member Babs Murphy said the package would come on top of festive favourites including the annual lights switch-on, late night shopping and free parking throughout the period.

She said: “Christmas is all wrapped up for Preston this year and we cannot wait to welcome shoppers to the city centre.

“The BID has been instrumental in raising the quality of the offer Preston has, and now we believe we are on a par with anywhere else in the North West and beyond.

“In the past 10 months, we have gone far and wide for inspiration, even taking this year’s designs for blue-and-white festive lights from one of the country’s premier shopping destinations, Oxford Street in London.

“We recognise that Christmas is acrucial trading period for our high street traders and we have pulled out all the stops to try to attract people to proud Preston.”

She added: “The challenge for Preston’s traders now is to seize the opportunity which they have.

“We believe there will be a flood of shoppers to our city centre during this period and they now have to make sure they do what they do best – offer great products and service.”

Mark Whittle, BID manager, promised the annual lights switch-on, which will take place on Saturday, November 15, would once again attract household names to flick the switch in front of an anticipated full house on the Flag Market and will be presented by Smooth Radio.

BID, which is operated by the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, and funded by a one per cent levy paid by city centre traders in Preston, have also secured a prime-time television advert which will broadcast to a regional audience of around five million people, featuring local businesses and people. It will screen from November 28 for two weeks.

Coun Veronica Afrin, cabinet member for culture and leisure at Preston Council, said: “Working with the Business Improvement District, we have put together a great city centre offer to attract both residents and visitors.

“Guaranteeing everyone a magical experience in Preston this Christmas, the Flag Market will be transformed into a Winter Wonderland, adding to the atmosphere in the city centre.

“It’s bigger and better this year with offers for all the family.”

Late night shopping will take place on Wednesday and Thursday nights in the Fishergate Centre from mid-November and the wider city centre and in St George’s Shopping Centre from December.

FREE PARKING DETAILS

Christmas shoppers will be able to park for free at city centre car parks in Preston during the build-up to the crucial trading period.

Parking is available in the Market Hall, subject to a decision by Preston Council, on the following days and times:

• Saturday, November 15 from 3pm until 12 midnight for the Christmas lights switch-on;

• Monday, December 1 December to Friday, December 5 from 3pm to midnight;

• Sunday, December 7 - all day;

• Monday, December 8 to Friday, December 12 from 3pm to midnight;

• Sunday, December 14 - all day;

• Monday, December 15 to Friday, December 19 from 3pm to midnight;

• Sunday 21 December - all day;

• Monday 22 December to Christmas Eve - all day.