A multi-million pound scheme to breathe new life into Preston’s biggest and oldest park will go ahead after a bid for funding was successful.
Council officials applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund for cash for the £2.2m plan to revamp the Grade II-listed Moor Park.
The leader of Preston Council, Coun Peter Rankin, said the news was “brilliant”, tweeting: “HLF has confirmed the go-ahead for the first phase of the restoration by PCC of Moor Park with a £2.2 million scheme.”
Rosemary Hurley, head of Key Stage Three at Sir Tom Finney Community High School, said: “The children use the park a lot – they love the outdoor gym.
“We make a lot of use of it now so to have new facilities would be absolutely fabulous, giving young people something else to do.”
Council officials were tight-lipped over the exact details of the plans, including what the first phase includes, because a formal announcement is due to be made next month.
A spokesman said: “We are still waiting to agree the final details with the Heritage Lottery Fund.”
The proposal was submitted late last year and formed the second phase of Preston Council’s bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for cash to revamp the park.
At the time, the plans which were used in public consultation showed that the project aims to restore the park to the plans of Edward Milner, who made upgrades to the time between 1863-5.
The improvements put forward include:
• extending the Serpentine lake and rebuilding the footbridge
• provision of a snack bar/ food and drink concession
• enabling public use of the observatory building
• resurfacing paths and improve entrances
• improving park furniture
• improving cricket facilities
• and the creation of a new skate park.
Park visitor Stephen Burns, 55, from Fulwood, said the improvements were welcome. He added: “I have come here since I was a child, so for 50-plus years and so has my father, who is nearly 92.
“They spent some money on the park over the years but Moor Park does seem to have been passed by for investment and development – it has not substantially changed since I was five or six years old.
“People seem to forget just how important for any community these open areas are and I think any money spent to develop it is money well spent.
“It’s only recently we came out on a Saturday and it was teaming with people who were picnicking.”
Tara Graham, 40 and Ian Graham, 43, from Blackpool, also visited the park yesterday.
Tara said on first impressions the park was a bit “boring” and couldn’t compete with Stanley Park in Blackpool and said pumping £2.2m into the park was good news.
She added: “It’s a big park, you don’t have to have a lot going on, it needs flower beds. It’s very open.”
Lydia Singleton, 16, from Ashton, Preston, said: “It’s great news. I come here every week.”
Also key to the project will be to recreate Edward Milner’s original vision of a large open moorland, which could host large events, concerts and festivals such as Radio One’s Big Weekend, which was held in the city six years ago.
This would involve removal of a young avenue of small trees which are mostly poor specimens which currently divides the space.
It is unclear at this stage when the work will start.
The news comes as the Heritage Lottery Fund published a report revealing a growing risk that could see parks across the North West become run down ‘no go areas’ or even sold.
Sara Hilton, head of HLF North West, said: “The North West has a proud tradition of public parks, enjoyed by thousands daily.
“Following decades of decline, Lottery funding has revitalised parks across the North West but our report shows that this investment is now at risk. We realise these are financially tough times and that is why we need collaborative action and a fresh approach to halt this threat of decline.
“Our parks are far too important not to act now.”