The next phase of a controversial project to make Preston’s main shopping street more “pedestrian friendly” will get underway in the new year.
The major improvement work on Fishergate will see the new-look for the city centre extended, from where the first phase ended at the junction of Winckley Street, right up to the Minster in Church Street.
The work on the road and pavements is expected to start in February and will last until November 2015. Council bosses have promised to address issues, such as delays, which hit the earlier phase of the project.
County Coun John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “We have learnt a lot front the first phase.
“We have been working with the contractor and listened to what they have brought back to us and what the community has told us. We can with more assurance say we will keep within timescale. With the first phase there were problems, we have been able to overcome them. If we are faced with them again we know the solutions straight way.”
“It’s not just a learning curve, it’s an understanding exercise.”
The first phases of the project had attracted criticism over the last few months, including from small shops who said delays in completing the work were impacting on their trade, and pedestrians with disabilities who found the new layout difficult to navigate. Some of the new paving has also had to be dug up for electricity works.
Coun Fillis said: “This work will create a city centre. What we have is a series of areas in the city, now with the work we are doing we are linking them up to create a city centre.
“How we do things is remaining the same - we have talked to Galloway’s Society for the Blind and they said what they want is consistency.
“I see it as a more vibrant area now. I think it is very busy.
“What we think we have been able to do here and what we are able to do is make it a full city centre and give it that vibrance, flow and sense of energy.
“The work not only creates business for the shops but the businesses behind the shops, the solicitors, architects and IT companies.
“Businesses want to know when it is going to get to them - this will help in the long-term.”
The Fishergate Central Gateway Project up to Winckley Street was finished in October. It has become a ‘shared space’ where pedestrians and vehicles have equal priority, with the aim of having less clutter, more space and no traffic lights. The project was always planned to go as far as the city’s iconic bus station and funding confirmed this summer means Lancashire County Council can make that a reality.
Following next year’s phase 2a work to reach the Minster, phase 2b will be carried out to extend the works to the bus station.
The £6m for this work from the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership growth deal was confirmed in July.
Officers from the council spent a day at St George’s Shopping Centre showing shoppers the plans for the next phase.
Anne-Marie Parkinson, senior projects officer at LCC said while the second phase is carried out, they aim to keep the road open just as they did with phase one.
She said: “Phase one was all about keeping Fishergate open When the contractor is appointed they will decide how it will be built, what work will be done in what area.
“We envisage it operating like phase one.”
The Vicar of Preston, Fr Timothy Lipscomb, who is based at the Minster, said of the plans: “I am really glad. It will improve that area. People are trying to upgrade their shops, their businesses, their trades, it’s important that they are helped.
“We are having a problem with Preston with regeneration, it is taking longer than it might taken in other places in the United Kingdom.
“What’s going on is encouraging people to Fishergate, it is encouraging new shops, we have had two new restaurants - that is helping the regeneration of Preston.
“The regeneration of Preston is what it is all about at the moment. It will bring people in from outside, it will bring more investment, it will get Preston looking more cared for.
“I am delighted it is coming to the Minster. It will help me with weddings and funerals enormously.”
The work will include
Fishergate all one way between Cheapside and Lune Street
Left turn only at the top of Cannon St and Winckley Street
Close Chapel Walk
Relocate Park and Ride Bus stop near Winckley Street to outside Boots
Relocation of National Cycle route along Cannon Street to Avenham Street
Removing parking on Winckley Street and Cannon Street but still allow loading for businesses
Restricted parking on Fishergate except in signed loading bays