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Preston’s Guild Hall saved

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Ambitious plans to transform Preston’s Guild Hall will turn a “rough diamond” into Lancashire’s premier entertainment venue, the potential new owner has promised.

An immediate £1m investment will see an improved range of live shows and entertainment on offer at the Guild Hall, which faced an uncertain future amid council budget cuts

A new Italian restaurant, banqueting and conference facilities, a coffee shop and a hub for new start-up businesses are all part of entrepreneur Simon Rigby’s proposals for the Guild Hall.

Mr Rigby, who runs a range of businesses including a renewable energy firm and The Villa group, has vowed to link up with The Lowry at Salford to source and put on live shows in the 2,000-seater concert venue.

Preston Council leader Peter Rankin said: “Simon has put forward exciting and ambitious proposals for the Guild Hall.

“He has real vision and passion for the Guild Hall and clearly sees great potential in it.

“As a council we have to save over £3.6m over the next three years and without Simon’s intervention we would have had no choice but to close the Guild Hall.

“It currently costs us £1m a year to run and the building is in need of significant investment, which the council simply has not got.”

Mr Rigby said he was “thrilled” the council was poised to accept his offer to buy the venue for an undisclosed, “nominal” sum.

The businessman, who also owns The Villa hotel in Wrea Green, added: “Preston Guild Hall is a wonderful opportunity. The building oozes potential. It’s a rough diamond that needs some polishing, but with love, care and attention it will truly sparkle as Lancashire’s premier entertainment venue.

“My ‘Villa’ range of businesses is highly successful and we aim to make the Guild Hall the jewel in our crown.

“Obviously, we need to invest in the building and that is exactly what we will do, with over £1m of immediate investment in the Guild Hall.

“This will transform the Guild Hall into a fabulous live entertainment venue for Preston, which will include community use of the building.”

Mr Rigby, who made his fortune in the energy industry, said the venue was perfect for medium-sized concerts and events.

His group was in negotiation with the Lowry over a collaboration.

He added: “We are flexible and we will see to it that nobody with clear budget issues for putting on a community event at the Guild Hall is turned away.

“I’m also setting up a trust fund to support arts and culture in Preston so that the Guild Hall can become a real cultural and entertainment hub for the city.

“I’m also keen to support the creation of new businesses in Preston and my vision for the Guild Hall includes providing shops for start-up businesses as well as access to mentoring and business support from my expert team.”

It is estimated the sale of the Guild Hall would save the cash-strapped council more than £650,000 a year in running costs alone.

The news comes a few weeks after the 53 Degrees venue on Fylde Road revealed it would no longer be hosting live music at the end of the year.

What do you think? Comment online at lep.co.uk.

 

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