A pub giant is planning to transform a landmark bank which has stood empty for years in Preston city centre into its latest branch.
JD Wetherspoon denied any interest in the old TSB site in Church Street when rumours of a deal surfaced in March.
The company, which already operates The Greyfriar in Friargate, said the city was “not on the radar” for a new pub, while the Grade II -listed building’s owners, Lancashire County Council, declined to comment.
But the Evening Post can now reveal the firm has exchanged contracts with County Hall chiefs and submitted an application to Preston Council to convert the 108-year-old structure.
Proposals include creating a new bar, repairing the original banking hall ceiling, turning two first-floor boardrooms into function rooms and creating a beer garden and smoking shelter in an existing car park.
Andrew Connolly, principal estates surveyor for Lancashire County Council, said: “This building on Church Street is currently owned by our economic development department, Lancashire County Developments Limited.
“Terms for the sale of the property have been agreed with JD Wetherspoon, subject to planning and licensing approval being granted.”
A spokesman for JD Wetherspoon said it was “early days in the process”.
She said: “We have exchanged contracts but it has not been completed yet. JD Wetherspoon are known for the way they do up old buildings and incorporate original features and renovate very sympathetically.
“We have many towns that have more than one Wetherspoon’s, so this is normal for somewhere as big as Preston.”
The foundation stone for the building was laid in 1905 and it opened two years later as the headquarters of Preston Savings Bank.
The company then became part of TSB, which operated from the site until the bank closed in 1997.
JD Wetherspoon said it intended to retain the building’s “striking front elevation features” and all works would “respect the existing historic structure and original finishes”.
Aidan Turner-Bishop, chairman of Preston and South Ribble Civic Trust, welcomed the proposals.
He said: “Wetherspoon’s do have a good reputation for their renovation work of historic buildings, such as cinemas and theatres. They usually do a great job.
“It’s a Grade II listed building that has been empty and neglected for a long time and Wetherspoon’s will be bringing it back to life and civilising part of Church Street.
“There is a nice Preston lamb in the glass facing the street. It’s an Edwardian Baroque, a nice solid building, and it’s good to see it coming back into use.”
If planning permission is granted the company will then have to apply for licensing approval, where councillors will consider matters such as opening hours, measures to combat anti-social behaviour and the views of the police.
A Lancashire Police spokesman said: “We’re aware that JD Wetherspoon is interested in the site and where feasible we will support the development of any premises where it provides a social and economic benefit to the city, but our primary concern is always crime and disorder and licensing conditions will be key to this.”