Freddie blasts council over city hotel bid

Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff
Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff
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ANDREW Flintoff reckoned it could have been the biggest hit of his illustrious career.

But the Preston-born cricket legend was stumped by his hometown council when he tried to turn the city’s crumbling old post office into a four-star hotel.

Now, two years on, as the building still stands empty and forlorn, “Freddie” has hit the authority for six on social media, claiming they played a straight bat to his ambitious plan.

The 38-year-old tweeted to his 1.88m Twitter followers: “Had plans two years ago to turn the post office building to a four star hotel rejected. Would be operational now but it’s still empty @prestoncouncil.

“Just wondering what’s happening with it @prestoncouncil.”

The message set the Twittersphere buzzing with scores of people also taking a swipe at the council.

@Jordankitch said: “Why do you need a hotel in Preston though? Who wants to go there?”

@Anas_mahmood seemed to share Freddie’s annoyance at the post office’s lack of development, saying: “Bus Station plans. Fishergate plans. Friargate plans. Nothing ever gets done in Preston, just people dreaming.”

And @walshestates seemed to like the idea and tweeted back: “It’s rotting to bits like all Preston #makeprestonproud @flintoff11 your the man to do it.”

Preston Council has revealed that Freddie did actually show interest in a project to turn the prominent building opposite the city’s war memorial and Flag Market.

But it claims that the former England cricketer failed to take the matter any fiurther than just an expression of interest.

“Multiple parties have expressed interest in the old post office building,” said a spokesman for the authority.

“As a result we have followed standard and open procurement process by appointing a third party agent to conduct a marketing exercise and invite formal applications.

“Applications are still being considered, but we are currently unable to comment on the applications themselves.

“While Mr Flintoff did express interest in the building, no formal application was received.”

The council has been actively marketing the Grade 2 Listed building since the 2012 Guild celebrations, even spending money on a glossy 18-page brochure to entice potential developers as well as including an illustrative plan to covert it into a 71 bedroom hotel. The council described it as “rare” that such a building would be available for “adaptation and re-use” and welcomed mixed use schemes including “hotel, retail, leisure and residential plans”.

The brochure was titled ‘A Landmark City Centre Opportunity’ and included picturesque images of the post office as well as luring figures about its easy access, city centre location and volume of people any business could reach.

It has been recently reported that three developers have expressed an interest in the 63,000 sq ft building, which was built in 1903. The Market Street building is being touted for a boutique hotel, after the iconic building hosted its second Best of Britannia North event.

Bosses at the council say negotiations are still ongoing around the sale of the Grade II listed property, but it looks like it could become a small hotel.

Leader of Preston Council, Coun Peter Rankin, said there had been “considerable interest” in the former post office.

He said: “We’ve marketed the building and there’s been considerable interest, and we’ve narrowed it down to three.”

Coun Rankin said the authority was looking to sell the building, adding: “It’s going to be a very expensive building to renovate, so it’s still touch-and-go as to whether the sale proceeds because of the magnitude of the job that needs doing.”

He described it as a “fabulous building” and said it was vital the right owner was found.

He said: “It is a very significant building, it’s a beautiful, beautiful building and it’s been lying vacant for a very long time.

Coun Rankin said any money the council achieved from the building would go into the City Deal pot.