After 12 years of debate will a £40m leisure complex finally get the go-ahead on the site of Preston's old indoor market?

Preston's new £40m city centre leisure hub on the site of the old indoor market could be just days away from finally getting the go-ahead, almost 12 years after it was first conceived.

By Brian Ellis
Friday, 25th March 2022, 3:45 pm

The long-running scheme will go before the council's planning committee on Thursday with Town Hall chiefs recommending approval.

If councillors give the green light to "Animate," which includes an eight-screen cinema, 16-lane bowling alley, five restaurants/bars and a street food hub, work is expected to start within months and the complex could be open by Spring 2024.

The project, to regenerate the land between the city's historic market canopies and Ringway, was first suggested back in 2010 as part of the ill-fated £700m Tithebarn Redevelopment.

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How the complex will look in Preston's Markets Quarter (Image: Leach/Rhodes/Walker Architects).

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Under that early scheme the market multi-storey car park would have been retained and refurbished - it was eventually demolished in 2019 - and the old indoor market and adjacent Lancastria House were to be flattened and replaced by a cinema, shops and food and drink outlets.

But the work was never carried out after the Tithebarn project spectacularly collapsed in 2011.

A second scheme was brought forward in 2016 comprising a new seven-storey car park, a cinema complex and restaurants. Councillors passed the application and the demolition of the old car park and market hall went ahead.

The new leisure complex as seen from the top of Orchard Street (Image: Leach/Rhodes/Walker Architects).

Now a revised scheme is before the planning committee, abandoning the idea of a new multi-storey car park in favour of a low level one with room for just 164 vehicles, compared to the 597 spaces it replaces.

The leisure complex will have four floors, with parking on Level One, accessed from Ringway and Tenterfield Street.

Level Two, which will be at ground level facing the market, will have four restaurants/bars, a street food hub, bowling alley and terraced seating area.

On Level Three will be the cinema lobby with its eight screens, a competitive social unit - for crazy golf, darts, pool or an escape room - and a large restaurant with roof terrace looking out over the market.

How the complex will look from Ringway (Image: Leach/Rhodes/Walker Architects).

The front of the building will be faced with wood cladding and stone, while the rear, overlooking Ringway, will have a more contemporary perforated bronze panelled finish.

There will be a seating area in front of the complex with landscaped steps and terrace planters down to the market hall.

Only three letters were received from the public about the planning application, raising concerns for the interaction between traffic and cyclists in the area and a request that the complex should have public toilets.

Separate plans are to be put in to the council for the refurbishment of the adjacent Lancastria House, which was built in 1938 in an art-deco style to house a Co-op store.

Councillors will be told that the Animate scheme, submitted jointly by the council and Maple Grove Developments, could bring in £7m a year to the local economy and create up to 140 jobs.

"The principle of developing this site for the proposed uses has already been established," says a report to the committee. "The proposed development would deliver significant investment and redevelopment to the north of the city centre.

"The key public benefit is the regeneration of a vacant site in a key location in the city centre. The development would help build a strong, responsive and competitive economy."