Giant car park plan for Preston’s fire-ravaged Odeon Cinema and Tokyo Jo’s

Preston's fire-ravaged Odeon Cinema could become a giant car park for shoppers while the owners decide what to do with it.

By Brian Ellis
Friday, 8th July 2022, 4:29 pm

An application to use the land just yards from the city’s main shopping street for a 134-space pay-and-display for a period of three years has been submitted to the council this week.

Owners, the Rigby Group, say they have not yet worked out what to build on the city centre site after the majority of the buildings were obliterated by a spectacular blaze in May.

The council is still considering an application to demolish the remaining structures - including the art deco frontage of the old picture house - because they are said to be in a dangerous condition and unable to be restored.

The site could accommodate 134 cars when cleared.

Now a second submission has been made asking if the land, once totally flattened, can operate as a temporary car park while architects design a permanent replacement.

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In a report to the planning department, agents for the Rigby Group say: "The long-term use of the site is yet to be determined. However, in the meantime, the temporary use as a car park will allow for public benefits in the city centre.

"The proposal seeks the temporary change of use of the site for car parking for a period of three years.

The Odeon site could become a giant car park.

"Due to the site’s destruction following the recent fire, the existing buildings are being demolished. As such, any future use of the site would be subject to new build development.

"The proposed future use of the site is yet to be determined and the decision will be made over the course of the temporary permission period.

"Therefore, in the meantime, the site can easily be occupied as a car park, with minimal impacts and serve central Preston with additional car parking spaces supporting the city centre economy.

"Part of the site recently burnt down as a result of a fire that took place in May 2022, with many of the buildings left with significant damage and considered unsafe.

Demolition work is set to continue to clear the site.

"Therefore, an application to demolish the remainder of the buildings was submitted in June 2022 and is awaiting determination."

The creation of a car park in Church Street will help offset the 560 spaces lost when the Market Hall multi-storey was demolished in 2019. A temporary parking area on that site, which could only cater for 35 vehicles, recently closed down for work to begin on the new £40m Animate entertainment complex.

The Rigby Group - a company founded by the late Simon Rigby - is planning to build on the Odeon site, but a new use has not yet been agreed.

The spectacular blaze on May 19 took hours to bring under control, with 12 fire engines and two aerial ladder platforms called in from all parts of Lancashire.

It was one of four incidents of arson in empty buildings in a matter of days - the others were at the former St Joseph's Orphanage in Mount Street, the former British Home Stores premises on Fishergate and a previous fire at the Odeon which was quickly brought under control.

Owners of empty buildings in the city centre have been advised to improve security in case of more attacks.