Iconic Preston nightclub The Piper to be flattened to make way for 11-storey apartment block

One of Preston's best-known nightclubs could finally be demolished to make way for an apartment tower.

By Brian Ellis
Tuesday, 22nd March 2022, 1:10 pm

The Piper, which later became Barristers, Lord Byron's, Storm and eventually Club Arena, will be bulldozed if plans for the 11-storey Tithebarn Gateway are passed by the city council.

Developers want to construct 124 flats on the site of the single storey building which has a roof top car park and also a charity shop and bookmakers.

And Wansfell Limited, which owns the St George's Shopping Centre next door, says its design will reflect the look of the iconic bus station which it will face.

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How the Tithebarn Gateway tower could look (Image: NW Architects).

"The high-quality contemporary design takes a number of architectural cues from the Grade II Listed bus station opposite and and has been crafted to ensure it harmonises with its surroundings," says a planning report to the council. “The fins supporting the cantilever balconies have been designed to reflect the curved concrete walls of the car park.”

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The Piper was famous in its day for, amongst other things, the stars it attracted. It was where Cannon and Ball first performed and Giles Brandreth was once the warm-up act for controversial comedian Bernard Manning.

Local comic Wandering Walter was also a frequent visitor, along with a host of other top cabaret performers who drew big audiences.

The former Piper nightclub has been closed for the past 14 years.

It opened in the 1960s on the site of what was the King's Palace Theatre in Tithebarn Street.

But, as its popularity waned in the 1980s, it became Barristers and then Lord Byron's where drinkers loved its atmosphere despite "the sticky carpets, slippery dancefloor and leaking toilets."

One reminisced: "It was a million degrees in there and decades of smokers had coated the place in nicotine that dripped down onto your clothes – it was rank. The floor was soggy, there were holes in the plaster and the furniture was ripped and falling apart. None of that mattered of course."

It later became Storm in the early 1990s and then, after a much-publicised drugs raid by police, it eventually re-opened as Club Arena. The venue was eventually shut down in 2008 after a gun was discharged, blasting a large hole in the ceiling of the bar. It has remained empty since then.

Police outside Club Arena (formerly The Piper) after a gun blasted a hole in the ceiling in 2008.

The high-rise block, which developers hope will replace it, will have retail on the ground floor, plus a residents' gym and cinema room. The upper 10 floors will comprise 124 apartments - 82 of them one-bedroom, 37 two-bed and five three-bed. It will also have a roof-top garden.

The developers say an 11-storey tower on Tithebarn Street is in keeping with other tall buildings nearby. Palatine House is 11 storeys, Bishopgate Gardens has 12 floors, the Guild Tower 16, Unicentre 13 and the Holiday Inn nine.

"Sitting directly in the middle of these buildings it is therefore considered appropriate for this site to be an 11-storey development," says the planning report.

"The redevelopment of this under-utilised site will create much-needed high-quality residential accommodation in the heart of the city centre."

It adds that the proposed development will "provide a new gateway to Preston city centre."