Future of tallest skyscraper in Lancashire now in the balance after company withdraws plans

Plans for the tallest skyscraper in Lancashire have been withdrawn just 24 hours before they were due to be debated by councillors.

By Brian Ellis
Wednesday, 2nd February 2022, 3:59 pm
Updated Wednesday, 2nd February 2022, 4:00 pm

Developers have been forced to go back to the drawing board after learning Preston Council was set to reject the £65m scheme for the 30-storey hotel/apartment Lofthaus Tower in the city centre.

Town Hall chiefs were due to present a report to tomorrow's planning committee highlighting a raft of concerns they had with the project.

But after learning in the Lancashire Post that the project was almost certain to be knocked back, applicant Providence Gate Group Holdings decided at the last minute to pull the scheme and look at it again, saying it was surprised and frustrated at what it sees as a council U-turn.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

How the Lofthaus Tower could have looked in Preston city centre.

It is not known now if the company will submit a revised application, or look elsewhere to build the tower.

Plans by Providence Gate to invest up to £135m in the dock estate and other parts of the city centre might also be at risk.

"It was very regretful that Preston City Council do not share the same enthusiasm for the scheme or our vision of the benefits such an iconic tower could bring to the City of Preston," Providence Gate founding partner Ishmael Bahadur told the Post.

"Regrettably we have had very little dialogue from the council in relation to the plans and its hugely disappointing that we have had to learn of the intended rejection of the scheme from a newspaper article prior to the scheme even going to committee for a planning decision to be reached.

Developers may now look elsewhere to build the £65m tower.

"We have invested a significant amount of time and money in architectural, planning and consultancy fees to reach this point and have been left with no alternative but to now withdraw the application."

Providence Gate says it was initially met with council support for the scheme, so the about-turn came out of the blue.

The 30-storey tower was an upsized plan for a 21-floor skyscraper which was given council approval in 2017 on the same spot - the site of the Foresters Hall in Great Shaw Street.

Mr Bahadur explained: "Unfortunately to build 21 storeys would not be financially viable as the construction costs would make it prohibitive, which is why we opted for the 30 storeys.

The old Foresters Hall would have been demolished to make way for the tower.

"Our objective was to create an iconic building in Preston which would create jobs and regenerate the area, which at present looks a little run-down.

"Unfortunately the people Preston and the local areas are going out to Manchester, Liverpool and other cities because they are destination areas and have been planned that way.

"I believe our project would have created real momentum for the city and attracted much needed alternative investment into the city centre.

"I am local to Preston and have seen the city centre stand still, especially over the past five years, while other cities have progressed and developed.

"To be honest I’m struggling to see the vision or regeneration plan for Preston City Centre and the rejection of Grosvenor Developments’ plans for a shopping hub (the Tithebarn Development) which would have created hundreds of jobs in Preston had a similar outcome.

"Providence Gate has a number of development projects in the United Kingdom. These include hotels, golf resorts and housing developments and part of our objective was to look to regenerate areas and drive new economies in those areas.

"We had secured £200m through institutional funds for Preston, £65million was under pinned for the tower, the rest was part of a plan to regenerate the docks and urban areas within the city centre to include creating modern neighbourhoods."