St. Walburge's Centre to get new education facilities and improved playground

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Work to breathe new life into a historic former school building in Preston can begin after revised plans were given the nod by the city council.

The first floor of the Grade II-listed St. Walburge's Centre - built in 1894 as an additional wing for the Talbot Roman Catholic Primary School - has lain unused since its last remaining tenant, the Catholic aid charity, CAFOD, moved out at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.

The facility - just to the rear of the St. Walburge's Church - has served as a base for admin and leisure activities for almost 30 years. Its ground floor is currently rented out to Preston Bridge Club, which has its own dedicated entrance.

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Last year, plans were approved to convert the top floor into an “educational training facility”, with some remaining office space, and to build a two-storey extension to provide a new entry via a staircase and fully-accessible lift. As part of those plans, a playground at the St. Walburge's Gardens site was also to be resurfaced, with new equipment installed.

The two-storey St. Walburge's Centre is set for a new-look top floor (image: Google)The two-storey St. Walburge's Centre is set for a new-look top floor (image: Google)
The two-storey St. Walburge's Centre is set for a new-look top floor (image: Google)

Now, Preston City Council has agreed to the proposed extension being scaled down so that what the church describes as “a less complex, accessible steel staircase and a platform lift,” can be installed in order to provide “the desired enhanced accessibility and a necessary fire escape route”.

The proposal had also initially included the installation of uPVC windows but that request for permission was dropped after the authority indicated that the change “would not be supported”.

City council planners concluded that the extension was “unlikely to be seen in the same context” as that of the Grade I-listed church - whose 309-foot-high spire is the tallest of any parish church in England - and so “would have an acceptable impact upon its setting”.

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The Lancashire Post approached St. Walburge’s Church for details about the type of education facility that is planned for the top floor of the parish centre building.

The former school’s main building – which adjoins what became St. Walburge’s Centre - opened in 1849. Generations of Preston children were taught at the Talbot School until it closed in 1988.