Vandalised church to be demolished as part of plan to regenerate former Preston council estate

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A derelict church is to be flattened and replaced with 17 "high quality" houses as part of a scheme to regenerate the former Savick council estate in Preston.

Plans to bulldoze Lea Methodist Church, which has been boarded up and a magnet for anti-social behaviour for almost five years, have been submitted to the city council.

If approved Preston's biggest social housing landlord, Community Gateway Association (CGA), intends to build two, three and four-bed homes for "families in need." All the houses will be available on affordable rents - the latest phase of a project to smarten up a one-time notorious estate.

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CGA says the church has "fallen into a state of disrepair and dilapidation" since it closed its doors for worship in 2018 due to dwindling numbers and a lack of volunteers. Maintaining and heating the church became unviable the congregation moved to Ingol Methodist Church in Tag Lane. An adjacent bungalow, owned by the church, has also been unused.

Lea Methodist Church has been boarded up for almost five years.Lea Methodist Church has been boarded up for almost five years.
Lea Methodist Church has been boarded up for almost five years.
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"An alternative use for the church has not come forward, hence the proposal to redevelop the site for much needed affordable housing," says a statement to the city's planning department. "Given the location on site, scale, mass and fabric condition of the church building and bungalow, it is not possible to retain them and viably redevelop the rest of the site.

"The site is becoming increasingly derelict amid reports of vandalism and anti social behaviour. No suitable alternative use, retaining the buildings, has been feasible and redevelopment as a 100 per cent affordable housing scheme on what is a ‘brownfield’ site brings forward potential site-wide and offsite improvements, as well as a more appropriate and intensive use of the site."

CGA is to develop the site using grants from Homes England. The development will comprise 11 two-bed houses, four three-bed and two four-bed homes. The site will have parking for 38 vehicles and the homes are expected to be ready for occupation within 18 months of work starting.

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The church has been a magnet for anti-social behaviour.The church has been a magnet for anti-social behaviour.
The church has been a magnet for anti-social behaviour.

The land is currently owned by the Preston Ribble Methodist Circuit. An agreement to sell it to Preston City Council has been reached, following which the site will transfer to CGA for development.

The planning report says a consultation exercise with local residents has been carried out and the redevelopment was "generally welcomed, particularly given the dilapidated state of the site and perception of anti-social behaviour occurring."

Community Gateway has more than 6,700 homes in Preston - it took over the running of the city's entire council housing stock in 2005 - and has been involved in regenerating the Savick Estate since 2017. It has built pockets of new housing in the area, demolished the former Savick Hotel pub and is replacing the shops and maisonettes at the junction of Birkdale Avenue and West Park Avenue with housing, a new library and a new shop.

"Community Gateway will be responsible for maintaining and insuring the homes (on the church site)," says the report. "The homes will be allocated to families in need. These grant funded homes will be built in a single phase and ready for occupation in approximately 18 months after work commences on site.

"This represents a major investment for Community Gateway and will enable us to develop the Savick estate with new affordable family homes."