Could Lancashire's tallest skyscraper be too big for Preston city centre?

The tallest skyscraper in Lancashire could be flattened even before it is built.

By Brian Ellis
Thursday, 27th January 2022, 9:22 am

Plans for the 30-storey Lofthaus hotel and apartment tower in Preston city centre look set to be knocked back by councillors next week on a whole raft of planning issues.

Town Hall chiefs have concerns over its possible impact on neighbours, its own residents and why it needs to be so big.

And members of the planning committee will be asked to reject the development, sending architects back to the drawing board.

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The Lofthaus skyscraper which councillors have been advised to reject.

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The project is a scaled up version of a 21-storey building on the site of the Foresters Hall in Great George Street which was given outline approval by the council in July 2019.

But the revised plans, which add another nine floors and a roof-top restaurant and bar, have thrown up several issues which officers say need to be looked at further.

Concerns include noise from the rooftop hospitality area and whether the bar/restaurant and a proposed residents' outdoor area at level 28 would be "safe and pleasurable" for users in high winds.

How the 30-storey skyscraper would compare in height with other notable big ones.

The officers say the plans fail to demonstrate that "satisfactory living standards for the future occupiers" could be assured due to their living space being overlooked from above.

And they say the application also fails to demonstrate "how the local geometry of the buildings would affect the wind conditions and the local microclimate."

A report to be laid before next Thursday's planning committee says: "Insufficient information has been submitted to assess the full extent and impact of the proposal on neighbouring residents and businesses in terms of sunlight and overshadowing.

"Insufficient information has been submitted with the application to adequately demonstrate how the proposed development would be seen within the context of the nearby designated heritage assets" - which include St Walburge's Church with its giant spire.

And it adds that the plans for the tower show "insufficient refuse and recycling storage . . . and the application fails to demonstrate that the proposed building would be safely serviced in terms of trade, delivery and refuse vehicles."

If, as expected, the planning application is thrown ou by the committee, the developers Providence Gate Group Holdings Ltd, are expected to go back to the drawing board and return with an updated application.

The company took on the project after the previous scheme for a 21-storey tower for 299 student flats did not get off the ground despite winning outline planning approval from the local authority more than three years ago.

The revised plans are for a 166-room hotel on the lower nine floors, with 174 apartments from floors 10 to 29. The flats would be one and two bedroom units, with 122 of them for sale on the open market and 52 for sale as affordable homes.

On the 28th floor the tower would have an outdoor amenity area for use by all residents of the apartments. The bar/restaurant would be on the 30th floor with internal and external seating areas and panoramic views.

The skyscraper, almost 100-metres tall, would dominate the city skyline, rising even higher than St Walburge's spire - the tallest on a parish church in the UK - and towering over two apartment buildings which have recently been given the go-ahead in the city centre. Bhailok Court near to the bus station and a flats complex earmarked for land at the bottom of Avenham Street are both 16-storeys.

To make way for the Lofthaus project, the historic Foresters Hall will be demolished. It was built in 1878 and after the Second World War became a nightclub with a variety of names including Samantha’s, The Flamingo and The Cherry Tree.

Historic England says that while the distinctive building, created as the Preston Lodge of the Ancient Order of Foresters, is regarded locally as a non-designated heritage asset, its loss would not have a “significant environmental effect.”

In its application to be considered on Thursday, Providence Gate says the project "represents a fresh scheme for the site by a new applicant with the intention of creating a landmark building for Preston.

"The scheme aims to act as a catalyst for development in this part of the city.

"While the proposals are for a taller tower (than the previous one approved in 2019) this scheme does not have a materially greater impact on the local context."

The company says the rooftop bar/restaurant and seating area will offer "panoramic views of the coastline to the west and views of the Yorkshire Dales and Peak District to the east."

It adds: "The design is deliberately contemporary to reflect a modern city and vibrant university in line with city living aspirations."