‘Losing these Victorian gems would be a tragedy for Preston’ - Protesters voice strong objections as St Joseph’s Orphanage faces demolition

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Heritage campaigners are trying to block a plan to turn a former orphanage into a housing development. David Nowell reports

The proposals for the Grade II-listed St Joseph’s Orphanage off Mount Street, Preston, would involve the demolition of major elements of the site, including most of the Victorian orphanage block.

The St Josephs site as it is today

The St Josephs site as it is today

Now the Victorian Society has voiced its strong objection to the plans.

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It says that losing the orphanage would be a tragedy for Preston’s heritage.

The plans have yet to be considered by Preston City Council’s planning committee.

How the St Josephs could look if the plans go ahead

How the St Josephs could look if the plans go ahead

The Victorian Society has urged the developers to rethink their plans – retaining the historic structures.

Campaigners say more should have been done to preserve the decaying buildings .

Tom Taylor, Conservation Adviser for the Victorian Society, said: ‘The demolition of almost all the historic buildings will substantially harm the significance of the site.

“The significance of the site can be attributed largely to the exterior shells of the historic buildings, and these can practicably be saved.

“The principal aim of any development plans should be to retain them.”

Development team Czero and Buttress Architects were brought in by Preston City Council after previous efforts to find a solution to the St Joseph’s site floundered.

The team previously worked together to save the Grade II-listed Unitarian Chapel, in Manchester, converting it into student accommodation.

The Preston development proposals, submitted in September, create a series of public and private spaces with gardens and new buildings reflecting the surrounding urban grain.

The centrepiece of the development will be St Joseph’s Square, where the restored chapel and tower will be framed by ten townhouses, in a 21st century interpretation of Preston’s Georgian squares.

The small but highly detailed chapel, along with the landmark tower and spire, will be restored and converted into unique apartments.

The view of the chapel from Mount Street will be opened up for the first time since the hospital wing was built in 1933.

Three further apartment buildings will complete the scheme.

On the southern edge of the site there will be a block of 22 apartments for the over 55s, with generous dimensions and a private garden.

On Mount Street two new blocks will frame public gardens, which will also provide a new pedestrian route linking Theatre Street through to Mount Street and then on to Winckley Square.

Lead architect Stephen Anderson, director at Buttress, said in September: “The scheme will not only transform the site into an attractive place to live but will make a positive contribution to the city.”

It is not know when the plans will be considered by councillors.