£1M WINCKLEY SQUARE VISION: Creating the perfect garden

Artistic impressions of how Winckley Square would look
Artistic impressions of how Winckley Square would look
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This is how a city centre garden could look after a £1m transformation project.

The team behind plans to reinvent Preston’s Winckley Square has unveiled the vision for the Georgian landmark, including improved drainage, widened pathways and new lighting.

The designs have been drawn up to incorporate and reflect the area’s rich history and heritage, and will be submitted to Lottery bosses in the coming weeks.

Initial plans were given a first-round pass last year and, if the detailed proposals are given the go-ahead, work is hoped to start early next year.

Explaining the conservation plan behind the project, Ben Williams, project manager from environmental charity Groundwork Lancashire West and Wigan said: “It is really what is the history of the gardens, how did they develop over time, what is important about that history and how does this understanding of the heritage influence what we do on the site.

“We have been very conscious throughout this of what happened to the last set of proposals that came in, which were generated from outside the area.”

The new plans have now been influenced by experts from across the city, including Preston Historical Society.

Ben said: “They came together with some support from the Heritage Lottery Fund experts to write this conservation plan for us, so the big governing document that’s going to steer the whole project is something Preston led and owned.”

The team has researched the history of the area, which has been incorporated in the new designs.

Ben said: “We know the gardens all started life as individual plots when the Georgian town houses were built.

“The gardens stayed as private plots until about the Second World War when the railings got scavenged for the war effort.”

The designs have been drawn up to retain the field-like, rural land form in the centre of the square and reflect the area’s “understated” Georgian roots.

Policies behind the plans include preserving the historic tree population and removing more modern “inappropriate” additions, to communicate the gardens’ origins as individual plots and to repair original features including the railings and the Peel memorial.

Archeological features will also be highlighted including the original Syke culvert, the site of a fountain documented in a 1852 image, and any Second World War infrastructure.

The team also wants to avoid “excess commercialisation” of the gardens.

Ben said: “People love it as a city centre wilderness so we want to keep that and avoid rectifying it too much.”

Simon Turner, of the Winckley Square Community Interest Company, said: “When we started, our policy was to represent the interests of the community. It was a blank canvas for people to submit their thoughts.

“From absolutely nothing, the whole community has worked together in predominantly a voluntary capacity and to get where we are now it just shows what can be achieved when you work together.”

Plans for the revamped square include the restoration of the Robert Peel statue and new lighting at entrance points, and recessed up lights to illuminate the statue.

They also propose an elliptical paved area to be created in one of the former resident promenade routes.

There will also be “interpretive” panels around the garden to tell the story of the site, as well as event space and tree surgery. Initial support for the Winckley Square futures project was received by Groundwork, the Community Interest Company (CIC) and Preston Council from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund last year.

If the latest designs are accepted, work is hoped to be completed by next summer.

The bid has been developed in a partnership between Groundwork, the CIC, Preston Council, Preston Business Improvement District and Lancashire County Council.

The public is invited to an event at Preston’s Flag Market tomorrow from 10am to 4pm, where people can give their views on the plans.