A life-line for vacant office sites could spark the next phase of Preston’s City Living aspirations.
Details of plans to convert two sections of a prominent but disused facility in the city centre into more than 100 flats have been revealed.
Despite the developers behind the proposals remaining tight-lipped, the outlines may represent a catalyst for what could be a game-changing 2018.
Several high-profile development bids are springing up across Preston following the city council’s flagship City Living Strategy was unveiled earlier this year.
And town hall bosses have said their aim to deliver a new wave of high-quality residential properties remains right on track.
The latest bid - submitted to the town hall this month - outlines plans to convert both Elizabeth House and Red Rose House, part of the high-rise Preston office centre facility on Lancaster Road.
Preston is full of opportunity and we are keen to see homes built for people who want to live, work and play in the centre of the city.
The eight and 10 storey blocks are set to be transformed into a total of 108 one and two bedroom apartments.
The development, if approved and brought to reality, would be nearby to the city’s new plaza and Youth Zone created by the transformation of the bus station and the revamped Harris Quarter.
Both the applicants Trillium Property and agent Smith and Love Planning Consultants told the Lancashire Post it is too early in the planning process to comment any further on the application.
But documents submitted to the town hall reveal Elizabeth House would house 48 apartments and Red Rose House the remaining 60.
A report reads: “The buildings are highly suited to residential conversion and can provide one and two bedroom apartments of the type, size and quality that are needed in Preston, to appeal to the young professional and post-graduate target market.”
Hoping to initiate a housing boom, city council bosses appointed property experts Cushman & Wakefield last year to create a City Living Prospectus to identify opportunities for developers.
In the months since, interest has been registered in locations such as the 10 storey former carpet warehouse on Church Row, off Church Street, in addition to former county council buildings close to Winckley Square and several other prominent city locations.
Many of the apartments have already been snapped up, months ahead of construction, developers told the Lancashire Post earlier this year.
Coun Robert Boswell, deputy Leader of Preston City Council said: “Preston is full of opportunity and we are keen to see homes built for people who want to live, work and play in the centre of the city. Since launching the City Living Strategy earlier this year, there has been a significant amount of interest from developers.”
Further details of the Elizabeth and Red Rose House proposals are expected to be unveiled in further planning submissions in early 2018.
One potential stumbling block, however, could be the amount of apartments being offered without parking spaces.
The documents reveal “that at least 65 of the proposed apartments” will be “car-free” as they will “appeal to residents who choose city centre living and are unlikely to own a car.”
Although the central location will be fully serviced with public transport links, planning committee members may have concerns about the parking provision offered.
Paving way for full outline bid
This initial application is the first step, paving the way for a full outline bid at a later date.
The developers do not require approval for change of use from office to flats, but planning guidelines dictate they must confirm with the town hall that this is the case, which is what this first batch of documents has done.
Council officers are likely to give the green light at this stage as long as they are satisfied the development is not, for example, a flood risk, causing a noise impact on neighbouring areas or contamination risk.
The more detailed applications would then be subjected to further scrutiny, likely to culminate in an appearance before the planning committee.
City centre locations that are set for residential development following planning bids
• Former Register Office on Guildhall Street set to become 35 flats.
• Winckley House, another former Lancashire County Council office building, set to become 76 flats
• Grade II listed former post office on West Cliff, to become 31 luxury apartments.
• Former carpet warehouse on Church Row, 69 apartments and two retail units.
‘We will work with developers’
Launching the City Living vision earlier this year, Chris Hayward, director of development for Preston City Council said: “We are committed to delivering a step change in our residential offer and we are in a strong position to support developers who share our vision.
“Our city is full of opportunities for investors and we are already seeing major public/private initiatives taking place in the hotel and leisure sectors.
“We want to see the homes built for the people who want to live in the beating heart of the city and live, work and play in Preston.
“We will work with developers to support new investment in the city and help them access public and private sector finance opportunities. In terms of planning, Preston City Council and its partners have established a clear strategy to enable City Living to move quickly forward.
“We recognise the value of our architectural and heritage assets and open space and we want these to be the catalyst for high quality residential development.”