City Living is alive and kicking in the heart of Preston.
That’s the belief in the corridors of Preston Town Hall and in the offices of North West architects after plans were revealed for a new luxury 20-storey apartment complex, complete with private balconies overlooking the city.
The staggering build in Church Row, off Church Street, will house 80 new apartments with living space for 234 people to the immediate south of the 16-storey Guild Centre.
The development lies in Preston Council’s Harris Quarter, set out under its City Living scheme in 2017. The section of the city has been earmarked as “scope for new apartments close to the city’s improving leisure offer”, with the hopes of increasing football and spend in Preston.
Coun Peter Moss, Deputy Leader of Preston Council and Cabinet Member for Planning and Regulation, says development continues to progress in the right direction as the City Living scheme continues to flourish.
And while his role on the council’s planning committee leaves him unable to speak about specific development, Coun Moss said the end goal is about making the city centre a better place to be – including when it comes to activities after the traditional working day has finished.
“It’s all about the city centre and how we want to offer both work and play,” said Coun Moss.
“We’ve got a strong platform and the greater the choice the greater benefits.
“We don’t want people to be leaving the city at 5pm but instead staying in and enjoying their evenings, whether that’s cultural offerings, art, or cinema.”
With the council’s “strong basis to build on” through the number of projects in the pipeline, Coun Moss noted the additional investment the council is set to dedicate to family accommodation through its soon-to-be-published Stoneygate Masterplan.
The Stoneygate area has been earmarked as an “urban village” by the council, involving redesigning Church Street to be more in line with Fishergate.
Altrincham-based 1618 Architects are the agents behind 20-storey apartment complex, producing eye-catching designs revealing what the build will look like on the city skyline.
Inspiration has been taken from The Leadenhall Tower in London and its prominent sloped side, something they say has been “sympathetically designed” with neighbouring buildings taken in to consideration.
Speaking to the Post, company associate Mohammed Munshi said: “Preston is starting to boom. The Church Street area needs development but it’s getting there but slowly.
“The city will be a mini Manchester soon enough.”
The ground floor of the development will have two brand new retail units, something Mr Munshi says will be an excellent opportunity for a “nice restaurant or bar” to add to the nightlife scene.
The plans were first lodged by Preston developer Eastern Estates Ltd in June 2017 to turn the site into a 10 storey apartment complex made up of 69 flats.
But Mr Munshi said they wanted to come back with bigger and better plans, with “greater ambition” to invest further in Preston.
Mark Whittle, manager of Preston Business Improvement District, said: “While others can debate the design of this apartment block, what is clear to us is that more good quality city centre housing is absolutely key to the growth of Preston.
“This is a welcome investment in a part of the city centre that has great potential but needs further regeneration.
“We hope that Preston City Council approve the plans that have been submitted and that work can begin quickly.
“City stakeholders and private investors need to continue to work together to ensure the city centre is a great place in which to work, invest, visit and live.”
The project has been submitted to Preston City Council’s planning department which has yet to approve or deny the plans.
Other projects currently in the pipeline include transforming the former Government office buildings Red Rose House and Elizabeth House in Lancaster Road in to 130 apartments.
Planning agent Andrew Titterton of Studio KMA said: “The area is a priority for significant public sector investment and redevelopment with district and unique opportunities centred around the Markets Quarter, bus station and Guild Hall.
“It is envisaged that the revitalisation of this area could include a new city centre with restaurants and bars, enhancement of the city’s retail offer, upgraded public transport facilities and a transformed public realm.”
Elizabeth House and Red Rose House have both been vacant since October 2018.
A sports hall on the corner of Garden Street and Mount Street, next to Winckley Square, has been earmarked for demolition with a nine storey apartment block with 65 flats hoping to be built in its place.
What is City Living?
“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.”
Those were the words of Director of Development for Preston Council, Chris Hayward, when introducing the council’s City Living scheme in May 2017.
The scheme targets young professionals; students and postgraduates; families and couples; and the retired, under the banner that the city should grow to have enough central attractions, as well as sufficient transport links, for more people to want live in the city centre.
Speaking to the Post in October 2017, Mr Hayward and then council leader, the late Peter Rankin, both made the argument about retail moving away from the standard 5pm close time.
Mr Hayward said: “My wife works in Liverpool and she was saying to me this week it was 7pm in the evening and Liverpool city centre is buzzing.
“Manchester is another city as well. In the past I’ve taken my daughters to concerts and have been wondering what to do with my time, and up until 8’oclock you can at least do a bit of shopping.
“I’m not saying we have to be exactly like Manchester and Liverpool but that sudden closure between five and six doesn’t make sense.”
Mr Rankin said:”For me at the moment, and for anyone who is working in the city centre – if they want to go out in the evening – it would be really nice to do a bit of shopping beforehand.
“This has happened to me where I’ve been doing my work and thought about popping to the shops about five o’clock and at that time they’re already beginning to close down with shop workers out with the hoover.”
Mr Rankin was a vocal advocate of the scheme up to his death in June 2018, and was one of the masterminds behind the likes of Preston’s new Market Hall to further drive footfall into the city.