Sloping tower block in Preston city centre set for approval

A distinctive ‘sloping’ apartment block is one step closer to springing up in Preston city centre.

Monday, 27th April 2020, 8:34 pm

The 21-storey building on Church Row was first proposed back in 2017 – and has now been recommended for outline approval by planning officers.

The scale of the scheme would usually have seen the final decision taken by Preston City Council’s planning committee, taking into account officer advice. But with all council meetings suspended as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, the application will be determined by the authority’s chief executive under emergency powers, following consultation with political group leaders.

The site of the proposed building is currently occupied by retail and warehouse space which has been unoccupied since 2007.

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How the aprtment block on Church Row could look (image: 1618 Architects)

If approved, the development would include commercial premises at ground floor level, with a total of 80 one, two and three-bedroomed apartments above. It would have a glazed appearance, with windows on three of its four most visible sides.

Four “decorative spikes” are set to adorn the slope of the building protruding at the top of the 60-metre tower, a feature which officers concluded would help “soften” the appearance of the structure – similar in the design to the Urbis block in Manchester, which became home to the National Museum of Football after it was relocated from Preston.

A report presented to the chief executive for consideration finds that the height of the proposed apartments would be in-keeping with the nearby Guild Tower and Unicentre – in spite of being a “different architectural style”. Although it features five more storeys than the Guild Tower, the new block would be just four metres taller than the main roof of its elevated neighbour – with almost identical overall maximum roof heights once other features are factored in.

The scheme has been revised by applicants Eastern Estates since initial plans were lodged in order to address concerns over the “massing” of the building. Its first two storeys now match the height of buildings elsewhere on Church Row. The changes have also allowed for an increase in the number of apartments from the 69 originally planned.

Planning officers concluded that the amended proposal is suitable in spite of the site’s proximity to lower-level grade II-listed buildings in the surrounding area, including the eighteenth century Bears Paw pub on Church Street.

“There is no readily appreciable reason to suggest that [the] redevelopment…will impact –positively or negatively – on the historic interests of any listed buildings in a manner that is not already experienced through the imposing presence of other tall buildings such as the adjacent Guild Tower,” their report states.

The developers will not be required to include any affordable properties within the scheme, after planners accepted that such a requirement would make the scheme financially unviable. The expected return on the project stands at six percent – already below the 15-20 percent considered reasonable under planning guidance.

The building will require weekly – rather than the usual fortnightly – bin collections, which will be subject to a charge from Preston City Council.

There will be no parking provision for residents – but highways bosses did not object to the absence of spaces, on the basis of the sustainable city centre location. Bike storage will be available for 36 cycles.

Conditions are set to be imposed requiring submission of plans for separate approval detailing the materials to be used for the building and noise mitigation measures to protect future residents of the block from noise emanating from activity at the nearby Guild Hall and Blitz nightclub.

The public can make representations on the proposal up until midday on 4th May, by emailing [email protected]