Uncertain future for iconic former art institute site

For sale: The Harris Institute now and, inset, in its pomp as an art school
For sale: The Harris Institute now and, inset, in its pomp as an art school
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The future of a historic city building remains uncertain more than a year after going on to the market.

Preston’s first art school, the Harris Institute in Avenham Lane, has been gathering dust and up for sale since June last year.

It has been part of Preston’s educational heritage since 1849.

Aidan Turner-Bishop

The site would set you back £650,000 but calls have been made to reopen the Grade II listed building to the public.

Aidan Turner-Bishop, former chairman of the Preston and South Ribble Civic Trust said: “It is a shame that it is closed and has been for some time. It would be good for it to be open for the public again or in some part of public use.

“It has been part of Preston’s educational heritage since 1849.

“Many people have warm memories of being students there when it was an art school.”

The building was funded by benefactor Edmund Harris, on the stipulation it would be used for educational purposes. It was built in 1846-49 with cash from the wealthy solicitor.

It was later used by UCLan for art studies but it was put up for sale in 2009 after the university moved its performing arts students to a new £15m facility at the main campus.

English Heritage had placed it on its ‘buildings at risk’ register in 2009 before it was bought by multi-millionaire tycoon Yousuf Bhailok in a deal worth around £300,000 to create a training school for Imams. It was removed from the at risk register earlier this year after improvement work was carried out but it remains vacant.

A spokesman for Eckersely Property Solutions, who are selling the premises, said: “It has more recently been used as an Islamic school but has been vacant for the past few months and we are currently marketing the property for sale with a consideration towards lettings of the properties.

“The property is Grade II* listed due to its special architectural and historical interest.

“It has a permitted use 
under Class D1 (Non Residential Institutions) of the Use Classes Order 2010 having previously been used for educational purposes.”

A spokesman for Preston City Council added: “The Harris Institute is an important building in Preston.

“It is grade II listed and is within a conversation area, so needs to be considered appropriately.”