IT’S boom time for Preston, city leaders have said, with plans in place to transform iconic buildings.
A new live music venue is about to open its doors in the Guild Hall, with proposals for a bowling alley and karaoke booths for the complex also set to be rubber-stamped by Town Hall bosses.
An application to transform the former Post Office into a boutique hotel is imminent, with work under way on a multi-million pound project to “re-imagine” the Harris and plans submitted for Preston Youth Zone.
On top of that, proposals for a new cinema development are set to be discussed by planning bosses, and work is under way on the second phase of the market regeneration project.
“It is very good news for Preston”, said council leader Peter Rankin.
“Ever since people felt very let down by the failure of Tithebarn to happen, people have been waiting for something.
“Separately, things have been going on, and it’s all coming together at much the same time with the Post Office building, the new market is moving ahead, the canopies are well on the way to being refurbished and look fantastic.
“We’ve got the planning application from Simon Rigby, he is moving ahead very quickly in sprucing up that building and bringing in lots of different uses and attracting businesses.”
Coun Rankin described the Grade I-listed Harris as the “jewel in the crown”, and said a stage one bid would be submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund in the autumn.
He said it was hoped it would lead to “great things and a complete redevelopment of a much-loved building in the centre of Preston”.
He continued: “Things are coming together and looking good. Things are on the up.
“I’m confident the city centre is going to look good in the near future with the new developments and lots of people doing different things in the city centre.
“That can’t help being good for the whole of Preston’s local economy.
“It will help our retail economy as well, because the more people are in the city centre, the better it is for businesses and shops.”
Robin Carey, division leader for communications, marketing and public relations at the University of Central Lancashire, said: “It should be welcomed as good news.
“It isn’t the entire solution, but it’s a very positive step in the right direction.
“My opinion is if you invest in Preston, it’s got a big enough base within its economy to attract people, not just to live, but also businesses to be there.
“If you have great facilities, people say we don’t need to go to Manchester and Liverpool, we’ve got great hotels and places to visit here, we’ll stay.
“It’s really important for keeping younger people.
“It needs that council leadership to start with, of ‘we believe in our city’, and creating a climate where it is attracting businesses to stay.”
He described the latest city-centre developments as “small steps”, but said: “The future is made of small, positive steps and that, combined with a strategy to attract the right businesses and keep young people within the city, is a very positive sign.
“In 20 years, if we get the plans right, we could have a radically different city.
“We could have a turn-around success story.”