PRESTON is to get a luxurious new city centre hotel, thanks to a deal between County Hall and its own pension fund.
Developers are to turn back the clock to Victorian times by reopening the palatial Park Hotel overlooking Miller Park as a luxury venue and spa, 66 years after it closed its doors to the public.
The pension fund has snapped up the imposing ex-council office building and will now spend millions returning it to its former glory as the city’s premier hotel, which once boasted royalty on its guest list.
“This is fantastic news as it represents another major, multi-million pound investment in the city centre,” said LCC leader Coun Jennifer Mein, announcing the deal.
The Park, which in its heyday played host to the Prince of Wales (later to become King Edward VII) as well as Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and entertainer Gracie Fields, will undergo a multi-million pound transformation.
The scheme will create a luxury hotel and spa, with high quality conference and office accommodation to replace a 1960s office block which currently occupies part of the site. LCC revealed talks have already been held with a hotel operator who will run the new venture.
Coun Mein said: “It is another development that, together with the huge amount of activity and investment surrounding the City Deal, tells potential investors that this area is on the up and looking to the future.”
Coun Kevin Ellard, chairman of the pension fund, added: “Not only will this renaissance of the Victorian era Park Hotel enhance this part of the city, it will also boost the leisure and commercial offer to residents and visitors alike.”
The Park Hotel, with its commanding views over Miller and Avenham Parks, was originally the family home of the Simpsons who owned Preston’s famous gold thread works.
It was bought jointly by two railway companies and opened as the Railway Station Hotel in 1883 to serve the increasing number of first class passengers coming in and out of Preston Station during a golden era for rail travel.
For almost 70 years it was owned by the railways and British Transport Hotels – it even had a covered walkway connecting it to the station. But it was sold in 1950 to the county council for use as offices, a move which was opposed in Parliament by Preston North MP Julian Amery because of what he described as a “great shortage” of hotel accommodation in the town.
LCC moved out in 2011 and put the building on the market in 2012 to raise money to offset government budget cuts.
At the time the Vicar of Preston, Fr Timothy Lipscomb, said: “It is an iconic Walt Disney fairytale castle. It would make a magnificent boutique hotel.”
Aiden Turner-Bishop of the Preston and South Ribble Civic Trust added: “It really adds something to Preston’s skyline. I think it is an opportunity because there are no really nice stylish hotels in Preston.
“It would be an opportunity to have an up-market hotel close to the railway.”