£40m leisure scheme moves to next stage after council green light

Animate complex

Preston City Council has given the green light for a £40m leisure and entertainment complex to move to the next key stage of development.

Animate is being funded by the city council, with support from the Towns Fund and the City Deal and will be publicly owned.

Located within the Harris Quarter, this transformational scheme includes an eight-screen cinema, a bowling alley, various food and beverage units and new city parking, with improvements to the surrounding public realm, including new landscaping, trees and street lighting.

It will contribute to creating a diverse and thriving cultural and leisure offer in the city centre. Both well known national and local independent brand restaurants will be part of the scheme.

Preston City Council’s development partner, Maple Grove Developments, received full sign off on the next crucial milestone at the October 20 full council meeting, with main contractor Eric Wright Construction ready to start the important construction phase.

The decision gives the go ahead for the building contract to be signed and preparation for work on site will start over the next month, with a start on site in early 2023.

Leader of Preston City Council, Cllr Matthew Brown, said: “Over the coming months, the people of Preston will start to see a lot more activity on site as the diggers and heavy machinery move in and the build starts to take shape.

“Preston City Council and its development partner, Maple Grove Developments, are committed to delivering Animate, a first class leisure and entertainment development that is central to our regeneration plans for the city and a catalyst for attracting further investment and development. The high street, and how we use it, is radically changing and we are building resilience with a diverse leisure and cultural offer to support the retail sector.”

He added: “Animate is being funded and retained by the council as a strategic public asset and we are confident in the benefits that this development will bring. The decision is underpinned by our commitment to the Preston Model – our Community Wealth Building strategy – which is to create and support long term local jobs, training and investment, and to help bring about positive changes in the standard of living for our residents by ensuring more of our local economy is democratically and socially owned.”

John Chesworth, chair of the Preston Towns Fund Board, said: “One of the key priorities of Preston’s 15-year Investment Plan is to transform the city’s cultural infrastructure, focusing on our cultural and leisure facilities, public spaces and programmes. A significant part of the Towns Fund is focused on this priority and Animate is a cornerstone project, so it will be fantastic to see work starting on site.

“A vibrant cultural life in Preston will be a key driver of economic prosperity for the city and it is hoped that Animate, along with Harris your Place, will be the first of many large scale investments to enhance the leisure and cultural offering in Preston.”

As an important go-to entertainment destination in the city centre, the development will boost footfall and consumer spend in the city centre, supporting both the day and night-time economy, encouraging people to stay out longer and enjoy the city centre’s other cultural attractions.

It will include:

  • Eight-screen cinema including a large format experience screen
  • 16 lane bowling alley
  • Five new restaurants and bars
  • A street food hub
  • New public terrace next to Preston Markets
  • A new below ground level 164-space car park
  • Complementary public realm and outdoor terrace for alfresco dining
  • Improved pedestrian links between the scheme and the bus station car park
  • A changing places facility

The scheme is part funded by Towns Fund investment (£3.4m) and City Deal (£3.25m). Animate will provide more than 140 long term skilled jobs for local people, including construction employment and training opportunities throughout the building works.

As one of the key Town Deal projects and central to the £200m Harris Quarter Towns Fund Investment Programme, Animate will help to regenerate the Harris Quarter and support the council’s commitment to Preston’s City Investment Plan 2035, complementing further investment in the Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library, flexible office space for local businesses in Amounderness House and the Youth Zone.

Cllr Brown added: “The council is doing a lot to support people through the current cost of living crisis but we also need to help create a fairer, long term economy and this development will help deliver that. An Animate Community Benefit Framework has been agreed between Preston City Council and Maple Grove Developments, to assist the delivery of the project and to provide the maximum impact for Preston’s residents and businesses, creating employment, skills training, using local labour with trade union access, volunteering opportunities and placements within local colleges.”

Cllr Borrow, executive member for planning and regulation, said: “Preston is a great place to invest and it is crucial that we continue to lead and support wider development and investment that underpins our long term vision for the future, such as our City Living Strategy and the Station Quarter Project, that will position Preston as the economic and commercial centre of Lancashire, a city that is a vibrant, modern and thriving place to live, work and play.”

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