£25m Fishergate plan submitted for approval
AMBITIOUS plans for the £25m revitalisation of the Fishergate Shopping Centre – heralded as a major step forward in the regeneration of Preston – have been officially submitted to city planning chiefs.
It offers one of the largest private sector investments in the city centre for more than two decades and, if approved, will create more than 250 new long-term jobs.
The redundant TJ Hughes store in the centre will be replaced with six modern shop units, a new mall linking to a feature entrance from the car park and a family-oriented leisure offer of five restaurants and a cinema to be operated by leading cinema operator Vue Entertainment.
The proposed development also includes striking new double height retail facades at the rear of the centre to create a much more welcoming and inviting point of arrival.
An extensive public consultation exercise has seen almost 1,000 people give their views on the proposed scheme since early September. Responses through email feedback and direct written responses to a questionnaire show:
Some 93% of respondents are in favour of the Fishergate Centre’s proposals; 95% said Preston needs a better range of shops, restaurants and leisure options; 92.7% of strongly agree or agree the Fishergate Centre is a good location for a cinema; 91% said the proposed extension to the centre would make them more likely to shop in Preston generally.
More than 250,000 people are estimated to have walked past a special exhibition mounted in the shopping centre to give the public full details of the proposals by owners Benson Elliot.
The company is hoping to begin work early next year if the city council’s planning committee gives the green light for the development.
As well as the long-term jobs, more than 150 construction workers will be employed during the development and building phase.
The proposals have received widespread backing from Preston’s business community, including Guild Hall owner Simon Rigby and Babs Murphy, chief executive officer of the Preston-based North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce.
Preston MP Mark Hendrick and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) have also welcomed the proposed large-scale investment in the city centre.
Benson Elliot director of retail Peter Cornforth said: “The overwhelming reaction to our proposals from the public has been hugely positive.
“People really want to see our plans turned into reality, and they can see the vibrancy it will add to the city centre, which is massively encouraging.
“We’ve received some great comments and suggestions and we’ve taken these on board in putting together our planning application, which has now been submitted to Preston City Council.
“The message we have delivered to the public in our consultation process is that the Fishergate Shopping Centre wants to up its game and play its part for Preston.
“As a well-funded private sector investor, we are able to deliver this project without any recourse to the public purse and begin work as soon as we get the go-ahead.
“We hope the city council will agree with us that our plans will encourage people to spend and enjoy more time in Preston that it adds to and complements the other great initiatives we are seeing to improve and revitalise the city centre.”
UCLan’s interim vice-chancellor Professor Mike Thomas said: “The new cinema, retail and leisure development in the Fishergate Centre, and indeed the exciting regeneration work taking place throughout the city, is fantastic news for the university and our students on so many different levels.
“The provision of an excellent university experience is a top priority for us in terms of academic, employment and social experiences and the new Fishergate proposals fit all three.
“From involvement in real-life case studies and academic project work to the opportunity for part-time jobs and leisure facilities, this project will enhance the city’s reputation among students as an attractive place to live, work and study.”