A major scheme for Preston city centre faces being derailed as a council plan is not ready yet.Advertisement
Fishergate Shopping Centre’s owners have applied to convert the former TJ Hughes into a cinema and create a number of new restaurants and shops.
The £40m scheme appears not to have found favour with Preston City Council’s planning department.
At the end of a 44-page document detailing the technical notes of the development it reveals the scheme, anchored by a Vue Cinema, is likely to be recommended for refusal.
Chris Blackburn, planning officer, is listed as stating at a meeting in mid-January the application is ‘premature’ because the council’s city centre plan has not been signed off by central government.
Councillors on the city council’s planning committee will make the final decision when the Fishergate plans are debated – likely to be at the April meeting.
Related: Which big name chain restaurants are queuing up for the Fishergate development?
Fishergate developers are likely to make a passionate plea for the development to go ahead, and have already released figures claiming the new development could be worth £600,000-a-year more to the city council in improved business rates.
The city centre plan includes development of the Fishergate Centre in its current format and also in the future plan which is due to be adopted in late Spring.
Chris Goddard, director of planning consultants DP9, said: “We have considered the planning officer’s initial response and dealt with the issues raised, which are normal in a scheme of this size and significance.
“Further discussions are scheduled to take place and we are confident the proposals comply fully with current planning policy.
“Once the officers and councillors have had the chance to study the proposals in full, we believe Preston City Council will want work to begin on this £40 million investment in the city centre as soon as possible.
“It can be a catalyst for further meaningful investment and a real statement of intent that the city is truly open for business.”
A spokesman for Preston City Council said no recommendation had yet been made and it would be for councillors on the planning committee to decide the scheme on merit.
In December it was revealed the city council’s planning department was facing being put into ‘special measures’ because of a backlog in planning applications. The number of councillors on the committee was also being reduced due to constant overruling of officer’s recommendations by councillors.
A plan, from the city council, for the demolition of the Indoor Market, car park and Lancastria House, to be replaced by a cinema and restaurant complex, is due in April.
What do you think about the potential refusal? Do you use the Fishergate centre? Is it the right place for a cinema? Let us know in the comments below