What Prestonians asked Jon Finch about Harris Museum plans

Posted on - 24th October, 2016 - 5:24pm | Author - | Posted in - Arts, Politics, Preston City Centre, Preston Council, Preston News
How the Harris Museum may look in future with an entrance direct from the Flag Market

How the Harris Museum may look in future with an entrance direct from the Flag Market

As a major revamp of the Harris is unveiled, we asked the man behind it to explain more.


Blog Preston readers had the chance to quiz Jon Finch who is responsible for the re-imagining the Harris project which includes the museum, art gallery and library.

You covered a range of topics during the Facebook Q&A as the Harris prepares to submit its bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for millions of pounds in funding.

Question: New idea looks great, but can we please lighten up the inside and remove that hideous pink / peach on the walls in the cafe / library entrance? – Matt Allen

Answer from Jon: Matt, thanks for letting us know you like the early ideas. The plans will certainly concentrate on opening up the insides of the building, particularly the ground floor. This will create a welcoming, well lit and user friendly experience for people as the come into the building. I can’t say at this stage what colour the walls will be in the atrium and other areas! But we will do our best to make sure they create the right environment for the visitor in the future.

Q: Hi Jon Have read about your vision for the building and that it will be “truly accessible” for all – do the plans include a Changing Places toilet? ie a larger disabled toilet that includes a hoist and changing table for people unable to stand? – Jackie Sinclair

A: Thank you Jackie, increasing access to the Harris is fundamental to the early designs and will remain so throughout the development of the project. At this stage we have not yet got into the detail of the exact nature of the toilet provision in the Re-Imagined Harris, however I will ensure your suggestion is included in our analysis, I know that Changing Places toilets have been seen as invaluable elsewhere. Please rest assured that increasing access to people with disabilities is core to the work we are undertaking, and will continue to be.

Q: As an iconic Grade 1 listed building it should stay as exactly as it is!! – Sue Hutchins

A: Thank you Sue, we fully appreciate the architectural significance of the Harris, however we also need to balance the need to increase access to and usage of the building. As part of the extensive public consultation we have undertaken, a large number people have told us that they find the Harris building physically and emotionally intimidating. The early ideas you have seen are our first thoughts about how we could open up the building and enable more of the people of Preston and Lancashire to enjoy the Harris and the services it provides.

Read more: What Blog Preston readers said on seeing the Harris plans

Q: I see someone has already beat me to it but having a disabled child I’d really like to see a building in Preston being truly accessible for all as currently there’s no building in the city centre that is truly accessible!! Can you please let us know how you are going to achieve this please? – Sally Curzon Smith

A: Sally, you are right to focus on this issue. As I mentioned in a previous reply increasing physical and emotional accessibility is fundamental to the early designs and will continue to be crucial throughout the development process. As we take the project forward we plan to develop specific consultation groups that will focus on key areas of the project. For instance we are in the process of pulling together one to look into the needs of young people. One of the next set of groups we will look to set up will consider the physical accessibility of the Harris now and in the future, and will build on a number of existing groups and initiatives we have previously delivered in the Harris. The group will work with us to contribute, review and challenge the progress we make.

Q: Some people ‘find the building physically and emotionally intimidating’. Can you explain more? And could other things not be done which don’t include carving a huge hole in a grade 1 listed building in order to overcome this? – Caroline McKevitt

A: Caroline, yes happy to provide a little more detail. As I mentioned I have talked to hundreds of people over the last few months to gain an insight into how people feel about the Harris. This has included large numbers of both people who use the Harris, and those that don’t. Many people have told me that they find the Harris building challenging, they find the classical nature of the Harris intimidating. Significant numbers of others are put off by the large wall we have at the front of the building, and I have been told by many people that they don’t have the confidence to come in currently. The suggestion of creating the entrance at the front was reached after an extensive options appraisal looking at a number of alternatives. We are keen to hear people’s views on this idea and the others we have suggested because we are at a very early stage of the design development and will need to shape, change and evolve the ideas in the coming months.

Jon Finch answering your questions about the Harris

Jon Finch answering your questions about the Harris

Q: Will it be stone and not concrete used in any work? – Mal Bolton

A: Thank you Mal. We are still at a very early stage of the development process, however any construction/building materials we will use will be sympathetic to the original materials used to build the Harris, as would be expected with any improvements or restoration to a Grade I listed building.

Q: You say £15m but how much is coming from the lottery? How does the funding work? – Gary Bond

A: Gary, that is a good question. We will be asking for a significant chunk from the Heritage Lottery Fund, more than half. However we have also begun approaching other funders from across the country asking them to support the project, and we have had positive early responses from a number already. We plan to bring in 90% of the funding from such external sources. We feel that these funders should be investing in Preston now, rather than other towns and cities. There is extensive regeneration of the city centre at the moment, generating a tangible impetus, the Harris should be a crucial part of this.

Q: How involved has Wayne Hemingway been?

A: We have brought in a number of external experts to help us with the development of the Stage 1 HLF bid, for instance Purcell architects have been appointed to help as assess the condition of and improvements to the building. Hemingway Design have been brought in to provide us with some early thoughts on how we might review, re-organise and improve the services we currently deliver within the building. They have significant experience of undertaking such work in other towns and cities across the UK. These ideas will then be fed into the development of the HLF application.

Q: What’s the timescale for this?

A: We are still very much at an early stage, and this is why securing the views of the people of Preston and Lancashire is so important. We will submit a Stage 1 HLF bid later this year, we will hear if it is successful or not in the spring. If we are successful we will then work up the detail of the project in the following 18-24 months, resubmitting to HLF for Stage 2 in late 2018/early 2019. We would then hear sometime during 2019, so work wouldn’t start on the Harris until 2020 at the earliest. Any work is unlikely to be completed before 2021. So the project still has a very long way to go, and we will engage closely with local communities throughout that period.

Here’s how Blog Preston readers have been voting in a poll about the Harris changes.

What do you think of the Harris changes? Let us know in the comments below. You can also give feedback to the council in their consultation.

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