Church Street has been a blight on Preston city centre for decades.Advertisement
On the eve of a major announcement by Preston City Council on how it proposes to tackle the Stoneygate area of the city, Blog Preston was granted an exclusive interview with the man brought in to solve it.
Martin Kirkpatrick from Buttress architects has more than two decades of experience – including seeing the Ancoats area of Manchester be regenerated.
He says there are many parellels between what is now one of the hottest districts in the UK and the Stoneygate area of Preston.
Martin said: “We took a chance on that area many years ago and if you look at the similar post-industrial buildings and the feel of it then Stoneygate is ripe for that kind of development.
“It does need people to take a bit of a chance on it but there is a lot of reward there.”
The Stoneygate Masterplan, which is to be launched during Friday (12 July), outlines how the city council sees the area from Church Street running down to Queen Street and the Ringway being revitalised.
Currently home to many boarded up buildings, wasteland former mill sites and some dubious goings on the area is a constant gripe for Blog Preston readers and Prestonians.
Buttress were appointed in June last year to oversee the creation of the development frame work.
Martin explained: “We spent months mapping the area and looking at all the potential uses for different parts of Stoneygate.
“It’s a fantastic area in terms of the character and also its relationship and connections to the city centre itself.
“Such great assets like the Minster, Cotton Court and those narrow windy streets too.”
He said one of the key things the Masterplan needed to promote was improving safety in the area.
Cardinal Newman College is contained within Stoneygate but with large groups of students moving between the Bus Station and the city centre, down to the campus, the area needs better and safer walkways.
Martin said: “Access, safety and routes are some of the key parts of any masterplan.
“As well as looking at where people go we need to try and improve the east-west access in the Church Street and Stoneygate areas.
“This may be through shared spaces, new junctions or improving existing ones.
“The current roundabout in Manchester Road close to the Cardinal Newman College is identified as one place in particular where major work is needed. This came up a lot with people we spoke to.”
Read more: Part of Church Street shut due to unsafe building
Regeneration in Church Street has been limited so far, with a small number of schemes taking place although Queen Street retail park has progressed in recent years.
Martin said: “There’s a complicated ownership structure in Stoneygate.
“You’ve got a real mix of public and private. And a lot of listed buildings too.
“There’s a lot of gap sites. This is where buildings have been demolished and I think this is exciting as this doesn’t restrict people as much. They can build there, and they can build big and get the land they want.
“This means there is potential and the owners we have spoken to are seeing that.
“But quite rightly they are saying why should we invest when there is no plan? Hopefully the Stoneygate Masterplan gives people the confident to do something in Preston and to see Stoneygate as a good place to make those investments.”
Returning to Ancoats, which was named the 13th coolest neigbourhood in the UK, Martin said it needs people to go that few extra steps.
He said: “I remember when we moved our offies there.
“There were those few extra minutes to get there and it wasn’t the best of areas.
“But look at it now and it is a real place where people want to be and considered trendy.
“Hopefully that can be Stoneygate in a few years time and being that place where people want to be again.”
Read more: Cities think-tank offers figures for why Preston is seeing a resurgence