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Harris Park orphanage housing scheme expected to be rejected

Posted on - 30th November, 2020 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Business, Cadley, Campaigns, Fulwood, Greyfriars, Housing, Politics, Preston buildings & attractions, Preston Council, Preston News, Redevelopment, Sharoe Green
Harris Park, the former orphanage, stands off Garstang Road in Fulwood Pic: Tony Worrall
Harris Park, the former orphanage, stands off Garstang Road in Fulwood Pic: Tony Worrall

A multi-millionaire’s proposals to build a housing development in the grounds of a grade-II listed former orphanage and gardens in Fulwood looks set to be thrown out.

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Yousuf Bhailok had instructed planning agents Cassidy + Ashton to put in plans for dozens of homes and the conversion of the former Harris Park orphanage into flats.

The development, which saw amended proposals scaling-back the number of homes tabled just weeks ago, is expected to be rejected by councillors.

Nearby residents in Fulwood have led a campaign to halt the plans with more than 1,000 people joining the Friends of Harris Park group and raising more than £2,000 to instruct lawyers and planning experts to table objections.

More than 200 objections were received to the plans from 176 households.

Heritage groups lined up to object to the proposals, which had been amended to see 10 new homes built, with nine apartments created within the former Harris Conference Centre and Clayton Hall.

Harris Park revised development plans example. Pic: Preston City Council
Harris Park revised development plans example. Pic: Preston City Council

Outline plans were submitted for 23 new homes to be built on land, including the former cricket pitch, at the side and rear of the orphanage building. This was a reduction from 58 in the original application.

Read more: Plans for former Sharoe Green neuro centre to be converted into education centre

What the city council say

Planning officers have decided to recommend the plans for refusal at the planning committee on Thursday (3 December).

They write: “The proposal would introduce an unacceptable suburban development into the entirety of the Harris Children’s Home Conservation Area and Grade II Listed Historic Park and Garden. This impact would have substantial harm (to a high level) upon the character and appearance of the conservation area by impacting upon the space afforded the current buildings and would intrude into the character of the informal landscape.

“The new road layout would ignore the historic layout and would harm the connectivity of the planned circular route around the focus of the village green. Development of the cricket pitch to the west of the village green would erode the character of the landscape in which the heritage assets are experienced, through a combination of overdevelopment and vegetation removal. This would cumulatively harm the significance of the heritage assets affected, a level of harm which is considered to be substantial, and provide a suburban context which would greatly diminish the special interest derived from the wider landscape setting. The public benefits in this case are limited and not substantial enough to outweigh the substantial harm identified.

“The entire site is considered to be a rare and intact purpose built and designed orphanage, the only one to be included in the statutory list of buildings of architectural and historic interest compiled by Historic England.”

Aerial view of the Harris Park site Pic: C+W/Save Britain's Heritage
Aerial view of the Harris Park site Pic: C+W/Save Britain’s Heritage

Council officers go on to state the plans lack adequate information to demonstrate highways safety, with the new access road going onto the A6 at Garstang Road.

Lancashire County Council’s highways department said the plans did not ‘demonstrate a safe and suitable access for all highways users’.

Objections lined up against the plans

Joanne Adams and Prema Taylor on behalf of campaign group Friends of Harris Park say: “Hidden behind high hedges and railings, Harris Park is one of Preston’s forgotten gems. Sadly, the grade II listed park has been in private ownership since 2007, left neglected and now in danger of being built over with a housing estate. As proud Prestonians, we are passionate about preserving what is left of our local history and heritage and passing it down to future generations. We therefore call on the city council planning committee to refuse these damaging plans.”

Save Britain’s Heritage executive president Marcus Binney said: “The Victorians delighted in laying out model villages with matching houses, often in ornamental styles. Most were built on large country estates, but they had an urban counterpart in Dr Barnardo’s Homes, only two of which now survive. These model villages evolved from Blaise Hamlet near Bristol, created by the great John Nash architect of Buckingham Palace and are a precursor of the garden cities of the early 20th century. The Harris village is of exceptional quality and must be protected from intrusive development.”

Objections were also listed from Historic England, the Victorian Society, Lancashire Garden Trust and Sport England.

Read more: Friends of Tulketh Hall call for sale of former Star Youth Centre to be stopped

Two applications will be heard on Thursday at planning committee, the first for the mix of housing and conversion of the existing buildings, and the second for the listed building consent to be able to alter and build on the site as it is grade-II listed.

Both applications are listed for refusal.

See the latest planning applications for where you live

Cassidy + Ashton in planning documents at the time of lodging the scheme said: “The proposals represent a high quality scheme.

“The redevelopment of the vacant recreation ground and existing buildings represents an opportunity to provide for the borough a mix of housing of different size, type and affordability to meet current and future need.”

History of the orphanage site

The former orphanage became the Harris Knowledge Park when owned by the University of Central Lancashire Pic: Tony Worrall
The former orphanage became the Harris Knowledge Park when owned by the University of Central Lancashire Pic: Tony Worrall

In 1877 Edmund Robert Harris, a wealthy lawyer from Preston, left £300,000 to the city to set up a philanthropic trust in memory of the Harris family.

Harris Park Orphanage was built as part of the donation, in a Barnardo’s-style village homes orphanage. The donation also helped to build the Harris Library and the Harris Institute of Literature, Art, Science and Technical Education (now UCLan).

Lancashire County Council took on operating the site, under lease, in 1940 as a children’s home.

It closed in 1982 and was then bought by Preston Polytechnic, the forerunner of the University of Central Lancashire.

The university then sold the site to Yousuf Bhailok in 2006.

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What do you think of the expected decision? Let us know your views in the comments below

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