Proposed internal and external changes to the Harris worth £10.2m have been approved by Preston City Council’s Planning Committee.Advertisement
The #HarrisYourPlace project addresses safety, accessibility and structural issues at the Grade I listed museum, art gallery and library.
Preston City Council says the plans aim to “conserve and reveal original architecture”, while ensuring the Harris’ future as “a community hub and world-class cultural attraction”.
Through the planned changes, the Council hopes to see an additional 100,000 visitors per year at the museum.
The Council says local people, community groups and partners, and Historic England have been consulted on the planned works.
However, heritage charity the Victorian Society slammed the plans earlier this week, saying Preston City Council “must do more to understand and protect Preston’s historic environment”.
Particular concerns were raised over the planned external changes, with a spokesperson for the Victorian Society saying: “The applicants have shown great concern for the interiors of the building, but have failed to apply the same care to the exteriors, where the proposed changes will cause significant harm to the building’s architectural character.”
Read more: Victorian Society slams ‘damaging’ plans to change the Harris
Speaking after the plans were approved, Councillor Peter Kelly, Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure Services, said Preston City Council takes it role as custodians of the Harris “very seriously”.
He said: “Planning approval is a major step forward in this project, which is important not only for the Harris building, but for Preston and Lancashire more broadly, helping to bring more visitors to our city.
“We are proud custodians of the Harris Museum and we take very seriously our role to protect the building and ensure that it can be used and appreciated by generations to come.
“The Harris is a building in use and, as such, we have a duty to ensure that it can be accessed and enjoyed by all. We are therefore pleased to have received approval for the plans which are both sympathetic to its architecture and offer vital benefits to its accessibility, safety and suitability as a home to its precious collections.”
The application now requires final agreement from the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt Hon Oliver Dowden.
A bid for £4.5m from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to enable delivery of the project has also been made, with a decision due in March 2021.
Read more: National Lottery bid for £4.5m submitted for Harris Museum redevelopment
An additional £3.6m of funding is already in place from Preston City Council, Lancashire County Council, the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal, Arts Council England and local supporters including members of the public and the Friends of the Harris.
If approval is gained from both the Secretary of State and The National Lottery Heritage Fund, works will start in October 2021.
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What do you think of the plans to revamp the Harris? Let us know in the comments.