Plans have been unveiled for a radical revamp of the former Preston magistrates’ court building – more than 20 years after it was last in use.Advertisement
Amounderness House, which sits at the corner of Lancaster Road and Earl Street – opposite the covered markets – has been earmarked for restoration since it formed part of Preston’s successful bid for cash from the government’s Towns Fund back in 2020.
It was announced in February this year that the Grade II-listed property would be converted into a flexible workspace hub after an operator was found to run the facility from late 2025.
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First, however, Preston City Council will plough £7.4m into making the vacant building fit for its new-found purpose.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) understands that a solely commercial solution to bringing the premises back into use had been impossible to find. The site has been largely redundant since new courts were opened on Ringway in the mid-1990s.
Details of the proposed transformation have now emerged in two planning applications that have been submitted by – and to – the city authority in order to get the permission needed to carry out the extensive works.
The refurbishment will include the demolition of add-ons that were built to the rear of Amounderness House – thought to be during the 1960s and 1970s – with these being replaced with a new, modern extension.
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That structure – of two to three storeys in height – will form a new frontage and accessible entrance that will enable the building to function as a “modern commercial space”, according to a design and access statement lodged as part of the bid for planning permission.
The property was originally constructed in 1857 as a police station with holding cells, before being extended in 1901.
It was developed around a courtyard area, which is currently used to park council vehicles. Under the proposal, the courtyard will be turned into a public space.
The 19th and early 20th century elements of the building will be retained and “sensitively redeveloped”, the planning application states. That will include any necessary restoration or repairs. The overhaul will endeavour to retain “the form and features of the historic building fabric, wherever possible”.
A so-called “soft strip” of the internal modifications made between 50 and 60 years ago has been carried out to remove the likes of suspended ceilings and the courtroom’s ‘dummy’ walls. That work was undertaken to allow for a full re-survey of the building’s interior in order to support a planning application specifically seeking consent for changes to a listed building.
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As well as the creation of the new extension, the second application also proposes the installation of a small electricity substation, which will serve both the revitalised Amounderness House and Preston Markets. That facility is to be located beneath the Grade II-listed Fish Market Canopy, near Birley Street – sited in the ‘back-of-house’ area behind the Box Market shipping container shops, a location which is screened by a timber wall.
Amounderness House falls within Preston’s Market Square Conservation Area and pre–application planning advice from the council’s heritage experts noted the need to ensure that any future scheme “must ensure that the heritage value of the area is preserved or enhanced, unless there is a significant public benefit which outweighs any harm”.
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Courtyard and new extension
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