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Shankly Hotel bedroom numbers question mark

Posted on - 26th August, 2023 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Business, Politics, Preston City Centre, Preston News, Redevelopment
Work has stalled on the renovation of the Old Post Office to become a luxury hotel Pic: Tony Worrall

A question mark hangs over how many bedrooms Preston’s perpetually-delayed Shankly Hotel will have once it finally opens in the city centre.

When the vision for the former main Post Office building – on Birley Street – was given the green light back in 2016, the plan was for the luxury facility to feature 60 guest rooms. Just a year later, that tally was upped – with the approval of Preston City Council – to 66.

However, a revised proposal has now been nodded through by the authority which removes any reference at all to how many bedrooms may be included.

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That application was submitted by Signature Living Preston Limited, the company behind the £15m venture – in spite of the fact that the firm went into administration last year.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) asked administrators Kroll how many rooms it is intended the hotel will now boast – but was told that Signature Living Preston had “no update” to give on the project at this stage.

Confusion already surrounded who had actually requested the latest change, with the application originally appearing on Preston City Council’s planning portal last month in the name of Gloucester-based Blackfinch Investments.

However, when approached, that firm said that it had been named in error – and the applicant listed on the authority’s website was later changed to “Signature Living Preston Limited c/o Kroll”.

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Documents submitted with the application outlined the need “to rectify the description of [the] development” that was approved in 2017. During the construction work undertaken since then, “the building has varied slightly from the planning drawings”, according to the submission.

The LDRS has queried whether that variation relates solely to the number of rooms, but has not been given any further information.

Kroll was appointed as the administrator for Signature Living Preston Limited in August 2022. A progress report issued to creditors in March this year stated that two options were being weighed up – whether to complete the development and commence trading before putting the hotel on the market, or attempting to sell it as an unfinished development.

No further update has been provided since, although the administration period was extended in June to continue until 4th August, 2024.

Several planned opening dates for the hotel – the first in spring 2018 and the most recent in August 2021 – have come and gone in recent years.

After contacting the city council to seek advice on how it could “regularise” the building work in the way that it had been carried out, property consultants Berrys were told that an application would have to be made under section 73 of the Town and Country Planning Act.

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However, that route does not allow for a change to the description of the development – hence the need for the separate amendment application which has now been approved by the local authority.

Planning case officer James Mercer concluded that the proposed “non-material” change was “minor in nature and would not extend beyond the scope of the original permission”.

The new description now sets out permission for the “change of use and extension of [the] former Post Office to create a hotel with associated restaurant/bar, wedding and function space and spa” – with the proposed number of bedrooms conspicuously absent.

Preston City Council sold the flagship Post Office building – which dates back to 1903 – to the Signature Living Group six years ago.

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