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Star Centre in Ashton-on-Ribble confirmed for demolition

Posted on - 2nd October, 2023 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Ashton-on-Ribble, Business, Politics, Preston Council, Preston News, Redevelopment, Tulketh
The Star Youth Centre in Ashton Pic: Tony Worrall
The Star Youth Centre in Ashton Pic: Tony Worrall

A former Preston youth club that locals tried to save after the building in which it was based closed down is to be flattened to make way for housing.

The Star, on Tulketh Crescent in Ashton-on-Ribble, shut its doors in 2019 after Lancashire County Council decided to stop using the 90-year-old community centre to deliver family wellbeing services. That move also put an end to the weekly youth club that operated from the site, sparking protests from residents outside County Hall.

However, in spite of a community-led attempt to take over the facility, the building has lain disused ever since – and now Preston City Council has granted planning permission for two dozen apartments to be built on the plot, which housed the centuries-old Tulketh Hall until its demolition in 1959.

Read more: A short history of Tulketh Hall

The development will be made up of two separate buildings – one containing 12 one-bedroomed properties and the other the same number of two-bedroomed dwellings.

It follows the withdrawal last year of a previous bid to build 16 apartments and eight houses on the site. According to a submission made on behalf of the applicant, Philip Oram, the change was made to take the “comments and concerns” of town hall planners into account.

Five objections were lodged to the plans, which included claims that they amounted to “overdevelopment”, as well as dismay at the resultant loss of the community facility.

The proposed site layout Pic: Planning documents
The proposed site layout for the former Star Centre site Pic: Planning documents

In December 2020, the county council paused its planned sale of The Star amid efforts from a coalition of local groups to get the facility listed as an “asset of community value”.

That status, when it was granted, put a six-month block on any future sale of the land for redevelopment in order to allow grassroots organisations the chance to raise the funds needed to purchase it for continued community use. However, the site was ultimately auctioned to the current owner in August 2021.

Read more: St Bernard’s Hub in Larches brought back into use

City council planning officers concluded that the latest apartments blueprint had been accompanied with sufficient proof to show that The Star building “no longer serves the need[s] of the community and [that it] would not be viable to bring [it] back into use for a community facility”.

The applicant argued that the site would require “substantial investment” to restore it to its previous use and also pointed to recently-approved plans for a Youth Zone in the city centre, less than two miles away, as evidence of alternative youth provision in the area.

Friends of Tulketh Hall was one of the groups involved with getting The Star listed as an asset of community value almost three years ago.

At the time, as well as promoting the present potential of the plot, the organisation also highlighted its historical significance – not only as the site of Tulketh Hall, but also a possible medieval monastery nearby and even a motte and bailey castle.

The plan was to uncover any relevant areas where ancient buildings had once stood and incorporate them into a new community garden.

Lancashire County Council’s historic environment team requested that an archaeological evaluation was carried out before the latest apartment application was decided.

That assessment did not uncover any firm evidence of Roman or medieval activity on the site, but did reveal “a range of deposits of archaeological interest”. These were thought to relate to the construction of a hall in the 17th century – although there is some evidence of a hall being at the location as long ago as the 14th century.

Read more: Roundabout at Preston Docks set for major repairs

The archaeological report concluded that there was the “potential” for other remains related to Tulketh Hall to be present in the area – and so a condition has been imposed by the city council, at County Hall’s request, for a phased programme of archaeological investigation, recording and analysis to be carried out.

Planners considered that, provided such work was undertaken, the proposal would not harm the heritage of the site nor anything that remains of the hall that once occupied it.

That building became a private school in the 1840s and, at the turn of the 20th century, was converted into a boys’ home by the Roman Catholic Brothers of Charity. In later years, more buildings were added to create St Thomas’s School for Catholic boys.

During World War Two it was requisitioned as an army barracks and later repurposed as a military records office. However, it was badly damaged by fire in 1952, resulting in its demolition seven years later.

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