Plans to make Preston city centre a more attractive place to spend time – by day and night – have been unveiled by the city council.Advertisement
The ‘Illuminate and Integrate’ project aims to improve public spaces, streetlighting and facilities for cyclists and pedestrians in the Harris Quarter.
The proposal would see a small stretch of Lancaster Road – behind the market, between Old Vicarage and Earl Street – closed to traffic, with new paving, seating and tree planting introduced in an attempt to create what the council describes as “a pleasant environment for people to sit, relax, shop and enjoy”. It is hoped that “alfresco dining” would be encouraged, while a two-way cycle route would also be created.
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Across the wider area, new lighting is set to be installed along Lancaster Road, Birley Street, Earl Street and Market Street in order to improve safety and act as a natural guide through the attractions of that part of the city.
The authority says that it is seeking to create the “appropriate ambience and mood” in the individual spaces around the market and the Harris Museum, while also reducing anti-social behaviour and minimising energy use.
The overall ambition is to increase visitors to the Harris Quarter and the length of time they spend there, making it the “go-to cultural destination in the city”.
Members of the public are being invited to comment on the plans, which are now part of a consultation that runs until 13th December.
The consultation document states that “the mixture of tired and dated materials and finishes along with low quality general lighting does little to complement and unify the setting of the fine architecture within the Harris Quarter”.
It adds that whilst the area is well connected to the rest of the city centre, many of the routes “are dated, having been designed around vehicular movement, limiting the potential for cycle and pedestrian use”.
The plans would be paid for with a share of the £20.9m allocation that Preston received from the government’s Towns Fund two years ago.
If they are ultimately approved, the Lancaster Road revamp would begin in the new year and be completed by the summer, with the lighting project beginning in early 2025 and finished by May that year.
Illuminate and Integrate is intended to complement other elements of the facelift that Preston city centre has been undergoing, including the pedestrianisation of Friargate North, the new cycle-friendly layout of Ringway and the forthcoming upgrade of Friargate South, the latter forming part of Preston’s successful Levelling Up Fund bid.
Preston City Council leader Matthew Brown told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the boom in online shopping meant that people needed a reason other than retail to tempt them into the city centre.
“To be fit for where we are in 2023, we have really got to have a lot of creativity and a cultural offer where people can enjoy themselves and have an experience in the city centre.
“[These improvements] are going to be a big part of the reopening of the Harris Museum and the Guild Hall, which we can hopefully make some progress on reopening part or all of in the next 12 months.
“It’s all part of a change in mindset, thinking in terms of a modern, diverse, cosmopolitan city. This is the way that we have got to go. so people actually have fun in the city centre, which is what it’s all about.” Cllr Brown said.
Mark Whittle, manager of Preston’s Business Improvement District, added: “Anything that improves the vibrancy and safety of the city centre should be explored – and if it’s a fit for Preston, then the city should move to see those benefits introduced.”
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