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Preston former BHS building snail farm claims deepen as pictures show it operating

Posted on - 20th February, 2024 - 8:18pm | Author - | Posted in - Politics, Preston City Centre, Preston Council, Preston News
The former BHS store in Fishergate continues to stand empty awaiting a new use Pic: Blog Preston

Pictures have emerged appearing to show the former Preston BHS store was being used as a snail farm and Blog Preston can reveal council officers visited it during January 2019 when the alleged farm was in operation.

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Blog Preston was approached with a number of pictures from when a team were tasked with stripping out the former department store and then setting up the snail farm.

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Inside the former Fishergate flagship store then large container boxes can be seen dotted across the floor – which reportedly contained the snails.

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These boxes are understood to contain the snails and these pictures date from January 2019 Pic: Blog Preston

Asking not to be named, Blog Preston’s source said: “We were asked to empty the site of all fixtures and fittings.

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“These pictures were taken in January 2019. The council inspected the building at this time.

“The snails would be on site for three months before being harvested and sent to restaurants for food and then a new set would arrive.”

Boxes shown near an old counter in the former BHS store Pic: Blog Preston

Although no pictures show the presence of snails in the boxes, Blog Preston’s source confirmed they had been within the containers.

A spokesperson for Preston City Council said in response to being shown one of the photos: “We can confirm that officers visited the premises in January 2019. As investigations are ongoing, no further information or comment will be issued at this time.”

Blog Preston approached a representative for the company listed as the freehold owner of the building but received no response by the time of publication.

The scene inside the former BHS store in January 2019 that would have greeted council officers during an inspection Pic: Blog Preston

As Paul Faulkner revealed last week in the Lancashire Post for the BBC Local Democracy Reporting Service a Preston City Council investigation is ongoing into the claims the former BHS store was being used as a snail farm – which would count as an agricultural use – and therefore be unauthorised as there is no planning permission for the building other than for retail.

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The department store was closed in 2016 and in a statement last week the city council said: “By placing boxes of snails in a property, a company can claim its use is for agricultural purposes, like a farm, and therefore exempt from paying business rates.

“However, it is unlikely that the Valuation Office Agency would reclassify the premises and a number of cases have established this precedent.

“When a property becomes empty after being occupied for six weeks, it can benefit from a three-month business rates relief.

“During the last three-year period, this particular property has benefited from two periods of three-month business rates empty relief following periods of occupation of the premises.”

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