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Harris Institute redevelopment plans are unveiled

Posted on - 23rd June, 2024 - 8:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Avenham, Business, Preston City Centre, Preston News, Redevelopment
Looking along the side of the revamped Harris Institute Pic: Studio John Bridge
Looking along the side of the revamped Harris Institute Pic: Studio John Bridge

Proposals to give a grade-II listed building in Preston city centre a new lease of life after a decade stood empty have been revealed.

The Harris Institute, in Avenham Lane, was bought last year by the Harris Investment Group who have now brought forward their plans for the repair, refurbishment and adaptation of the building.

Following a public consultation in late 2023 the plans to change the building into a mix of co-working and exhibition space, art shop, gallery, conference and café facilities.

Read more: Preston improvement societies of the Victorian age, education for the masses

The plans, tabled in conjunction with architects Studio John Bridge, also show the conversion of Regent House within the site as a nine-flat holiday let along with a new courtyard and access.

The Institute, which dates back to 1849, is on Historic England’s At Risk register and was last used as the Darul Aloom Islamic Institution.

Throughout its history it was used as the Harris School of Art and initially its first use, under the direction of Edmund Robert Harris, was as the Preston Institution of the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge – a forerunner of the now University of Central Lancashire.

The Harris Institute today Pic: Preston Digital Archive
The Harris Institute today Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Since its use as the Islamic school ceased the building has languished and fallen into a state of disrepair.

An effort to buy the building as a community asset last year failed – despite a crowdfunding campaign – and instead it was purchased by The Harris Investment Group, based in Bolton, which lists Abdul Ahmed and Peter Wu as its directors.

Architect John Bridge, speaking about the planning application submission, said: “We were delighted with the response to our public consultation last year and recognise that there is a significant amount of interest across the city in the building’s restoration.

“As a Prestonian myself, I’m proud to be working with The Harris Investment Group on this exciting project. The site in its current form is very much a blank canvas and we are still open to new and fresh ideas about the building’s future.

“We look forward to the application being considered by Preston City Council.”

Read more: Preston Youth Zone work unearths old mill site and items dating back 300 years

See below how the Harris Institute may look once the redevelopment takes place

As well as the plans for the change of use a separate application has been lodged for consent to convert and make changes to a listed building.

A question mark remains about the financial situation for restoring the building as The Harris Investment Group said they ‘are engaging with Historic England and exploring opportunities for funding bids to support the building’s restoration.”

There’s also a call for anyone looking to occupy the site or take on one of the new spaces once redeveloped to contact john@studiojohnbridge.co.uk

Earlier this year concern was raised that the building had been put back on the market – but the owners moved to squash rumours it was up for sale again.

The full planning application can be seen on the Preston City Council website – the size and scale of the development means it will be decided by the city council’s planning committee.

What do you think of the Harris Institute proposals? Let us know your comments below

Read more: See more redevelopment news in and around Preston

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