A new apartment block will be built opposite Preston bus station amid concerns over the city center’s ‘overabundance’ of skyscrapers

The 124-unit tower will be built opposite the city’s bus station on a site that housed the famous Piper nightclub in the 1960s and 1970s, before transforming into Barristers and Lord Byron in later decades.

The plot – which is bounded by Tithebarn Street, Old Vicarage and Bishopgate – is currently occupied by a charity shop in a one-storey parade of otherwise vacant units, with rooftop parking.

Preston City Council‘s planning committee has approved the outline of the proposal and has been told work could start next year, subject to a more detailed plan also gaining approval in the coming months.

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What the 11-storey apartment block on Tithebarn Street could look like (image: NW Architects)

However, concerns have been raised whether the Preston city center apartment market could reach a saturation point when a series of similar projects given the green light in recent years are completed.

Several councilors were also hesitant at the lack of any affordable housing within the proposed development.

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The ground floor of the new building will include a commercial or leisure unit, a residents’ gym and a cinema – and the block will be topped by a ‘sky terrace’.

Of the three existing store units on the Tithebarn Street site – which have their own rooftop car park – only one is currently occupied

A work-from-home space will also be provided as part of what the application agent described as a “truly sustainable” development designed to meet the majority of its residents’ needs just a short distance from their own doorstep. ‘hall.

For this reason, only 23 parking spaces will be provided, but there will be space for 128 bicycles.

“The scheme will provide much needed accommodation in the heart of Preston city center for residents to live and work in the urban core,” said planning officer Chris Hartley.

“They would then be able to…spend on local services within the center, thereby promoting economic growth, jobs and broader economic benefits for the city.”

‘PR1’ is one of several high-rise developments that have been approved for Preston town center – with 294 apartments planned for the junction of Avenham Street and Syke Street (image: David Cox Architects)

Committee member Cllr Harry Landless said he thought it was a “quite exciting” proposal – but wondered if a tipping point was approaching for such projects in Preston, risking leaving them halfway empty.

“We’ve passed quite a few of these high-rise apartment buildings in the city center, which I think is a very good thing, but my worry is that we’re suddenly going to have a glut of [them] – and I’m just a little skeptical if they’ll all be picked up and sold.

“I can see a long-term scenario where developers are going to worry a bit [that] if all these buildings suddenly start to be built and sold, the [sale] the price will not be very high, because there will be so many in the market,” warned Cllr Landless.

Work on the 16-storey, 200-apartment development known as The Exchange – on the site of the former Job Center on Pole Street – began last year.

Work is underway on The Exchange development on Pole Street, where 200 apartments will be built (image: Day Architectural Limited)

In 2020, planning was granted for almost 300 apartments spread over four blocks – ranging from seven to 16 storeys in height – in a project called “PR1” at the junction of Avenham Street and Syke Street.

The company behind the latest proposal – Wansfell Ltd – successfully argued that its development near the bus station would not be financially viable if it were forced to provide the commonly expected proportion of properties in the property category. affordable homes.

This 30% requirement has been duly reduced to zero – and the developer will also be exempt from the £46,000 which would otherwise have been required by Lancashire County Council for school places which may be generated by new residents.

The city council accepted a viability assessment which concluded that even without any of the usual obligations the company would be likely to make a profit of 4.94% on its investment – ​​well below the 15-20% figure considered a reasonable expectation for the property. undertaken under the guidance of the national planning policy.

Committee member Cllr Neil Darby said that while the proposal was in line with Preston’s ambition to live more in the city centre, he had “real concerns” about the lack of affordable housing – and was therefore not that “roughly agree” to support it.

How The Exchange development will appear from Ringway

The meeting heard that a review mechanism would be secured to ensure that if the profitability of the development changed by the time the first of the properties were sold, the council would be able to seek contributions for affordable housing at that time. .

However, the council’s cabinet member responsible for planning and regulation, David Borrow – who also sits on the planning committee – questioned whether this and other programs could be seen as viable from the outset if they were not based on “gold-plated” specifications which made them more expensive to build.

Council planning officer Jonathan Evans said a ‘balance’ had to be struck between the quality of the proposed developments and the authority’s desire to see builders make the kind of contributions they would normally be asked to make.

“I don’t think you would want to offer the cheapest build possible…because you probably won’t get very nice buildings – or buildings that can last a long time – [by] using cheap material,” he said.

Cllr Borrow acknowledged that a “broad perspective” needed to be taken to ensure inner city housing schemes were of the quality and sustainability that would be desired in significant locations.

The developer will fund the installation of a pathway on Bishopgate to provide safe pedestrian access to its new building from this approach.

Councilors were also told the building would have a ‘low level’ impact on the Grade II listed coach station setting which would be outweighed by the benefits of the development.

Being located close to other buildings of similar height – such as the recently converted Bishopgate Gardens – meant that it was deemed suitable for an area of ​​”varied architectural styles”.

The committee unanimously approved the application.

Preston City Council unveiled its strategy to encourage ‘urban living’ in 2017 and relaunched it in October 2020.

27 – number of sites promoted in the Preston City Life prospectus, both in the city center and in the wider ‘inner city’ area

400 – number of new homes completed in the city center in the last 18 months

450 – number of new houses under construction in the city center

1,500 – number of new houses with planning permission to be built in the city center

Source: Preston City Council

A distinctive ‘sloping’ tower was approved on Church Street in 2020 (image: 1618 Architects)

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