The Lancashire Evening Post, Thursday, 5th August 2004
£7 Million Dream for City’s Green Heart
Huge new riverside venue planned for Avenham Park By Richard Newton Political Reporter
A £7 million plan to create a major new events venue in Preston’s Avenham Park is revealed today.

The project, which includes a new bandstand, visitor centre and café, better drainage, lighting and landscaping, could start in autumn next year.

The changes will also involve honeycomb grass reinforcement for vehicles and underground electric cables to ensure the park will look its best, rain or shine, and prevent events being called off because of bad weather.

The move will mean that events can go-ahead whatever the weather, saving organisers tens of thousands of pounds. Shakespeare in The Park was called of in June and last month Jazz in thee Park was cancelled because of heavy rain.

The news has been welcomed by park-users and event’ organisers.

But there have been call for the council to look at contingency plans allowing the city’s covered markets to be used at short notice if the downpours become too serious. Eddie Curry, head of Preston Council’s parks and open spaces, said the authority had just received the go-ahead to submit a full bid to the National Lottery by April next year.

He said: ”The work will provide the infrastructure needed, such as grass reinforcement, so that vehicles can get onto the grass even when it is wet and not cut it up.

“There will also be plans for a new bandstand which should take away the costly need of adding to the existing structure which we have to do with each event.”

But while event organisers are keen to see the park improved, they still want the option to use a covered venue if all else fails.

Rock Gardens
Ronald Clarke, chairman of Caribbean Carnival said: “This is great news for Preston, but I think is a good idea to hold events under the market. I think the council could certainly look at using it as a short term contingency.”

Preston MP, Mr Mark Hendrick added: “I think it is important that contingency plans are in place to deal with the inclement weather.

“It is nice t have it in the park but perhaps we should also look at the covered markets more.” Mr Curry said: ”There is room to have that contingency but it is about generators and infrastructure as well. It might be difficult at such short notice with the logistics, which is what we are talking about here, but perhaps we should be thinking about this in advance.”

Frank Sanderson runs Media Company Preston Ltd, in Cottam, the company who helped organise Jazz in the Park, Rock the Park, Mela, the Caribbean Carnival and the Christmas lights switch-on amongst other events.

He said: “Over the last three years we have had five or six events under the covered market. I have found the market people and the council to be very open. The market lends itself to planned events.”

Alan Woods, chairman of Friends of Avenham Park said: “It is a wonderful park. I was talking to the sculpturer Charles Hadcock who said it was a national treasure. It needs to be sustained and you don’t get that without putting some work in.”

Note: Jazz in the Park is due to take place on Saturday August 14th, depending on the availability of acts.

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© The Lancashire Evening Post, August 2004