The Lancashire Evening Post, Friday, 9th November 2010
Winckley Square Revamp Scapped
By Matthew Squires
CONTROVERSIAL plans to revamp Preston's Winckley Square have been scrapped, the Evening Post can reveal.

Because of savage budget cuts being forced on town halls by the Government, council chiefs have now revealed there is NO chance of finding cash for the project and NO hope of it going ahead.

And plans to change the square in any way are unlikely to resurface "in the foreseeable future".

The planned £3m redevelopment had already been put on hold this year, after it emerged the North West Development Agency, which was to largely fund the scheme, is being wound up.

Today campaigners who have opposed the redevelopment from the start welcomed the news, while town hall bosses denied that cash spent on preparing the scheme had been a waste of money.

A spokesman for Preston Council said: "There, is now no external funding for the Winckley Square project and given the likely effect on council budgets- as a result of the spending review, the council is simply not in a position to consider any large scale improvements in Winckley Square in the foreseeable future.

Aiden Turner Bishop
Conservation campaigner Aiden Turner-Bishop in Winckley Square
Aidan Turner-Bishop, of the Preston and South Ribble Civic Trust, which led a Save Winckley Square campaign against the scheme, said: "I feel a grateful relief. I am grateful for common sense.

"The square still needs to be restored and let's hope there is money for that in the future. It's not as nice as it should be and a lot of people don't like the lack of lighting.

"But it needs to be restored as a classical Georgian square. In the future they need to consult people properly, including the landowners."

The scrapping of the project completes its troubled history, which has seen progress held up by roosting bats, concerns from landowners and a campaign by the civic trust, which saw postcards objecting to the scheme delivered to the town hall.

When the plans, drawn up by Bristol-based Cooper Partnership, were first unveiled in May last year, they were initially panned as “ridiculous” by Evening Post readers.And the original proposals which included a 10-metre high, £200,000 totem pole, attracted more than 1,000 objections - one of the largest outpourings of opposition in Preston's history.

The death knell was finally sounded at a meeting of the council's city centre committee, where officers told members that "due to a number of issues relating to this project, not least the issue of no funding for the project, the director suggested that the Winckley Square project be removed from the major sites and projects list."

Coun Ken Hudson, the leader of Preston Council, said: "Basically, we didn't get the funding. What we have decided to do is buy up the interests (such as land on the square) as they become available and the idea is that we assemble them so that if there is an opportunity in the future to bid for funding then we will do so.

"The money is not wasted. We have a scheme there which, if finances were in a different state, we could go ahead with.

"But we have to take a realistic approach."

Editors Note

Good news that another ill-conceived plan for the “improvement” of Winckley Square has been abandoned!

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© The Lancashire Evening Post, November 2010