The Lancashire Evening Post, Thursday, 20th October 2011
Plans to redevelop Winckley Square spring back into action
By Matthew Squires
AMBITIOUS plans to breath new life into Preston's historic gem can be revealed.
City chiefs are to bid for around £750,000 grant cash to restore Winckley Square to its Georgian glory.
The "low key" redevelopment plan would see a natural spring running under the gardens used to develop a water feature, a completely revamped entrance to attract visitors and workers, and upgraded lighting, paths and railings.
Town Hall bosses say the revamp will retain the square's traditional assets and will look to work with what is already there, bringing "existing features" up to scratch.
They say the upgrade is vital to transform the square into an "attractive" area. The news was welcomed by heritage campaigners who last year criticised previous plans for a huge £3m redevelopment, including water jets and fibre optic lights, put forward by the previous Conservative administration.
Councilor Peter Rankin, leader of Preston Council, said: "The idea is to work with what we have got in the square. We are working with what we have got and improving the features that are there without destroying them.
"There is an actual spring right in the square. The previous administration was
planning to spend an awful lot of money on the square and a lot of it was on drainage.
"The idea is to to work with the Woodland Trust and use that natural spring to create water features. One of the good things about the previous scheme is there was a very definite entrance to the square from Winckley Street.
"The plan was if you were walking down Fishergate you could look down Winckley Square and see the entrance and see the gardens.
"At the moment it does not look particularly inviting. The idea is to smarten it up and make it more inviting for people to come and have a picnic- or come down for their lunch break."
A bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund's Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) is being pulled together and is expected to be submitted by November 30. Council officers are also looking for other public funding sources.
Details of the redevelopment.are still scarce because the council is working with a Community Interest Company, set up to run the gardens, in drawing up future plans and a huge consultation of businesses, heritage groups, residents and the public has just begun.
But the news was today welcomed by civic campaigners who launched a major campaign against the previous administration's revamp.
Aidan Turner-Bishop, of the Preston and South Ribble Civic Trust, said: "This sounds promising and it sounds like the sort of thing that campaigners were calling for - working with the square and not imposing on it.
"But it is very important that whatever they do must have the consent of all the owners of the square gardens and the freeholders. They cannot just go off and do what they want."
A year ago the previous Conservative administration's revamp of the square had been scrapped.