The Lancashire Evening Post, Wednesday, 18th August 2004
City too-slickers?
Preston’s Winckley Square is being transformed into an exclusive address for the people with money... but have sights bee set too high? By Rachel Dearden
A question mark hangs over the future of Winckley Square developments as estate agents say they are unable to sell the luxury apartments.

But developer claim the leafy city centre area is as popular as ever with investors as young professionals snap up the luxury homes.

The square has seen something of a renaissance with conversions of Georgian properties and purpose built apartments springing up around the square.

Estate agents claim many of the homes – now on the market at more than £200,000 – are being bought up by investors looking to turn a fast-profit.

But estate agents say the city’s young professionals do not have the buying power to invest in the stylish apartments and some investors have been forced to sell at a loss.

In the last development at number 22 Winckley Square, the flats retain some of the features of the original Georgian properties, including ornate plasterwork and fireplaces.

Winckley Square
Adrian Hilton, the sales executive responsible for the apartments during their development earlier this year, said: “Winckley Square is expensive. Because of the markets racing ahead investors aren’t getting the rental because for the same price you can get a four-bed-roomed house outside of Preston.”

Mr Hilton said investors snapped up apartments in Winckley Square, but when they were unable to rent the homes out they quickly sold them at a loss.

He said: “At the moment the prices don’t justify the area.”

But Paul Rowley, managing director of Rowland Homes, which is responsible for the City Space development in Winkley Square, says he has seen no evidence of a decline in the popularity of the city centre apartments.

He said: “We haven’t experienced any problems of that nature. There has been a certain element of investor purchases going on but the key has got to be competitive pricing. “There are some other developments on Winckley Square that have been mooted as being a bit too much on the heavy side price wise.

“The house buying public are very discerning and demanding over wheather something is the right price or not.”

Steven Broomhead, chief executive of the North West Development Agency, which has offices in Winckley Street, says the area remains popular. He said: “I think the economic indicators are good. Certainly over the last few years, as a result of the mergers of lawyers and accountants, there were empty properties but they are coming back to life through apartments.

“As an agency we are keen to develop, getting the right balance and getting people back into the city centre.

“In terms of the area you have to remember we are in a housing boom at the moment.

“To my knowledge the occupancy levels are quite high.”

One Preston estate agent manager disagreed.

She said the market for city centre apartments has become saturated and the stylish developments are “too much too soon” for Preston’s investment market.

She added: “There’s never going to be a large market for flats in Preston and we’ve already got our docklands.

“People have bought Winckley Square apartments off-plan thinking they will be able to sell them once they are finished but they are all on the market at unrealistic prices.

In the square they have gone for a young trendy market but to have that money you have got to be well established in your career and they are not the sort of places you move up the property ladder to. By the time you can afford those prices people are looking for family homes.”

Developments in the Square

A former catering college is the latest restoration project on Winckley Square.

Property development company Blackthorne Homes Ltd is planning to convert the former Preston College building into 24 apartments with underground parking.

Blackthorne Homes has applied to Preston Council for permission to make alterations to the listed building, which also lies in a conservation area. The college is the latest in a wave of developments, which has seen a former convent school, an orphanage and several Georgian buildings converted into luxury apartments.

The development is at 10a/11 Winckley Street and 5 Winckley Square.

The plans include internal partitioning, new railings at the front and work to the courtyard at the rear.

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© The Lancashire Evening Post, August 2004