The Lancashire Evening Post, Wednesday, 20th October 2004
£7m parks dream is now a step closer

Moves to bring bigger and better entertainment to Preston's Avenham and Miller parks have moved a step closer, it emerged today.

Preston Council has been awarded more than £100,000 to turn its £7m park dream into reality. The money, together with a similar amount of taxpayers' cash, will allow the council to gear up to make a full application for lottery funding.

As the Evening Post revealed in August, plans are afoot to build a major events venue in the centre of the city.

Now civic leaders have made public their intentions to knock down the 1970s green stage at the bottom of the Avenham Park hill to make way for the new venue.

The people tasked with turning Preston into the North West’s third city are spearheading the project, and it is hoped the new facility will draw more acts and events to Preston. The modern, all-purpose building could be used for leisure, arts, performances, education and entertainment. It would provide a base for major events, as well as a community resource, exhibition space, ranger base, cafe and toilets.

Nicola Turner, city vision project manager at Preston Council, said: "The modern bandstand is not really functional because it's not really big enough and doesn't have suitable equipment for major events. "It's pretty much obsolete but the idea is that the new pavilion would include a stage. At the moment there isn't really the infrastructure to stage big events – they always have to bring in their own temporary stage and generators.

Landscaping "It's still at a very early stage - we're working up a full application for money from the Heritage Lottery Fund." Part of the plan will also be to improve drainage, lighting and landscaping at the park and hopefully prevent events being called off due to wet weather.

When the project was first announced, event organisers asked the council to consider using the covered market as an emergency venue in bad weather.

The next step is for a design competition to be advertised nationally and internationally to find the best architect for the job.

Between four and six interested architects will be short-listed and asked to submit design proposals. The panel made up of members of the council, the Friends of Avenham and Miller Park, the local media and the Royal Institute of British Architects will consider these.

The new building must include energy efficiency measures to keep running costs down and must be designed so it allows sections of the building to be closed when not in use. The existing toilets would be closed. Miller and Avenham Parks are Grade II listed and have been used by the public for more than a century. At their best, they played a key role in the Guild events and in major festivals such as the Heineken Music Festival until they declined due to a lack of investment.

The council applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund on May 7, 2003 for funding to restore the parks. It was awarded £120,900, just over half of the amount it will cost to do the first phase of the work.

A bid for money to cover stage two must be submitted by April 30 next year.

In May, Preston lost out on a £3m grant to improve the two parks. The money from the Liveability Fund would also have been used to improve play areas.

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© The Lancashire Evening Post, Octber 2004