A united front in battle to keep shoppers in Preston city centre

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Quirky hanging signs, eye-catching title boards and continental-style canopies are in.

Over-sized signs, cumbersome security shutters and garish colours are out.

Coun Peter Moss

Coun Peter Moss

This guidance forms part of the vision for a vibrant Preston encouraged by town hall bosses as part of prospective planning guidelines.

And residents are being urged to have their say to help shape the future look of the city.

With the plans out to consultation until next month, Coun Peter Moss (pictured) says the concept is about “enhancing what we’ve got” and being flexible when it comes to attracting business and increasing footfall.

Once all feedback has been received, a supplementary planning document (SPD) will be formed, setting a blueprint for future development alongside the previously adopted Preston City Centre Plan.

Richard Lowthian - Ham and Jam

Richard Lowthian - Ham and Jam

Coun Moss, planning and regulation cabinet member, said: “This document will help set out our vision for our city.

“It will mean developers know what we’re looking for.

“Clearly, there’s a lot of interest in the city at the moment, this is about enhancing what we’ve got and improving aspects for the future.”

The 15-page consultation document highlights examples of good practice - Ham and Jam, Bruccianis and French Connection, in particular - for both traditional and modern shop fronts.

Brucciani cafe Preston

Brucciani cafe Preston

But the message is that council chiefs are not looking for a particularly defined, uniform look. Instead, flexibility is the watch-word, with certain design aspects acceptable in some areas but not in others.

For example, plans in the city’s conservation areas will be expected to be in-keeping with existing historical features.

Developers will be told in no uncertain turns that plans that would include the complete loss of Victorian or Georgian shop-fronts are likely to be rejected. Consideration therefore must be given to include traditional aspects of the buildings, such as recessed doorways with mosaic tiles, door-frame designs and corbels (the decorative plaster book-end style blocks either side of title boards).Similarly, bids for more modern buildings with over-sized plastic window frames with outlandish signs are also unlikely to pass muster with planners.

“Any plans should be compatible with the street scene,” Coun Moss explains. “Our requirements will be different in areas like Winckley Square, for example, matching what form the buildings take. It’s a flexible plan.”

With the city set to be awash with the benefits of the over-arching City Deal - bringing business, housing and better infrastructure to the county - and several development projects, such as the bus station makeover and the market revamp already tabled, the council says the SPD will help fulfil its obligation to attract private sector investment.

Just as the attractive shop fronts outlined in the document are hoped to attract customers in, a vibrant city centre will in turn offer a healthy prospect for investors.

Coun Moss said: “Our position is to facilitate commerce, business and shops to come to Preston. In terms of enhancing what we’ve got, we’ll do what we can but the private sector plays its part in that, there’s no question.

“I’m not sure we’ve got a Preston character in mind but we’ve got a Preston vision, absolutely. It’s just a matter of enhancing what we’ve got. It seems at the moment that there are plenty of people who want to be part of our vision.

“It’s about encouraging people into the city centre, but we also recognise it’s not all about retail and we have to ensure we’re meeting the other options as much as we can and that’s why we’re working on the options for a cinema. It’s about leisure as well.

“There’s major shopping centres 40 miles down the road and they do have their own draw, so it’s important to encourage retail, leisure and restaurants. It’s not just about shops.”

The consultation runs until Monday, August 7 and the town hall is keen to have a range of contributions.

Coun Moss added: “We’re open to all. We would absolutely welcome opinions and observations from everybody, be they individual members of the public, developers, the historical and Victorian society for example, we’ll be looking to consult with them to make contributions to the final document.”

Policy gives idea of plans

Following the consultation, the policy will form a supplementary planning document (SPD)

Coun Moss said: “The SPD provide information for developers so they’re more sure of what we want, what our vision for the city is and how we would like things to progress.

“It gives them some certainty when they’re compiling their proposals, so they know what is likely to be accepted (by the planning department) and what isn’t.”

‘City is open for business’

The Preston City Centre Plan

Adopted last year, the PCCP is an over-arching planning policy document that highlights that the city is open for business. It was produced to “promote and coordinate investment and help reach decisions on planning applications within the city centre” splitting Preston into five “opportunity areas.”

‘Shop front draw people in’

BECCA PENNANT, STORE MANAGER AT BRUCCIANIS, ON FISHERGATE:

“I do think the more attractive you can make the shop front the more likely people will come in.

“We try to make ours as nice as we can. I think (the new policy) could be successful. Shop fronts draw people in, especially if they look like something a bit different.”

‘Costly for small business’

RICHARD LOWTHIAN, OWNER OF HAM AND JAM, ON LANCASTER ROAD:

“It’s a good idea, certainly in terms of the historical buildings we have in the city. I think (the attractiveness of shop fronts) makes a massive difference, if everyone gets on board, it can only be a positive. It can make the city look like a city.

“The thing for small businesses is that changing shop fronts costs. But for us, our big windows fit with the listed building status and it draws people in.”