- Bid to be submitted to Heritage Lottery Fund end of February – decision expected in summer
- £1m project would ‘breathe new life’ into Winckley Square Gardens
- Designs led by leading Preston historical figures working alongside Community Interest Company and Groundwork
- Work could start in 2016
- Plans can be viewed here http://goo.gl/nOL1nn
A £1million proposal to renovate Preston’s historic Winckley Square Gardens will ‘breathe new life’ into the area according to one of the experts behind the new bid.
Final designs for the Gardens have now been revealed and will be submitted to Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) at the end of February. The plans aim to create a sympathetic improvement of the historic gardens.
The proposal has been developed by a partnership between environmental charity, Groundwork Lancashire West and Wigan, Winckley Square Community Interest Company (WSCIC), a group helping to spearhead the revival of the Square, Preston City Council, Preston Business Improvement District (BID) and Lancashire County Council.
A group of local historians who helped derail a controversial modernisation of the Gardens in 2009 have also played a lead role in the new designs.
A Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) panel expects to make a decision in summer 2015, with works potentially starting in 2016 if planning is approved.
The submission comes one year after Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) gave a first-round pass to the partnership’s outline vision, awarding £22,500 to develop detailed plans for the project.
The proposed improvements include:
• Resolving the current flooding problems through improved land drainage in the lower parts of the Gardens.
• Opening up lines of sight across the Gardens to improve visibility, and introducing lighting into the Gardens improve security at night times.
• Creation of new heritage reference points, plaques and devices throughout the Gardens allowing visitors to discover more about the story of the Gardens.
• Wider footpaths with new high quality surfaces that befits the status and the historic character of Winckley Square.
• Replacement of worn and outdated 1980s seating.
• Cleaning and repairing the Robert Peel statue, restoring its original inscriptions, and providing a higher quality setting for the statue.
• Removal of inappropriate modern additions to the tree population, and restocking to ensure the survival of the Garden’s historic tree population.
• Creating a high quality social space at the convergence of the footpaths in the South of the Gardens, including provision of historical reference points.
• Reinforcing the turf in the Southern part of the Gardens, enabling greater year-round use to host events which celebrate the heritage and cultural richness of the City of Preston.
Led by Groundwork, the design process included a dedicated conservation management plan developed by a team of notable Preston historians from groups such as the Preston and South Ribble Civic Trust, Preston Historical Society, Lancashire Gardens Trust and Blog Preston.
Ben Williams, project leader from Groundwork Lancashire West and Wigan, said: “We were keen to ensure that the project was driven by a genuine understanding and passion for Preston’s heritage.
“The team carried out all the primary research into the Gardens’ history, worked closely with the project team to articulate the important aspects of this history, and developed the brief which shaped the project to ensure that this heritage was at the forefront of our planning.
“By having such an influential local group drive the conservation plan, we can be sure our plan has conservation and heritage at its core, while enabling a sympathetic improvement that will breathe new life into the Square. We have discussed the detailed plans with many stakeholder groups and the feedback has been very positive.”
Andrew Mather of the Preston Historical Society said: “After much detailed research and consultation, Groundwork has produced a most impressive design for the future of Winckley Square Gardens, which captures everything envisaged by the parties involved. I have no doubt that the impact of this design will be beneficial to the people of Preston.”
Babs Murphy of the Preston BID and Chief Executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said: “Through the development of a public-private partnership the site is expected to become one of the most beautiful and vibrant destinations in Preston. If successful it will have significant economic and social impact on the city.”
Mick Goode, a director and co-founder of the WSCIC, said: “I think we have an excellent interpretation of what the community wants and needs from Winckley Square. It tackles all the current issues surrounding usability and drainage while telling its wonderful heritage story.
“We started this process in 2011 with a blank sheet of paper and no money but lots of energy and skill, so it shows what can happen when the public and private sector work together with the community. If approved, it will transform the Square.”
Councillor John Swindells, Deputy Leader of Preston City Council, said: “The plans for Winckley Square Gardens are simply stunning and a remarkable piece of work. We very much hope that the Heritage Lottery Fund will see the passion, love, care and attention to detail that is being put into restoring Winckley Square and will support the final stage of the funding bid.
“It would be wonderful for Preston to see these plans come to fruition and for Winckley Square to be restored to its former glory.”
Councillor Jennifer Mein, leader of Lancashire County Council said: “I have no doubt that the project will breathe new life into the square and the surrounding area. The plans complement the major work we’re doing on Fishergate to make it more attractive to visitors and businesses and the wider Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal which will boost growth and prosperity for the next decade and beyond.”
WSCIC was founded in 2011 by local professionals David Gill, Simon Turner, Mick Goode, John Chesworth, Richard McDowell and Mark Clarkson, who are directors of WSCIC.
In addition to the founding members, the board of directors includes representatives from Lancashire County Council, Preston City Council, BID and Preston Historical Society.
The Business Improvement District (BID) pledged an initial £30,000 to WSCIC in 2011 and a further £150,000 over five years after securing a second five-year term in December 2011.
WSCIC conducted a public consultation in 2012. Over 250 members of the public took part wishing a sympathetic restoration of the Square. In 2014, nearly 300 people participated in a more detailed survey which has informed the development of the vision for the green space, and a programme of activities which will connect people with the heritage.
In April 2013, it was announced that Preston City Council had received initial support for a Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), which will improve the condition of some of the significant buildings of the Square, and aspects of the public realm.
WSCIC appointed environmental regeneration charity, Groundwork Lancashire West and Wigan, in 2013 to lead the development of a vision for Winckley Square.
The conservation management plan was developed by:
• Aidan Turner-Bishop, Chairman of the Preston and South Ribble Civic Trust
• David John Hindle, President of the Preston Historical Society, local historian and author
• Paul Swarbrick, co-editor for Blog Preston
• Stephen Sartin, local historian, author and former Curator of the Harris Museum
• Dr Alan Crosby, local and regional historian, author, editor and lecturer
• Andrew Mather, Preston Historical Society
• Elaine Taylor of the Lancashire Gardens Trust
• Maria Luczak, an expert on historic landscapes and with experience of working on other successful HLF projects
David Gill, chairman of the WSCIC, added: “It’s been a real team effort so far with BID supporting us financially, and Groundwork, Preston City Council and Lancashire County Council all contributing to the endeavour.
“If successful, this will give us the opportunity to really transform the area’s future, and safeguard a vital part of Preston’s history and landscape for generations to come.”