Flagship restoration of historic Preston markets wins top award

A flagship regeneration project by the Frank Whittle Partnership (FWP)  ( https://www.lancashare.co.uk/directorydetail/tradesmen-and-construction-services/frank-whittle-partnership-limited ) has won a major award for helping revitalise Preston’s retail economy.

The restoration and reimagining of Preston’s historic markets was a collaboration between architects and designers at FWP, based in Ribblesdale Place, London architects Greig and Stephenson, market restoration specialists, and the City Council’s planners.

Historic England and a local conservation group were also involved in developing a design and use of materials that are wholly sympathetic to the listed canopy of Preston’s markets.

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has recognised the work, carried out over two years, with its top regional award for ‘Creating Economically Successful Places’.

The award is due to be presented at the RTPI North West Annual Dinner taking place in Manchester Cathedral on Friday October 5.

Preston Council’s objective was to create a city centre destination appealing to a wide range of residents and visitors and become a long-term attraction.

Recognising the ongoing shift in retailing focus, Preston City Council, developed the vision for the new Market Hall as being much more food orientated than the previous indoor market it replaced, whilst still maintaining a wide range of good value quality non-food goods.

The approach has proved very successful in balancing the economic and social improvements that have borne out of the development.

Environmentally, the project has resulted in the complete visual transformation of the area. The refurbished canopies have undergone a stunning transformation and the new Market Hall provides a further wow factor.

Martin Whittle, Managing Partner at FWP said: “Preston’s new market has been a true collaboration between the City Council and local businesses and interest groups and together we have been able to sympathetically restore fine, historic civic buildings while giving them a vibrant new lease of life fit for a 21st century city.

“Regeneration and renewal were at the heart of the project and our extensive refurbishment work on Preston’s famous Guild Hall entertainment complex has already helped give an economic uplift to the city centre.

“Our expertise on flagship, high quality retail projects elsewhere in the UK, such as Westmorland’s acclaimed motorway services on the M5 in Gloucestershire, also enabled us to play a pivotal role in the successful design and use of the markets.

“We are proud to be recognised by the Royal Town Planning Institute for creating an economically successful place in the new Markets Quarter especially in our home town where we have played a design and construction role for more than 50 years.”

The RTPI judges believe Lancashire’s town and cities are famous for their markets, but they have had to adapt to changing trading conditions and opportunities over the past years and while much loved by local residents are often fragile economically.

The judges inspected the restoration of Preston’s two adjacent market canopies – the 1924 Fish Market and the much larger 1875 Covered Market.  Both are listed and comprise open access areas under ornamental steelwork punctuated by large cast iron columns.

By 2016 both structures were in need of substantial repair and re-painting, which was completed in 2017, with the completion of the new Market Hall in early 2018.

The judges said: “What makes this scheme particularly effective, however, is the creation of a contemporary glazed enclosure of some 1,200 sq m in the central portion of the main building.

“When we visited we found an attractive European style, vibrant, well used facility which concentrates on a much improved food offer but also contains some of the more traditional market stalls.”

The adjacent Fish Market now houses the ‘Box Market’ where re-used shipping containers provide starter type units for new local businesses.

The new market was conceived as part of the City Centre Area Action Plan 2016 and as well as attracting new offers has been able to incorporate the majority of pre-existing traders from the tired adjacent “concrete 1960’s” market. The latter is now to be demolished and a cinema is to be constructed there.

The building project was also managed by planners. Local residents and traders were involved throughout and, for example, students from the local university (UCLAN) designed the new stalls which echo the original design but are far more flexible. The canopy structure is large enough to allow outdoor performances at either end and to flexibly accommodate more traditional market trading. The building also provides an all-weather route between the main shopping area and the famous bus station.

The RTPI judges concluded: “The scheme is regarded as a catalyst at the heart of the city’s priority regeneration area and has already helped encourage other valuable schemes such as the long awaited conversion of the adjacent former post office headquarters into a hotel.

“In summary, this flagship scheme has achieved the valuable restoration of Preston’s iconic market buildings, and the introduction of new facilities designed to the highest standards which are already enjoying tangible and buoyant economic success.”

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