New car park for Preston town center on site of Odeon cinema destroyed by fire as plans are made for long-term future

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A fire engulfed premises on Church Street in the city center in May, destroying a block which also housed the former Evoke and Tokyo Jo nightclubs.

The rear of the properties has been largely flattened for safety following the fire, but a proposal to completely clear the rest of the plot – including the art deco facade of the former cinema – has been abandoned while it is decided how the site will be used in the future.

Preston City Council planning officers had raised concerns that a full clearance – which drew 34 objections from the public – would have had an “unacceptable impact” on the nearby conservation areas of Winckley Square and Market Place.

May’s devastating fire at the old downtown cinema and nightclub buildings required much of the site to be cleared in the days after the fire was extinguished.

Lancashire County Council’s historic environment team also warned that such a move would create ‘a large, unobstructed view from Church Street which would erase the visual aspects of the historic grit’.

County Hall recommended that the terracotta facade of the cinema – as a “significant feature” reflecting the 1920s era in which it was built – either be retained for incorporation into a replacement building or for “careful dismantling or reconstruction” as part of the redevelopment of the site.

To this end, the city council’s planning commission has given the green light to an amended request for partial demolition of the other remaining parts of the site, but leaving the facades of the buildings intact. Parts of the walls beyond the facades will also be held in place to provide the necessary support.

Councilors also approved the creation of a 116-space car park at the rear of the plot – a use which goes against planning policy, but which was recommended for approval due to the ‘exceptional circumstances of how the site came to be in its current state.

The facade of the former Odeon Cinema on Church Street will remain unchanged – for now – lest an open sinkhole damage nearby conservation areas

The application – from the Rigby Group Limited – had originally asked for a three-year leave for the car park, but planning officers concluded this was akin to being permanent and therefore suggested the committee limit the time limit to two years. In place.

Documents presented to members noted that the temporary facility would provide a level of “natural oversight” that would reduce the risk to the site, which has been the subject of several fires this year.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service after the meeting in which the plans were approved, David Borrow, a member of the planning committee, said the multi-stakeholder group should be “pretty strict” on the deadline for parking – while allowing the applicant a reasonable time to find a permanent use of the site.

“It takes so long to get the plans moving, [so] parking will secure the site and make it safer. The danger is two years becoming four years or ten years,” Cllr Borrow said.

The Odeon when it was still open in the 1980s

The land is in the Stoneygate area of ​​Preston, which is the subject of plans for an ‘urban village’ of up to 1,600 residential and commercial properties.

The city’s Odeon cinema closed in 1992, while nightclub Evoke went silent in 2020. Two other business premises in the block – a take-out restaurant and a betting shop – both closed in May of This year.

The shock spread as quickly as the flames when the Odéon went up in smoke in the summer
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