The owner of Fishergate Shopping Centre has said that “it has been left with no alternative” but to withdraw its £40m refurbishment plans for the centre, after the proposals were recommended for refusal at Preston City Council’s planning committee.
Under owner Benson Elliot’s proposals, the shopping centre would have been extended from 415,000 sq ft to 456,000 sq ft, to include a new cinema.
However, according to a report ahead of Preston City Council’s planning committee meeting on 28 April, approving the project would “undermine the plan-making process”, which allocates the Markets Quarter area of the city for a cinema-led development, and restricts schemes of a similar kind elsewhere.
The council and Muse Developments are currently bringing forward the £50m redevelopment of the Markets Quarter, which includes an 11-screen cinema operated by The Light.
Keith Mitchell, Fishergate Centre manager, expressed surprise at the recommendation for refusal from planning officers.
He said: “I am extremely disappointed Preston’s planning department has recommended turning down our plans. We have spent a considerable amount of time in developing a really good scheme which offered a lot to shoppers and the wider city economy.
“The response we received from both the public and the business community has been hugely positive and supportive.
“Contrary to our hopes, neither Preston City Council nor Lancashire County Council saw fit to fully support the scheme at this time, which we find very disappointing and, given the long overdue need for major investment in Preston, very surprising.
“We do, however, wish to continue negotiations with all parties and would like to resolve any outstanding issues in the very near future.”
The cinema occupier for Fishergate was understood to be Vue, which according to Benson Elliot has agreed to relocate from the Capitol Centre at Walton le Dale.
While a spokesperson for Benson Elliot said that “nothing has changed”, in terms of its agreement with Vue, a statement from Vue outlined its commitment to the Capitol Centre, although the cinema operator declined to comment on whether it was renegotiating a long-term lease.
Vue said: “Vue cinema has been located in the city’s Capitol Centre for the last 20 years and is a well-known, popular destination for film fans in the local community and beyond. Vue is looking forward to continuing to operate within the centre providing the best in big screen entertainment for the foreseeable future.”
Fishergate Centre was acquired for £40m by private equity real estate fund manager Benson Elliot in August 2013 from Deloitte, acting as administrator to London & Associated Properties and Lloyds Bank.