Heritage Lottery Fund has given a group led by Winckley Square Community Interest Company first-round approval for grant funding to pay for the restoration of the historic square in Preston city centre.
The Winckley Square Futures Project aims to create and implement a new vision for the Georgian square which will include a series of physical improvements to enhance access, security and drainage, celebrate the heritage of the area and enable users enjoy the green space to its fullest potential. The CIC is working with environmental charity, Groundwork Lancashire West & Wigan, and Preston City Council.
Having received the first-round pass from the HLF, the partnership will develop full scale proposals over the coming months involving a further public consultation.
HLF awarded the partnership £22,500 to develop the detailed plans for the project, currently estimated at £1m.
David Gill, chairman of WSCIC, said: "This is wonderful news and the culmination of a lot of hard work that has gone on behind the scenes since 2011.
"There is a lot of work still to be done to secure the funding but the fact HLF support the outline plans is a huge step in the right direction. Everything we are doing is geared towards creating a sympathetic improvement of the Square, improving its usability. That is what the community stipulated in our public consultation in 2011 and 2012. We passionately believe that Winckley Square and the surrounding district has the potential to be a historical, yet vibrant, visual, cultural and intellectual outdoor experience, bringing delight to the people of Preston and visitors alike.
"We are now working on a detailed stage two application which will be ready for summer 2014."
Andrew Darron, executive director, Groundwork Lancashire West & Wigan, said: "We know that over the years it's not been easy to arrive at a vision for Winckley Square that meets the needs of past, present and future. Our philosophy has been to develop an in-depth understanding of the space, its uses, and what people value about it now, and build from there. The consultation has delivered a really exciting vision for Winckley Square, where nature, landscape and heritage can come together right in the heart of the city. We're really looking forward to bringing more people into the discussion as we develop the next level of detail for the project.
"It's great that we have been able to bring our expertise and approach to bear on such an important green space in Preston, to such a positive outcome."
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 Preston City Council, Business Improvement District and Preston Historical Society. The Business Improvement District 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, voting for sympathetic restoration of the square. In 2013, over 100 people participated in a more detailed survey which has informed the development of the vision for the green space.
In April 2013, it was announced that Preston City Council had received initial support for a Townscape Heritage Initiative bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund, 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 & Wigan, in 2013 to lead the development of a vision for Winckley Square.