A public inquiry into the £700m Preston Tithebarn redevelopment plans gets underway today.
The proposed scheme includes 1.5m sq ft of shopping incorporating new John Lewis and Marks and Spencer anchor stores, plus 100 shops. If built, there will be a range of bars and restaurants, a nine-screen cinema, new and refurbished markets, 500 homes and 2,700 car parking spaces.
However, the project hit controversy with rival Lancashire local authorities Blackpool and Blackburn opposing the plans, saying it is disproportionately large for the central Lancashire economy and will draw retail spend from their town centres to Preston.
Cllr Ken Hudson, leader of Preston City Council, claimed in February that the two local authorities have paid "at least a six figure sum on their legal and other bills for this inquiry" and, therefore, "Preston will have to spend a similar amount too".
Preston City Council said it would, together with Lancashire County Council and developers Lend Lease, be submitting a strong case in support of Preston Tithebarn.
In a statement yesterday, Cllr Hudson added: "Tithebarn is a much needed development for Preston and Central Lancashire. Tithebarn has wide ranging support from Lancashire County Council, the North West Development Agency and others and we look forward to making our case at the inquiry. We hope the inquiry will rule in favour of Tithebarn so that Preston can fulfill its undoubted potential."
The long overdue inquiry is expected to last for up to seven weeks. In January this year, the Government decided not to list Preston bus station as a building of significant architectural or historic interest, making way for a date to be set for a public inquiry.
The planning committee approved the Tithebarn application in July last year, but the scheme was called in by the Secretary of State.
Lead developer Grosvenor pulled out of the project last October, saying it intends to concentrate on its larger portfolio of medium-sized, residential, mixed-used and retail projects instead of the few larger city centre regeneration schemes it has in its portfolio, leaving Lend Lease to go it alone.
The public inquiry will commence on Tuesday 18 May at 10am in the Brook Building at University of Central Lancashire in Victoria Street, Preston.