Preston’s Animate sparked into life by funding deal 

The city council is to contribute £33m of the £40m required for the cinema and leisure scheme, to be delivered by Maple Grove Developments. 

Yesterday, councillors signed off a funding agreement for the development, called Animate, marking a key milestone for the project ahead of the submission of a planning application in October. 

Under the terms of the deal, around £3.5m for the project will come from Preston’s £20.9m Towns Deal award, and a further £3.25m will be from the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal. 

The land and buildings will be retained by Preston City Council and leased to the site operators. 

“This is a really positive step forward in our plans to bring this exciting development to Preston,”” said Cllr Matthew Brown, leader of Preston City Council. 

“Developments like this show that we remain ambitious in our plans to develop the city centre and bring investment and jobs to the people of Preston.” 

The development, is to be located on the site of the Preston’s former indoor market. It will feature an eight-screen, 160,000  sq ft cinema and a bowling alley, as well as five restaurant and bar units. 

A street-food hub, car park, and new public square are also proposed under plans drawn up by architect Leach Rhodes Walker. 

Preston Market Quarter Nov 2017

Muse’s earlier iteration of the project. Credit: via planning documents

Negotiations with anchor operators for the cinema, believed to be The Light, and bowling alley are at an advanced stage. There has also been strong interest for the restaurant units, the council said. 

Muse Developments had previously been involved in the project, having been appointed as Preston City Council’s development partner in 2015. The developer won planning consent for an earlier iteration of Animate in 2016 but work never started on site.

Maple Grove came on board in 2019 and it is understood Muse is no longer involved in the project. 

Animate is expected to boost Preston’s economy by £7m a year and create around 125 jobs, according to the council.  

Subject to planning approval, work could start on site in the middle of next year. Completion is projected for spring 2024.  

Subject to planning permission being granted, it is anticipated construction work on the project could begin in 2022 with the complex opening in spring 2024. 

Andrew Dewhurst, director of Maple Grove Developments, said: “This exciting development will contribute massively to Preston’s goal of creating a thriving, sustainable city centre with an outstanding leisure offer.”  

The development is one of six major projects planned under Preston’s Harris Quarter Towns Fund Investment Programme, for which the city was awarded £20.9m from the government’s national Towns Fund initiative in March.  

The other projects included in Preston’s Harris Quarter Towns Fund Investment Programme are: 

  • Preston Pop Ups: Bringing together new temporary event space, artworks and improvements to public realm infrastructure, aimed at boosting visitor activity in the Harris Quarter
  • CEIAG hub: The creation of a new Careers and Employment, Information, Advice and Guidance Hub in the Harris Quarter
  • Renewal of Harris Quarter assets: Investment to support the redevelopment of publicly-owned buildings in the Harris Quarter to support new cultural and community uses
  • Illuminate and Integrate: A project to deliver improved pedestrian and cycleway infrastructure, street lighting and other public realm improvements within the Harris Quarter
  • Preston Youth Zone: The development of Preston Youth Zone as a facility for young people in Preston aged eight to 19 
  • #HarrisYourPlace: The refurbishment of the grade-one listed Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library, enhancing and protecting the building for generations to come. 

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