Planning approved for Preston Youth Zone

A new multi-million pound Youth Zone in Preston for young people has been approved by planners.

Plans for the new building next to Preston Bus Station, which were submitted in August, have now been approved.

The new Youth Zone, which will be situated next to the bus station, will house a wide range of activities for young people including sports, arts and music.

The bus station is owned by Lancashire County Council. Once completed, the new building will be operated by OnSide Youth Zones, a national charity dedicated to providing safe and inspiring facilities for young people to spend their leisure time.

Jennifer Mein, leader of the county council, said: “We’re delighted that we’ve got approval for this exciting project, which will provide a major new space for young people.

“This planning approval is a major step forward for our overall redevelopment plans on the bus station site. There’s a great momentum building on this project, with car park repairs, concourse improvements and now the planning approval for the new Youth Zone.

“Our overall plans will also provide new outdoor space next to the bus station, as well as improved facilities for public transport users and motorists.

“It’s important news for our young people, as well as this part of the city centre.”

The total budget for the bus station improvement work and construction of the Youth Zone is around £24m. Preston Youth Zone will contribute £1m towards the project, with funding also coming from the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal.

Open seven days a week, the new Youth Zone would offer 20 activities every session for young people aged 8-19, or up to 25 for those with a disability.

Guy Topping, chairman of Preston Youth Zone said: “This is a significant step forward in the development of the Youth Zone and we are absolutely delighted that the hard work it has taken to get to this point, has now paid off.

“The potential the Youth Zone has for the whole of Preston and its future generation is unprecedented – it will change the lives of thousands of young people.

“The young people of Preston want and need this facility and with the planning application given the green light, we can now look ahead to construction work commencing.”

Youth Zones aim to raise the aspirations, enhance prospects and improve health and wellbeing for young people, by providing affordable access to a wide range of programmes, services and activities including sports, arts, music, employability and mentoring.

The Youth Zone will be housed in a new free-standing building next to the iconic Grade-II listed bus station, on the city centre side. The buses would continue to use the opposite side of the building.

Due to the bus station’s listed status, the aspirations of Historic England and The 20th Century Society were taken into account as part of the design work.

As part of the wider work, some of the bus station’s original features will be reintroduced, which have been removed over the years.

These proposals have been created by the design team, led by John Puttick Associates. Their original proposal was chosen as the winner of an international design competition last year.

John Puttick said: “One of our key objectives has been to design a building maximizing available public space in and around the Bus Station to create a major new square for Preston. This supports the civic quality of the project.

“It has also been important to respond to the proudly utilitarian quality of Preston Bus Station by designing a new neighbour that shares and celebrates this robustness just as a youth centre used for sport and as a place for creativity should do.”

Work on the Youth Zone is programmed to start in September 2017, with completion expected in 2018.