Plans submitted for Preston Youth Zone

Plans for a multi-million pound OnSide Youth Zone in Preston have finally been submitted.

The new Preston Youth Zone, which will be located by Preston 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 modern youth facilities.

Jennifer Mein, leader of the county council, said: “This planning application for the Youth Zone is another big step forward for the redevelopment of the bus station site.

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

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.

If approved, the Youth Zone would 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.

Guy Topping, chairman of Preston Youth Zone said: “This is an exciting step towards building and opening what will be an amazing facility for the young people of Preston.

“Preston Youth Zone will provide world class facilities and will give our city’s young people somewhere to go, something to do and someone to talk to. A lot of hard work has gone into getting us in a position where we can submit this application.

“OnSide has built an amazing legacy with the Youth Zones already in operation across the country and it is extremely exciting that Preston can be part of its future.”

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.

County Councillor Mein added: “This is an exciting time for this part of the city with major plans for the Markets Quarter including the proposed cinema complex, a new hotel in the former post office and new plans announced to further develop the Guild Hall. The bus station is a key part of these plans, which will bring new commercial opportunities into the city.

“Our plans are part of the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal, which is already delivering improvements to roads and public transport. This will make it easier for people to get around and bring new people into the city, which benefits the local economy.”

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.

The Youth Zone is the latest in a series of planning applications for the bus station. Other proposed changes include the creation of new public space outside the bus station on the city centre side, as well as changes to the road layout, the bus station concourse and the car park levels. Several planning applications have already been submitted for these various elements, with others to follow in the coming months.

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 the design competition last year.

John Puttick, who is originally from London, 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.

“Part of the building’s youthfulness, we hope, will be its openness and ability to engage young people, as well as provide them with a wide range of exciting facilities for them to explore.”

The earliest that work on the Youth Zone could begin is next year, subject to planning approval, with completion in 2018.