Freshfield to help lead Winckley Square revival project

News from Freshfield
Simon Turner Freshfield Managing Director

Written by Simon Turner,
Chief Executive & Group Client Director at Freshfield

Freshfield has become a founding member of a company aiming to drive the revival of the Preston’s historic Winckley Square.

Winckley Square Community Interest Company (WSCIC) has the backing of Preston City Council, Lancashire County Council and other land owners of the Square.

The Business Improvement District (BID) has pledged an initial £30,000 in 2011 and a further £150,000 over five years should it secure a second five-year term in December 2011.

WSCIC’s founding members and elected directors include: David Gill, consultant, Moore and Smalley Chartered Accountants; Simon Turner, managing director, Freshfield; Mick Goode, director, Croft Goode Architects; John Chesworth, managing partner, Harrison Drury; Richard McDowell, partner, Napthens; and Mark Clarkson, partner, Eckersley.

David Gill, Chairman of WSCIC, said: “This is a Big Society concept and we are thrilled to have brought together a unified private and public sector group.  We have some of the most experienced regional regeneration experts in and around Preston so it makes common sense to use them.

“The main role of the WSCIC is to work with the council and Winckley Square stakeholders to identify realistic ideas, funding streams and how to overcome barriers to restoration.

“The first issue was to get buy-in from all stakeholders such as Preston City Council, businesses and interest groups. We are now working collectively to map out a short, medium and long term vision.

“Any proposal made by the founders needs to be approved by the board of the company. By being a community interest company, we can also act as a vehicle to attract funding, all of which will be invested into the Square. None of the directors will receive remuneration.

“We all felt the original plans didn’t suit the Square. We want to create a sustainable, considered legacy that the people of Preston can always be proud of.”

Simon Turner, company secretary, said: “If the Square can be revived, this will permeate into the surrounding area. The Winckley Square district has potential to be a thriving Northern business, leisure, retail and cultural city quarter.

“This is not a talking shop but we have to be realistic. Things will not happen overnight. However, we have had some excellent feedback so far and there is an obvious passion for improvement. We have already made progress on tackling the ownership and drainage issues.

“Similar models have been used in overseas cities to great effect. We have started a partnership process and there is no reason why we can’t mirror that (overseas) success and inject life into one of our most iconic areas.”

In addition to the founding members, the board of directors includes representatives from Preston City Council, BID and is seeking representation from Lancashire County Council, St Wilfrid’s Catholic Church, Preston Historical Society, and UCLan.

Councillor Peter Rankin, leader of Preston City Council, said: “’As a new administration, we have drawn a line under the previous plans. However, a lot of investment was made into preparatory work and research. Much of this material is still very relevant and has been passed over to the WSCIC.

“Given our economic constraints, we’re delighted the private sector is taking a lead on this and they have our unequivocal support. We are committed to working in partnership.”

Ken Williams, chairman of the Preston Business Improvement District (BID), said: “Winckley Square is undoubtedly one of the most iconic areas of Preston’s city centre.  Its history, its architecture and the business surrounding it are pivotal parts of the city’s business quarter. The BID has agreed to invest £30,000 from its 2011-2012 special project fund to the enhancement of the Square.

“We’re quite aware that the upkeep of such an area is a hugely expensive job. That said, should BID be elected for a second term, we’ve pledged to provide £30,000 per year for the next five years, meaning a total donation from BID in excess of £180,000, which will be a significant contribution towards the Square’s improvement plans.

“If we have a vibrant Winckley Square, Preston will improve as an aspirational place to live, work, shop and enjoy. It’s a very important part of the city centre and we applaud the formation of this group.”

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