Guild Hall makeover gets the go-ahead

Plans for the first phase of the Guild Hall restoration project have been approved by city planners.

Guild HallWork is now set to start on £1m-plus plans to turn Preston’s iconic Guild Hall into a cultural hub, drawn up by the Frank Whittle Partnership (FWP).

FWP has been working with the landmark building’s new owner – Lancashire businessman Simon Rigby – to transform the exterior of the entertainment and leisure venue.

And Preston Council has welcomed the Lancashire firm’s vision to remodel the city centre venue’s frontage, create a striking new entrance with a stunning, modern atrium that will breathe new life into the building’s underused first-floor balcony.

The plan also includes new spaces for cafes and breakout spaces, a giant high-level digital screen and state-of-the-art lighting to give a 21st century feel to this iconic 1970s entertainment venue.

The existing dense tree coverage in front of the building is set to be replaced with more subtle and softer landscaping, allowing the original architect’s vision of views from the spaceship like balconies over Preston’s ‘crown jewels’ – The Harris Museum and Library, the Flag Market and its Victorian buildings - to be restored.

Seb Salisbury, the FWP architect behind the vision, said: “The Guild Hall has huge untapped potential in terms of both its enviable location and bold architectural form. The venue is close to the heart of many Prestonians and we have created a design that will breathe new life into what has become a rather tired building."

He added: “When you add our plans to the vision and enthusiasm that Simon Rigby’s team is bringing to the venue, the future of this important city centre building is now looking much brighter.”

The Guild Hall was built in 1972-73 to the designs of Scottish architects Robert Matthew and Stirratt Johnson-Marshall - now RMJM, an internationally-recognised firm responsible for buildings such as the new Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh – in the new Brutalist style and complements Preston’s Bus Station.

Preston Guild Hall Ltd will be part of The Villa Group, which is owned by Simon Rigby.

Inside the building, Preston property agents, Parker & Company, will take on assembling an eclectic mix of retailers to fill the buildings shopping arcade to support and enhance the arts offered by The Guild Hall.

A new charity, Preston G.R.O.W.S has been established to give budding local retail entrepreneurs an opportunity to establish their businesses in a subsidised “incubator unit”.