Plans for Preston’s multi-million-pound cinema and leisure complex took an important step forward today as councillors agreed a funding package for the project.

The new development, called ‘Animate’, will be located on the site of the former indoor market and will feature an eight-screen cinema and bowling alley along with five new restaurants and bars, a street-food hub, a car park, and new public square.

The scheme will bring growth and development to the city centre as well as bringing in over £7million of extra economic activity every year while creating 125 full time equivalent jobs.

Councillor Matthew Brown, Leader of Preston City Council, said: “This is a really positive step forward in our plans to bring this exciting development to Preston. The new development will breathe life into the city centre and reinforce the Harris Quarter as a premier cultural and leisure destination in Lancashire.

“It is also an important step in our Community Wealth Building agenda as this asset will be publicly owned meaning the benefits will be enjoyed by everyone in Preston.

“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 supporting our local economy as we recover from the pandemic. This development will appeal to a range of people in the city and we’re very excited it is moving closer to fruition.”

The announcement comes after councillors voted to approve a Development and Funding Agreement (DFA) for the ‘Animate’ scheme which is being developed by the council in partnership with Maple Grove Developments, part of the Eric Wright Group.

Under the DFA, around £3.5m for the development will come from Preston’s £20.9m Towns Deal, a further £3.25m from the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal, and the remainder from Preston City Council. The land and buildings will be owned by the council and leased to the site operators.

Ruth Connor, chief marketing officer at UCLan and member of the Preston Towns Fund Board, added: “This is fantastic news for Preston as it will bring so many social, community and economic benefits. Animate will contribute towards a thriving daytime and night-time economy, supporting Preston’s city living strategy.

“It will also improve quality of life and help us with our plan to create a city where people can live, work and enjoy their leisure time all within a travel distance of 15 to 20 minutes.”

Confirmation of the DFA means a final public consultation on the proposals can now get underway ahead of a planning application in the autumn. Negotiations with anchor operators for the cinema and bowling alley are at an advance stage, alongside strong interest for the restaurant units.

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, commented: “We’re proud to be working in partnership with Preston City Council and its stakeholders on this exciting development, one that will contribute massively to Preston’s goal of creating a thriving, sustainable city centre with an outstanding leisure offer. We look forward to taking the development to the next stage and submitting a planning application this autumn.”

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