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Completion of £1.2m Winckley Square Gardens is a ‘landmark day’ for Preston

Thursday, 1st December 2016

Preston’s historic Winckley Square Gardens have been officially reopened to the public following a £1.2m restoration backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The Gardens have been closed for 16 weeks for a ‘sympathetic yet transformational’ restoration to breathe new life into the area. They were officially reopened today by the Mayor of Preston, Coun John Collins.

The completion of the works has been described by leaders as a ‘landmark day’ for Preston city centre, signalling an ‘exciting future’ for the area.

The project has been led by the Winckley Square Community Interest Company (WSCIC) and delivered by environmental charity, Groundwork, in partnership with Preston City Council, Lancashire County Council, Preston BID and Preston Historical Society.

The WSCIC was founded in 2011 to look at ways in which the Gardens could be improved.

In the coming months, a manifesto for the Gardens will be created, setting out a clear future for the area, including plans for an annual event and further initiatives and ideas to maintain and enhance the area.

David Gill, chairman and a cofounder of the WSCIC said: “Today marks the start of an exciting future for Winckley Square Gardens, it’s a landmark day for Preston. We are overjoyed with the transformation.

“We started with a blank sheet of paper, no money and a feeling by many we wouldn’t get far. But it shows the power of partnerships between the community, private and public sector. Our gratitude goes to all those partners and people who have come together to make this possible.

“We now hope the community will take ownership of the gardens and enjoy them for years to come.”

Thanks to National Lottery players, the scheme was given the go ahead last year after the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund announced a bid for almost £950,000 was approved.

The project has also received £150,000 from Preston’s Business Improvement District and smaller grants.

The work has been completed by Barton Grange Landscapes who were awarded the contract earlier this year and have been on site since August.

The work carried out during the project includes:

• The repairing and repainting of the railings and gated entrances
• The installation of a new drainage system
• The widening and resurfacing of footpaths
• The restoration, clean and repair of the Sir Robert Peel statue
• The removal of dead or dying trees
• The removal of problematic shrub beds
• The installation of new low level architectural LED footpath lights and CCTV
• The installation of interpretative artwork providing discovery points of interest relating to the places and people who played a part in the history of the Square and the wider city
• The installation of new benches and bins
• The creation of a re-inforced grass event space constructed in southern third of the gardens to allow future events and activities

All works have been constructed using a carefully selected palette of hard wearing yet attractive materials that correspond sensitively to the surrounding conservation setting.

The design process included a dedicated conservation management plan developed by a team of notable Preston historians from groups such as the Preston and South Ribble Civic Trust, Preston Historical Society, Lancashire Gardens Trust and Blog Preston.

Groundwork Executive Director, Andrew Darron, said: “Groundwork is privileged to have played such a pivotal role in this important landmark project.  Bringing our skills and experience to bear to help a community to realise its potential is what drives us on. 

“It has been inspiring to work alongside local business people, passionate volunteers and historians and the Local Authority – all committed to making a difference.  I’m incredibly proud of the work done by our team at Groundwork.

“From writing the bid, managing the project, designing the landscape architecture and overseeing the building work, their commitment and expertise has been really important in helping to drive this project forward.

“We now look forward to delivering the next stage of the overall plan, which is to raise awareness and appreciation of the Square as an iconic part of the City’s heritage for generations to come.

Andrew Mather, of the Preston Historical Society, added: “Winckley Square, with over 200 years of history, has now entered a very special stage in its historical significance for the people of Preston with the completion of the restoration of the Gardens, which have never looked better.”

Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, added: “It is momentous to see the Winckley Square Gardens project complete.  As the founder funding partner, we are incredibly pleased that the area, which is of huge significance to Preston, can be experienced in its full-glory once again.”

Councillor John Swindells, deputy leader of Preston City Council, said: “Winckley Square is steeped in history and heritage.  It’s a great place to work and also a great place to live.  That’s what this project is all about - restoring Winckley Square to its Georgian glory and full prominence.”

Opening the gardens, the Mayor of Preston, John Collins, said: “I am delighted to officially re-open Winckley Square.  It is great to see this important and beautiful part of Preston fully restored and I am sure it will bring even more success to the area.”

Jennifer Mein, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: "Winckley Square is an important base for several of the city's professional services, and it is an excellent business location. I'm sure that these wonderful changes will greatly improve this area of the city, while helping to attract new businesses. Winckley Square is also an oasis for shoppers and city centre workers at lunchtime too.

Nathan Lee, Head of HLF North West, said: “This project is an excellent example of successful public and private sector partnerships delivering positive change for the local environment and community.”

Simon Turner, cofounder and director or WSCIC, concluded: “We have created a space that wouldn’t look out of place in any major city.

“In 2017, we will be developing a new manifesto on how we aim maintain this great asset while identifying new initiatives to further enhance this area as a place where people live, do business, work, visit and invest in.”

WINCKLEY SQUARE RESTORATION – THE NUMBERS

• Over 400 linear metres of new land drains installed to deal with historic waterlogging issues
• 153 low level LED footpath lights installed
• 630 metres of resurfaced and widened footpaths
• 30 new trees to maintain character for generations to come
• 1,600 tonnes of imported stone beneath improved footpaths, and reinforced grass event space
• 1,400 tonnes of Rootzone drainage topsoil over lower valley area
• Nearly 520 linear metres of railings repaired and repainted
• 200 tonnes Topsoil imported to improve grass areas and new planting beds
• And one new Westmorland limestone nose

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