Preston Guild Hall trial date confirmed as crunch legal battle nears end

Preston City Council reclaimed the building in 2019 but it has remained closed ever since

Preston Guild Hall (Image: James Maloney/LancsLive)

A trial examining Preston City Council’s decision to reclaim Preston Guild Hall will finally resume this year.

The local authority seized control of the landmark entertainment venue in the summer of 2019 from the Preston Guild Hall Ltd company run by late entrepreneur, Simon Rigby. The building had been closed by Mr Rigby in May of that year and has yet to reopen as of January 2023.

The decision remains subject to legal action from the company, which had held a 125 year lease signed in April 2018. The legal challenge to the decision involves another 12 companies which had sub-leases from Mr Rigby’s business to operate within the building.

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Together, they alleged that the city council’s decision to take control of the Guild Hall was unlawful while also alleging that the city council should be liable to losses incurred since the Guild Hall was allegedly seized unlawfully. The city council has denied all allegations of wrongdoing at every stage.

According to December 2023 updates filed from The Business Debt Advisor’s Beverley Budsworth, who is carrying out the administration process for Preston Guild Hall Ltd, the Rigby estate is no longer pursuing the legal action. But the other businesses continue to do so. She will also continue the action on behalf of Preston Guild Hall Ltd.

As part of the legal claim, a cost and case management conference was held in June 2020 and resumed more than a year later in November 2021. After another long wait, a trial is now listed to take place across five days from Monday, March 20 this year. As part of the claim, the businesses are seeking an order which would restore possession of the Guild Hall to them as well as damages for the losses.

According to Ms Budsworth’s latest report, separate investigation remain ongoing into transactions relating to the ‘Level’ leisure and entertainment complex which is spread over three floors of the Guild Tower. “However,” Ms Budsworth notes, “the application for forfeiture trial takes priority as there are limited funds available which need to remain available to cover legal fees and expenses”.

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