Harris Park, home to the former Harris Orphanage, is to be turned into a private, gated housing estate for wealthy individuals
One of Preston’s prime heritage assets will remain almost completely out of bounds to the public after plans to turn it into a gated housing development were given the go-ahead.
A meeting of Preston City Council’s planning committee approved the proposal for the former Harris Orphanage site – off Garstang Road – which includes a now redundant cricket pitch on which ex-England star Freddie Flintoff practised as a youngster.
The 10-strong cross-party group of councillors was split down the middle over the latest blueprint for the plot, which will see the site’s Grade II-listed buildings converted for residential use, along with the creation of 16 brand new properties – 14 of which will be built on the one-time cricket field. A total of 37 dwellings will be developed in all.
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The stalemate amongst the committee handed the casting vote to its chair, Cllr Ismail Bax, who agreed with the recommendation of council planning officers to give the thumbs up to the scheme. A previous plan to move the site’s war memorial from its current position to a new location alongside Garstang Road was dropped. It is understood that the current arrangements for allowing access to the site for remembrance commemorations will therefore continue.
However, the meeting heard confirmation that the new development will sit behind existing closed gates, meaning that members of the public will not be able to access the historical site, whose park and garden are also Grade II-listed.
That news came as a bitter blow to the Friends of Harris Park group, which has campaigned to preserve the orphanage by repurposing it and ensuring it has a sustainable future. Previous suggestions have included turning it into a wedding venue, heritage attraction and cottage museum.
Liberal Democrat Greyfriars ward councillor Fiona Duke spoke on behalf of the group at the planning committee meeting. She later said that references in the report presented to councillors about the “public open space” that would feature within the development had raised hopes amongst locals that they would at least be granted routine access to it.
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