Friday 24 February 2023

Paradise Garden

Timbo's Dream

One thing you rarely encounter in a tightly-packed and traffic-addled city centre like Preston's is a pub with a proper beer garden.  All the pubs are either built into the streets with minimal space out back, or they're micros with only enough room for a delivery van at the rear.  The most you're likely to get is a poky, concreted area either out front or behind.  So you'd think sticking a few extra seats outside the Greyfriar, one of Preston's two Wetherspoons (see above) wouldn't be such a big deal.  But as usual, Preston's esteemed town planners are having none of it.

Used during good weather, honest
This is what the area in question presently looks like.  One of the main objections to Wetherspoon's plan is that the only "greenery" in that part of the area is being removed to make room for more tables and chairs.  At the moment, it can accommodate 25-30 people, but this would have been bumped up to 78 with the removal of these (somewhat worse for wear) raised planters.  The planners deem this as unacceptable as it will have an "unacceptable impact" on the surroundings.  And what are the 'surroundings' around here like?  Well...

Nice tiles on Old Black Bull. Shame about the beer
This is the view directly in front.  Don't mind the barriers, as I'm sure they'll be gone soon when the County Council finally finish the latest updates to the ring road.  Here you can see a Premier Inn and the old Public Hall.  If you look just round the corner on the right, you get an excellent view of a long-vacant Office Outlet that's peeling off 40 years worth of paint jobs.  Oh, and by the digger is where a 150-year old sycamore tree used to be before it was unceremoniously chopped last year to make way for more paving. So much for "greenery". 

Jobcentre Plus located directly behind Spoons.
Saves time, I guess.
Let's look to the left.  Here we see the road heading up to the famous Bus Station.  Across the street is a small park which can look ok on sunny summer days (greenery!).  But all you can see here otherwise is unprepossessing 60s grey concrete office buildings.  The large one in the centre is Limehouse, a recent conversion to residential city living.  Unseen behind that is a recently flattened area (formerly a car park and covered market) which will soon house a chain cinema, some chain restaurants and, as revealed this week - a chain bar. We are, apparently, looking forward to this.

The other side of the traditional Preston 'money shot'
up Friargate towards the Harris
To the right of this is the Friargate side of the town's mall - the St. George's Centre.  This was built in the 1990s and is presently completely vacant - including a Marie Celeste-like branch of Patisserie Valerie which has all the tables, seats, cleaning sprays and sugar sachets still in situ despite being closed since 2020.  This whole arcade was going to become a selection of bistros with outdoor dining and plants and stuff providing excellent views of Preston's branch of Wilko, but fell through due to COVID19. Future plans are unknown.

As you may have gathered, I am somewhat sceptical about the reasons given by the planners for disallowing this outdoor Spoons seating.  Plants removed?  Plenty of trees in view here that are more impressive than the few bushes that were due to be binned.  Street clutter from the new permanent fencing?  Well, Friargate is already a sea of A-boards from all the eating and drinking establishments at this end of the road ready to catch out the unwary and/or drunk.  Not that I know anything about that, of course.

I suspect it's rather more that the planners want to improve, indeed gentrify, this end of Friargate leading as it does to all the expensive new university buildings in Adelphi.  And what could be less "improving" than 78 pub punters sat outside a Wetherspoons smoking and drinking cheap lager?  Probably best to shunt those kind of people back to their normal habitat at Hogarths on Church Street or The Golden Cross on Lancaster Road.

We'll see what happens when all those barriers are removed from the road and that area is fully pedestrianised.  But I'm just not seeing how a few extra seats outside the Greyfriar would really make the Friargate/Ringway junction look any worse.