Your proposals for Preston's empty Debenhams and BHS sites

When we asked readers what next for Preston's shut department store sites they were not short of ideas.

Wednesday, 27th October 2021, 3:45 pm

From attracting big name retailers to creating new leisure opportunities there was a real appetite to improve the city's retail and leisure offer.

Our report yesterday gave an update on the thinking for the future of the now vacant Debenhams site in the Fishergate Centre and the long empty BHS site on Fishergate.

On Facebook most readers focused on the Debenhams site which neighbours the city's railway station and is a landmark for visitors to the city and residents alike.

What next for the Debenhams site?

Debbie Wareing however had ideas for both sites suggesting Debenhams becomes an indoor market and the disused and boarded up BHS site be devoted to extending the choice of clothes retailers in the town. She said: "Make it into a type of indoor market with lots of individual stalls, some household, handbags, shoes, gifts, florist, perfumes, one floor could be a food hall. In BHS I think we need some better clothing stores, so many are disappearing. People buying online and then returning stuff ... this adds to carbon footprint more than everyone just going to a store and trying on. The council/gov need to make it more financially viable by lowering business rates."

Sharon Harrison expressed a fear that :"Town in years to come will just be bars and restaurants." But others such asMartin Phillips asked "Why not put some bars and restaurants in there?"

Some wanted a giant Primnark "like in Manchester or Birmingham" on the Debenhams site, while Sarah Pinson thought a Sports Direct or Zara would be good on either site.

Gilliam Clements asked: "What about a bowling alley and crazy golf centre, with a trendy restaurant and bar upstairs?"

The BHS building on Fishergate is boarded up and has been empty for many years

Another reader thought the Debenhams site could be a prime site for a bus station saying: "Bus station and turn the bus station into a shopping centre and hotel."

Julie Kilner thought the old Primark could be used for mini markets if Primark did move into Debenhams. There were other calls for rent and busienss rate reductions.

Julieann Threlfall said: "We need some good retail shops selling good clothes shoes etc." A thought echoed by Deborah Jackson who wrote: "There isn't enough variety in Preston to make it worth the trip and parking."

Hairdresser David Thomas wrote that he has had a business in the town for 30 years but things need to change. His complaints included: "the streets are dangerous due to lack of policing, getting in and out is difficult, parking is difficult, even unloading to your business is difficult!"

The now disused Debenhams building at Preston's Fishergate Centre

His advice was simple: "Open the town up, make it safe and easy to access! I used to be proud to have a town centre business…"

A Travel Lodge with adjacent parking was suggested by Valerie Rothwell. Meanwhile Phil Oddie declared: "What Preston needs is some joined up thinking, it’s no good having loads of small independents in if the rest of town suffers. There is currently too much retail space available, condense it and ‘move’ things around. It needs someone to look at it holistically."

Other ideas included borrowing Manchester's past vintage vibe with one reader asking: "Why not create something like Aflecks Palace in one of these sites? Lots of independent stall traders selling a variety of different goods?"

One reader had a back to the future idea which will take older Prestonians down memory lane. Raj Bhanot wrote: "Demolish the whole place, build a cinema complex and call it ABC. Sorted."

An attempt has been made to brighten up part of the BHS frontage with some art work

To read our previous report on future hopes and plans for the sites see here .

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