The dream to restore Preston's "fairytale castle" to its former glory as a luxurious hotel could finally become reality next week.
A planning application to refurbish the imposing Park Hotel, which once played host to royalty, politicians and movie stars, is set for approval when it goes before county councillors on Wednesday.
The multi-million pound project was first unveiled more than two years ago when one of the grandest buildings on the Preston skyline - likened to a Walt Disney castle overlooking Miller and Avenham Parks - was sold to the LCC pension fund.
Now, after a painstaking planning process, the scheme is expected to get the nod from County Hall's development control committee.
Two of Preston’s longest-established companies are spearheading the plans to revive the former railway hotel.
Cassidy and Ashton and Frank Whittle Partnership (FWP) have collaborated to restore what were county council offices back into a 156 bedroom four-star hotel, as well as the addition of a new spa, banqueting pavilion and offices.
The 3.3 acre complex was first opened in 1882 as the grandly titled London and North Western and Lancashire and Yorkshire Hotel with subways connecting guests and passengers directly to the platforms of Preston railway station.
The Park Hotel was acquired from Lancashire County Council in 2016 and the significance of the project lies in the need for Preston to show ambition and provide modern luxury hotel facilities as well as retaining its historic assets.
The investment from the county’s pension fund in Preston is seen as a real statement of intent for the city and the county and the reinstatement of a four star hotel - next to what is intended to become an HS2 mainline rail station – proves there is ambition to drive the city’s economy deep into the 21st century.
In addition to restoring the main buildings of the Park, the plans aim to demolish the neighbouring concrete office building to be replaced with a building housing more bedrooms, conference facilities, a lounge bar and gym.
A 500-seat banqueting pavilion overlooking Miller Park adds to the leisure provision of the scheme and neighbouring Grade 2 listed houses are being converted from offices to a spa with treatment and relaxation rooms, manicure and pedicure areas and dining.
Chris Taylor, project architect at Cassidy and Ashton, said: “We have designed a scheme that adds a much-needed four star hotel to Preston hospitality provision for both business guests and tourists.
“Perhaps as important, we are restoring a major city landmark to its former glory and by adding wedding, conference and spa facilities for hotel guests and the public we will be creating a lot of new jobs in the hospitality sector.”
David Robinson, managing partner at FWP, said: “Protecting heritage assets is important to the culture of a city and Preston has many fine civic and private buildings to be proud of.
“Some are being re-imagined and improved like the new market hall, the Harris museum and library or the bus station.
“Others, like the Guild Hall entertainment complex or the old central post office, have been taken into private hands and given a new lease of life.
“The Park Hotel is one of the most prominent landmarks visitors see when arriving into Preston by rail from London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds or Liverpool. Knowing the distinctive red brick building is a luxury hotel immediately tells them Preston is an ambitious, forward-looking city.”