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Funding deal approved for £40m leisure scheme

Preston City Council has agreed a funding package for a multi-million pound cinema and leisure complex.

The new development, called Animate, will be located on the site of the former indoor market and will feature an eight-screen cinema and bowling alley along with five new restaurants and bars, a street-food hub, a car park and new public square.

Councillors voted to approve a Development and Funding Agreement (DFA) for the 'Animate' scheme which is being developed by the council in partnership with Maple Grove Developments, part of the Eric Wright Group.

Under the DFA, around £3.5m for the development will come from Preston's £20.9m Towns Deal, a further £3.25m from the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal, and the remainder from Preston City Council. The land and buildings will be owned by the council and leased to the site operators.

The scheme is designed to bring growth and development to the city centre as well as bringing in over £7m of extra economic activity every year and creating 125 full time equivalent jobs.

Confirmation of the DFA means a final public consultation on the proposals can get underway ahead of a planning application in the autumn.

Negotiations with anchor operators for the cinema and bowling alley are at an advance stage.

Subject to planning permission being granted, it is anticipated construction work on the project could begin in 2022 with the complex opening in spring 2024.

The development is one of six major projects planned under Preston's Harris Quarter Towns Fund Investment Programme, for which the city was awarded £20.9m from the government's national Towns Fund initiative in March 2021. It is also a key project within the 15-year Preston City Investment Plan.

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