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Main construction work starts on Animate

10 January 2023

Key partners behind the £45m million pound leisure and entertainment complex in Preston city centre met on site today to mark the start of the main construction phase.  

Eric Wright Construction will deliver Animate, on behalf of development partners Preston City Council and Maple Grove Developments.  

The construction works include complementary public realm improvements, including improved pedestrian access between Animate and the bus station, as part of a wider Harris Quarter Public Realm and Lighting Scheme. The scheme is funded and owned by Preston City Council, with support from the Towns Fund (£3.4m), City Deal (£3.25m). The scheme's complementary public realm improvements are being supported by a Lancashire County Council Economic Recovery Grant (£800,000).  

Located within the Harris Quarter, this transformational scheme is already 75% pre-let and includes an eight-screen cinema, a bowling alley, national and regional restaurant brands and a street food hub, 164 space car park and improvements to landscaping with an outdoor terrace for al fresco dining, street lighting, a changing places facility, improved pedestrian access and new trees.  

Cllr Matthew Brown, Leader of Preston City Council said:

"Animate is at the heart of our diversification plans for the city centre, strengthening the cultural and leisure offer, attracting more people into the city, for a wide variety of reasons that the whole family can enjoy, for longer into the evening. Animate will remain in the ownership of Preston City Council and is a key addition to our Community Wealth Building agenda."

"The development is not only a catalyst for attracting further investment into the city, but working in partnership with Maple Grove Developments, and through implementing a renewed progressive approach to procurement, we have an opportunity to work more closely with a skilled local supply chain, throughout the life of the programme, working towards our shared vision for a more inclusive Preston economy."

The construction and development phase will help to generate up to 200 full time equivalent construction jobs for the local workforce, and provide opportunities for apprenticeship, work placements, training and upskilling through Eric Wright Group's corporate and social responsibility programme.   

A dedicated Animate Community Benefit Framework has been agreed between Preston City Council and Maple Grove Developments, which will deliver 15 community benefits, in line with Preston's Community Wealth Building programme, to assist the delivery of the project and to provide the maximum impact for Preston's residents and businesses.  

The Community Benefit Framework seeks to use local labour, provide training, employment, volunteering opportunities and placements within local colleges, to promote environmental sustainability, and to ensure that all workers are treated equally and fairly. 

Animate will also provide more than 140 long term jobs when it opens to the public following a two year construction phase.  

Andrew Dewhurst, director at Maple Grove Developments, commented:

"A huge amount of work over many years has got us to this point and credit must go to the city council, as well as the wider project team for their determination and drive in making sure plans become a reality. There are now nearly two years of construction work ahead of us on the site of the former markets but the benefits Animate will bring to Preston once it is open will make it certainly worth the wait." 

Jeremy Hartley, managing director at Eric Wright Group said:

"As a local business with a long-standing history of supporting improvement to our North West towns and communities we are very proud to now be in a position to deliver this leisure-led scheme for the people of Preston to use and enjoy." 

John Chesworth, Chair of Preston Partnership said:

"As one of the key Town Deal projects and central to the £200m Harris Quarter Towns Fund Investment Programme, Animate will help to regenerate the Harris Quarter and support the Council's commitment to Preston's City Investment Plan 2035, complementing further investment in the Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library, flexible office space for local businesses in Amounderness House and a dedicated space for Preston's younger community at the Youth Zone." 

Further information 

Towns Fund - Town Deals

  • On 27 July 2019, the Prime Minister announced that the Towns Fund would support an initial 101 places across England to develop Town Deal proposals, to drive economic regeneration and deliver long-term economic and productivity growth. 
  • A Town Deal is an agreement in principle between government, the Lead Council and the Town Deal Board. It will set out a vision and strategy for the town, and what each party agrees to do to achieve this vision.  
  • See the 101 places being supported to develop Town Deals. Each of the 101 towns selected to work towards a Town Deal also received accelerated funding last year for investment in capital projects that would have an immediate impact and help places "build back better" in the wake of Covid-19.  
  • Preston's City Investment Plan is a 15 year vision for Preston setting out Preston's long-term objectives and strategy to transform the city, targeting resources and aligning public and private sector investments to respond to needs and capitalise on opportunities for positive change. For details see Preston's City Investment Plan.
  • Preston City Council actively applies and prioritises the principles of  Community Wealth Building wherever applicable and appropriate. Community Wealth Building is an approach which aims to ensure the economic system builds wealth and prosperity for everyone. 
  • Lancashire County Council's £800,000 Economic Recovery grant is from its £12.8m  Economic Recovery & Growth programme to fund projects across the 12 Lancashire districts to tackle some of the economic impacts of Covid-19 and support recovery and growth.