Toilet block demolition and café extension at Preston Park is approved by council

How Preston Park's revamped café could look
-Credit: (Image: Stockton Council)

Plans to extend a café and replace a toilet block at Preston Park have been approved.

Stockton Council applied to its own planning department for permission to build a one-storey extension to the café and demolish the toilet block near Preston Hall, a 19th-century grade II listed building. The proposals include expanded indoor seating and improved toilet facilities in the café building.

The existing toilets near the playground and skate park will be knocked down and replaced with soft landscaping with grass seed. The plans also include refurbishment inside, an outside seating area and canopy.

Planning agent Lichfields said the changes would bring jobs, tourism, spending and improvements to facilities or visitors and families at Preston Park, support its leisure and recreation use. It argued the extension would be screened by trees, would not be prominent and would not harm the area.

Its planning statement said: "As the proposals would be largely imperceptible in views to/from the hall and would be consistent with the established character and appearance of the park, the proposed development would have a neutral effect on the setting of Preston Hall - and no effect upon its historic and architectural significance."

Planning officers agreed there would be "minimal loss of open space" with "limited scope for harm to the character and appearance of the area" and no impact on nearby residents. They said the extension would be appropriate with a "minimally invasive architectural design so as to not appear as an incongruous addition to the existing café building.

"The extension would allow for a visually and functionally cohesive site as an existing and worn-out toilet block would be removed."

A visualisation of what the Preston Park extension could look like.
A visualisation of what the Preston Park extension could look like. -Credit:Ryder Architecture

The plans drew no objections and were approved with conditions. Councillors had pressed the need to sort out the toilets and café in council meetings.

Eaglescliffe East member Cllr Jim Taylor said at a planning meeting last November that residents felt toilet facilities needed urgent work with baby changing, changing rooms, shower and locker rooms: "We need to get the toilets, the car parking, the café and children's play area addressed as a priority."

Cllr Lynn Hall said residents "clearly want toilets first, car parking second and they want a decent café" at the same meeting, where the planning committee approved extensions to the museum and its southern car park. Ground was broken starting work on the modern glazed extension, meant to display more of the site's collection and big-name touring exhibitions, in February.

(L-R): Jeremy Barnett, Esh Construction, Cllr Steve Nelson, Cllr Jim Beall, Mayor of Stockton, Matt Vickers MP, Cllr Bob Cook.
(L-R): Jeremy Barnett, Esh Construction, Cllr Steve Nelson, Cllr Jim Beall, Mayor of Stockton, Matt Vickers MP, Cllr Bob Cook. -Credit:Stuart Boulton

The "radical transformation" on the council-owned museum, funded with £20m for improvements to Yarm and Eaglescliffe from the government's Levelling Up Fund, is hoped to turn the park into a leading major attraction.

Reuben Kench, the council's director of community services, environment and culture, said in April: "The major exhibitions and events in the museum extension will bring thousands more visitors to Preston Park, from the local area and further afield. These improvements to the café and toilets are crucial to ensure those visitors have a positive experience of the whole attraction.

"It will be wonderful for families to be able to relax and enjoy refreshments inside the café, while also having a safe space to experience the outdoor facilities and watch their children play in the popular playpark."