The Guild Hall Proposal

Preston Guild Hall will become a cultural hub from morning till night, 365 days a year and attract visitors not just from the North West but the whole of the United Kingdom.

About Our Bid

We will purchase the current assets and leasehold of the The Guild Hall with a goal of restoring it to a profitable and successful venue. We intend to retain the name through the registered business “Preston Guild Hall LTD” (PGH).

The fusion of the existing staff’s expertise, the venue, our hospitality experience and brand we believe will lift The Guild Hall and thereby the shopping arcade.

Our Mission

To make Preston Guild Hall a busy and cultural hub via an eclectic mix of entertainment, education and eating.

Entertainment +

Preston Guild Hall will be one of Lancashire’s premier destinations for top theatrical shows, major events and conference & banqueting for both business and social.

Preston Guild Hall will provide exceptional value and service, known as an everyday venue rather than just a special occasion venue. The diversity of clients will consist of corporate, social groups, families, couples and tourists.

Education +

No university in the UK produces more new businesses than UCLan. In order to assist UCLan in the development of these businesses in Preston we plan to tap in to this source of employment by creating Preston GROWS: - Guild Retail Opportunity with Support.

We propose to set up a charitable trust to help UCLan whilst also contributing to the local economy. The purpose of this trust will be to effectively create an incubator unit for new retail businesses. It is proposed to seek nomination from the 3 local colleges (Runshaw, Preston and Cardinal Newman) as well as the local professional community, Preston City Council and ourselves to have an ‘evaluation’ committee.

Selected new start-up businesses would be given the opportunity to establish their businesses under the umbrella of the charitable trust.

The details would be agreed with the selection committee in due course but prior to landing they would be given a one day intensive Marketing Course and the following would be included:

  • 12 months free rental space within The Guild Hall Arcade or available space.
  • Monthly marketing support from our Group Marketing Manager.
  • Office support; all aspects of printing, window shop graphics, business plan preparation and funding assistance for shop front signage.
  • Communication support; centralised telephone system, online, fax and other infrastructure requirements.

Following their initial incubation period, businesses that wish to go on in the wider community will be given a package of transition training. The intention is to run an annual competition for potential businesses under the auspices of Guild Retail Opportunities with Support.

We plan to make available to Preston GROWS up to 6 shops in The Guild Hall arcade.

Eating +

To give you a flavour of what Preston Guild Hall Ltd will be offering

The Villa Italian

The Villa Italian will be a full service Italian restaurant providing fresh, casual, affordable, quality authentic yet uncomplicated Italian cuisine. The restaurant will cater for a diverse clientele with a strong city centre presence visited by predominantly families, couples, business guests, and Italian foodies from around the Preston area and further afield.

The restaurant concept will be modern relaxed with a mixture of vibrant and light dining areas with booth and open plan seating. The restaurant will feature a theatre style open kitchen with a fantastic wine and cocktail bar area for pre-dinner or post dinner drinks to enhance our guest’s experience. The Villa Italian will accommodate a seating capacity of 100 covers.

The authentic food will consist of rustic and modern selection of fresh produce; antipasti, pasta dishes, stone baked oven pizzas and seasonal specials including local seafood and meats providing a taste of real Italy. Our dessert menu will offer Italian classics and regional cheeses. Our wine list will complement our food and cheese selection featuring grape varieties from popular Italian regions and a small selection from the rest of the world. Our price point will reflect the quality and provide great value against our competitors.

Our customer goal will be to provide the complete dining experience consistently exceeding their expectations, in a modern relaxed surrounding serving great food and wine, with professional, friendly and personable staff. Our business goal is to be profitable, competitive, innovative and developing in both our products and our people.

Leaf or Bean

Leaf or Bean Coffee Shop will provide an all-day speciality tea and coffee shop experience serving morning breakfasts, cakes, light snacks and cold refreshments.

This concept is yet another addition to our brand with our first coffee shop already open within the entrance to our Villa Italian restaurant in Kirkham. This brand is aimed at all social areas from single visitors on a business journey or meeting to families and friends enjoying a coffee and a chat. Our attention to detail for furnishing, in addition to the products with which we are serving, is at the forefront of our mind-set and there will be no expense spared with the fit out of this fantastic coffee shop.

Professional Team

Parker & Company +

Parker & Company was founded in 1979 by Roger Parker MRICS. The business plan was to concentrate on agency matters for bigger clients or bigger projects offering strategic advice. Roger Parker is a born and bred Prestonian and was educated at Preston Catholic College in Winckley Square.

Parker & Company has acted for a succession of successful entrepreneurs, major companies and for many major development and investment projects.

These include John Whittaker, the now billionaire owner of Peel Holdings, with whom a very high proportion of the retail warehousing in the North West was developed. John Hargreaves, the now billionaire owner of Matalan, was also a client when he traded as Jaymax from high street shops throughout the UK.

Parker & Company acted exclusively for Walmsley Furnishing plc in their expansion from 7 branches in the North West to 109 branches nationwide and Greenhalghs Craft Bakery Limited, established in the 1950’s is a current client with 70 high street shops and continuing to expand. Parker & Company has acted for Conlon Construction in respect of their very large portfolio since the 1980’s.

Parker & Company acts nationwide. Recent acquisitions including Thurrock, Brent Cross, Glasgow, Reading, Leicester, Pontefract, Halifax, Cheadle, Bradford, Leeds and Hemsworth with Southampton and York underway. We have recently successfully negotiated the reduction of the rating assessment of the largest warehouse in the Midlands. Other locations outside Preston where advice has been given recently include Altrincham, Ashton, Bury, Manchester, Lytham, Bolton, Leeds, Wednesbury (2), Chester, Blackpool, Chorley, Stockport and Leyland.

Historical major projects locally include the major Blackpool Airport development (Peel), the Capitol Centre, Preston (Pentith), the Lower Audley Street Retail Park, Blackburn including the Ice Arena, Asda etc (Peel).

Current major projects locally include Corporation Street, Preston comprising 200,000 sq ft of Grade A offices and a 147 bed 4 star hotel (McAleer & Rushe) and Waterside, Blackburn ( Conlon Construction ), a major motorway industrial development.

Well-known names for which Parker & Company has acted in the past include Apollo Leisure (cinemas), B&Q, Buckingham Bingo, Comet, Done Bros, McDonalds, the Co-op, Thos Cook, Walmsleys, The Watch Lab, William Hill etc etc. Major financial institutions include Barclays Bank, Bradford and Bingley, Co-op Bank, Hambros, Prudential, Royal Bank of Scotland, Schroders, Singer and Friedlander, Sun Alliance, Westpac etc. A longer list is on the Parker & Company website.

"The Guild Hall is possibly the biggest building in Preston City Centre and it is very exciting to be involved in its renaissance. It is surprising to think that there was talk not long ago of it being demolished. It is in excellent condition. The retail, leisure and entertainment uses will be continued and complementary uses will be added to generate a high footfall at all times of the day and night. There are plans to substantially upgrade the subway and bridge routes across to the Bus Station and multi-storey car park. All the vacant shops are available to let as are other parts of the huge building and we look forward to being contacted by anyone with an interesting use."

Roger Parker, Managing Director, Parker and Company


FWP work with people who strive to achieve the best value from their property whether by new development, relocation or refurbishment. We are a solutions driven organisation that has consistently delivered successful results that have led to lasting and reliable relationships with clients, consultants and contractors.

To achieve this we have developed a multidisciplinary business inspired by our clients to meet their needs. Our clients benefit from the diverse backgrounds of our highly qualified professionals who are experienced in Architecture and Design, Structural and Civil Engineering, Cost, Project and Construction Management, Strategic Advice, Interior Design, Construction Investment Feasibility, Building Surveying and CDM Co-ordination.

Building the right team around a project to deliver its full potential is vital and we have developed strong working relationships with likeminded consultants that benefit our clients and best realise their aspirations.

With over 50 years of experience and offices in Preston, Manchester and London, we are committed to executing exceptional solutions in every aspect of a project’s implementation. Our staff, many of which are from the Preston area, are excited at the prospect of working on a building of such importance as the Guild Hall. This is a public building that many of us have grown up with and as such we are committed to protecting and enhancing the character of it for future generations to enjoy.

We have assisted and supported clients from a variety of sectors whether individuals, public or private bodies. Our approach often begins with strategic advice to determine the key objectives and desired results, which are then taken through to project completion and further to facility management, if required. FWP is a multidisciplinary group of construction professionals providing the following expertise.

Expertise Sector Experience
Architecture Masterplanning
Project Management Sports & Leisure
Quantity Surveying Education ↦ Health
Building Surveying Residential
Interior Design Commercial & Retail
Structural Engineering Community & Ecclesiastical
Civil Engineering
Health + Safety

Funding is often the key to a successful project. Drawing on our history of working with relevant organisations and our consistent record of achievement we are able to advise our clients on who to approach and how to attract their support.

Acquiring funding is often dependant on having the support of a community, understanding the context of a development and exceeding expectations.

We understand the criteria and have developed techniques to be successful in approaching:

  • Government Agencies
  • Local Authorities + Public Organisations
  • Councillors + Local Authority Officers
  • Sports Council England
  • Residents, Residents Groups + End Users through Public Consultation
  • People with Disabilities
  • Historic/ Listed Buildings and Conservation Groups, English Heritage, CABE…

At FWP we believe the key to a successful project is a structured series of meetings and workshops led by the partner in charge and the project leader. Meetings and workshops will be scheduled to enable the client to access and influence the design and construction intent. The partner in charge directs the team and liaises with the client throughout the course of the project. Project teams are carefully selected for the specific skills they will bring.

The project leader is a senior member of staff, who works directly with the client body and is responsible for the administration of the project on a day to day basis. The control of budget and timescales is paramount.

The design architect leads the production team through design and liaises with consultants maintaining adherence to the design objectives through all stages. A technical coordinator is allocated to each project and is responsible for coordinating the technical and production information. Progress is monitored through regular meetings with key stage reviews involving consultants, designers and project managers.Our cost management professionals adopt a policy of proactive cost advice as opposed to reactive cost reporting. We offer value management workshops to ensure that a project brief and forecast is achieved throughout all stages.

"We want to help bring more people into the heart of the city and we’re also proposing giving the building a major facelift as part of the project. You only have to look at the location of the building to see the potential that exists. The proposed Guild Hall plans will also help with the regeneration of Preston’s city centre – attracting more people to use the bus station and its car park and linking with the nearby Harris Museum and Art Gallery. Our plan shows that iconic buildings from the Sixties and Seventies like the Guild Hall can and should have a bright future."

Seb Salisbury, Masterplan architect, Frank Whittle Partnership.

Napthens +

Napthens provides a wide range of legal services to meet the needs of both businesses and individuals. Based in Lancashire, the firm deals with clients locally, regionally and nationally from offices in Preston, Blackburn, Chorley, Blackpool and the Fylde - and Penrith, Cumbria.

Napthens’ Leisure team brings together specialists in matters including corporate finance, commercial property, employment law, licensing and debt recovery.

The team’s experience of working with businesses in the sector including cinema chains, sports facilities, breweries and hotel groups means it is perfectly placed to provide an all-round legal advisory service.

“Napthens has worked with Simon Rigby for many years on a number of different projects and we are looking forward to working with him to help grant the Guild Hall a new lease of life.

“The Guild Hall is an iconic building with a tremendous history of entertaining thousands of people with some of the biggest names in music, comedy, theatre and sports, to name a few.

“Along with the other partners involved in this project, I am looking forward to seeing the venue’s renaissance and helping to secure the future for the city’s premier entertainment complex.

“Napthens will work closely with the other partners involved in the project, providing specialist legal advice on the range of issues facing any venture of this size.”

David Hill, Commercial Property Partner, Napthens

Behind The Bid

Rigby LLP

Rigby LLP based in Lancashire provides treasury management control for a wide range of companies including Renewable energy, a country house hotel, multiple properties and a large healthcare organisation with the aim to maximise the groups liquidity and mitigate its operational, financial and reputational risks.

Simon Rigby

Simon comes from a dairy farming family, based close to Lytham on the Fylde Coast of Lancashire. After graduating from Hull University in 1983 with a BSc (Econ), he joined the then Yorkshire Electricity Board, with whom he qualified as a Certified Accountant in 1987. In 1996 he formed Spice plc with 12 employees and one customer, by 2008 Spice turned over 400,000,000, made 40,000,000 and employed 4,500 staff worldwide and entered the FTSE 250. In 2010 Spice was purchased by Cinven and taken private. Simon then formed Greengen Group.

CEO, Rigby LLP

Michael Darch

Michael has a wealth of experience from senior positions with Unilever, BNFL, BAE Systems , more recently, building a 'big ticket' leasing company in the Middle East, raising both equity and asset finance .Sector experience includes manufacturing, forestry, nuclear, aviation, shipping , financial services and renewable energy. Michael has a BSc in Economics and is an FCMA

Group Finance Director

Richard Simkin

Richard has vast qualifications and over 14 years’ experience within the entertainment and hospitality industry with football clubs such as Liverpool FC on his CV. He currently heads up The Villa et al - Major Venus which includes the entire operation at Preston North End and will oversee all areas of the business at Preston Guild Hall; Entertainment, Education, Hospitality and Retail.

Operations Manager - Major Venues
The Villa Group

Preston based Simon has stepped forward to give Preston’s Guild Hall a new lease of life. Simon knows what this venue means to the city. His Villa Group already provide the catering at the biggest arena in Preston, PNE Football Club and Simon has a real interest in major venues with a highly experienced team ready to get the Guild back on the map.

The bid proposes to make Preston Guild Hall a busy and cultural hub via an eclectic mix of arts, entertainment, education and eating. The Villa Group, working in partnership with a consortium of local business advisors, have been named as preferred bidders by Preston City Council. Simon simply just wants to ensure our fantastic city has a thriving entertainment and cultural venue it was once so renowned for.

The Villa Group have put together a team of relevant talents; Frank Whittle Partnership have designed a face-lift for The Guild Hall, this is still to be agreed with Preston City Council but shows the ambition we have for The Guild Hall. Parker & Company will take on assembling an eclectic mix of retailers to support and enhance the arts offered by The Guild Hall. A new charity, Preston G.R.O.W.S will be established to give budding local retail entrepreneurs an opportunity to establish their businesses in a subsidised “incubator unit”. Napthens LLP have provided all the legal advice for the bid.

It is most appropriate that three of the leading local professional firms have teamed up with the towns leading hospitality caterers to breathe new life into The Guild Hall.

In 2013, Simon openly spoke about the The Guild Hall and its uniqueness as a venue, that if lost would be a travesty not just for our generation but our children and their children. The venue requires a clear vision and much TLC. Now, a year on, the group are delighted to be named preferred bidder and looks forward to working with Preston City Council to put the heartbeat back into the heart of Preston.

Quote from Simon

Preston Guild Hall is a wonderful opportunity and I am thrilled the Council is set to accept my offer. The building oozes potential. It is a rough diamond that needs some polishing, but with love, care and attention it will truly sparkle as Lancashire’s premier entertainment venue. My “Villa” range of businesses are highly successful and we aim to make the Guild Hall the jewel in our crown.

Obviously, we need to invest in the building and that is exactly what we will do with over £1 million of immediate investment into the Guild Hall. This will transform the Guild Hall into a fabulous live entertainment venue for Preston, which will include community use of the building. We are flexible and we will see to it that nobody with clear budget issues for putting on a community event at the Guild Hall is turned away. I’m also setting up a trust fund to support arts and culture in Preston so that the Guild Hall can become a real cultural and entertainment hub for the city.

I’m also keen to support the creation of new businesses in Preston and my vision for the Guild Hall includes providing shops for start-up businesses as well as access to mentoring and business support from my expert team. All in all, this is a great deal for Preston and I can’t wait to get going and breathe new life into the Guild Hall.”

Quote from Richard

‘We will be restoring the complex back to its former glory and building upon the already experienced in-house team and drawing on all our knowledge to develop the brand”, he continued, “We will become a major player in the theatre industry through our diverse offering of arts and culture providing new, vibrant niche eateries within Preston Guild Hall’s arcade”