Police have confirmed an IED in the Fishergate Shopping Centre was planted deliberately, and was intended to endanger life.
It has been confirmed that it was found in a bin in the mens toilets.
Chief Superintendent James Lee said: “The Fishergate centre is closed whilst bomb disposal are currently retrieving a device that has been found this morning.
“I imagine it will stay closed for the majority of the day today.
“I’d describe it as a small incendiary device that could cause damage to a person or damage to a property.
“It had ignited, caused very minimal damage because a member of the public found it and put it out but obviously it is a concern to us.”
The Army has sent a remote bomb disposal device into the centre after hundreds of shoppers were evacuated due to a ‘suspicious device going off’.
The remote device is searching every bin in and around the shopping centre
Chief Superintendent James Lee confirmed: “Fishergate Shopping Centre will be closed for the majority of the day.”
Lancashire Police were called at around 9.10am today to a report that a device had been found within a bin at Preston’s Fishergate Shopping Centre. The shopping centre management decided to evacuate the centre as a precaution.
Police are in attendance at the centre and are asking the public to stay away from the area.
A police spokesman said: “The safety of the public is our top priority and so the Fishergate Centre has been evacuated as a precaution and is currently closed. The rest of Preston town centre remains open for business.
“Our colleagues from the EOD have been called to assist us with our inquiries and to help in the disposal of the device.”
The Fishergate is now open for cars and pedestrians to walk past the shopping centre, and Corporation Street and Ringway are both open to vehicles.
Students at the University of Central Lancashire have all been warned about the incident, and shoppers have spoken of their experiences.
Ann Garner, 49, from Hutton, said: “I can’t even get my car out of the car park.
“My husband has had a hip operation and I can’t get home to him.
“I was in Card Factory and I was looking at cards and a security guard came in and said something to one of the assistants.
“The next thing I knew, the alarms were going off and we got told to leave the building.
“It was just before 10am.
“I just wanted to nip and get cards and get out but I can’t even get my car.”
And Peter Billington, Secretary of the Lancashire Association of Trades Union Councils (LATUC), said plans for a trade union protest outside county hall at 1.30pm were due to go ahead as planned.
He reported: “There’s still lots of police blocking off all roads round the Fishergate Centre, but pedestrians can get past.”
The LATUC had urged union members opposed to the current Trade Union Bill going through parliament to gather at the Pitt St entrance to county hall at 1.30pm as Lancashire County Council was due to start its December full council meeting. The intention was to highlight the low turnout at electoral polls which resulted in the election of Tory County Councillors and Lancashire MPs.
Preston Bus Ltd tweeted to say: “Fishergate and Corporation Street now reopened in Preston, Butler Street still closed. Buses back to normal routes, delays still possible for a while.”