Deal has put central Lancashire on the map

Karen Hirst

The architects of the City Deal say it has put central Lancashire on the right road to delivering economic growth.

The transformational £434m programme of investment in the Preston and South Ribble area has at its heart a host of major infrastructure, road building and housing construction projects.

The City Deal is looking help create more than 20,000 new private sector jobs and see over 17,000 new homes built across the area, along with new school places, open green spaces and new health provision to cater for the growing population.

So far it has helped deliver more than 11,489 new jobs and 2,614 new homes.

Almost £46m of public and private sector capital has been invested across Preston and South Ribble since the deal began life more than three years ago.

The long-awaited £32m Broughton bypass was opened to traffic in early October last year.

The £17.5m Penwortham bypass has been given the green light, and plans to construct the ‘Preston Western Distributor’ – a major new link from the M55 along the west side of the city have now been agreed.

Karen Hirst, managing director of Maple Grove Developments, part of the Eric Wright Group, says the City Deal has put the area on the map by underlining its scale of ambition for growth.

She says: “The Central Lancashire City Deal, which was the first of the second wave and was signed in September 2013, is widely viewed to be one of the most successful and one that we are proud to be involved in.

“The deal itself represents a £434m programme of works with an investment leverage in the order of £1bn.

“Regional companies can benefit either by sites and land being opened up for development or they can gain assistance on the delivery of the works.

“Eric Wright Group is a pre-procured partner under the Lancashire Regeneration Property Partnership and can help with speeding up the implementation of the works.”

However, there has been a major setback at Cuerden, the massive 65-acre strategic employment site at the start of the M65.

Swedish furniture giant IKEA has withdrawn from plans to build a new store on the site.

IKEA was to have been the anchor retail tenant of the flagship development. The aim of the £36m Cuerden plan is to create around 4,500 new jobs in a variety of sectors including office, retail, manufacturing, logistics, catering and hospitality.

The decision came despite work already starting on site. The company said it would be looking for a new location due to “increased development costs and delays outside of IKEA’s control”.

The county council, with its partners on the site, Eric Wright Group and joint landowner and developer Brookhouse Group, is now looking at other options for the site.

Council leader Geoff Driver says: “We are confident that this prime site will be very attractive to other companies with vision and aspirations, and are therefore looking at other options for the site.

“The site is in a very sought after location, right on the motorway network, and comes with planning consent already granted. It is a great investment opportunity.

“We will also be working hard to attract firms to the site and ensure they are aware of all the positives of locating to this part of Lancashire, and we are already talking to investors who are very interested in locating to this part of the county.”

Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans adds: “The Cuerden site continues to present a fantastic commercial opportunity for large businesses, with approved planning permission and convenient motorway links.”


Click here to sign up to receive our new South West business news...