Lancashire Central Indicative Plans April 2019

Council overhauls Cuerden to give greater industrial focus

Lancashire County Council has announced an overhaul of plans for the 160-acre Cuerden site, proposing an industrial and residential-led scheme.

The plot next to the M6 and M65 in South Ribble has been earmarked for a major employment development known as Lancashire Central for a number of years, and was being delivered by the council in partnership with fellow landowner Brookhouse and Eric Wright.

Planning permission was granted in 2017 for 861,000 sq ft of industrial, 387,000 sq ft of offices, 757,000 sq ft of retail and leisure, an 120-bed 86,000 sq ft hotel, and 120,500 sq ft for a gym, crèche and car showroom.

However, the development experienced a set back last year when anchor tenant Ikea announced it would no longer be opening a store on the site, citing “increased development costs and delays out of Ikea’s control which no longer make this location viable”.

Site investigations at Cuerden began in 2018, but costs doubled in four months from £2m to £4m.

The reworked scheme now includes 600,000 sq ft for logistics or other non-retail use, 260,000 sq ft of mixed commercial such as food retail, a hotel and car sales, 130,000 sq ft for business and industrial hybrid units, and up to 210 homes.

Around 840,000 sq ft has been designated for general employment, such as logistics, warehousing and light industrial units.

According to Stephen Young, executive director for growth, environment, transport and community services at the council, there is already “a lot of interest” in the site, and the focus on industrial uses means the scheme can be brought forward quicker, in around six years, due to demand and a reduced level of risk.

As the nature of the scheme has changed, both Eric Wright and Brookhouse will be resubmitting bids to be appointed development partner for the project, which could be in partnership, or solo. However, according to Young, “nothing is set in stone” and the competition could also be opened up to the wider market.

A revised planning application is set to be submitted in the coming weeks, with the council hoping the first occupiers could be on site by 2021.

Young said: “When Ikea pulled out last year it gave us this opportunity to update our proposals for the site based on changing market opportunities.

“We’re also now looking to deliver the development in a shorter timeframe, due to strong market interest.

“While people have only seen some initial preparatory work on site, we’ve been working at an incredible pace to re-imagine the scheme, plan this ambitious project and prepare it for investment in less than 12 months.

“We’ve been in discussions with potential partners and businesses who are looking to invest and grow here, so that we can build momentum once work starts on site.”

The council approved the proposal to revise Cuerden at its cabinet meeting last week.

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That makes a lot more sense. However the amount of office is disappointing. Surely this should be focused on Preston City Centre.