Council responds to Preston city centre plan report

A letter from Cllr John Swindells, deputy leader, Preston City Council, taking issue with an article published on Place North West earlier this week:

I am writing to take issue with the inference in your article dated 30 October (Preston publishes city centre ideas, again) that Preston has yet again launched a new set of proposals for the City Centre. There are a number of inaccuracies in the article not least within the views of your anonymous contributor.

The article refers to the recently launched consultation on Preston's Local Plan presenting it as the latest in a long line of new ideas for the City Centre. This is not the case. We have a statutory obligation to provide a development framework for Preston which will be used to manage development proposals and determine planning applications within the city centre boundary. It is not a planning application or a new scheme proposal. It is extremely important that people get their say at this and later stages prior to the plan can be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for public examination.

The article states that little has been yielded in the last decade. Of course it is true that in 2011 the Tithebarn Development became a casualty of the recession, like many others nationwide. However there is no mention of the recent City Deal announcement which is the only city deal outside of the core cities to be signed. It will see investment of over £400m in the next decade, fast tracking 25 years of growth into just 10. Neither does it refer to the upgrade of Fishergate which is currently underway or other investments being made.

There appears to be confusion in the article between Preston City Council and Lancashire County Council. Lancashire County Council have vacated offices off Winckley Square and relocated to County Hall, but County Hall is within the city centre and therefore it is not clear how this move could have had a detrimental impact on footfall within the city centre. The article also states that increasingly, Preston residents are travelling to Blackpool to shop. A recently commissioned retail and leisure study does not identify this as an issue, indeed, the city centre retains the majority of shopping expenditure from all areas of Preston and, further than that is the dominant non-food shopping destination in Central Lancashire.

The current market conditions are challenging for many places outside of the core cities. However the civic leaders in Preston remain committed to strong collaborative relationships with the County Council and others in the public and private sector to realise our aspirations for the City Centre.

Councillor John Swindells, Deputy Leader, Preston City Council

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