An update on Lancashire’s £430m City Deal, the county’s housing supply and the latest on Blackpool’s £1bn regeneration were on a wide-reaching agenda at Place North West’s Lancashire Development Update.
Speakers at the event included Adrian Phillips, chief executive at Preston City Council, Justin Cove, director of Hive Land & Planning, Jonathan Noad, director of planning and property at South Ribble Council, Andrew Dewhurst, director at Maple Grove Developments and Stephen Young, executive director at Preston City Council.
Also speaking at the event were Nick Gerrard, growth and prosperity programme director at Blackpool Council, Alban Cassidy, director at Cassidy + Ashton, Jeremy Lefton, managing director at Roundhouse Properties, Pete Swift, managing director at Planit-IE and Darren Jones, development director at Nikal.
The event was sponsored by LUC, the Preston, South Ribble & Lancashire City Deal and Blackpool Council, and was chaired by Place North West’s contributing editor Jessica Middleton-Pugh.
Adrian Phillips kicked off the event with a presentation on the £430m Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal.
- So far the City Deal has provided almost 5,500 houses and 845,000 sq ft of commercial floorspace
- Phillips highlighted various schemes in Preston including Maple Grove and Muse Developments’ Harris Quarter leisure scheme, a £250m campus for UCLan and Fishergate, which he described as “genuinely transformative”
- Phillips said: “I am not here to claim all the public sector glory. We can only achieve outcomes through valuable and meaningful partnership with business”
- Looking ahead Phillips touched upon a potential £182m investment in a sustainable transport system which could include a new station at Cottam Parkway and a radical overhaul of walking and cycling options in Preston
Justin Cove of Hive Land & Planning gave an update on planning policy and housing delivery.
- There are currently several Local Plan reviews underway, the outcomes of which will dictate the direction of the region’s housing offer
- Consultations on draft plans in Blackburn and Darwen, Central Lancashire, Hyndburn, Pendle and West Lancashire are all proposed for the second half of 2020
- The new Housing Delivery Test was introduced by the Government last year after complaints about the ambiguity of the previous system. He said the new system addresses “a need for more transparency and certainty about requirements for individual authorities”
- Cove said the Stoneygate masterplan was “a response to the challenges of delivering houses in Preston city centre.” The masterplan covers an area of 61 acres and is being worked on by Hive and Preston City Council
Sustainability and reform
The first panel discussion of the day covered topics such as Preston city centre, the future of Leyland and sustainability, and featured Jonathan Noad, Adrian Phillips, Andrew Dewhurst and Stephen Young.
- When asked about pushback from residents on the issue of development in South Ribble, Noad said: “It is difficult ask for us. The Leyland test track has had a long journey, we are working with local residents who objected despite its allocation in the Local Plan. Their energy is better focused on getting what they want from the scheme”
- Noad added that a proposed masterplan for Leyland had advanced beyond “making it look pretty” due to the Government’s Towns Deal which could see £25m of investment for the town, he said: “We are thinking bigger and better and trying to provide a new destination. We’re looking into the evening offer, as it’s pretty dead at night”
- The event took place on the same day that Preston City Council overturned planning approval for 974 homes. Phillips responded: “We are clearly wedded to plan-led development, we always have been and we always will be. We have nothing to apologise for, we want growth in the right place based on Local Plan”
- When asked if he would like to see a Combined Authority for the region, similar to that of Manchester and Liverpool City Regions, Phillips was in favour. “I think the footprint of local government needs to change. Radical readjustment is needed. Let’s get on with it. Preston is madly ambitious and keen to grow”
- Dewhurst spoke about the challenges of creating a leisure offer, he said of Maple Grove and Muse’s Harris Quarter scheme: “The leisure market is dynamic and fast moving, it’s tough. We are always trying to be ahead of the curve. We want to up the leisure development and make a central meeting place with different food offers and soul to the scheme”
- Maple Grove has been appointed as sole developer for the 160-acre Lancashire Central in Cuerden, Dewhurst said: “It is a lot easier to deliver with one main partner, because of simplicity and capital costs. You need a big enough opportunity to recover that investment and make a return”
- On the issue of sustainability, Young said: “A key part of the reimagination of Lancashire is improving its environmental credentials. We are looking at the challenges and how we can invest in public transport, green cycle ways and electric charging points”
- On the topic of transport, Young welcomed the news that HS2 would go ahead saying that it would bring investment opportunities to Preston but stressed: “It’s really important we don’t consider the West Coast Mainline or HS2 in isolation. A key part of the strategy is to connect from west to east”
Nick Gerrard of Blackpool Council provided an update on Blackpool’s £1bn regeneration.
- Nikal’s £300m Blackpool Central is “a transformational leisure investment with a world class product, creating a new place and the economic driver for this is to give people reasons to stay and a year round economy”
- The Winter Gardens conference centre will complete this year while phase two of the Talbot Gateway is set to start in April
- Gerrard called on the Government to assist with bringing forward Blackpool’s vision, “any government wants good news stories and in Blackpool we have a lot that they can help us deliver”
- A pipeline of hotels is coming forward including a Holiday Inn which will be built on the site of the former Wilko near Blackpool North station. A Premier Inn and the five-star Sands hotel are both due to start on site this year.
- The Airport Enterprise Zone is aimed at making Blackpool a business hub and will benefit from superfast internet connectivity with New York as a result of 3000 miles of Atlantic cable which is being laid. Gerrard described it as “an astounding contribution” to the region
Ambition and creativity
The final panel discussion of the day covered topics such as Nikal’s ambitious entertainment offer, providing premises for SMEs and what more needs to be done to promote the regeneration of towns like Blackpool. The panelists were Alban Cassidy, Jeremy Lefton, Pete Swift and Darren Jones.
- Cassidy gave an update on the proposed development of Whyndyke, which is one of 10 towns earmarked for funding under the NHS and the Government’s Healthy Towns initiative. Cassidy said of the 1,400 home development: “We wanted to put Windyke forward as an entry. It was an opportunity to make it stand out”
- He hoped the site would become a “sustainable urban extension of Blackpool rather than a stand alone development” and added: “We always said that we wanted the scheme to set the bar so that others would try to reach similar sorts of standards”
- Speaking about providing offices for SMEs, Lefton explained a common misconception about companies’ growth. “If you double in size you don’t always need to double your floor space.” He highlighted the success Roundhouse Properties’ concept in Blackburn, adding: “Of the 120 units we have built since 2015 only one has been sold on”
- When asked about what could be done to improve Lancashire, Lefton said: “Working together improves Lancashire as a whole rather than individual pockets. Lancashire is undersold, and we need to be telling people that”
- Swift called for patience and creativity in delivering Lancaster’s Canal Quarter masterplan. He said: “Don’t measure success by getting it finished, measure success by how great it is. We need a local authority that won’t accept beige or second best and I hope they hold their line and deliver it”
- On the dangers of creating ‘indentikit’ towns across the country, Swift said: “The clone town issue won’t happen because there isn’t enough money in the pot. The ones to succeed will be the most creative. Not all good ideas work everywhere, some are portable and others aren’t”
- Nikal’s ambitious £300m Blackpool leisure proposal was under the spotlight, but Jones insisted there was room in Blackpool for another entertainment offer. He said: “Where better than Blackpool? What we are trying to do is create something that attracts families to stay there and not just go to the lights or the Pleasure Beach and go home again”
- He added Merlin, operator of a number of entertainment institutions in Blackpool, was “jealous” of Nikal’s project and praised the local council for the “amazing” work they were doing in the town. Jones also called on the Government to give local authorities the funds they need for regeneration. He said: “Number 10 needs to invest more. Talk to the local people and give local MPs what they need to make these places better”
The presentation slides can be accessed below:
To view the video mentioned in Nick Gerrard’s presentation click here.
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