Christmas 2014 looks exciting in Preston. But humbugging the festive cheer and goodwill to one side, a deeper look at the city shows that the investment in infrastructure and longer term schemes is indeed starting to have an impact, says Mick Goode.
The Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire city deal already show how the huge investment in infrastructure and housing will start to bring growth and jobs to the wider area. Construction work on our highways, house builder signs where land and partnership deals have been agreed, and of course lively debate where consultation for the more contentious interventions loom nearer. These are all signs of where the construction industry in this area will grow not just in 2015 but for years to come.
Higher profile and visible schemes also bode for well for growth; our shoppers in Preston are already seeing the huge benefits of the Fishergate Central Gateway project, and retail trade looks busy and flowing well on the new pedestrian friendly routes. Similarly, joint ventures and investment in key city buildings where plans for new uses for the bus station and a new life in the Guild Hall are very much in the news.
University of Central Lancashire is preparing exciting new proposals for its city centre campus, and a further lively restaurant on the city's historic Market Square has opened, one where you need to book a table.
We will look with interest to see how the rest of the city responds next year. Successful heritage funding will start to see much needed investment in our older building stock, and a forward looking council is scoping how a new city centre plan can be made attractive to businesses to stay and move to the area.
Preston is certainly not alone in such initiatives, and efforts are echoed and on the ground running fast in Blackpool, Blackburn, Lancaster and other local towns. What can and does need to happen is for these places to all stop and talk to each other, collaborate and share good practice and ideas. If we are to truly take advantage of the larger regional growth we need to work together.
Mick Goode is director of Croft Goode Architects based in Kirkham, Lancashire, and is president of the North Lancashire and Fylde branches of RIBA.