Consultation has begun on the latest attempt by Preston City Council to attract developers and investors into the city centre to deliver badly needed improvements.
Preston City Centre Plan: An Area Action Plan to 2026: Preferred Options is the latest in a long line of official prospectuses going back more than a decade which have yielded little for the central Lancashire city.
Still on the drawing board are opportunity areas including:
- Corporation Street, long-time focus of commercial district proposals
- Winckley Square
- City Centre North, previously centre of Tithebarn major retail scheme which was cancelled
- Markets Quarter, council voted to demolish Market Hall and car park in December 2012, relocation plan yet to be finalised
- Bus station, recently grade 2 listed, no plans yet emerging for its refurbishment
- Church Street
- Horrocks Quarter
The latest paper is a set of draft proposals and policies to be consulted upon between 30 October and 11 December.
However, one local property advisor who asked not to be named, told Place North West the city council faces a major challenge to delivery, rooted in several factors. He said the council put too much time and effort into the Tithebarn retail scheme proposed and then cancelled by Grosvenor and Lend Lease with no Plan B. The county council has vacated city centre office buildings to move to County Hall to save money but footfall has fallen for shops and restaurants as a result. The council lacks sufficiently strong civic leadership to convince developers and investors there is a clear deliverable plan. Meanwhile, residents increasingly travel to Blackpool or Manchester to shop. All in all, he said, the business community has become deeply apathetic to any new plans that come forward.
Launching the consultation documents, Cllr John Swindells, cabinet member for planning and regulation, said: "Planning positively for the future of the city centre is crucial. We must look at elements of the City Centre Plan from all angles to ensure the council's aspirations, and those of local residents, are met in future developments.
"Securing the Preston and Lancashire City Deal was the first step in creating growth in the area and bringing new investment to the region. This latest consultation on the future of the city centre is extremely important and gives local people the chance to have their say on the development of where they work, live, study and spend their leisure time."
The Preferred Options and supporting documentation can be viewed on the council's website at www.preston.gov.uk/citycentreplan together with an online form to submit any comments.