Preston Vision hits NWDA funding fog

Regeneration organisation Preston Vision has postponed appointing a chairman while ongoing funding from the North West Development Agency is clarified.

The agency was re-launched in 2009 after several false starts in the past decade and its £500,000 a year budget is wholly funded by the NWDA, with support in kind in the form of office space and administration assistance from Preston City Council and the University of Central Lancashire.

A spokeswoman for Preston Vision said the delay reflected the changing circumstances of the NWDA – due to be closed in 2012 and replaced by as yet undefined Local Enterprise Partnerships – and lobbying was underway to ensure Preston Vision remained in future years.

It is not yet clear whether Preston will bid for its own LEP or go in with other authorities for a Lancashire-wide LEP.

Preston Vision employs four staff, headed by chief executive Eliot Ward, formerly area manager for English Partnerships and Homes & Communities Agency. Its funding is secured for the current financial year until the end of March 2011.

The organisation is pressing to ignite a lacklustre development market in the city, where no new grade A office space exists and the Tithebarn retail scheme has floundered in planning for years.

Frank McKenna, chairman of pressure group Downtown Preston in Business, said the move to delay filling the chairman's seat showed Preston shooting itself in the foot yet again.

According to the Lancashire Evening Post, the three candidates for the post of chairman are regeneration consultant and former EP boss David Taylor, Richard Bamford, chairman of Enterprise Ventures, and Malcolm Clarke of Preston College.

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