The Chief Executive of Downtown in Business has praised the progress made in and around Preston in recent years – and urged the city’s politicians to match its regeneration with ambition and aspiration
The boss of the Private Sector lobbying organisation and business networking club, Frank McKenna, said:
“When Downtown launched in Preston ten years ago, the Tithebarn project was set to transform the city centre. Without rehearsing the reasons for the collapse of that scheme, the fact is that its demise, quite literally, put the city back a decade.
“Whereas Tithebarn was a silver bullet for many of Preston’s ills, a more patient, piecemeal approach has had to be adopted since – and we are beginning to see the fruits of those efforts emerge through a range of dynamic and exciting regeneration projects.
“One of the country’s most successful Universities UCLan is undertaking a £200M investment in its Preston campus; there are a couple of decent hotel developments underway; equally good to see is the emergence of some good restaurants; the Guild Hall, Arcade and Charter Theatre has enjoyed a multi-million pound facelift, courtesy of Lancashire entrepreneur Simon Rigby; City Deal gave Preston’s infrastructure a much-needed boost, and improvements to the Railway Station are eagerly anticipated; the Markets Quarter, the revamped Winkley Square, and the bus station redevelopment are welcome initiatives too.
“There has been a setback with the planned Cuerden project, but hopefully solutions can be found, and progress can be made on that site.”
The former Deputy Leader of Lancashire County Council continued:
“There is a sense of optimism that has not been felt in Preston for a very long time – and the glass is very much half-full.
“So, Preston, sixteen years after winning city status, is starting to look like a city. Can it start to act like one?
“That will mean a shift in attitudes about what makes a genuinely vibrant, sustainable night-time economy. It will mean a more welcoming attitude from the wider community to what we hope will be a growing student population (Brexit willing), and it will mean Preston politicians using the momentum of impressive growth to be ambitious enough to take their place at the top table of, in the first instance the County’s policy-makers, but ultimately at a regional, Northern Powerhouse level too.”
“Discussions are underway in the East of the county to create a unitary East Lancashire organisation. I don’t think that’s a great idea – but if it does happen, Preston should be leading the way in devising a plan for the rest of Lancashire. And it has never been in a better place to do so.”