Preston is the north west’s third city. It has many of the ingredients required of a promising development location including good road and rail access, ample development land, low property prices and a university. So here we will look at current and planned development and regeneration in Preston.
Preston boomed as a mill town but has perhaps since struggled to find a new role for itself. Amongst the usual range of service and logistics employers key high value industries in the area include BAE Systems and the Westinghouse Springfields nuclear fuels site. The new National Cyber Force HQ, a £5bn investment, will be located at Samlesbury nearby and could eventually employ 3,000 people.
One success story has been the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) established as a university in 1992. UCLan is said to be the sixth largest university by numbers, is a major employer and has invested heavily here. The university has invested £60m in a new Student Centre and has recently obtained consent for a new veterinary school building.
Developers have not been slow to spot Preston’s potential in the past and there have been a number of key schemes including the docklands regeneration in the late 80s. However, a number of ambitious schemes have failed to get off the ground. These include the £700m Tithebarn scheme a decade ago and, more recently, plans for a 30-storey skyscraper.
Preston has always been a substantial retail hub but like similar places elsewhere it has suffered decline in recent years. Successful projects include a new modern market and refurbishment of the iconic grade II listed 1960s bus station. Preston City Council appears to be well organised and ambitious. The latest City Investment Plan covers 2020-2035 and its principles include a unique ‘Preston Model’ for the city, fostering community wealth building and a strategy to encourage city living.