Lord Heseltine was in Preston today to launch the “landmark” City Deal.
The former deputy prime minister was set to join leading figures from the world of politics and business to officially launch the project, worth more than £430m to the area.
Business chiefs were expected to gather at County Hall to hear how the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal will help boost growth over the next decade.
The event marked the beginning of work on the ground of the project - set to create nearly £1bn in economic growth.
Over the next 10 years, growth created by the City Deal is billed to create more than 20,000 new jobs and more than 17,000 new homes by delivering substantial infrastructure improvements. It will also attract £2.3bn in leveraged commercial investment. Work has started on an £8m project to cut congestion on the A582 - part of plans to increase capacity on routes in the area.
Chairman of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership Edwin Booth said: “We reached this landmark deal because central government had confidence in our economic potential and our ability to deliver major projects, so it is great to have justified that confidence by being the first of the second wave of City Deals to physically start work. By freeing Preston and the surrounding area from the shackles of the existing infrastructure we will enable the local economy to really take off and create the jobs and housing that we need.”
Lord Heseltine said: “It’s fantastic to see the rapid progress that has been made in Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire over the last six months. The City Deal has given the area the opportunity to unlock significant economic growth and leverage considerable commercial investment.
“The area can now build on the excellent progress of City Deal and pave the way for securing future growth through the Growth Deal process.”
County Coun Jennifer Mein, leader of Lancashire County Council, said the deal was a “once in a generation opportunity”. She said: “It is very exciting to see work starting on the first of the major transport projects that form the backbone of the delivery plan and will provide the ideal conditions for Preston, and Lancashire as a whole, to reach their full economic potential.”
Coun Peter Rankin, leader of Preston Council, said the deal was “the biggest thing to happen to Preston in decades”. He said: “We know that developers and businesses want to invest in Preston and we also know that there is demand for houses from families and professionals but we have been held back because of the lack of infrastructure required to give developments the go ahead. City Deal will change all that and developments in North West Preston and East Preston are already moving forward.”
Coun Margaret Smith, leader of South Ribble Council, said the area had “great ambitions for the future”. She said: “Working with our friends and neighbours in this way makes us much greater than the sum of our parts, and the City Deal is a wonderful opportunity for us to accelerate our existing aspirations for the growth of our borough.”