South Ribble is top of jobs creation league

ON A HIGH: Leyland is at the centre of the North West's leading area for new jobs

ON A HIGH: Leyland is at the centre of the North West's leading area for new jobs

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South Ribble is leading the way in economic growth in the North West.

With 10,677 new posts, as many jobs were created in South Ribble as in Manchester and Liverpool combined over an eight-year period, international auditors Grant Thornton have revealed.

It puts the district at the top of the tree for job creation in Lancashire and the North West, and in 16th place out of 324 regions across the country.

Grant Thornton ranked Chorley third in Lancashire and 217 nationally. While South Ribble records the strongest economic growth, Ribble Valley and West Lancashire also performed well, reflecting the growth of Preston into its surrounding areas.

The figures have been put down to the success of several business parks including Walton Summit, Moss Side Business Park in Leyland and South Rings in Bamber Bridge, as well as the avoidance of major job losses affecting the likes of Lancashire County Council in Preston.

Major employers have also moved to South Ribble, including Waitrose, which has opened a distribution centre, and Dr Oetker which has moved a production line to Leyland.

Only last week, it was announced a new commercial, industrial and leisure development planned for the Cuerden Strategic Site could create up to 2,500 jobs.

South Ribble Council said good transport links, a highly-skilled workforce and support from the council, through economic development activities, is also behind the success.

Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire chamber of commerce said: “It’s not surprising. Some of our local businesses based there reads like a who’s who in the business community.

“We are extremely fortunate that visionary work on advanced manufacturing is now not only a national but an international focus for the translation of cutting edge research and production.”

And the future for job creation in South Ribble looks bright too, with locations such as the government-backed enterprise zone at Samlesbury and the Cuerden Strategic Investment site, identified under South Ribble Council’s local plan for significant employment use in the next 10 years.

Coun Phil Smith, cabinet member with responsibility for regeneration, leisure and healthy communities, welcomed the figures.

He said: “We’ve been saying for a long time that South Ribble has been weathering the economic storm better than most, and these remarkable figures suggest that has been an understatement. They show that South Ribble is already at the heart of the North of England’s economic powerhouse, and we can be even stronger in the future through working with businesses and our partners to support growth.”

The figures have been welcomed by business people is in the area.

Harold Lefton, director at Roundhouse Properties said: “This obviously great news but we’ve long held the view that this area has all the ingredients for companies to be successful.

“Our property portfolio offers caters for a wide range of businesses and the message is clear that they want to have is a base where it has all the elements of success but an entrepreneurial local authority. This is what South Ribble has.”

Ian Wood, BAE Systems Samlesbury director, added: “We’re proud of our heritage and what we’ve achieved over the years and we continue to invest in the site and our people to ensure that we remain at the forefront of aircraft manufacturing.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Waitrose said: “It’s incredibly encouraging that South Ribble continues to attract major investment in what has been a challenging economic climate.”

In June 2012, pizza brand Dr Oetker announced that it would be relocating its production line in Germany to Mara Leyland, creating 120 jobs over the period.

Last year, bosses also partnered with Preston’s College and the Job Centre Plus to create a training academy.