Politicians have promised to invest half a billion pounds in Preston and South Ribble over the next decade after a historic City Deal was signed at Downing Street.
The Preston and Lancashire City Deal sets out a plan to support the creation of more than 20,000 new jobs – including 5,000 in the Lancashire Enterprise Zone, 17,420 new homes and nearly £1bn in economic growth over 10 years.
Greg Clark, Minister for Cities, signed the agreement with the Leader of Lancashire County Council, Jennifer Mein, the Deputy Leader of Preston Council, John Swindells, the Leader of South Ribble Council, Margaret Smith, and the chairman of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Edwin Booth.
Yesterday Mr Clark described the occasion as a “real Red Letter Day for Lancashire” and said Preston had been “first out of the blocks” in the second wave of 20 City Deals across the country. He said: “This is going to be worth about half a billion pounds of investment - an investment locally made by the Government, local authorities and the private sector. The essence of the City Deal process is rather than people in central government deciding what should happen locally we said ‘you tell us what would really help the area’.
“What they said was we could create even more jobs if we had better road connections, so for example the motorway junction off the M55 which has been talked about for 35 years is needed, and we have said yes to it.”
County Councillor Jennifer Mein said: “It is superb news for Lancashire that we have successfully reached agreement on the Preston and Lancashire City Deal. The City Deal gives us the certainty to plan for the future. It is on a vast scale and forms the basis for major investment in transport and housing.”
Councillor John Swindells said it was “the day Preston had been waiting for”.
He said: “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance - this is going to allow us to attract people who want to live and work in the city and with the two enterprise zones at either end of it, the chance of high quality, well paid jobs.”
Along with four major road schemes - the Preston Western Distributor, South Ribble Western Distributor, Broughton Bypass and Penwortham Bypass, it will see improvements to New Hall Lane in Preston, Leyland town centre, a new railway station at Cottam and ultimately pave the way for a new bridge crossing the River Ribble.
Margaret Smith said: “Our ultimate aim when we get the Penwortham Bypass finished is to get a bridge over the river to connect to the M55. It will then be much easier for everyone to get around.That is at the end of the City Deal process but there is work going on already to see how it will look in the future.”
The LEP, the private and public sector partnership that provides strategic leadership for the county’s economy, will be responsible for ensuring that the City Deal is delivered.
Edwin Booth, chairman of Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, said: “Reaching this landmark deal is a real demonstration of central government’s confidence in our economic potential.”
The signing of the deal was watched by MPs whose constituencies will benefit, including Preston MP Mark Hendrick, Preston North and Wyre MP Ben Wallace, South Ribble MP Lorraine Fullbrook, Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans and Fylde MP Mark Menzies.
To deliver the City Deal’s results, its partners in local and central government will establish an Infrastructure Delivery Programme and Investment Fund, with a combined value of £434m. The £334m Infrastructure Delivery Programme will enable the establishment of critical infrastructure and allow the full development of significant commercial development and housing schemes.
The City Deal Investment Fund consists of a £100m local allocation from the Lancashire Pension Fund, which will be co-invested on a commercial basis in housing and development schemes in the City Deal area.
The £100m allocation is a new venture for Lancashire Pension Fund. Councillor Peter Rankin, Leader of Preston City Council, said: “City Deal is the real deal. It means Preston and Lancashire is set for £434m of new investment which will grow the local economy by nearly £1bn over the next 10 years. This truly is a marvellous moment for Preston and an historic day for all Prestonians.”