Exciting times ahead in booming South Ribble

Photo Ian Robinson Chorley Aerial Worden Park/Hall in Leyland

Photo Ian Robinson Chorley Aerial Worden Park/Hall in Leyland

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South Ribble is booming - from bustling businesses to glorious green spaces, the borough can boast a proud heritage and exciting future.

A number of schemes are underway to regenerate and improve towns and villages, including new roads, retail and leisure areas and public open spaces.

Park life: St Catherines park, Lostock Hall

Park life: St Catherines park, Lostock Hall

A key driver is cash from the £434m City Deal scheme, which has already been used to secure developments anticipated for decades.

Leader of South Ribble Borough Council, Councillor Peter Mullineaux, said: “You only have to mention the names Leyland Trucks, Dr Oetker, and BAE Systems to realise that South Ribble is synonymous with world-class businesses, creating products known across the globe.

“No matter where you travel – home or abroad, you’re likely to see a DAF truck – a truck which was developed by the same company started more than a century ago right here in Leyland by two friends who had an idea to invent a steam-powered lawn mower. The very fabric of our borough is built on entrepreneurship, pioneering and manufacturing. And today, we’re proud to say that is more evident than ever before.

“We continue to attract big businesses. Take Waitrose – they chose South Ribble for their £35m distribution centre, creating more than 300 new jobs.

Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce

Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce

“They, like others, saw the potential that this area represents. We have fantastic transport links, being a stone’s throw from three major motorway networks, but we also have wonderful parks and open spaces widely regarded among the best in the North West. When you throw into the mix the fact we have some of the top schools and colleges in the country, this unique combination is what makes South Ribble such a great place to live, work and play.

“There’s no doubt this is an exciting time and as a council, we certainly aren’t resting on our laurels.

“We continue to work hard to support our existing businesses while attracting the big names, like more recently Amazon, to our area. South Ribble is very much open for business.”

Interim Chief Executive of South Ribble Borough Council, Jean Hunter is keen that work continues to secure a positive future for the borough.

Looking back: Leylands Centurion tank

Looking back: Leylands Centurion tank

She said: “Investing in the future is really important for South Ribble Borough Council, and this means making sure we put the right plans in place now to support our residents in the future.

“We’re working hard on putting the building blocks in place - upgrading our roads and thinking about the type of education and medical provision we’ll need in the future.

“But we’re also delivering multi-million pound upgrades of our towns and village centres. They are the very heart of our communities and we are determined to get it right so they will serve our residents for generations to come.

“Imagining a bright future for South Ribble is also about inspiring our young people and creating a workforce that has the skills to fit the jobs created through exciting projects like the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal.

“That deal alone will attract a £1bn boost to the economy in Central Lancashire while bringing forward 30 years of growth in a decade.

“That means thousands of new jobs, new homes and a wealth of opportunities for our residents.”

PARKS AND LEISURE

The borough’s parks and open spaces have been ranked among the top in the UK for two decades.

This year Worden Park in Leyland scooped its 20th consecutive honour in the prestigious Green Flag Awards 2016/17. It is the only park north of London to be awarded every single year since the scheme began.

Longton Brickcroft Nature Reserve and Hurst Grange Park in Penwortham were also handed the top honour in this year’s awards.

The pair aren’t far behind Worden Park, with Longton having raised 19 coveted flags while Hurst Grange Park has held on to the title since 2005 when it was first awarded one.

To build on this success, the council has announced a £1m investment in parks and open spaces in the next 12 months.

As part of this, a £250,000 investment was announced for Withy Grove Park in Bamber Bridge, to bring it up to the standard required to receive a prestigious Green Flag Award. The proposals include landscaping, the creation of new footpaths and the installation of a sculpture.Worden Park is also undergoing a £500,000 renovation and is in the running to be named the UK’s best park.

Among the key elements of the work are:

• 128 new parking spaces

• new toilet facilities

• refurbishment to the iconic Conservatory and Vine House which date back to the 1800s.

• the planting of a new 1,100-tree woodland at the entrance to replace old, fallen trees

• restoration of historic walls and new bins and signage

Worden Park is also being extended as part of a “village” style development on land off Altcar Lane. The extension will be in the south-western corner of the existing park around Shaw Wood, which will take in the feel of a nature reserve - with a natural landscape and wildlife habitats.

New parks are also being created in the borough.

In June, South Ribble’s first new park in 40 years was officially opened.

St Catherine’s Park in Lostock Hall marries council-owned land, formerly known as Dandy Brook Park, with open space belonging to St Catherine’s Hospice. New footpaths have been created to ensure it is fully accessible for wheelchair users and prams. It also has an Inglis Bridge, sensory garden, wild bluebell wood and nature trail.

It is the first of the Central Parks to be completed.

Central Parks is a vision set out to connect and protect parks and public spaces from Bamber Bridge to Avenham Park in a co-ordinated way. It is hoped that work will be completed within 15 years, with features including a natural amphitheatre, an adventure play area and mountain bike trails.

BUSINESS

Research by international auditors Grant Thornton revealed South Ribble was 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.

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.

Plans are now moving ahead for the Cuerden Strategic site, a new commercial, industrial and leisure development between Lostock Hall and Leyland, which could create up to 2,500 jobs.

Last week it was announced that furniture giant Ikea could be opening on the new retail park.

In addition to the Ikea, plans for the site include a a 120-bedroom hotel, 80,000 sq km of industrial space, 26,000 sq m of office space and 210 new homes.

Lancashire County Council is now running a public consultation before the planning application is submitted.

Council leader Jennifer Mein said: “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver a development that will bring economic and employment benefits for the whole of the county.

“Situated at the start of the M65 and minutes from the M6 and the M61, the site could not be better placed.” But residents have expressed concerns about the development, believing it will exacerbate traffic problems in the already-congested area, especially with only one road in and one road out.

South Ribble is also home to top international businesses, employing hundreds of people and producing brands known world wide.

Samlesbury is home to the AB InBev brewery which has been producing some of the biggest named beers, including Stella Artois and Budweiser, for more than four decades. The firm employs more than 250 people and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week producing a massive 3.5m bottles, 1.7m cans and 17,000 kegs in a single day.

A spokesman said: “AB InBev’s Samlesbury brewery has been part of the local community for decades and we are proud to produce some of the world’s best beers. The Samlesbury brewery is the perfect location from both a brewing and distribution point of view due to its close proximity to water sources and a talented local labour market, as well as being within easy reach of motorways and railways.”

Dr Oetker, which produces the Ristorante and Chicago Town pizzas is the biggest selling frozen pizza brand the country - and they’re all made in Leyland.

The company has recently relocated its production line from Germany as part of an ambitious expansion plan creating 65 new jobs. Work has just been completed on a long-awaited new junction that will open up commercial development opportunities on the Lancashire Enterprise Zone site in Samlesbury.

A new traffic light-controlled junction has been created off the A677 Preston New Road, a short distance from Samlesbury Hall.

Located on surplus land previously part of the BAE Systems sites at Samlesbury and Warton, the Lancashire Enterprise Zone is designed to attract hi-tech advanced manufacturing and engineering companies, as part of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) commitment to create jobs and growth in the county.

As one of the LEP’s priorities, the aim is to create a centre of excellence for high-tech manufacturing, generating wealth-creating benefits for the whole county.

Up to 6,000 highly skilled jobs will be created directly across both sites plus a further 5,000 to 7,000 in the local supply chain.

Bryan Sitko, Managing Director at Leyland Trucks said: “Leyland Trucks has been building vehicles at its factory since 1896. Throughout this long history, the company has been supported by a skilled and committed workforce sourced primarily from the local area. Without this team, currently numbering around 1,000 people, Leyland would not have achieved its current status as the global centre for light and medium duty truck design for parent company PACCAR.”

Babs Murphy, chief Executive of the North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said: “South Ribble has considerable advantages, a quality environment, world class businesses and excellent transport links by road and rail.

“These strengths have been harnessed through the visionary policies of the local authorities and Lancashire Enterprise Partnership working in partnership to bring investment in good infrastructure projects to the area.”

LIVING IN SOUTH RIBBLE

In March’s budget announcement, council tax was frozen for the sixth time in the last seven years.

Members of the council agreed to the freeze at a special full council meeting, which means that householders won’t have to pay any extra for the council’s share of the overall bill in 2016/17. As a sign of its confidence in the future, the council has also made a commitment not to raise council tax next year either.

An investment in housing of £3m has also been proposed, which would support the provision of new homes, the upgrade of existing ones and further help for people in supported accommodation.

The life expectancy at birth is one of the best in Lancashire, and is above the national average.

For males in South Ribble it is 79.9 years, and 82.8 years. This compares to 77.6 years for males and 81.2 for females in Preston, and 79.1 years and 82.8 years nationally.

The percentage of pupils achieving five or more A*-C grades at GCSE or equivalent including English and Maths in 2014/15 was 61.5 per cent in South Ribble district.

This was ahead of the average for the Lancashire County Council area of 58.8 per cent.

A total of 7.8 per cent of South Ribble households were in fuel poverty in 2014, which was well below the England average of 10.6 per cent, and was the lowest rate in Lancashire.

REGENERATION

Work has begun to transform Bamber Bridge with a £3.35 million ‘super scheme’.

The town centre will take on the feel of a tree-lined avenue and there will be a public garden created as part of the project, which has taken its theme from the Old English name for Bamber Bridge ‘brycg’ which translates to ‘tree bridge’.

An iconic “warm welcome to Bamber Bridge” sign – made by the creators of the celebrated new WWI war memorial in Lostock Hall – has already been erected near to the motorway junction as motorists enter the town.

As the central focal point of the scheme, the public garden will also feature a landmark iron tree sculpture made from different metals, which will change in colour as it weathers over time.

There will also be major upgrades to Station Road, with wider footpaths, enhanced crossings and more on-street parking, making it a more pedestrian-friendly area.

Specially-designed bus stops and benches will fit in with the historical theme of the scheme.

The scheme is funded by the £434m Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal, a government-backed programme which aims to boost the area’s economy, generating new jobs, improved communities and new homes.

Details of a £100,000 facelift for Walmer Bridge were announced last month.

The scheme will update the centre of the village by installing new seating and an information board, parking will be upgraded and new trees planted.

HISTORY AND HERITAGE

A huge new war memorial commemorating more than 600 fallen soldiers from South Ribble was unveiled on Remembrance Day last year.

The 40ft monument depicting a First World War soldier features all the names of the fallen from the borough - the first time this has been done. Leyland’s manufacturing heriage is also celebrated on the boundaries of the town, with three Welcome To Leyland landmarks.

They include a Centurion Tank on the A582 commuter route, ‘Norma’, a Leyland TL Fire Engine outside the Leyland Hotel, and ‘William’, a Leyland 245 tractor set on a mound at the roundabout joining Schleswig Way, Leyland Lane and Emnie Lane.