Preston is to get a share of a £233.9m cash windfall to improve the area between the railway and bus stations.
The Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has agreed an economic Growth Deal with the Government for the county, which pledges to create up to 5,000 jobs, allow more than 6,000 homes to be built and generate up to £140m in public and private investment.
The £233.9m investment will be split between the Preston city centre scheme and projects in Lancaster, Blackpool and the east of the county, with cash also in the pipeline towards the Broughton bypass work and the Preston Western Distributor roads scheme.
The deal will see £84.2m injected in Lancashire in the first year, with a further £149.6m of funding from 2016/17 onwards, though it has not been spelled out yet how the cash will be split between individual projects.
Edwin Booth, chairman of the LEP, said: “This is great news for residents and businesses in Lancashire.”
One of the key schemes to benefit from the cash will be street improvements between Fishergate and the bus station. The new funding will enable the extension of the Fishergate public realm improvements – involving wider, tree-lined footpaths and shared spaces between vehicles and pedestrians – from its current point at the junction of Lune Street to the bus station.
The aim is to integrate the city’s two public transport hubs and support future development and modernisation of both the rail and bus stations.
City council leader Peter Rankin said: “This deal is very good news.
“Fishergate is looking really impressive now, and although some people have been a bit concerned about the shared space, it means that pedestrians will have more space, and we’ve got cafes with seats outside now.”
He added: “I was walking behind a couple the other day who commented that it looked really odd that the scheme suddenly stops at one point, but that’s because that’s all the county council had funding for.
“Now we can continue it all the way up to the train station, and it will look fantastic.
“It’s going to be a very big scheme, and it will show that things are happening in Preston. Things are really taking shape in Preston at the moment.”
The Growth Deal also means that money for several new road schemes in central Lancashire is secured, including the A6 Broughton Bypass and the Preston Western Distributor road, linking the A583/A584 to the motorway network via a new junction.
Coun Jennifer Mein (left), leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “The City Deal gave a big proportion of the money for the roads, but we were left with the prospect of looking around for extra money for the rest. The money from the Growth Deal means that these roads are now absolutely guaranteed and we don’t have to look anywhere else.”
She added: “It’s fantastic news, and Lancashire has got one of the best investments, thanks to very hard work from members of the LEP.”
Coun Mein was unable to give a time frame for the work in Fishergate, but insisted it would be “soon”, and said that details of improvements to Preston bus station would be revealed in the next two to three weeks.
LEP chairman Mr Booth added the cash would support businesses and help them grow. He said: “This is a significant announcement for Lancashire and builds on the LEP’s work creating the right environment for businesses to thrive.
“The Growth Deal will establish a new six-year investment package worth over £360m with the potential to create more than 4,000 new jobs in Lancashire over the coming years.”
Other projects named in the deal include the Lancaster Health Innovation Park, a new facility for companies developing health products and services; improvements on the Blackburn to Bolton railway corridor; work on the M55 to St Annes Link Road; a Blackpool heritage centre, and an east Lancashire cycle network.
The Lancashire Growth Deal is part of a £12bn “bottom up” approach to revitalise local economies.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “For too long our economy has been too London-focused and too centralised. Growth Deals will help change all that. This historic deal means real change with exciting plans for Lancashire including improvements to road and rail to help people get to work and businesses to grow, supporting new housing and backing tourism.”
• For more on this story, see tomorrow’s LEP Business supplement.