'No slowdown' in Preston new home sales, says council

A developer has claimed that the number of new homes on the market in North West Preston has reached “saturation point”.

By Paul Faulkner
Wednesday, 25th March 2020, 1:26 pm
Updated Wednesday, 25th March 2020, 1:28 pm

Richard Topham, founder and director of Westchurch Homes, made the comments at a meeting of Preston City Council’s planning committee earlier this month.

But the suggestion of a drop in interest and prices has since been denied by the local authority and other housebuilders operating in the area.

Around 5,300 homes are expected to be built in the suburbs around Cottam in the two decades up to the mid-2030s.

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Mr. Topham made the claim as the committee approved his own company’s proposals for a new estate of 89 properties – all of them categorised as ‘affordable’ – off Lightfoot Lane.

“There is a saturation point in terms of the volume of housing that is there now,” he said, explaining that Westchurch had been monitoring the activities of other developers.

“The reality is that sales rates have dropped and the price point has dropped.”

But in a statement after the meeting, Preston City Council rejected the suggestion of a slowdown, with cabinet member for planning, Peter Moss, saying that the authority was “not aware” of any evidence to support the claim.

“Figures on house price fluctuations show that prices in Preston have grown in line with the national average over the last twelve months.

“Preston City Council is sixth best-performing Council in the country for housing delivery, which shows our determination to facilitate and encourage growth across all housing markets throughout the city and wider area.”

Meanwhile, developer Barratt Homes said that it had experienced a “surge” in sales at its Wesley Chase estate, also off Lightfoot Lane – with 90 percent of the 140 plots now sold. The company also pointed to figures from a property website indicating that there had been a 60 percent increase in enquiries about new homes across the whole of Preston over the past 12 months.

Redrow Homes, which is developing the Tabley Green estate nearby, added that their development was attracting “plenty of interest”. Taylor Wimpey, which also has a presence in the area, declined to comment.

The Westchurch Homes scheme, which will see the Community Gateway Association managing the social rented properties to be built, was approved after the developer agreed to contribute £593,000 to the construction of the East-West link road, connecting Lightfoot Lane to the new Preston Western Distributor route – which is due to open in 2023.

Westchurch had originally argued that the recent introduction of a £7000-per-dwelling payment - requested by Lancashire County Councilon all new build properties in the area, irrespective of their size – would make the scheme unviable. The firm also said that residents on its planned estate were unlikely to use the route to which the company was being asked to contribute.

But Mr. Topham said Westchurch decided that it would accept the charge and halve its profit margin to 7.9 percent so that it could gain permission and proceed with its plans.

The Preston Western Distributor scheme – which includes the partially-completed East West-link road, as well as a short connection to Cottam Way – is expected to cost around £185m. When the project was first mooted, its price tag was forecast to be £104m.