The site – close to the junction of the M6 and M61 motorways at Cuerdale – was the subject of a rethink prior to the pandemic after the furniture retailer pulled out of the project back in 2018.
Twelve months later, the renamed Lancashire Central scheme was revealed to have shifted focus away from retail to the creation of a logistics and distribution hub.
Three years to the month since those proposals were first unveiled, a more detailed blueprint has now emerged for a development which is expected to generate almost 2,000 jobs – some of which, it is claimed, will be “higher skilled”. Hundreds of temporary roles will also be created during the construction phase.
However, the estimated permanent jobs tally is less than half of the 4,500 forecast to be generated by the previous, retail-led scheme, in which Ikea was expected to be joined by other nationally-known outlets.
Amongst the sectors now expected to be accommodated on the site are research and development, industrial, storage and distribution. General office space will also be available.
However, retail has not been completely eradicated from the plans – and there is expected to be a foodstore and car showroom, along with food and drink outlets, leisure facilities, a creche and health centre.
A total of 116 homes are also proposed for the plot – down from over 200 in previous interactions of the vision for the sprawling site, which was also once touted as the possible location for a “super hospital” to replace both the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble Hospital.
The new uses for the land are expected to generate £89m of gross added value to the local economy each year.
The scheme will also incorporate new walking and cycling routes, connecting to existing public rights of way – together with landscaping, tree planting, ecological habitat areas, ponds and open drainage features.
People living close to the site will be contacted and advised how they can give feedback on the proposals.
A planning application is being prepared for the development, which will be submitted to Lancashire County Council, which owns the land and so acts as the planning authority under government regulations.
The initial application will be for outline permission and access points. More detailed proposals will then be put forward for the overall development, which would take place across more than half a dozen phases – with a proportion of the employment and commercial space and housing likely to be delivered first, along with some elements of the green corridor.
If planning permission is granted, work on the initial infrastructure could begin later this year.
Lancashire County Council has partnered with Maple Grove Developments – part of the Bamber Bridge-based Eric Wright Group – to deliver the development.
Steve Burns, head of strategic development at Lancashire County Council, said that the plans for Lancashire Central were “exciting proposals for [a] key strategic employment site in the heart of the county”.
He added: “It would create thousands of jobs, both during construction and upon completion, and is a significant opportunity for local skills development opportunities and social value.
“The site is regionally significant, vital to the place shaping agenda and delivers economic outcomes for Lancashire.”
Karen Hirst from Maple Grove Developments, which is also delivering Preston City Council’s cinema and leisure complex, which won planning approval just last week, said: “We are very proud to be bringing forward this important site as Lancashire County Council’s developer partner, which will provide significant employment opportunities in Lancashire.
“This is a key project for Maple Grove and the Eric Wright Group, which we are looking forward to delivering, not least because it is one of the closest schemes to our head office here in Lancashire.”
The plans can be found here.