Bright future as city cash pours in

Deal: Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin in Preston, with Keith Mitchell of the Fishergate Centre
Deal: Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin in Preston, with Keith Mitchell of the Fishergate Centre
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Preston is a city going places following a multi-million pound Government cash windfall.

That’s the view of business leaders – and the entrepeneurs behind an ambitious plan to revamp the city’s Guild Hall complex.

Preston is to get a share of a massive £234m handout to Lancashire which will be spent improving road links between the city’s railway and bus stations.

The Lancashire Enterprise Partnership has agreed an economic deal with the Government, 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 in the county.

The news comes just days after a deal to sell the Guild Hall complex to businessman Simon Rigby was rubber-stamped by Preston Council’s ruling Cabinet.

Today Richard Simkin, Operations Manager of Preston Guild Hall Ltd, which will run the venue, said: “This is excellent news for the city of Preston.

“Our recent bid to give Preston’s Guild Hall the renaissance it has long awaited alongside the Growth Deal to enhance Preston will firmly re-establish its position in Lancashire and beyond.

“The funding announcement recognises the potential for the city and we are pleased to be the beating heart of it.”

Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said: “This is going to achieve a far-reaching impact on the area’s fortunes for many years to come.”

The £233.9m Growth Fund 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.

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.

Meanwhile, millionaire businessman Mr Rigby has pledged to invest an immediate £1m in the loss-making Guild Hall.

A new Italian restaurant, banqueting and conference facilities, a coffee shop and a hub for new start-up businesses are all part of his proposals for the venue, which he has pledged to restore to its former glory as a major entertainments venue.