Flatpack furniture fans won’t have long to wait, as work gets underway on the city’s new Ikea store.
Groundworks and drainage is now complete at the Cuerden site, and building work is set to start in the coming weeks.
Now referred to as Lancashire Central, the 160-acre location has been cleared with works now taking place to establish a construction traffic link with the M65.
With engineers having been on site since January, initial stages such as tree protection and felling work plus the creation of a borehole for a ground source heat pump are now complete.
These preparatory measures – which also include extensive drainage works – are all planned to get key infrastructure in place so retail and restaurant development can start.
A flagship element of the retail site will be the county’s first Ikea store.
Karen Hirst, managing director at Maple Grove Developments, the principal developers for phase one, said negotiations are underway to find other firms to join the furniture home accessories giant as tenants.
She said: “There has been really strong interest in the phase one retail site from a wide range of occupiers and we are in discussion with numerous parties.
“We look forward to being able to make more announcements on which other retail occupiers will be coming to the first phase of Lancashire Central in the very near future.”
In addition to bringing new retail and leisure to the area, the development will see major investment into the local highway infrastructure and will provide new green infrastructure and landscaping, new footpath and cycle routes which will link the site to existing amenities, including Cuerden Valley Park, according to project bosses.
Ben Scandrett, group surveyor at Brookhouse Group, who co-own the site with the county council, said: “It’s the largest single location being delivered through the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal and the retail element is just the first phase.
“It will fund the infrastructure to open up the rest of the site, which is a strategic employment site for the county. As such we aim to ensure that we maximise the employment opportunities.”
Local authority bosses have spoken of their delight with spades finally breaking ground.
Ikea is the flagship tenant for the mixed retail and business site, which is expected to inject millions in to the local economy.
Tim Farlam, Ikea real estate manager said: “We are very excited the planning application has been approved for the Lancashire Central development at Cuerden. We are currently working with Lancashire County Council, who as site owners will be providing the infrastructure for the larger site and therefore it is too soon to say when we will open.”
The “significant” economic boosts to the region go far beyond the thousands of jobs it will create, they say.
County Coun Michael Green, cabinet member for economic development, environment and planning, said: “The development of this strategic site will deliver significant economic benefits, including creating over 4,500 new jobs.
“As part of this development, there will be significant new landscaping and tree-planting to replace those which need to be removed to enable the construction to take place.
“This initial work follows extensive ecological and environmental assessment and is required to prepare the site for construction.
“This has been earmarked as a major new employment site for many years, but the lack of infrastructure to service the site has held back development. This development will provide the necessary investment to make this a reality.”
Dozens of trees were felled at the site earlier this month and council bosses say tree-planting is due to take place to replace those removed.
A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: “This tree removal work was carried out by a specialist contractor on the council’s behalf. They are responsible for any future use of the wood, which will include fencing, construction and biofuel.
“As part of the work on the Lancashire Central development at Cuerden, there will be significant new landscaping and tree-planting to replace those which need to be removed to enable the construction to take place.
Lancashire Central formed part of a presentation by the Department of International Trade (DIT) at the influential MIPIM property and investment exhibition in Cannes earlier this month.
Also included in the Northern Powerhouse promotion campaign were the £434m City Deal initiative, the Samlesbury Enterprise Zone and the £200m UCLan masterplan.
The Lancashire delegation was led by David Taylor, deputy chair of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership and chair of the UCLan board.
Mr Taylor said: “The name of Lancashire, and its key role within the Northern Powerhouse, is increasingly getting recognition internationally.
“That’s why events like MIPIM are so important, as it gives investors the chance to talk to the people who live and breathe the region, and can communicate the Lancashire’ offer with knowledge, passion and pride.
“This, combined with support from partners like the DIT and government ministers, helps us to keep Lancashire front of mind when developers, employers and property agents are considering a northern UK base.”
A spokesman for Lancashire Central said: “The highway plans we have proposed will improve the capacity of the road network and a travel plan will encourage staff to reduce car use and utilise sustainable transport measures.
“The improvements have been designed using traffic forecasts and wherever possible, direct comparisons have been made with other similar developments.”
Along with other road improvements taking place through the City Deal, which will add capacity to the road network in this area, our traffic modelling shows that there will be sufficient capacity on the road network to support the development, they added.