David Cameron insists Lancashire has “not been ignored” by ambitious plans to link the cities of the north in the Government’s so-called Northern Powerhouse vision.
Plans announced in January include widening of motorways and investment into HS2 – but the only mention of Preston is a plan to link the rail and bus station.
Visiting an affordable housing scheme in Buckshaw Village, near Chorley, the Conservative leader told the Evening Post Preston would be a “key part” of the vision to link the “great cities of the North”.
He said: “First of all the Preston and Lancashire city deal is the one that is worth £434m – more than the London city deal and it’s a really substantial investment.
“It would be a mistake to think this simply about Manchester and Liverpool. The Northern Powerhouse concept is about linking up all of the great cities of the North of England, recognising that together they can form a real counterweight to London and the South.
“Its worth remembering at the moment jobs are growing faster in the North West than in the south of England – actually the economy of the North West is growing faster than the South as we stand.”
First of all the Preston and Lancashire city deal is the one that is worth £434m – more than the London city deal and it’s a really substantial investment.
Mr Cameron and wife Samantha met their first baby of the election campaign, sharing memories of sleepless nights with their own children, during the whistlestop visit.
The couple, who have had four children, including severely disabled Ivan who died in 2009, chatted with plasterer Robert Arron and partner Kelly Jeffers who are using the Help to Buy scheme.
As Mrs Cameron cuddled their seven-week-old daugher Regan, he joked she looked “broody”, adding: “Want another one?” but was quick to quash the idea of having a fifth child.
The Camerons said their girls were better sleepers than their boys, adding son Arthur Elwyn always used to get into bed with them.
The politician held hands with their son Finlay, two, and swung him playfully as they looked around the estate.
Cameron told the Evening Post: “We will continue to safeguard green belt, it’s protected, it will be in our manifesto that it’ll be and obviously the national planning framework does protect green belt. What we are sitting on here is an excellent brownfield site development and we believe in brownfield first. This is a classic example of the type.”
Quizzed on what he intended to do to allay environmental fears over fracking in the county, if elected, he said: “First thing is that there’s a proper environmental and planning process that has to be gone through before any unconventional gas extraction can take place but also we have put in place, I think, a very exciting community benefits package, so £100,000 per well and 1 per cent of the revenue which could be £7m to £10m per well.
“I don’t think people have fully taken on board 100 per cent business rate retention by the local council – you think about for some relatively small district councils that could be a substantial amount of money that would help them keep council tax bills down or help even to cut council tax or indeed to spend other money on community benefit – so proper processes but real benefits for the community were things to go ahead.”