Preston’s Conservative group is calling for the council to revise its approach to revitalising the city centre.
A motion is being put forward on the back of comments made by Labour MP for Preston, Sir Mark Hendrick saying that talk of the benefits of common wealth building under the Preston Model did not reflect the true nature of the local economy.
In July Sir Mark called on the council to develop a “proper retail strategy” and criticised the city’s main thoroughfare as having too many “charity shops, vaping stores, tattoo parlours and empty units”.
The motion, which will be put before members of full council today, states: “Sir Mark reflected that a narrow focus solely on the so-called Preston Model at the expense of other interventions available to the council, was not working and that the council and its partners, must revise their approach to revitalising our city centre.”
Coun Charles Latchford wants to see a change in the approach to the city centre and a special task group set up to oversee the work to revitalise Preston.
He said: “I think it was quite an extraordinary intervention for Sir Mark to make considering the Labour party runs the council.
“Businesses are showing quite a lot of animosity towards the council. They have got problems with things like security and rent.
"It took Labour almost nine months to intervene and do something about the market place.
"Preston Labour fear the private sector but if you are going to develop an area you need that investment.”
Coming back to the calls for a new way forward coun Matthew Brown, leader of Preston City Council told the Post that the vitality of the city centre was a priority for the council.
He said: "We are actively pursuing and promoting numerous measures to support the high street. Working with a range of partners we have made big strides in improving the city centre through publicly led improvements in infrastructure, encouraging city living and helping people to spend more of their leisure time in the city.
“We have to accept the economy is changing with the increase of online shopping and the demand for retail premises on the high street unlikely to return to former levels. This national problem requires a different local approach and we, as a council, have been promoting a diversification of city centre uses for a number of years. This approach is starting to bear fruit with a marked increase in city living and a greater variety of the food and drink offer being increasingly evident.
“The Preston Model encourages exploring alternative methods to promote a more inclusive local economic model, including provision for a regional community bank and the development of co-operatives, as well as supporting the wider economy through local purchasing and expanding the real living wage. This will ensure more people in Preston share in its success.
“We acknowledge that the Councillors bringing this notice of motion have Preston’s interests at heart in raising these concerns but the City Council will remain committed to build an inclusive economy.”
The motion will be discussed at Full Council today at Town Hall at 2pm.