Full speed ahead for Leyland town centre transformation
Detailed designs for the planned revamp of Leyland town centre are set to be drawn up as part of the latest stage of work to secure £25m of government funding for the project.
Leyland was revealed as one of the successful bidders for a share of the Towns Fund back in March. However, final confirmation of the cash injection is dependent on the submission of full business cases for consideration by the government.
South Ribble Borough Council’s cabinet has now approved the process of appointing two of the key elements within the professional design team, including a quantity surveyor. The decision has been delegated to the authority’s Labour leader, Paul Foster, so that it can be made without having to wait for the cabinet to meet again next month.
Quantity surveyors estimate and control costs on major construction projects.
The latest cabinet meeting heard that a rapid decision was required, because the deadline for business cases relating to two of the three Towns Fund projects are just six months away, with the third coming next March.
Leyland based its bid on ambitious plans to radically redesign its town centre, including: creating a new market square and refurbishing the market inside and out; redesigning Hough Lane by introducing ‘shared space’ similar to that on Preston’s Fishergate; and building a business and skills hub to be known as BASE2.
It has now been revealed that the council has set aside a total of £2.7m for the work needed to take the project to the final stage, including formulation of the business cases. The decision was taken in a private session of a full council meeting last month; £200,000 of that pot has been reserved for the quantity surveyor and procurement support roles now poised to be appointed, while £1.1m has previously been allocated for the purchase of land connected to the regeneration project.
Cllr Foster told the cabinet meeting that the money to be spent was “at South Ribble’s risk”, should the bid fall at the final hurdle. However, a report to members also noted that, “without committing expenditure now, the council would be at risk of not securing the funding”.
Cllr Foster said: “We can’t afford any slip-ups on the Town Deal, so we want to get the [quantity surveyor] in place as quickly as possible. And I professionally and personally feel that the [post] is one of the most critical that we need.
“The Town Deal is going to have to be worked on particularly quickly – we have no choice in that. We either do it or we lose the investment – and we’re not going to lose the investment.”
Cabinet member for finance Matthew Tomlinson said that he was “surprised” to have seen social media comment questioning the speed at which the process was being undertaken. He added that the authority was bound to work to the timetable set by the government.
Deputy leader of the Conservative opposition group Phil Smith added that he supported the speed at which the work was being done.
“The sooner we get moving on it, the better it is going to be for the people of Leyland. The tight timescales really do focus the mind, “ Cllr Smith added.
An open tender process has taken place for all of the design disciplines being sought for the project in order to allow local firms to bid for the work. The deadline for the quantity surveying and procurement support roles expired on 18th June, with an opportunity to bid for the others remaining until 5th July.