A ‘once in a generation opportunity’ to build thousands of houses and bring thousands of jobs to South Ribble and Preston was officially launched this week.
Former deputy prime minister Lord Michael Heseltine joined leading figures from the world of politics and business to officially launch the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal project at Lancashire County Council’s County Hall on Tuesday.
The event marked the beginning of work on the ground of the project – set to create nearly £1bn in economic growth.
Over the next 10 years, growth created by the City Deal is billed to create more than 20,000 new jobs and more than 17,000 new homes, through substantial infrastructure improvements.
But Edwin Booth, chairman of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, said it’s about much more than that.
“It is important to emphasise that our City Deal is not just about new roads,” he said. “In fact it is not even just about new houses and jobs.
“It’s about ensuring that all infrastructure, that is the facilities and services which turn places into communities, the schools, the open space, the health facilities, the energy systems, are provided alongside the economic and housing growth.
“The City Deal provides a unique opportunity to plan carefully for this growth, and that work starts now.”
Work has started on an £8m project to cut congestion on the A582 from Leyland to Preston - part of plans to increase capacity on routes in the area.
Mr Booth added: “We reached this landmark deal because central government had confidence in our economic potential and our ability to deliver major projects, so it is great to have justified that confidence by being the first of the second wave of City Deals in the country to physically start work.
“By freeing Preston and the surrounding area from the shackles of the existing infrastructure we will enable the local economy to really take off and create the jobs and housing that we need.”
Lord Heseltine said: “It’s fantastic to see the rapid progress that has been made in Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire over the last six months.
“The City Deal has given the area the opportunity to unlock significant economic growth and leverage considerable commercial investment.
“The area can now build on the excellent progress of City Deal and pave the way for securing future growth through the Growth Deal process.”
County Coun Jennifer Mein, leader of Lancashire County Council, said the deal was a ‘once in a generation opportunity’ and Coun Margaret Smith, leader of South Ribble Council, said the area had ‘great ambitions for the future’.