As a new decade dawns across Central Lancashire, there is plenty about even just the first year of it which cannot easily be predicted.
Will the turbulence which characterised the latter of half of the 2010s finally be calmed – or has it become the new norm? Either way, recent years feel like they have turned forecasting into a fool’s game.
But there are some things which look like safer bets over the next 12 months – those big projects which we know are set to either be started or completed in the year ahead.
From a Preston perspective, city council leader Matthew Brown says there is “a lot to look forward to” in 2020.
“Just a few days ago, it was announced that we are taking part in a high street pilot and we will find out more about what opportunities that entails. The city has a burgeoning cultural offer to be proud of – and we have a growing number of independent places to eat, drink and shop that complement the well-known chains on our high street.
“We are committed to our ambitious community wealth-building agenda, often referred to as the ‘Preston Model’, that puts our residents at the heart of economic development for the city – it factors into all of our major decisions. We acknowledge the economy doesn’t often work for many people and that is why we will move forward with plans to create ten new worker- owned businesses and spearhead a new regional cooperative bank.
“We will aim to bring our communities together by continuing to celebrate the rich diversity of Preston as well as focusing on raising awareness of mental health. which often affects younger people.
“All in all, the future is not easy, but it is full of possibility,” Cllr Brown added.
Here’s the Post’s round-up of what to look out for in 2020…
PRESTON CINEMA COMPLEX
The final piece in the Markets Quarter project – which dominated much of Preston city centre’s development over the last decade – is set to be secured in the spring.
Details of long-mooted plans for a multi-screen cinema and several new restaurants on the site of the former indoor market are expected to go before the city council’s planning committee.
If they are approved, building work – which would include the construction of a new multi-storey car park – is expected to begin next autumn and be completed before the end of 2021.
The proposal is a partnership between Preston City Council, Muse Developments and Maple Grove – with the development remaining in the ownership of the city and local labour expected to be heavily involved in its creation.
PRESTON GUILD HALL
The future of the mothballed theatre should become clearer in the first half of the year. Preston City Council leader Matthew Brown has told the Post that the Guild Hall “remains a key priority” and that the authority is “optimistic about its future”.
It emerged in November that the venue would stage its first major event since its shock closure when it hosts the Lancashire Business Expo next spring. At the time, we were promised “exciting news” – which could not yet be revealed because of commercial confidentiality.
The company which ran the Guild Hall was placed in administration by former boss Simon Rigby last June in one of the biggest local stories of 2019. The city council later retook control of the venue which it had operated from its opening in 1973 until 2014.
UCLAN MASTERPLAN DEVELOPMENT
If all goes to plan, the construction of the university’s new £60m student centre and civic square could be completed before 2020 is out.
A major phase of the scheme began back in November which will see a revamped “Adelphi Quarter” emerge over the course of the next 12 months – part of a broader revamp of the campus over the course of five years.
UCLAN says that the new square – which will reflect some aspects of Fishergate’s shared space design – will draw the city and the university together like never before. It will be for the use of the whole community and act as a venue to host events.
The student centre will house support services and boast a rooftop garden.
ROYAL PRESTON CRITICAL CARE UNIT
The initial phases of a project to expand and refurbish the critical care department are due to be completed by spring 2020.
The new unit will have 34 beds, more natural light and an increased focus on patient rehabilitation.
As part of the development, the hospital will be able to make good on a demand from the regulator the Care Quality Commission to introduce a reception area with video-controlled access to improve patient and staff safety. Two critical care areas which are currently located remotely will be incorporated into the main unit.
SOUTH RIBBLE LINK ROAD
The repeatedly-delayed cross-borough link road connecting The Cawsey in Penwortham with Carrwood Road in Walton-le-Dale is finally set to open at the end of February – almost 12 months after it was due to carry its first cars.
The latest hold-up came amidst safety concerns from local residents who demanded that upgrades on the Walton-le-Dale side of the route be completed before the new 30mph road opens.
A new toucan crossing will be installed where the Old Tramway footpath and cycleway meets Carrwood Road, while pavements will be extended to prevent pedestrians from having to cross unnecessarily once traffic in the area increases.
EASTWAY LINK ROAD
The 360 metre stretch of road connecting D’Urton Lane to Eastway is expected to open in March 2020.
A section has already been completed and the remainder of the work on the £2.1m scheme involves completing the new carriageway to connect it to roundabouts at either end.
A water main has had to be diverted to as part of the latter stage of the works and the opening date remains dependent on weather conditions throughout the rest of the winter.
EAST CLIFF BRIDGE
A new structure to replace the Bailey Bridge – which was closed after being deemed unsafe back in 2017 – began to be installed late last year in the location where the Vicars Bridge had stood until 2013.
The connection will carry vehicles and pedestrians and form an elevated section connecting one part of East Cliff to another. Work is expected to be completed early in 2020, but no opening date has yet been confirmed as it may depend on other developments in the area.
The bridge forms part of an ongoing scheme to restore the nearby former Park Hotel which will eventually see the iconic building welcome its first guests in 70 years,
The project will also ultimately facilitate a cycle path running beneath the bridge which will complete a spur from the Guild Wheel to the railway station.
SAMLESBURY ENTERPRISE ZONE
Work is due to begin on a £20m state-of-the-art research centre within the Samlesbury Aerospace Enterprise Zone after planning permission was granted last month.
The facility will focus on advanced manufacturing, including vehicle electrification, battery assembly and the development of lightweight technologies.
It will be operated by the University of Sheffield and it is hoped that the project will draw other investment into Lancashire and put the county at the forefront of the so-called “fourth industrial revolution” – just like it was the first.
The research centre is expected to enhance the manufacturing base in the area and is already working with more than 60 small and medium-sized enterprises in the region.
TRANSFORMING CITIES BID
Central Lancashire is likely to learn whether it has been successful in a bid for £182m from the government’s Transforming Cities Fund to overhaul travel in Preston city centre and the wider area.
The application includes plans for changes to the A59 Ringway to capitalise on the increased road capacity set to be delivered by the Preston Western Distributor Road, cycle “superhighways” linking suburbs to major employment areas and the extension of shared space-style schemes from Fishergate into other parts of the city centre.
It also proposes a new “parkway” railway station at Cottam.
If successful, the various elements of the proposal would be subject to public consultation.
CHORLEY LITTLE THEATRE
A second performance space is due to open within weeks at the Dole Lane theatre.
The operators of the venue are in the process of converting a neighbouring property and former restaurant so that they can host more plays, musicals, comedy, music acts and talks – and also have extra rehearsal space.
The expansion will see the cultural landmark drop the “little” to be renamed Chorley Theatre, according to its chair Ian Robinson.
The hope is that the project will “bring in new and old audiences” he says.
TOWNS FUND BIDS
Leyland and Preston have both been invited to apply for a share of the government’s Towns Fund, which puts them in line for up to £25m in regeneration cash.
If successful, the money would be earmarked for investment in skills, redevelopment and better transport links.
But both areas will first have to assemble a board this month which will then draw up an investment plan to pitch to government later in the year. That will ultimately decide how much money they receive.
Meanwhile, Chorley has been shortlisted for the second stage of the related Future High Streets Fund and will also have to compile a bid showing how it would use up to £25m to reinvent its main thoroughfares.