South Ribble to support Preston City Deal bid

Reporting: Martin Kelly, director of economic development at Lancashire County Council
Reporting: Martin Kelly, director of economic development at Lancashire County Council

South Ribble is set to support Preston in a new bid for Government cash which would help build 15,000 new houses across the areas, and create 23,000 new jobs.

Preston’s application for a ‘City Deal’ would also add £1billion to the local economy and build new roads and infrastructure over the next 10 years, to unlock the city’s gateways.

South Ribble Council leader Coun Margaret Smith said the cabinet would discuss supporting Preston’s bid during a meeting at the Civic Centre tonight (Wednesday), and said it is about Preston and South Ribble working together to improve the area.

The city is one of 20 areas in England handed the opportunity to bid for the deal which would see it handed cash and decision-making power over spending in a specific area.

The bid ties in with a transport masterplan unveiled by Lancashire County Council last month, which includes improvements and widening of roads in South Ribble.

South Ribble’s cabinet member for strategic planning and housing, Coun Cliff Hughes, said: “We want to continue the partnership we have with Preston, and if grants become available to benefit the area, we may have more chance of securing the money if we work together.

“There are no specifics yet, but because Preston has said it wants to bid, we’ve said we would like to support that, because there are a lot of things which join Preston and South Ribble together.”

The bid, which will be submitted to Government by January 15, will seek to get Whitehall cash to build new roads and infrastructure “critical to unlocking Preston’s full economic and housing potential.”

County council economic development director Martin Kelly said: “The tightly-defined City Deal area, which includes Preston and South Ribble, is where the focus and need to drive economic growth lies.”

The initial bid will be an “expression of interest” in striking a deal and, if it is accepted by Government, it will be expected to appear before a panel of ministers to outline its bid in detail.

In a report set to go before South Ribble Council’s cabinet tonight, which recommends the bid be supported, it says: “The City Deal proposal is in accordance with the Corporate Plan priority of a strong South Ribble in the heart of a prosperous Central Lancashire.”

It adds: “Over the last decade, there has been a wide range of research which has consistently highlighted that the most economically productive area of Lancashire is Central Lancashire.

“However, there are constraints on the area delivering its full potential, in particular the role which infrastructure capacity plays in limiting growth. “This relates in particular to issues of access to and connectivity between the city centre, key development sites (for business and housing) and between the area and other parts of Lancashire.”

To support the bid will help the borough council’s Local Development Framework (LDF) plan, it adds, which earmarks sites across South Ribble for housing and employment over the next 15 years.

The report concludes: “It is recommended that the expression of interest for the Preston City Deal proposals be supported and endorsed, on the basis that if successful, the borough council would be better able to deliver its ambitions for the area as set out in the LDF, that are dependent on the early provision of infrastructure.”