City Deal proposal progresses

The City Deal that would unlock investment in roads and transport and help to create 23,000 new jobs in Preston and Lancashire could be sealed in the next few months.

image001Government ministers and senior officials have given a positive response to two meetings held at Whitehall over recent weeks involving a delegation representing local councils and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Preston and Lancashire's proposal for a City Deal, originally one of 20 invited by the deputy prime minister earlier in the year, is now understood to be among the closest to agreement.

Edwin Booth, chairman of the LEP, who led the delegation backing the proposal, said: "This area has most of the fundamental elements that appeal to big business, but the City Deal proposal reflects the fact it has become a victim of its own success in outgrowing the existing infrastructure.

"The proposal is for a truly transformational, once in a lifetime series of improvements that will give investors a tremendous added incentive to come to the area and create sustainable employment.

"The team has done incredibly well to get this far and it is vital that all the partners concerned now do everything in their power to make the deal happen."

County councillor Jennifer Mein, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: "This is a realistic yet exciting proposal that speaks volumes for the potential of the Preston area and would have a positive impact across the whole county.

Preston and Lancashire's proposal covers the South Ribble and Preston areas and aims to secure substantial support from the Government to fund an expansion of the transport infrastructure, enabling a forecast 23,000 new jobs, 15,000 new homes and £1bn of new economic growth to be created.

The plans would include major new road building schemes and widening of existing trunk routes around Preston and South Ribble, opening up the area for expansion.

The county council, South Ribble Borough Council, Preston City Council and the LEP are working together on the proposal and have been directly involved in presenting the proposals to ministers and civil servants.

In addition to funding from government, the proposed investment will include contributions from commercial developers towards new infrastructure, extensive input from the county council and funding from both Preston’s and South Ribble’s New Homes Bonus and Community Infrastructure Levy. The proposals are now in a 'due diligence' phase, which involves local partners and government departments assessing the proposed deal in more detail. Hopes are high that an agreement could be reached before the Parliamentary recess, enabling work to progress soon.