Investing in the future
John Chesworth is feeling optimistic. He is confident that Preston has the right blueprint for success and that its partnership approach will deliver major benefits for the city.
John chairs the Preston Partnership. Working with the council it has recently submitted Preston’s bid to the government’s Towns Fund, hoping to secure up to £25m to unlock key regeneration projects.
They are detailed in the ‘Preston City Investment Plan’ which lays out the projects that could be delivered over the next six years.
They include bringing council-owned buildings back into use to support the ongoing regeneration of the Harris Quarter, bringing the Guild Hall back into use, the creation of a Youth Zone and extensive public realm improvements.
John says: “It’s an exciting set of projects that will dovetail with other planned regeneration schemes and will act as a catalyst for further investment in the city.”
The partnership he chairs is made up of business and organisations of all sizes that are interested in the city’s success. John, who is also executive chairman of Lancashire law firm Harrison Drury, says: “It has been instrumental in bringing the council and private sector businesses together in support of a coherent strategy for new investment and regeneration.”
He adds: “I’m more optimistic and encouraged about the future of the city centre than I’ve ever been and that’s because we have a clear and ambitious plan for growth over the next 15 years.
Despite all the events of the last six months, these remain exciting times for the city
“Despite all the events of the last six months, these remain exciting times for the city.
“While the pandemic looks set to accelerate the demise of traditional high street retail, I’m confident in Preston because of the focus the council has put on getting people living in the city centre and creating a vibrant food, drink, leisure and cultural offering.”
The city council has looked for feedback on the investment plan. A spokesman says: “We want to maintain the momentum of change in our city to make sure the richness of life is within reach for the people of Preston.
“Our long-term strategy is centred on investment priorities to support our people and is focused on sustainable and shared prosperity for our communities.
“At a time when the Covid-19 crisis is deeply affecting our residents and businesses, our long-term strategy will make a significant contribution to our recovery.”
Rose Wilson is general manager of Whittles, a fourth-generation family jewellers located in the heart of Preston on Fishergate.
She believes the city had made good progress in recent years and has huge potential. That confidence is behind the company’s heavy investment in its city centre outlet.
Rose says: “The last three years has seen Preston strengthen its proposition as a place to visit, shop, live and do business.
“Public realm projects such as the regeneration of Winckley Square, the new market and the Fishergate shared space scheme have transformed Preston’s appearance and made it a more visitor friendly environment.
“We’ve also seen the city run a series of successful visitor events such as the Preston Makers Market and the Lancashire Encounter, which have boosted footfall.
“The city is in a good position to develop further. The rail links are great, the university has an international draw which is expanding, the restaurant and bar scene has improved and there are some notable regeneration projects, such as Stoneygate, which will breath confidence in the city.”
She adds: “Like many cities, we face challenges in a post Covid-19 world but Preston is in a good position as it is not over-exposed to one particular sector.
“We’d love to see more flagship brands invest in the city to pull in a different demographic and this would also encourage boutique independents to invest too. There is huge appetite within the city to see Preston expand and develop.”
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