Preston needs some city thinking

Frank McKenna

The latest results from the YouGov Place index poll did not make happy reading for those of us who care about Preston.

Cities from across the UK are ranked on eleven key indicators, including cultural experience, friendliness, atmosphere and the media ‘buzz’ that a city generates.

Ten thousand people are interviewed about their views and perceptions about sixty cities from across the country.

Preston has the dubious ‘honour’ of featuring negatively in seven of the eleven categories, featuring in the bottom ten cities in the following areas:

  • Atmosphere (54th)
  • Safe to invest in (55th)
  • Visit/recommend to a friend (55th)
  • Good quality restaurants (58th)
  • Varied choice of shops (51st)
  • Least desirable cities (55th)

Worst of all, in the ‘cultural experience’ indicator, Preston was 60th!

On the back of this bad news came the announcement that one of the preferred developers for the £700million Tithebarn city centre regeneration project, Grosvenor Developments, had pulled out of the scheme.

Though their developer partners Lend Lease, and Preston City have expressed a desire to continue to press ahead with the initiative, which will need a further investment of £800,000 for the public inquiry that has been ordered by Government planners, scepticism about the practicalities of Tithebarn ever being delivered, healthy even before the Grosvenor announcement, is now rife across the city’s business community.

Downtown Preston has been banging on for two years about the need for the city to up its game in terms of marketing and promotion; and more recently we have called for a review of a regeneration strategy that is currently almost entirely reliant on the Tithebarn development.

To that end, we have put together a team of Downtown members that includes Moore and Smalley, Harrison Drury, Croft Goode and Freshfield to launch a City Thinking campaign that will hopefully act as a catalyst for a more dynamic and effective agenda for the future.

We will be looking to compliment the work of the new Preston Vision, and the Business Plan that its Chief Executive Eliot Ward is unveiling imminently.

The past month may not have been a great one for Preston. But if it leads to some fresh thinking about the city’s future direction, then out of adversity may come a source of renewed strength.

Frank McKenna, Downtown Preston in Business.