The planning inquiry on the future of the Tithebarn development begins on 18 May.
Over the coming months, the independent inquiry will review the available evidence to see if the proposed development in Preston City Centre is compatible with local, regional and national planning policies.
The inquiry represents a major turning point for Lancashire. And given its importance, we, the three political Leaders of Lancashire County Council, would like to take this opportunity to express our full support for the Tithebarn development, and re-assure the people of Lancashire that on this key issue the County Council is united.
Lancashire County Council will be submitting its evidence to the inquiry in the coming weeks. We aim to convince the panel that the £700m Tithebarn development, which would generate around 3,000 permanent jobs, and create a new retail, business, leisure and residential quarter, would benefit the whole of Lancashire.
In our view, the evidence in favour of the Tithebarn development is overwhelming. The development would be located in Preston City Centre, a highly sustainable location, where strong rail and bus networks are already in place, a new transport interchange is planned, with green travel plans limiting the impact of new car-borne traffic.
The Tithebarn development would also represent the first major private investment of the scale required in Preston in decades. Despite the undoubted economic potential of Preston its recent success has been largely based on the growth of the public sector, whilst the rest of Lancashire has been even more dependent on the expansion of public services. However, Tithebarn provides a major opportunity for Lancashire to strengthen its economic-base and reduce its growing dependence on the public sector.
We recognise the fears of some that the Tithebarn development would prevent investment in other locations in Lancashire. However, we believe this fear is misplaced, as Blackpool and Blackburn have both enjoyed major success in improving their respective retail offers in recent years. A recent study by the North West Regional Development Agency has also concluded that the Tithebarn development would generate significant long-term benefits for the whole of Lancashire.
We also take the view that the people of Lancashire would not want local politicians to squander the opportunity to create 3,000 new jobs, with the prospect of creating thousands more, especially at a time when many individuals and families are uncertain about their economic futures.
Adjacent to the proposed Tithebarn development live some of the country's most deprived communities. By linking unemployed residents more effectively to the new job opportunities created, we could improve the prospects of those communities in greatest need. Given its central location, new job opportunities could also be accessed by residents from across Lancashire.
If Lancashire is to compete successfully for high growth sectors, secure new jobs and investment, and retain our highest skilled residents, then places like Preston must provide the range and quality of retail, business and leisure facilities that are needed. In our view, Tithebarn is central to creating the business environment and quality of life offer that Lancashire needs to compete for new investment and jobs.
A positive response from the public inquiry to the Tithebarn proposal would make it clear that Lancashire is now open for business and is looking to compete with the likes of Manchester and Liverpool for new growth opportunities.
We are fully committed to unlocking the sustainable growth potential of Lancashire, and we believe that the Tithebarn proposal is consistent with this objective. We are similarly committed to working with partners in Blackpool and Blackburn to deliver new jobs and investment for Pennine Lancashire and the Fylde Coast.
Over the coming months, as the public inquiry develops, we hope civic leaders across the sub-region will also demonstrate their commitment to Tithebarn and improving the long-term prospects of Lancashire as a whole.
Geoff Driver, Leader of Lancashire County Council
Jennifer Mein, Leader of Labour Group, Lancashire County Council
Charlie Briggs, Leader of Liberal Democrat Group, Lancashire County Council