By John Chesworth, managing partner and head of commercial property, Harrison Drury Solicitors
If the noises are right, planning permission for the Tithebarn scheme will be granted. However, this does not necessarily spell the end for the challenges from neighbouring councils.
There will be a six week period from the date the planning permission is granted within which aggrieved parties can challenge the decision. An aggrieved party is someone who has a real and genuine interest in seeking to overturn the decision as opposed to what the courts describe as a mere busybody. In the case of Tithebarn it would be difficult to argue that no council had the right to bring a challenge, but they will have some steep hurdles to overcome if that challenge is to be successful.
Once the six week period has passed, the planning permission will be safe. If an application for statutory review is made, then it could be months before it is finally dealt with by the courts.
Given the hostility of the neighbouring councils towards Tithebarn, a statutory review it is certainly not out of the question.
Once the planning issues are settled, there remain a number of matters for the Tithebarn team to deal with, the main one being site assembly. A number of plots of land within the scheme are already owned by Preston City Council or the development consortium itself. However, there will need to be a large scale compulsory purchase of other plots of land.
The first step in this process will be the making of a compulsory purchase order (CPO), and there will be a further public inquiry before that is confirmed by the Secretary of State.
This process will take at least six to twelve months and the only people allowed to object to the making of the order will be people directly affected, being those who will have to sell their property and/or businesses to the Tithebarn scheme as a result of the CPO. Once the CPO is confirmed by the Government, the Tithebarn team then have the right to acquire land and will do so by serving notices on those affected as and when it is needed for the development.
If the compulsory purchase goes ahead, it is likely to be done in stages, with the first properties to be acquired being in areas where building work will first commence. At present this is likely to be around the site of the proposed new bus station in the vicinity of Manchester Road. In my opinion, these first compulsory purchases will start sometime in 2012.
The Tithebarn team have estimated a build time of four years, meaning that the development will be up and running in 2017/2018 if construction starts in 2013.
All of the above assumes that the Tithebarn team have the finance available to fund the project. I very much doubt that the CPO process will commence before funding is guaranteed, as money will be needed to acquire the site in the first instance. Perhaps the main battle for the Tithebarn team will be funding.
In these times of austerity, one hopes that the financial markets can look at the project with a long term perspective. In 2018 we will surely be out of the present financial crisis and demand for the shops, restaurants and leisure facilities that are proposed in the scheme should be there in abundance.
Those who selected Preston as the location for the proposed development did so for sound reasons which have not become bad overnight.
As a proud Prestonian, I am buoyed by the news have been granted planning permission. But there is a long we to go before we pop open the corks.