On Tuesday this week I attended a discussion group hosted by the Lancashire Evening Post with several property experts from Preston’s business community.
One of the main areas of discussion was the future regeneration of Preston and in particular the proposed Tithebarn scheme.
The consensus around the discussion table was that Tithebarn is a fantastic opportunity which will bring massive investment and employment opportunities not only in Preston but also for businesses and people in towns across Lancashire. It is to be expected with a development of this scale that there will be some controversial decisions that have to be made. Some people will mourn the passing of the bus station, I have to say, I will not be one of them.
More importantly there will be serious upheaval for those businesses occupying parts of the Tithebarn area. The problems for these businesses have been ongoing for a long time already and the east end of the city centre clearly needs investment. However, it makes no sense for a property owner to invest in property that may be demolished or be subject to compulsory purchase as part of the Tithebarn scheme. The result has been acceleration in the decline of the Church Street area, which was once Preston’s prime retail location. I do not think anywhere near enough support has been give to existing businesses in the Tithebarn area, and the Council, as the promoters of this scheme, need to remedy this situation quickly.
We are expecting a resolution from Preston City Council in March/April 2009 to grant planning permission for the Tithebarn scheme. However, due to the nature of our local government structure, other local authorities in Lancashire have the ability to stall the planning process, and can ask the Secretary of State to call the planning application in for consideration through a public inquiry. If the Secretary of State calls for a public inquiry, this will add a further delay of between 12 – 18 months, further adding to the misery of businesses in the Tithebarn area as well as delaying desperately needed investment.
The government has been making promises to bring forward large scale investment to help bring the country out of recession, and if the Secretary of State has to make a decision whether or not to affirm the Tithebarn planning permission without the lengthy delay of a public inquiry, I sincerely hope they do not pander to the parochial concerns of neighbouring councils.
I believe every effort should be made to lobby the government to speed up the planning process for Tithebarn, and bring forward much needed investment in the area, while at the same time bringing to an end the uncertainty for the long suffering businesses in the Tithebarn area.
Anyone wanting to watch the discussion I attended can do so by following this link: