10 October 2014

October update

We have just celebrated one year since the signing of the historic City Deal for Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire, so I thought it would be timely to report back on how much progress we have made.

The City Deal set out a detailed plan to support the creation of more than 20,000 new jobs – including 5,000 on the Lancashire Enterprise Zone – new housing developments and nearly £1billion in economic growth over the next decade.

We are now making real progress and moving faster than similar Deals signed in other areas of the country.

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a catalyst for major economic growth, enabling Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire to fulfil their huge economic potential.  We are seizing that opportunity with both hands.

Through the City Deal we are transforming the infrastructure of Preston and South Ribble.  The work will reduce congestion and improve links with the whole region.

As well as creating economic growth, the City Deal will make the area a better place to live and visit, creating new opportunities and improved community facilities for local people.

Through this work, we are building the foundations for sustainable economic growth that will power the local economy for many years to come.

Progress on the City Deal includes:

  • Work is well under way on the first phases of a £52m scheme to improve the A582 in South Ribble in order to cut congestion on this key route into Preston.  When complete, the work will double vehicle capacity between Preston City Centre and the motorway network.
  • A public consultation has been completed about the route of the new £110m Preston Western Distributor, a 4km dual carriageway that will link Preston and southern Fylde to the M55, support planned housing in north-west Preston, improve access to the new Enterprise Zone in Warton, and provide an option to avoid peak hour congestion in the city centre.
  • Public consultation is currently underway on a new route for the long-awaited Penwortham Bypass.  Completing the bypass will improve access from the A59 to the motorway network on a road that does not pass through Penwortham or Preston city centre.
    • The £24m Broughton Bypass moved another step closer with the publication of a series of legal orders earlier in the summer.  Construction should begin in late 2015 with the road open by spring 2017.
    • Providing more good-quality housing forms a major part of the City Deal and will help make the area a better place to live. Work at sites across Preston and South Ribble is getting off to a strong start, with developments of new homes under way and in the planning stages.

Blackpool Airport

You will have seen recent news reports about the future of Blackpool Airport.  The airport is a feature of the North West's aviation heritage and all interested parties should be considering how, and in what form, it may continue to function as an airport in future.

Evidently the owners have found it a challenge to achieve a viable business from the current operating model, and that challenge has been made considerably tougher by the impact of the recession on the whole commercial aviation industry.

It's not inconceivable passenger demand on airports across the region could grow substantially again over the next decade and that possibility should be borne in mind. However, the airport is a large site in a strategically important location for Blackpool and the Fylde so our major concern now is that, whatever happens to the airport operation itself, the site isn't neglected and efforts are made to ensure it forms part of a brighter economic future for the area.

Growth Deal

Work is still continuing apace on Lancashire's Growth Deal as we prepare the detailed implementation plan with central government and look to sign it off in the coming weeks. I am particularly looking forward to the opportunity of talking this through with Lancashire's MPs as we meet next week.