Think tank raises concerns over lack of Preston city centre business growth

preston ringway

The Centre for Cities says Preston is key to a thriving private sector in Lancashire

Preston has been labelled as the key city for driving economic growth in Lancashire, according to a report by a think tank for urban economies.

The Centre for Cities research today called on the city council, county council and the new Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to do more to ensure Preston retained its growing private sector.

The report, Strength from Within: Supporting economic growth in Preston, said in the last ten years Preston was the third best city in England for private sector jobs growth.

The city increased the number of private sector jobs by 16 per cent between 1998 and 2008.

However, the think tank raised concerns about the attractiveness of the city centre for doing business in.

It highlights how just 30 businesses out of 200 decided to use the city centre as a base, preferring out of town business districts instead.

The move comes as local businesses voted last week to unlock an extra £2.2 million of funding for the city centre by keeping the Preston Business Improvement District going.

Paul Swinney, economist at Centre for Cities, said if Lancashire was to thrive then special attention needed to be paid to Preston.

He said: ““Preston was the third strongest performer out of all England’s cities between 1998 and 2008 in terms of private sector jobs growth. This was good news for the wider Lancashire economy; this means that growth in the city should be supported rather than constrained to support wider county growth.

“This does not mean a ‘Preston only’ approach should be taken, but in this economic climate the LEP should leverage Preston’s strong potential to create jobs for the benefit of the wider area.”

He added the collapse of the Tithebarn development meant the city faced a big challenge to improve the city centre.

“To support future growth, the City and County Councils and the LEP need to continue their efforts to improve the business environment in the city centre. Preston’s future performance could be undermined by the poor performance of its city centre,” he added.

“In light of the collapse of the Tithebarn development, the challenge now is going to be bringing new development forward. All local partners should work together in order to support and secure development in the city centre in a tougher economic climate.”

Leader of Preston City Council Peter Rankin said a “focus” needed to be put on Preston.

He said: “Preston has done well but it could do so much better. Now more than ever Preston needs to be a key focus and priority for future growth and development in Lancashire.

“Preston has the potential to be the real economic power house for Lancashire and we will continue to work with our partners such as Preston Vision, Lancashire County Council, and the Lancashire Economic Partnership to secure new investment and development in Preston.”

The Centre for Cities is an independent, non-partisan research and policy institute committed to helping Britain’s cities improve their economic performance.

Read a full copy of the report below

Centre for Cities: Strength from Within: Supporting economic growth in Preston

Image credit to Tony Worrall

What do you think can be done to improve the city centre? Do you agree with the report? Let us know your views in the comments below

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