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John Lewis pull out of Preston as Tithebarn is ‘not financially viable’

Posted on - 3rd November, 2011 - 9:43am | Author - | Posted in - Politics, Preston Council, Redevelopment

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Preston’s proposed £700m city centre redevelopment has been confirmed as not going ahead in its current form, say council bosses.

John Lewis’s decision not to come to Preston City Centre has meant that plans for the multi-million pound development have been scrapped, with no new bus station planned due to the current economic climate. This comes after a huge public enquiry in 2010 which granted planning permission to the development.

Councillor Peter Rankin, Leader of Preston Council, said: “We are in the middle of one of the worst economic and financial situations since the 1930s and it is now clear that the large scale comprehensive Tithebarn scheme, that received planning permission as originally proposed, is financially unviable.

“The world has simply changed and we have to move on and be realistic about what can be achieved.”

However, Councillor Rankin also emphasised the council’s intentions to continue with redevelopment of Preston City Centre. He said: “Our aim though is to still re-generate the Tithebarn area of the city.

“Our development partner Lend Lease is working with us to rethink the proposals for Preston city centre, and together we are exploring how best to achieve the city’s ambitions to offer a wider range of quality shopping, more leisure and mixed use of the city centre, including new offices and homes.”

The Tithebarn scheme was first proposed in 2000 as part of a complete redevelopment of Preston city centre with new shops, homes and offices.

Downtown Lancashire in Business Chairman, Frank McKenna, said the John lewis decision was a “massive blow” for Preston.

He said: “This is a massive blow for the city and the county, but given the way the financial markets are at the moment, it is not surprising that John Lewis have decided to abandon their initial commitment which was made during the credit boom.

“There will be lots of finger pointing and blame shifting, but that does us no good whatsoever. We need to move on and quickly develop an alternative regeneration plan for Preston.

“It’s not all doom and gloom. Planning permissions are now in place for developments. The new commercial space that has been planned is going ahead. The bus station, which I happen to loathe, is staying, so needs to be seen as part of any future solution rather than a problem. There is also a group looking at revamping Winckley Square, which must be recognised as a potential jewel in the crown for Preston. And I know there are other investors interested in Preston.

“There is no point wallowing in self pity. We need to get on with designing a new plan for Preston, and this time engage more effectively with the city’s private sector as we look to find ways of giving our city a much needed facelift.”

Reaction around the web

Here’s some blog posts from Prestonians on the news that John Lewis have pulled out:

Sally Edmunson laments the failures of the Tithebarne project in her blog ‘Preston, procrastination and protest – a retail heaven?‘ and calls for action to get the project moving again.

Save Preston Bus Station asks what is next for the building with the news of John Lewis abandoning the project.

What do you think about the news? Let us know your views in the comments below and what you think should now happen with the city centre redevelopment

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