Key figures from across the city have responded to the news Preston has been ranked as the most improved city in the UK.Advertisement
The responses praise the city for ‘punching above its weight’ while noting that ‘there is still much work to be done’.
The study, carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers and Demos, used a range of measures including employment, workers’ pay, house prices, transport, the environment, work-life-balance and inequality to rank 42 UK cities.
While the announcement has been met with scepticism by some readers, some of the key figures in Preston have stressed that the city is continuing to improve.
Mark Whittle, of Preston BID, said: “Preston has punched above its weight for several years now and the scale of improvement is clear for all to see. It is a city that doesn’t necessarily need to emulate the Manchesters of this world, Preston offers quite a unique visitor experience which is gathering momentum on a daily basis.
“With a line of investors setting their sights on city real estate and a thriving start up sector in full swing, the city now offers the complete package in which to live, work and do business.
“These are exciting times.”
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One of the most improved aspects of Preston over the last few years has been dining options. Mark O’Rourke is behind the opening of independents such as We Don’t Give A Fork, Fino and Otter’s Pocket, two of which appear to be thriving with the latter set to open this month.
He said: “I think Preston has grown massively over the past year with the new market, businesses, Guild Hall and street improvements.
“I’m sure it will continue to grow with huge investment at UCLan and the new Cinema opening. It’s a shame that Ikea pulled out and huge stores on the high street remain empty.
“It’s great to hear that Preston has been recognised nationally.”
Jeremy Rowlands, who operates the company behind The New Continental and the soon-to-open Plau, commented: “Preston has been changing and has improved quite noticeably in the last couple of years and is becoming an exciting place too be.
It’s not often they get thanked, but I think Preston City and Lancashire County Council should take some of the credit. The public realm improvements in town on Fishergate and around have made a huge difference and has helped business confidence.
“The new markets also are great and I think this is a fitting tribute to the late Peter Rankine.”
Matthew Brown, leader of Preston City Council, said: “We are really pleased to see the results of this report highlight the great progress we have made, and are still making in Preston. This success is based on practical policies to build wealth for the whole community collaboratively with a number of partners.
“Employment, health, income and skills are important factors for economic success and well-being and we are proud to receive national recognition for the improvement in these areas that has been made in the city in the last 12 months.
“There is still much work to be done, but we are up to the challenge and continue to invest in a future to benefit everyone.”
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Geoff Driver, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “The growth of Lancashire’s economy is one of our top priorities. Our work in Preston, such as through the City Deal, is delivering results by encouraging new businesses, helping people to get around and creating new jobs, all of which benefits people who live and work in the city.
“We’re proud that this work has been recognised by PWC. It’s a dynamic city that’s going places and a great place for business.”
So there's rightly going to be a lot of sharing of this among Prestonians today: https://t.co/sD6RoRtW2o – and it is fascinating to see the city being recognised like this. I think the City Deal, started back in 2012/2013 has a huge part to play in this.
— Ed Walker (@ed_walker86) November 1, 2018
Mark Hendrick, MP for Preston, said on Twitter: “I agree with some of it, but I also believe City status in 2002 raised Preston’s profile and increased investment.
“However, over the last eight years in the centre I have noticed a big increase in empty shops, charity shops and beggars. That’s austerity.”
A spokesperson for UCLan said: “We are delighted to see Preston recognised as the most improved city in the UK. Along with the many people who live and work in Preston, we take great pride in the city and it’s no surprise to see this rapid rise in improved housing, employment figures and general quality of life.
“UCLan is a key civic anchor as well as a wealth generator, contributing more than £200 million to Preston and the North West economy every year. Our ambitious Campus Masterplan development will help cement both the University and the city as fantastic places to live, work and study.”