2018: A make or break year for City Living in Preston

1. Up Street Montage Cropped

Global real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield is predicting a new focus on residential development in smaller cities and other major towns in the north west in 2018.


Caroline Baker, partner in the firm’s Manchester office, is advising Preston City Council on developing its City Living Strategy and believes more developers will start to look in other areas to find new opportunities given the expectations of land values in Manchester.


She says: “Manchester has been the focus of much residential development, particularly build to rent (BTR), over the last few years.


“We predict that 2018 will see a new focus on residential development in smaller cities and other major towns in the north west.


“The focus will be on centres in accessible locations, within walking distance of intercity stations and the metro network, with excellent connectivity to employment opportunities, green space and a vibrant mix of bars and restaurants and wider leisure offer.”


Preston is well placed to capitalise on the booming, but expensive Manchester residential market with a mainline intercity railway station that’s primed to become an HS2 hub, some of the best parks and open spaces in the UK right in the city centre and an improving leisure and nightlife offer.


The size and ambition of Preston’s university, together with major employers in the vicinity, such as Lancashire County Council, the University of Central Lancashire and British Aerospace, means there are skilled education and employment opportunities in the city.


Preston is seeking to attract developers of quality residential schemes into the city centre, although most of the apartment projects put forward to date are for small flats aimed at the Private Rental Sector (PRS) and would not be attractive to owner occupiers even if they were available for sale.


The proposed conversion of redundant and empty offices into PRS targeted units, often offloaded to overseas investors pre-opening, has been the city living story to date in Preston, with just one or two developers proposing quality design-led, spacious and high specification homes for people to buy and live in.


In Greater Manchester, Caroline Baker says a prioritisation on the delivery of new homes in the region’s town centres will lead to a different product than has been seen in Manchester city centre, with less glass and less height.


“We anticipate seeing higher density schemes such as town houses and 3-4 storey flatted developments especially around transport nodes.


“The target occupiers will be much broader too – some young professionals but more of a focus on families and older people.”


These are the same target residents that Preston needs to attract, particularly downsizers in search of high quality homes in the city centre.


Etc Urban’s Guildhall Street warehouse project – www.etcurban.co.uk – will be the first such scheme to come to market in 2018 offering 18 true loft apartments to owner occupiers wanting to live in the heart of the city in style and spacious comfort.


2018 is shaping up to be an important year for Preston and both leadership and vision will be required to steer the City Living Strategy in the right direction.


Investment in infrastructure, too, will play a vital role in attracting the right sort of developer to build the right sort of homes needed to make city living a success.


It has been stressed often enough, but Preston’s residential values need raising to match the current cost of quality construction.


The only way to do this is for all parties – Preston City Council, Lancashire County Council, City Deal, the Homes and Communities Agency – to intervene where needed to enable quality development to happen.


If too much is left to the market to decide what gets built and where, the danger is poor standard developers will be the only show in town and low quality housing stock will flood the rental market driving rents down further.


If this happens, Preston will be left to rue yet another missed opportunity.

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Neil Thornton

Neil Thornton

Director at Thornton Media
Neil Thornton is an award-winning writer and journalist who is an expert in property, housing, architecture and design.

He has been at the forefront of the UK property scene for 15 years and has been published in major newspapers, magazines and influential websites around the world.
Neil Thornton

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