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What’s next for Lancashire?

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Business leaders and experts from across Lancashire came together today to point the way forward for the county at a time of economic and political uncertainty.

North West Business Insider magazine hosted the Business of Lancashire conference where the message was we have the skills, innovation and “Northern Grit” to succeed on a global stage.

Energy and engineering, construction and culture – Lancashire has a diverse skillset and assets other regions would kill for, many of the speakers confirmed.

However, Jim Carter, deputy chairman of the Eric Wright Group and board member of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the main sponsor of the conference, said it was time to concentrate on delivery of good quality jobs and to support urban residential regeneration plans.

He said supporting schemes such as Etc Urban’s mixed use warehouse project in Guildhall Street, was vital to kick-starting Preston’s City Living ambitions.

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Infrastructure has been largely taken care of, he said, but initiatives such as Preston’s City Living strategy needed public support to develop momentum and allow the private sector to invest with confidence.

Mark Alexander, principle lawyer at Slater + Gordon, a co-sponsor of the conference, told the packed, invited audience at Preston North End’s Deepdale stadium, he believed Preston was taking off and the city’s property sector was experiencing welcome external interest.

Significant deals would be done, he predicted, as confidence in Preston and central Lancashire remains unshaken by recent political events.

His views were backed up by several speakers who united behind the belief that Lancashire is eminently investible and a great place to do business.

Simon Rigby, CEO of the Rigby Group which owns the Guild Hall and other Preston assets, told the conference he believed Northern Grit was the secret to the county’s success. Not giving up and not going back on one’s word are business traits respected around the world.

Simon said he hoped the Guild Hall would be breaking even this year, three years after taking on the entertainment complex from Preston City Council.

His entrepreneurial instinct told him 140,000 sq ft of prime Preston real estate was an opportunity not to be missed, but to make it work requires real grit and determination – and deep pockets, at least initially.

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Neil Thornton, of Etc Urban Developments, was sharing the 20/20 Vision – What’s next for Lancashire? panel with Simon, Mark Alexander, Jim Carter, representing the LEP, David Robinson, managing partner of the Frank Whittle Partnership and David O’Reilly, land director, Story Homes.

He said Preston’s emerging City Living movement would be crucial to the success, prosperity and diversity of the city centre and needed the backing of the public sector, at least initially to help make it viable.

There is demand for high quality, well-designed homes in the heart of Preston’s cultural, retail and leisure assets. Home-buyers from young professionals to downsizers are all showing interest in the warehouse project in Guildhall Street where Etc Urban plans 18 spacious loft-style apartments above a carefully curated commercial space on the ground floor.

The full feature on the Business of Lancashire conference is published in the August issue of North West Business Insider magazine.

For more information on Etc Urban’s City Living project visit www.etcurban.com

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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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