PROPERTY DEBATE RASIES CONCERNS OVER TITHEBARN
Posted on 27th February 2009
Joe Assalone, Partner at Robert Pinkus & Co. recently took part in a property debate where the regeneration of Preston city centre and the proposed Tithebarn Scheme was top of the agenda.
The event brought together a panel of property experts from Preston’s business community at the second annual Leader’s Lunch in association with Yorkshire Bank and The Lancashire Evening Post. The discussion was held at the Lancashire Business School at The University of Central Lancashire on Tuesday 17th February. The hour-long debate was broadcast live on the Lancashire Evening Post’s website and members of public were invited to post their questions to the panel.
The industry professionals agreed overall that the Tithebarn Scheme would be excellent for the future of the city and would bring massive investment and employment opportunities if it came to fruition, yet, it was currently fraught with controversy, causing mass uncertainty and a promoting an overall lack of confidence in the city.
In a call to reduce the ambiguity surrounding the scheme, Joe Assalone pressed developer Grosvenor to show direction and offer some commitment to demonstrate that they were still dedicated to the development.
Joe said, “I can understand why they (Grosvenor) won’t buy property in advance of gaining planning consent, but the lack of commitment shown by Grosvenor by not coming to the table to talk to the individual occupiers/businesses that are struggling, and continue to struggle, needs to be addressed. The longer it goes on I can see the whole of that side of the city getting worse and worse in terms of empty and dilapidated properties. Church Street landowners can’t invest in their properties. Others won’t invest in that area because they can’t get planning consent because its part of the Tithebarn regeneration scheme. Similarly, our clients who want to sell their properties can’t because no one will buy it, because there is only one purchaser (Grosvenor) who won’t come forward.”
Concerns were aired by the panel about buildings in the area that are being left to go to rack and ruin as property owners are being left in limbo and unable to make any plans for the future. Current landowners have taken forward alternative proposals to the Council only to be knocked back on the basis that this blue print for the city is going to happen. Michael Conlon from Conlon Construction said, “The area is continuing on a downward spiral. There are buildings we can see where weeds are growing out of windows.”
Frank McKenna, Chairman of lobbyist group Downtown Preston in Business agreed that landowners in the Tithebarn regeneration area have suffered long enough over the last 9 years. He said, “A dialogue needs to be happen almost immediately with those concerned and it is the City Council’s prerogative to open those doors.”
Experts further warned that it would be a massive blow to the city if the scheme was delayed further following objections raised from Blackpool and Blackburn Councils. Frank McKenna continued, “If the planning application is called in by the government it will add another 12 – 18 months to the finishing time. This could put some of those businesses affected out of business. MP’s such as Jack Straw need to look at bigger picture. The issue isn’t just about impacting on Blackpool and Blackburn retail. There is plenty of work in this scheme not just for Preston but for businesses right across the County.”
In addition to local MP’s looking at the benefits of the scheme for Lancashire as a whole, Managing Partner at Harrison Drury solicitors John Chesworth hopes that if the Secretary of State has to affirm the planning permission without a lengthy public enquiry, it does not pander to the parochial concerns of the neighbouring councils. John believes that, “Every effort should be made to lobby the government to speed up the planning process to bring forward much needed investment for the area, whilst bringing an end to the uncertainty for long suffering businesses in the Tithebarn area.”
To watch the debate in full go to: http://www.ustream.tv/flash/video/1161724