Whether it’s a car, house, job, or the latest iPhone, the idea of something new gets us excited.
That is no different when it comes to big plans for multi-million pound commercial developments being built on our doorstep.
But the fall from those highs of what we look forward to enjoying can be a brutal one – and one our local economy and politicians take a while to recover from.
Wounds stay open when the rug is pulled from under your feet; something Lancashire has seen on a number of high profile occasions in the last decade.
With new shopping centres valued the hundreds of millions, outlet villages, and furniture superstores, Lancastrians were chomping at the bit to invest locally. But when such projects were placed on the rubbish heap, the void created was a bitter pill to swallow.
Here, LancsLive looks at three of the major projects that were set for Lancashire but never materialised:
The scrapped IKEA superstore at Cuerden scuppering a £36million masterplan
It was quite simply a plan that excited thousands across central, north, and east Lancashire who would have saved gallons of fuel from no longer having to drive to Warrington to pick up some essential household furniture.
And it would have been a welcome boost for the local economy, with 350 jobs expected to be created through the superstore.
But in May 2018, Swedish furniture giant IKEA pulled the plug on its plan for a new store at the £36million Cuerden Strategic Site on the edge of the M65 and M6 interchange close to Bamber Bridge.
It was “increased development costs and delays outside of IKEA’s control” that were cited by property manager, Richard Rands, making the development ‘no longer viable’.
IKEA was due to be one of five major retail units on the site alongside six restaurants, hundreds of new homes and around 2,000 car parking spaces.
Bosses at Lancashire County Council were left in utter disappointment by the announcement, with leader Geoff Driver calling IKEA the “main anchor occupier” of the site that would bring a total of 4,500 jobs to the area.
Along with County Councillor Driver, the then leader of South Ribble Borough Council, Mary Green, said there remains “a really strong demand for commercial space”.
Fast-forward to April 2019, and with the site now renamed Lancashire Central, the county council unveiled a plan mirroring the words of Councillor Green, revealing plans for a 65-hectare logistics and distribution hub, with the potential to add £200million of gross value to the Lancashire economy each year.
Job growth is now set to be lower, with the numbers reduced from 4,500 to 3,000.
February 2020 saw Maple Grove Developments, which are part of the Walton Summit-based Eric Wright Group, brought in for ‘their expertise to the plans for the site, before detailed plans are submitted later this year’.
The company played a recent role in Chorley town centre’s Market Walk development, bringing an M&S Foodhall and Reel Cinema to the town, as well as bowling and golf experiences They are also part of the partnership scheme with Preston City Council that is in the process of bringing the £50 million cinema and restaurant complex to Preston city centre.
“It’s vital that we manage this project in the right way,” County Coun Driver said in February, “so that we create something which works for the needs of business and create jobs in Lancashire, while understanding the location and setting.
“We’re clear that the development of this important site will bring benefits to the whole of Lancashire, through new jobs and growing our economy.”
Botany Bay’s binned outlet shopping village that could have rivalled Cheshire Oaks
The future of former Chorley cotton mill dating back to 1855 was set to be designer goods and a nice restaurants, set to give Lancashire its very own Cheshire Oaks.
Developers had cast their minds to transforming Botany Bay into a five-floor outlet village filled with 70 individual units.
Cafes and restaurants were pictured along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, with brand new housing estate being built east across the waterway.
To make these dreams a reality, the mill on the edge of the M61 motorway to the north of Chorley town centre closed its doors in February 2019, with bosses ultimately saying the site wasn’t ‘economically viable’ in its current state.
In March 2020, a year after the site shut down ahead of the redevelopment, developers behind the scheme FI Real Estate Management (FIREM) said it was not the right time to start work on the outlet village there and then.
Those who may have doubted the future of the project after this were proven right in early November 2010, with FIREM announcing the outlet village and restaurant scheme was being scrapped.
FIREM bosses said the decision was made due to the continued decline in the retail sector”; something it says has been “further compounded by the coronavirus pandemic”.
In its place, a scheme focused around industrial and commercial space has been mooted, consisting of 12 main blocks to work out of. These blocks will be home to 33 individual units for employment and commercial uses
FIREM were frank in its announcement, saying the situation had been worsened by the impact of Covid-19.
A business spokesperson explained: “Whilst we are disappointed that the retail outlet village will no longer be proceeding, the current circumstances could not have been foreseen when the original plans were submitted and our revised plans demonstrate our renewed commitment to generate new job opportunities and further investment for Chorley.”
There is no guarantee the plan will become a reality, with Chorley Borough Council yet to give it the green light.
Preston’s doomed £700m Tithebarn masterplan – and how the city has recovered in the decade since
It was meant to be the jewel in Preston’s shopping crown after first being proposed in 2000.
But the £700million Tithebarn masterplan came crashing down to earth 11 years later when the plug was pulled on the ambitious project.
The plan was to create a 32 acre retail and hospitality zone in the city centre, with John Lewis, M&S, and a raft of market stalls, restaurants, cafes, a cinema, offices, homes, a new bus station, and a refurbished Guild Hall.
John Lewis signed up in 2007, described as the ‘anchor’ of the entire scheme, with then Director of Retail Development, Ann Humphries, saying it was an “exciting and worthwhile scheme”.
Jim Carr, the then chief executive of Preston City Council, called John Lewis’ involvement as a “major draw for Preston”.
October 2008 saw M&S officially sign up, with December of the same year seeing Cineworld confirming they would be opening a new complex as part of the development.
The scheme did not receive universal support in Lancashire, with then Blackburn MP Jack Straw coming out against it alongside leaders from Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen councils.
Then, in 2011, John Lewis made a shock announcement in which it confirmed it was pulling out of the project, with the council then scrapping the project saying it was “no longer financially viable and will not now be going ahead in its current form”.
Then leader of Preston City Council, the late Peter Rankin, said: “The world has simply changed and we have to move on and be realistic about what can be achieved. Our aim though is to still re-generate the Tithebarn area of the city.”
Since then, with wounds licked and healed, Preston has repaired significant parts of the damage caused by the Tithebarn calamity. In 2016, Preston City Council also launched its City Living strategy, aimed at increasing city centre footfall by increasing the opportunities to live in the city. Council bosses said it would see a total of £430million of public investment that will produce a further £2.3billion funding boost from private enterprise.
Since then, a number of exciting projects have been tabled, including the more recent £50million PR1 apartment complex creating 294 new city centre homes.
“Ten years ago, we would not have imagined developments of this quality and size…in the middle of the city centre – and yet over the last twelve months or so, there have been quite a number of major proposals that have come forward and I think that’s really positive,” Preston councillor David Borrow said.
The city’s Grade II bus station, threatened with demolition as part of the Tithebarn plans, underwent a substantial refurbishment leading to winning three Royal Institute of British Architects North West awards.
More recently, plenty of work has been made on the city’s looming cinema and bowling complex put forward by Preston City Council, Muse Developments and Maple Grove. The old Market Hall car park has been demolished, with an eight-screen cinema and 16-lane bowling alley set to be built in its place. Work to build the new complex is set to start in 2021
Maple Grove were in 2019 involved in delivering Chorley town centre’s Market Walk extension, which includes bowling and adventure golf facilities as well as an M&S Foodhall and Reel Cinema.
And the use of Maple Grove in the scheme highlights what is now known as the Preston Model. Often referenced by former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, the model favoured council contracts being given to local companies, to help level up Preston and its surrounding areas together without the reliance of large outsiders like John Lewis.
What store would you like to come to Lancashire? Let us know in the comments below.