In our latest Q&A on the North West land and property market, director Paul Walton examines what are the Lancashire’s current and future residential hotposts.
Where are Lancashire’s most popular areas for residential development – and why?
We’re seeing a big Greater Manchester influence on Lancashire’s development hotspots, so areas with a relatively easy commute into Manchester are popular. Chorley is the main location where we’re seeing a big demand for new sites, due to its rail and road links with Manchester. Chorley is one of the few areas in the region seeing a significant increase in future housing requirements.
To a slightly lesser extent, this is also happening in towns and villages around West Lancashire, such as Ormskirk, Aughton and Burscough, as Liverpool’s physical and economic regeneration gives it more of a pull. Parts of the Ribble Valley remain development hotspots, due to its desirability as a location. Preston has a glut of land with planning permission, so while it’s still a popular location, land values are softening.
Where are the next residential property hotspots in Lancashire?
In the short term, I think the current hotspots will remain popular. Longer term, the plans for the expansion of HS2 could have an impact in the region with areas around Cuerden to the south of Preston becoming popular.
The new road and transport infrastructure in the county could also have a big impact, particularly the new M55 junction planned at Bartle which will make parts of East Fylde much more desirable because of the quicker journey times.
There’s also the new ‘Preston western distributor’ road and the new park and ride that’s planned in that area. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fylde and Preston councils join forces to create some kind of garden town in that area. We could see major development in that area in the next five to ten years.
There’s also talk of a new garden town near Skelmersdale too, which could make West Lancashire another hotspot.
Is Lancashire making the most of brownfield opportunities?
There’s a big misunderstanding about brownfield sites, as people are given the impression there’s hundreds of them across the country waiting to be developed. People will be very surprised to learn there’s not that many.
That’s because all the best brownfield sites have already been developed. The ones left are those that are difficult and costly to remediate, for example because of contamination issues. Coupled with the fact that many brownfield sites are in locations with lower property values, it just makes them economically unviable to developers who would make a loss if they took them on.
The only way to overcome this is to have some pump priming of the site by having government share the cost of remediation.
What are the challenges and advantages of brownfield site?
Overcoming the exorbitant costs of site remediation is the biggest challenge for developing brownfield sites. Some sites are unviable because the remediation costs and residual values of the properties. For example, we’re aware of a brownfield site in a built-up area in a desirable town in Lancashire. There’s space for around 12 good-sized houses, so you look at it and think ‘why’s that not been developed?’. But it’s a former garage site with petro-chemical contamination. The cost of remediation would be astronomical, so there’s no way a developer could make it stack up financially.
However, where suitable brownfield sites are available, and can be developed economically, these can make good sites. They’re usually located in urban areas, next to transport links and amenities, so are deemed as sustainable locations for development, meaning it can be easier to gain planning consent. They usually involve regenerating derelict sites, so they provide a community benefit from that point of view too.
Paul Walton is a director of PWA Planning, a team of specialist planning consultants in Preston. For further advice call Paul on 01772 369669.