A city on the up
Preston only obtained its city status in 2002 and, for many years, performed disappointingly from an economic viewpoint.
Since 2013, however, it has witnessed a dramatic transformation, and was named the most improved city in the UK in PwC’s 2018 ‘Good Growth for Cities’ report. It also often sits in the lists of the top 10 buy-to-let hotspots across the country thanks to low initial asking prices and high tenant demand.
The average asking price in Preston, according to Residential Estates, is £115,000, well below the national average of £218,700. With increasing investment into the region from initiatives such as the City Deal, the firm believes Preston will prove to be an ideal investment location in 2020.
Residential Estates believes this shift in perceptions coincides with some major changes to the city, including a large fall in its unemployment rate and improvements above the national average for health, transport and work/life balance.
This, coupled with low property prices and robust rental demand, means Preston has been pushed to the top of the charts when it comes to the buy-to-let market.
These changes have not occurred by accident, though. The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) continues to invest in new facilities and is planning to do so for the next decade, producing more jobs and talent for the city.
Preston is also well-placed in terms of location, connecting to four major motorways and various rail networks. The rail station is currently undergoing a £1.5 million modernisation programme, while there are a number of regeneration projects underway in the city which is expected to only help to increase the desirability of a place made famous by its football team – one of the founding members of the Football League – and its industrial heritage.
When asked for his thoughts on the Preston property market, Jason Guest, business and marketing manager at Residential Estates, said: “The thriving student population and excellent transport links in Preston, as well as the planned investment and regeneration, means this North West city really is a spot worth considering for property investors. If you’re an investor looking for low property prices with high rental yields, you need look no further than Preston.”
What are the future for Preston?
As well as the improvements to the train station and the recent, award-winning refurbishment of Preston Bus Station, there are also plans in the pipeline to develop a large public square with the potential to host small and large-scale events and activities.
The UCLAN Masterplan, meanwhile, is a five-year, £200 million transformation project for the Preston Campus with the vision of creating a ‘unified, sustainable and welcoming campus which will enhance the experience for all those visiting the University’, as well as helping to create jobs, kick-start regeneration and attract inward investment into the city.
UCLAN, which is based in the heart of Preston, has a student population of more than 32,000 – a demographic making up a big chunk of the city’s private rented sector and one that investors are well-advised to keep an eye on if short-term guaranteed returns are the name of the game.
Winckley Square is also another hotbed for investment, with more than £1 million of heritage regeneration project funding secured from Heritage Lottery Funding, enabling the council to restore a ‘handsome square to its former glory’.
The City Deal, signed in 2013 by then Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, saw Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire agree a contract with central government that would see local leaders given the powers and levers to deliver growth and jobs in their communities. At the time, it was said it would allow Preston and Lancashire to take forward four new road schemes, enabling over 17,000 new homes to be built, freeing up land for new development, and creating more than 20,000 jobs.
Preston City Council describes the deal as an agreement between the government and four local partners - Lancashire County Council, Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, Preston City Council and South Ribble Borough Council – to achieve a once-in-a-lifetime transformation of the area, creating thousands of new jobs and homes.
It says a total £434 million of new investment will lead to the expansion and improvement of the transport infrastructure in Preston and South Ribble at an unprecedented rate, enabling approximately 20,000 new jobs and 17,420 new homes to be created, providing a huge boost to the local economy, which is expected to grow by £1 billion over the next ten years.
Preston - which has a number of major employers including BAE Military, the NHS, Warburtons, Fox’s Biscuits, Burton’s Foods and Hinjudja Global Solutions, and a growing green industry - would certainly appear to have a bright future as its local economy and tourism industry continue to grow and huge investment carries on being ploughed in to further regenerate the area.