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Lancashire’s Growing Places Fund celebrates 10 years of ‘filling the finance gap’ on transformational property schemes across the county

The Lancashire Enterprise Partnership’s Growing Places Fund, an initiative which lends money to developers to bridge vital funding gaps on major property schemes, is celebrating its tenth anniversary.

Since its inception in 2013, the government-backed programme has invested over £40m in developments of all types and sizes across the county. This in turn has unlocked a further £100m of private investment, enabled the delivery of nearly 800 new homes, and helped to create over 2,000 jobs.

Notable projects it has supported include Burnley’s On the Banks, one of the largest heritage-led property schemes in the North West; the regeneration of the Chatsworth Gardens estate in Morecambe’s West End; 30 new homes and public realm at Langroyd Place in Colne; and the 1m sq. ft Burnley Bridge industrial site.

The Growing Places Fund has also contributed to the success of two of Lancashire’s most significant urban regeneration developments in recent years.

In Blackburn, the fund was utilised by Maple Grove Developments help bring forward the £20m Cathedral Quarter project which saw a rundown 25,000 sqm district transformed into a vibrant, mixed-used neighbourhood.

And in Preston, it was the Growing Places Fund which backed Etc Urban’s ambitious plan to convert a former Victorian warehouse on Guildhall Street, off Fishergate, into The Union Carriageworks; a loft apartments and offices scheme which has been widely credited with kick-starting Preston’s current city living movement.

The Growing Places Fund is still going strong today, and continues to welcome applications from Lancashire businesses with viable proposals who find they have a gap in their financing.

The latest fund beneficiary is Walker & Williams Ltd, a Preston-based developer which specialises in contemporary boutique hotels. They successfully applied for £1.6m of Growing Places finance to help them bring forward the conversion of a historic magistrates’ court in Ormskirk to create a five-star aparthotel.

Named the Ormskirk Court Hotel, the project will see the creation of 23 premium apartments, extensive landscaping, and new car park facilities. The ground floor will host a fine dining restaurant called The Alibi, which will be run by the team behind the Michelin Guide-nominated 263 Restaurant in Preston.

Upon completion next spring, it is anticipated the Ormskirk Court Hotel will further support 59 new jobs, and give a major boost to Ormskirk’s hospitality and accommodation offer.

Commenting on the Growing Places Fund, Walker & Williams co-founder Max Walker-Williams, said: “Despite having a strong track record in the hotel and apartment sector, and the full backing of the local authority, we found that mainstream lenders were reluctant to fund some of the key enabling works required to get the Ormskirk Court Hotel project started.

“That’s when we turned to the LEP’s Growing Places Fund, and their response to our plan was incredibly positive. Without their help, the development may have struggled to get off the ground.”

Neil Thornton, Director of Etc Urban, said: “With every apartment sold and occupied and with all the commercial space sold pre-completion, it shows the demand for new, high quality residential and commercial development in the city centre.

“The Growing Places Fund was instrumental in our success and, by backing us, the fund also directly helped sow the seeds for today’s city centre residential market in Preston. We are looking forward to working with the fund again to help deliver new and exciting regeneration projects in Lancashire.”

Debbie Francis OBE, Chair of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership , said: “Over the last ten years, the Growing Places Fund has largely been under the radar. But in that time, it has helped facilitate some of Lancashire’s most significant property investments and transformational schemes.

“And with development such as Blackburn Cathedral Quarter and Burnley Bridge both now bringing forward phase two opportunities, and Preston actively promoting over 20 new city centre residential opportunities, the fund’s role as a long-term enabler of regional economic growth is evident.”

Sue Roberts, the LEP’s Growing Places Fund manager, said “Having lent over £40m in the last ten years , the fund is still very much open for business, and we continue to welcome enquiries from Lancashire companies struggling to get all of their finance in place for viable projects of all types and locations.”

For more details of the Growing Places Fund, and details of how to apply click here

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