The north of England, supported in part by the Northern Powerhouse concept, has already attracted a lot of investment, particularly from China, helping to push up property prices and rental values across many areas in the north, led by Manchester, and the initiative will almost certainly support further growth across the region.
But having been stuck in the doldrums for well over 20 years, 2016 marked a huge turning point for the North West’s third city, Preston.
Large scale investment and regeneration programmes, such as the £440m City Deal, which along with other investments, is expected to create upwards of 20,000 new jobs boosting the local economy to the tune of £1bn over the next 10 years.
The University of Central Lancashire, a public university based in Preston, which currently boasts a staff and student community approaching 38,000, recently announced plans to invest a further £200m into its City campus increasing numbers to over 50,000, making it the fourth largest university in England
Strategically located, Preston is the geographic centre of the UK offering easy access to the M6, M61, M65 and the M55 motorway networks and is also less than an hour’s drive from Manchester, Liverpool or the Lake District and just two hours by train from London and Glasgow.
Over 40% of the UK’s working population live within a one hour commute making it an ideal location for companies, such as BAE Systems, with the city was named in 2016 by the Guardian as the number one place to live for quality of life in the north of England.
Major projects in the pipeline include the Markets Quarter with £50m being invested to develop an 11-screen cinema complex with seven restaurant units and a new multi-storey car park of 593 spaces.
The listed bus station is undergoing a complete £25m refurbishment with the creation of a youth zone and public square, the Guild Hall is being brought back to its former glory with a £15m makeover and will again begin to host world snooker and darts events as well as major music acts.
The city has already seen the refurbishment of the stunning Winckley Square, one of the finest Georgian squares in the UK, with plans already passed to convert several unoccupied former office buildings on the square into high-end residential apartments, as part of the council’s new City Living strategy.
Preston now offers a true alternative for savvy investors who have historically invested in Manchester and Liverpool.
The smart money is currently being invested in the city centre where major new build residential developments are planned and areas, such as those around Winckley Square, where large Victorian and Georgian properties close to the stunning Avenham Park and Miller Gardens can be acquired for as little as a two-bedroom apartment in Manchester!
1/2 bed city centre apartments - new build - ave. 7-8% gross yield.
2 bed terraced house or flat - ave. 6.2% gross yield.
3 bed semi detached house - ave. 5.5% gross yield.
3/4 bed detached house - ave. 5% gross yield.
The potential for capital growth is probably the biggest factor currently with prices in Preston flatlining since 2008
Matt Eastham is a director at Easthams & Co.
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