The Preston Partnership is a private sector led membership organisation, committed to bringing the public sector together with businesses that can help to invest in the city of Preston, develop new opportunities and ensure Preston is a prosperous, thriving city. Preston Partnership recently convened for its first-round table of 2024, where directors of the partnership gathered to discuss the mentality behind the partnership and the potential it brings, their future plans for the year and why Preston is a place on the rise. 

The directors

Preston Partnership’s board of directors is made up of a number of private and public sector figures, all with their own stakes and commitments to helping Preston:

John Chesworth: John helped form Preston Partnership in 2018. He is the executive chair at Harrison Drury Solicitors, and has a keen interest in preserving the future of the city by investing in talent retention across Preston.

Babs Murphy: Babs is Chief Executive of North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce and wants to focus on attracting new businesses, promoting entrepreneurship, and creating new job opportunities to contribute to the city’s growth. 

Ginette Unsworth: Director of Communications and Events for University of Central Lancashire, Ginnette is committed to creating a better social and business sector for Preston, investing in the future of the city.

Rob Binns: Owner and CEO of Cotton Court, Rob strives to instil a fierce sense of local pride in Preston, and ensure businesses can thrive in Preston and unlock the areas potential.

Adrian Philips: Adrian has been the Chief Executive of Preston City Council since May 2018, and is passionate about ensuring that the council acts as a catalyst for city centre growth and regeneration, working closely with businesses.

Rizwan Seth: Rizwan studied and got his degree at the University of Lancashire University and has lived in Preston his whole life. He is the Founder and Managing Director of Wrkspace, a company offering office space solutions from six business centres across Preston and Bolton. Rizwan believes Preston has a wealth of potential due to its great location and connectivity, and wants to focus on building opportunities for future generations.

Simon Turner: CEO of Freshfield, a PR and communications consultancy, Simon wants to see Preston flourish and capitalise on its own identity. He believes Preston has a brilliant opportunity to be a thriving city, a small giant.

Alban Cassidy: Director and Head of Planning at Cassidy + Ashton, Alban’s practice played a lead role in the award-winning refurbishment of Preston Bus Station. Alban wishes to encourage community engagement and continued collaboration to ensure that the greatest potential of the city is reached. 

Karen Hirst: Karen is Managing Director of Maple Grove Developments, and a group board director of Eric Wright Group. Karen wants to support the delivery of projects in the city centre,and is fully committed to furthering Preston. 

Strategic focus of Preston Partnership

When discussing the aims of Preston Partnership, there was one phrase that was brought up by numerous members throughout the meeting: ‘relentless positivity’. It was clear what Preston meant to the partnership, and although the table was surrounded by individuals from different sectors and different walks of life, the constant throughout any discussions was the commitment to fighting in Preston’s corner. In fact, the collaboration between both the public and private sector is one of the partnership’s key aims, enabling professionals from both sides to share their views and strategies to push Preston to achieve its full potential.

Preston Partnership was recently able to play a lead role in securing £20.9m of Towns Fund investment, which is being used to kickstart The Harris Quarter Towns Fund Investment Programme, a £200mn regeneration programme to support a number of projects within the Harris Quarter. 

The projects will breathe life into the Harris Quarter, creating a diverse culture, and strengthening the city centre, in order for the growth and development of Preston to spread throughout the city. Some of the projects being funded by the project include:

• Animate Cinema and Leisure Scheme: £45mn state of the art cinema and leisure complex.

• Educate Preston: Support hub for skills and career advice services by local partners. 

• Illuminate and Integrate Project: Improving pedestrian and cycleway infrastructure, plus street lighting. 

• Preston Youth Zone: state of the art facility for young people aged 8-19 years old. 

• Harris Quarter Pop-Ups Programme: £1m invested into a Pop Ups programme of events, installations, and visitor attractions to promote city centre visits. 

The investment into the city centre is the start of a 15-year investment plan, focusing on improving Preston’s infrastructure and bringing a wealth of opportunities and business to Preston, in turn retaining talent and encouraging further investment in the city. 

The partnership has learnt from the mistakes of other cities that over invested in retail development, and are privy to the advantages of investing in Preston itself, making the city an attractive place for young talent to come and do business, rather than over investing in only retail in the city centre. 

Although large scale growth and regeneration is no easy task, the partnership’s mantra is that the ambition that is so evident has to be matched by work rate, and that now is the right time to invest in Preston. 

Joining Preston Partnership:

Those looking to engage with the partnership and become a member can take advantage of its free membership offer, meaning members can join for free for their first year. This will give members access to a number of events taking place throughout the year, such as frequent working groups, where new members will be able to shape Preston’s priorities.

Members will also be able to attend the partnership’s “In the city” event programme. Regular events will be held at Cotton Court, featuring guest speakers discussing a range of key Preston regeneration themes. 

Joining the partnership is key for those who share in the board’s desire to light the fires of growth in Preston, and truly embrace the city’s identity in order to create new opportunities for future generations. Members of the partnership have the opportunity to truly be heard as the voice of business in Preston, and the partnership represents a massive opportunity in the way of collaboration across different sectors and industries.