Partnerships key to success as Warrington Property Review celebrates 25th anniversary


AS it celebrated its 25th anniversary today, the annual Warrington Property Review heard how despite challenging times, the town continued to attract £200m of investment a year over the past 10 years.

Business leaders from across the town and further afield gathered at the “sell-out” event at the Park Royal Hotel to hear how there had been £2 billion worth of public and private sector investment in Warrington over the past decade.

Council Chief Executive and Chair of Warrington & Co, Prof Steven Broomhead MBE, said: “Despite the ongoing economic uncertainty, nationally, Warrington continues to buck trends and take big strides forward. The new investment we are seeing coming into our town gives us every reason to feel confident about our ongoing growth. In business, we all know that confidence drives commercial competitiveness and success.

“It’s fantastic to have reached the 25th year of our Annual Property Review, and I’m delighted we were once again able to bring businesses together for a valuable insight into all of the fantastic things which are happening within our property development and investment market.”

Warrington Borough Council’s Director of Growth Steve Park said partnerships had been one of three key successes in delivering the council’s visions.

Speaking at the Property Review event he said: “It’s been four years since I last spoke at a Property Review, and although today marks the 25th anniversary, unbelievably it marks 10 years since I first stood in front of you and described my thoughts on transforming Warrington and the renewed focus on economic growth and regeneration.
And what a decade it’s been. I think we’d all agree it’s not been without its economic challenges. We’ve had Brexit, a global pandemic, we’ve had Trump, 5 prime ministers, Trussonomics, debt crisis in Greece, and I know that many argue that we never actually recovered from the financial crisis in 2008. We’ve had a boom in logistics, and a bust in retail.

“These economic shocks have created some significant and ongoing turbulence in the UK, but I’d argue that Warrington has managed to fly above most of it and it’s not by chance either. Sure, progress on economic growth can slow down at times, quite rightly in many cases, but it never stops in Warrington and the goal of delivering an inclusive and a sustainable economy here remains as firm as ever.
“When I gave my first talk back in 2013, I remember making some pretty bold statements about what was going to happen at Omega and in the Town Centre, at Victoria Park and in Birchwood. And I remember speaking to journalists afterwards who were really challenging me, saying “they’ve heard it all before”.
“I wasn’t dealing with scepticism back then, it was worse than that, I was dealing with apathy. Journalists and some businesses had almost given up on the Town’s growth aspirations. So we had a real job on our hands to convince people that we meant business. At Warrington & Co in particular we wanted to develop a reputation for being a no nonsense, dead-straight, fully committed team who spent less time talking and more time doing. We wanted that private sector persona that helped build relationships with key strategic partners.
“This straight-talking approach was reflected in the first edition of our economic vision very simply, but very effectively called “Warrington Means Business” and it’s against that vision that we began to be measured.

“A relatively modest, but targeted intervention from the Council, proved to be the key that unlocked eventually well over £1 billion worth of investment and nearly 14,000 jobs on Omega alone. And I’m glad to say that the partnership between the Council, Warrington & Co and Miller Developments is as strong today as it’s ever been. But the need for regeneration existed across the town, so we didn’t stop at Omega.
“And then there’s some of the transformational work we’ve done in schools or the investment in Birchwood. Or even large scales housing investments like the 500 home Waters Edge development near Centre Park or indeed the Centre Park Link Road that my colleagues in the Highways team at the Council delivered.
“I estimate there’s been over £2 billion worth of public and private sector investment in Warrington over the last 10 years, on average £200 million per year. And I certainly can’t think of any town in the UK that can match that.
“There are very few Councils that have such an ambitious vision for its town centre as Warrington, all of which is set out in our Town Centre Masterplan. Again, a document against which we are rightly measured.
“So how did we do it? Well it was really about partnership working – and that sounds simple doesn’t it. To say we’ve faced some pretty difficult headwinds over the years would be a huge understatement and with recent increases in interest rates those headwinds are as strong as ever right now, presenting very real viability challenges across a number of sectors.
The secret to the success for me has had three elements.
“Firstly, the Council needed to state its regeneration vision, for town as a whole and specifically for the town centre – and we did that,
“Secondly, the Council needed to commit funding in order to convince investors and developers that we really did mean business – and we did that,
and Thirdly in every partnership that we have (and there are several of them and they are all different), we’re very clear of our role as a Council and that of our partners. We don’t try and do each other’s job, and we don’t leave a gap. We make a commitment, we stick to it and we deliver.
“There are issues that come along that sometimes seem insurmountable, there are sometimes disagreements in approach, in some respects that’s inevitable, but the strength of partnership is the key to finding the solutions – and that’s what we do best, because of our partnership approach.
“I’d hope you’d agree with me that the last decade has indeed seen ‘Warrington Transformed’ and the slides give some real examples of that – but the journey never ends!”

Meanwhile, John Laverick, Managing Director of Warrington & Co. told the conference: “It is tempting to take a big look forward in this 25th anniversary year but, to be honest we did that last year looking at those major factors that will affect Warrington in the next 10 yrs.
“But I am sure you will all be relieved to know that I am not going to repeat everything within the Forward Look section of the property review, but would instead like to bring out a couple of highlights into what I hope is a single salient message.
“Our direction of travel is the same, we still have the same ambition to continue to deliver the sort of change that Steve noted earlier but I think the method of getting there needs development and refinement.
“We have had some successes over the past year with significant developments around;
•New Town House/Cockhedge – 900 unit OPA with Altered States
•Time Square phase 2 – good commercial interest with our partners at MUSE.
•Bus Depot on Southern Gateway with our partners at Langtree
•And the continued success at Omega with our partners at Miller.
“But we understand that there is significant pressure on development and ongoing business vibility. There has been good progress but the financial headwinds are making this more challenging.
“When this happens it is our role to find ways of continuing to deliver regeneration and this generally means finding additional funding.
“It is clear the direction that Government wish us to take in relation to securing long term investment for regeneration and growth – by competitive bidding process and for that to be successful those receiving those bids need to have confidence in what is being said to them and that comes from having a consistent message to all.
“The bidding for significant funding also needs to be joined up and demonstrate that we are getting the best value out of any investment – be that directly through things like remediation funding for brownfield land or indirectly such as taking advantage of infrastructure investment in rail and road.

“A good example of joining up funding and delivery is the new Bus Depot – Delivered by Warrington & Co on behalf of WBC and WOB it used Getting Building Fund and ZEBRA funding to achieve a depot capable of supporting 100% electric bus fleet that otherwise couldn’t really achieve its purpose reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality and freeing outdated buildings for the development of new housing on brownfield land. More value is extracted from the money spent by joining projects together with good outcomes for Warrington.
“To do this we need to be able to tell a coherent and substantiated story – The Warrington Story. This requirement was made clear during the ill-fated Investment Zone programme, but it required us to join a number of strands together to tell a coherent story about Warrington Bank Quay. A theme that will I think persist in future funding competitions.
“Warrington Bank Quay is a proposal to bring forward significant development around the old Unilever site, enabled by new and connected rail infrastructure and taking advantage of that.
“This requirement has recently enabled us to now have a coherent conversation with the Department for Transport about the greater value we can extract from their investment in rail infrastructure in order for them to give greater justification to the investment in the first place – working together benefits both.
“The scale of the outputs are significant both in time and value, several hundred thousand square feet of commercial space and several thousand homes – transformative for housing and employment – exactly what the UK Gov’t is looking for.

“Within that message we need to be mindful that we can’t forget the public functions – Leisure / Health / Care / Education.
“And that this takes time and money to deliver, but as importantly space and planning and this is the area in which over the next couple of years we will have to refine our story about how we deliver regeneration and development on a sustainable basis.
“You may hear this and think it is all public sector related – but it isn’t, the most compelling case we can make is to demonstrate a joined up public sector working with and leveraging value from an engaged private sector ……………. that’s you by the way.
“The 6 part Warrington story goes something like this;
a)Appetite and ability to continue to transform Warrington some of which we have already achieved as Steve has noted
b)We have coherent and tested plans which set out a clear direction of travel
c)We are able to take advantage of the opportunities given to us by history to transform brownfield land into homes and businesses.
d)We are good at working in partnership engaging across public and private sectors from Centre Park to New Town House to Time Square to Incrementum.
e)We need to expand those partners whilst keeping the Warrington focus. Working more closely with strategic partners like the Department for Transport, Network Rail and Homes England to extract more out of each pound spent.
The more astute or awake amongst you will have counted 5 items there– the 6th is you.
“The story really is captured in the Warrington & Co documents and the Local Plan. We need everyone to get behind the story so that no matter where it crops up everyone tells the same story. As we see the changing LEP role we need to make sure we continue to shout in the ear of government – all of us.
“So if I leave you with one message then it is this;

Warrington & Co should evolve. It should evolve into an organisation that is able to co-ordinate and animate public and private partners [that’s you] to tell the Warrington Story and secure the investment we need to continue to bring that story about.
Thank you

Warrington Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for economic development and innovation, Cllr Tom Jennings, said: “I’m delighted that we were able to once again showcase the ongoing success of our town as a place where businesses can thrive. Our economy, business sector and investment programme remain in an exceptionally strong position. This year’s review demonstrates, yet again, the resilience of Warrington’s economy and our continued growth, which gives us much to be confident about as we look towards the future.”

This year’s event was sponsored by:
• Baker Mallett LLP
• Birchwood Offices
• Langtree Property Partners
• Lingley Mere Business Park
• Omega Warrington Ltd
• Orbit Developments
• Pin Properties
• Redwood Bank
• Taylor Rose MW
• Wates Construction
• Wire Regeneration

Opening proceedings Prof. Steven Broomhead

Full house at the Warrington Property Review

MC Jim Hancock

Steve Park announces he will be putting on his dancing shoes for Strictly St Rocco’s on Sunday December 10


About Author

Experienced journalist for more than 40 years. Managing Director of magazine publishing group with three in-house titles and on-line daily newspaper for Warrington. Experienced writer, photographer, PR consultant and media expert having written for local, regional and national newspapers. Specialties: PR, media, social networking, photographer, networking, advertising, sales, media crisis management. Chair of Warrington Healthwatch Director Warrington Chamber of Commerce Patron Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace. Trustee Warrington Disability Partnership. Former Chairman of Warrington Town FC.

Leave A Comment