With so many investment options available these days, finding the right one for you can often prove to be somewhat of a minefield. Student property is one investment vehicle that has gained widespread popularity over the last decade, mainly thanks to the sector’s performance through the recession years post 2007.
Lancashire, too, has been experiencing heightened interest of late. Many landlords and investors have been looking to the North of England for a while now, seeing areas such as Preston, Burnley, Blackburn, Blackpool and beyond as viable alternatives to the now hard-to-enter market of London and the South East.
Putting both student accommodation and the county together, then, seems to make a lot of sense. Therefore, we decided to produce a guide that will help you get an overall feel for the county and what it has to offer. Here we will discuss the local economy, how well the county is served by transportation links, regeneration projects, current and future investments happening, and, of course, the county’s universities.
So, without further ado, let’s jump straight into our latest guide.
The economy of Lancashire
As with so many other Northern English counties, Lancashire’s economy was once based largely upon industry. Coal mining and textile production were the most common, while Preston Docks (now commercially disused) served the county as its industrial port. Shipbuilding, too, was prominent in Barrow-in-Furness in years gone by.
Although the decline of the above industries is as obvious in Lancashire as it is in the rest of the UK, the county is still well served by industry with several multinationals now calling the Red Rose county home. Defence is possibly the largest industry in Lancashire as companies such as BAE Systems Military Air Solutions, BAE Systems Global Combat Systems, Ultra Electronics and Rolls Royce are all based here.
Nuclear power, too, has a home here, with a large plant operated by Westinghouse in Springfields, Selwick, and Heysham Nuclear Power Station which is run by British Energy. Manufacturing is well represented as well by the likes of Leyland Trucks, Crown Paints and BAXI.
The service industry, too, is growing in Lancashire, as it is in many formerly industrial counties of the north. Enterprise plc, National Savings and Investments, Airline Network and Xchanging are all based here, bringing jobs and continued economic growth to the region.
Much of the local economy mentioned above relies heavily on the county’s fantastic transport links, especially the M6 motorway system that runs through Lancashire from north to south, taking in both Preston and Lancaster along its path. Other notable motorways include the M65 which runs from Colne and connects Preston to Accrington, Blackburn and Burnley; the M61 runs from Preston via Chorley; the M66, which is just inside the boundary line and links the county with the major north-western hub that is Manchester; and the M58 that services the southernmost part of Lancashire as it runs from the M6 close to Wigan through to Liverpool via Skelmersdale. There is also a plethora of A-roads connecting the county both east and west and north and south.
Lancashire is also well served by the rail network with the West Coast Main Line providing direct links to many major cities, including London. Locals can pick up the line from either Lancaster or Preston. East to west connections are also decent, thanks to the East Lancashire Line that runs between Colne and Blackpool, as well as other routes such as the Ribble Valley Line. Bus services are also extensive throughout the county as well.
Although the county does have an international airport (Blackpool), there are currently no scheduled services operating from there. However, Lancashire is still well served by two of the north’s biggest airports, Manchester and Liverpool John Lennon Airport. Both Heysham and Fleetwood have ferry services across the water to the Isle of Man, too.
Lancashire regeneration projects
There are a number of regeneration projects running currently throughout Lancashire and a fair few in the pipeline waiting on approval too. West Lancashire Borough Council, along with its partners, the Homes and Community Agency and Lancashire County Council, recently conducted a study of the West Lancashire Economy, giving all concerned parties a fantastic foundation upon which to improve the local economy.
Last year, 2015, saw the beginning of the strategy that came from the report – the West Lancashire Economic Development Strategy for 2015-2025. The aim of the strategy is to push for continued growth in the region through sustainable regeneration whilst adhering to a key set of principles, values and priorities. Eight key themes make up the basis of the strategy, with housing and revitalised town centres a priority.
Similarly, the east of the county is also striving for greater investment and the regeneration of needy areas. Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership has recently stated that major investment into the local rail and road network could result in as many as 15,000 jobs being created, and generate a staggering £685 million in economic growth.
Despite the already established and well regarded transport links that are already in place, the report states that improving traffic flow between Lancaster and Morecambe, and faster, more frequent train journeys between all of Lancashire’s main stations, will boost the local economy significantly.
Local development projects
Development projects are springing up all the time across Lancashire, proving that investors are viewing the county as one of the country’s rising stars in the property market. Preston was recently tagged as a national housing zone, and 776 new homes look set to be built in the city in order to transform the local area.
Plans are also in place for more homes in Fulwood, on land to the north of Eastway. Developers have worked closely with Lancashire County Council and Preston City Council in order to bring a mixed use development that will include up to 300 new houses for the area.
Pendle Council Development Management Committee also recently granted permission for 500 new homes to be built in Barrowford, and Darwen Borough Council has also begun clearing sites to make way for the proposed 9,400 homes that it wishes to build by 2020.
Councillors are also in discussions about the proposed building of 580 homes in Burscough, West Lancashire. The 180-acre Yew Tree Farm site plan includes 33% affordable housing and 20% homes specifically designed to cater for elderly residents.
Investing in Lancashire
As we have already demonstrated throughout this guide, Lancashire is certainly a county that is on the rise. New companies are springing up all the time across the region, and existing businesses are increasingly looking to set up a base in the county, too. Housing is also being taken into consideration. As the local economy grows and more jobs are created, so too will the demand for better housing across this part of Britain.
One such transformative investment project is the Preston and Lancashire City Deal. This scheme aims to provide the area with both jobs and housing in one fell swoop and £434 million worth of investment has already been earmarked for the programme. Improved infrastructure in both Preston and South Ribble will enable the forecasted 20,000 new jobs to be created in the private sector as well as a predicted 17,420 new homes.
The prediction for the resulting boost to the local economy is impressive. It is hoped that the City Deal will generate an extra £1 billion over the next ten years, a decent return on investment and one that will, naturally keep on giving back to the local area.
Then there’s the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Growth Programme, a scheme that offers funding to areas looking to create jobs and improve growth. The county is currently drafting their Lancashire ESIF Strategy and it is hoped that investment will be forthcoming and that significant benefits will ensue for both local businesses and residents alike.
As you are thinking of investing in student property, it is naturally prudent to look into the educational facilities that the county has to offer. Lancashire is well served in terms of universities; the key seats of learning that will provide tenants to those investing in purpose built student accommodation. There are four universities within the county’s boundaries, as well as seven colleges that provide the local area with a wide and varied range of higher education courses.
It is the universities that we will explore in more depth here, however, starting with the largest – the University of Central Lancashire.
University of Central Lancashire
Initially founded as the Institution for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge back in 1828 by Joseph Livesey’s Temperance Society, the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) is currently the largest of the county’s four seats of learning. With over 25,000 students studying here each and every year, UCLan is the 19th largest university in the whole of the United Kingdom in terms of student numbers.
The university’s campus is an urban one, with sites in Preston and Burnley, as well as two others outside of the county; one in Westlakes, West Cumbria that carries out programmes related to nuclear and energy research; and a second in Cyprus that cost an estimated €53 million and opened its doors in 2012.
Over 100 different countries are represented by the overseas students and researchers here at UCLan and the university has active partnerships with 125 international institutions. The popularity of the facility with those from outside the UK is something that should not be ignored by those who are thinking of buying into the student property market in the area, as the vast majority will be looking for places to stay while they study here.
Edge Hill University
Situated in Ormskirk, Lancashire, Edge Hill University is an extremely well regarded educational facility that finally came top in the prestigious annual Times Higher Education Awards in 2014 after having been shortlisted three times previously. The university was also named as the Times Higher Education’s Best University Workplace in 2015 thanks to the outstanding response from its workforce in the Times Higher Education (THE) Best University Workplace Survey.
Edge Hill University currently has around 16,000 students on its books and, as one would expect by its performance in the aforementioned awards, its overall satisfaction rating is extremely high. The university’s student union was also voted as the best in the North West of England and it is one of only two universities to have been given a Green Flag Award for the upkeep of its safe, welcoming and attractive campus.
The 160-acre site in Ormskirk, upon which the campus is situated, has a student hub, sports complex, arts centre and a multitude of faculties and facilities for students to enjoy and make use of. Edge Hill is truly a remarkable university.
Known officially as the University of Lancaster, Lancaster University is a member of the N8 group of research universities along with Liverpool, Leeds, Durham, Manchester, Newcastle, York and Sheffield. It celebrated its 50th anniversary a couple of years back (2014) with several events spread across the year that involved students both past and present.
Its main campus is Bailrigg, a site that was donated in 1963 by Lancaster City Council. It spans an impressive 360 acres and was specifically designed to integrate residential, social and teaching areas. Vehicular traffic is separated from pedestrianised areas by way of a peripheral road that has a linking underpass, which also houses the recently refurbished Bailrigg bus station.
The university has four faculties: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences; Faculty of Health and Medicine; Faculty of Science and Technology; and the Faculty of Management. The university consistently appears within the top 15 of UK newspaper league tables and is highly regarded both locally and beyond.
University of Cumbria
Despite the somewhat misleading name, the University of Cumbria actually has a major campus in Lancaster on Bowerham Road. The university came into being after the merger of the Cumbria Institute of the Arts and St Martin’s College, Lancaster.
There are two faculties within the university, the Faculty of Health and Science and the Faculty of Education, Arts, and Business. Over 9,000 students move through the University of Cumbria each year and it is currently ranked within the top 100 universities in the UK by The Times.
Student life in Lancashire
The range of things to do in and around Lancashire is wide and varied. Cities such as Preston, Blackpool and Blackburn all offer plenty in the way of entertainment for the local student population, but it’s also worth remembering that both Liverpool and Manchester are within easy reach too.
Preston has great shopping areas, some decent galleries and an extensive café culture that is ever growing thanks largely to the student population making use of the city’s coffee shops while they are not in the lecture halls. For those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the urban environment, there are also parks within the city centre that offer an oasis of calm without having to travel too far.
Nightlife is also good across the county. There are numerous clubs, bars, music venues and eateries to explore. As well as all the usual chain venues, there are also one or two surprises to be found. Get down to Blackburn where you’ll find a plethora of indie venues and also a revitalised Northern Soul scene for those who like to dance until they drop. Then, of course, there’s Blackpool. Blackpool’s nightlife is well known throughout the country and many travel here for a night on the town.
Lancashire has pretty much everything a student needs while they are studying, and a lot more besides. As life away from the campus is usually one of the most important things to any prospective student, this is good news for investors and a factor that should be taken into consideration when looking for your next investment vehicle.
Ready to start your Lancashire investment journey? You might also be interested in reading Everything You need To Know About Student Property Investment In The UK and The Advantages Of Buying Off-Plan Investments.
Or you can contact us to find out how Aspen Woolf can help.