A PROPERTY developer has been appointed to the Lancashire Central project - what was the former IKEA site.

Maple Grove Developments has been announced as the commercial development partner for the Lancashire County Council-led development, which is set to create thousands of jobs at Cuerden.

The developers, part of the Eric Wright Group, are behind the transformation to the Blackburn Cathedral Square in recent years.

Situated at the end of the M65, and close to both the M6 and M61, the development is planned to include office and business space, logistics and manufacturing commercial space, mixed use areas and housing.

County Cllr Geoff Driver, leader of the council, said: "By working in partnership with Maple Grove on this major development, they will bring their extensive knowledge and expertise to help us to bring thousands of jobs to Lancashire through this very exciting project.

"Maple Grove have many years of experience of developing sites like this, and will be integral to bringing our plans to life.

"They are also based a short distance from the Lancashire Central site at Cuerden, so they also really understand the area.

"It's vital that we manage this project in the right way, so that we create something which works for the needs of business and create jobs in Lancashire, while understanding the location and setting.

"We're clear that the development of this important site will bring benefits to the whole of Lancashire, through new jobs and growing our economy."

IKEA had announced in December 2017 the first phase of store construction would take place in 2018, creating nearly 7,500 jobs across construction and the eventual development.

Builders came rolling in back in April 2018 - but a month later the retail giant pulled out of a proposed flagship store.

The company announced the site was no longer viable, despite already spending money on groundworks.

Based in Bamber Bridge, Maple Grove Developments will submit detailed plans later this year.

This is a key site for the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal, providing the biggest single location for job creation in the City Deal area.

Karen Hirst, managing director at Maple Grove Developments, said: "As a Lancashire developer we are hugely committed to making Lancashire Central a success.

"Having worked closely with the council on this scheme previously, we feel privileged to have been selected again and look forward to making an immediate start on bringing forward this site to create employment opportunities for the local area.”

City Deal is an agreement between the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, Preston City Council, South Ribble Borough Council and Lancashire County Council, along with central government and Homes England.

Cllr Bill Evans, cabinet member for planning, regeneration and City Deal at South Ribble Borough Council, said: “We are pleased that there is now movement to help bring this important site forward, following the withdrawal of Ikea.

"It is an important part of continuing the economic growth for Central Lancashire.

"We look forward to receiving the planning application for the scheme, which will be thoroughly assessed by South Ribble before being determined by the planning committee.”

The City Deal will help to create more than 20,000 new private sector jobs and see over 17,000 new homes built across the area, along with new school places, open green spaces and new health provision to cater for the growing population.