A NORTH West lender has revealed plans to fund potential new housing developments across East Lancashire.

OakNorth Bank, which has lent to a range of house builders across the region, hopes to build on its recent success financing a new set of homes in Garstang with fresh developments in Blackburn and Burnley.

For senior debt finance director Chris Swarbrick, this is a sign of how the company has made the most of the challenges posed by the pandemic, with bigger high street banks pulling away from the market making space for firms like OakNorth.

He said: "I think the reality is that we've never had a better opportunity than in the last 12 months to show that we are up their with the big guys and in some ways we're actually better, we're more nimble and able to respond more quickly."

He added: " I think there's a growing realisation that speed can be even more important than price."

Mr Swarbrick, who is based in Preston and leads a team of five North West based members of staff, believes that being based close to were developments are taking place gives the company a crucial advantage.

Drawing on a recent example, OakNorth's financing of a housing development in Garstang which is now entering phase three of its plans, he also believes that building relationships with smaller, in many cases family owned firms like Lancashire's Baxter Homes, headed by local businessman Ian Baxter, has been crucial.

He said: "It's better for people to know that they're dealing with a real person rather than a faceless corporate entity from London or Manchester."

The Garstang project involved Baxter Homes building five three-bedroom, 12 four-bedroom and two five-bedroom detached homes just south of Garstang, which was made possible thanks to a £5.5 million loan from OakNorth Bank.

The financiers have also been involved in funding the building of officer blocks further afield from Lancashire and have become increasingly interested in the building of retirement villages, with the coronavirus crisis having prompted a wide ranging rethink on how care for the elderly is best delivered.

Where the potentially developments in Blackburn and Burnley concerned, Mr Swarbrick hopes that more details will be available as the deals move forward.

The company also hopes that, with the pandemic having significantly altered the lending landscape, there will be many more opportunities in Lancashire in the near future.

Mr Swarbrick said: "We've got big aspirations to grow, as soon as I sign my boss is asking where the next one is coming from!"