£14m scheme could place hotels at risk

The site of the proposed new hotel in Topping Street
The site of the proposed new hotel in Topping Street
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A decision by town hall chiefs to invest £14m in a new four star hotel in Blackpool will be reviewed amid claims it could put the future of existing 
hotels in the resort at risk.

Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservatives on Blackpool Council, has criticised moves to borrow around £11.3m towards the project, with the rest of the cash coming from the Talbot Gateway Development pot.

Blackpool’s Labour-controlled executive voted in favour of the scheme to build a 130-bedroom hotel on the site of the St John’s car park on Topping Street on Monday.

But Coun Williams, who last night called in the council’s decision for further scrutiny, said: “A mixture of modern accommodation blocks and traditional, privately-owned well-run hotels can work side by side, as can be seen in Brighton, Torquay and even the Lake District.

“That said, in Blackpool our hoteliers are already facing difficult times, and this move by the council not only makes their future even more precarious but puts the town further in debt.”

He added: “The stock in trade answer from our various tourism tsars over the last four years, in regard to conference trade, is Blackpool cannot attract conferences as the only venue, the Winter Gardens, has no integral accommodation offer.

“So if that argument is true, and I doubt it, why are they not building this hotel on the Syndicate site, right opposite the best venue in town?”

Many hoteliers have called for the money to be invested in the existing hotel stock instead.

Tony Banks, who owns four hotels in Blackpool, including The Royal Carlton on South Promenade, said: “I think they should spend it, but invest it in the derelict properties on the Promenade and put a compulsory purchase order on them.

“That’s what they should do, rather than building one hotel which will be in direct competition with what we already have.”

But Mick Grewcock, who owns four and five star accommodation at Queen’s Mansions in Bispham, said the town needed more high quality accommodation, but companies would not risk sinking their money into the town.

He said: “Blackpool is a high-risk place and companies won’t put their own money in. They want a guarantee.

“So Blackpool Council, right or wrong, has to do it.

“We looked at putting four or five star holiday apartments in the town centre, and looked at the former tourism offices on Clifton Street, but in the end we decided to pull out.”

Blackpool Council chief executive Neil Jack says the project, which is expected to see a Holiday Inn open on the site, is needed to offer corporate-style accommodation which the town currently lacks.

The Syndicate, which the council owns, is being pulled down to create a car park, which will help make up for loss of parking on the St John’s site. The proposed Holiday Inn will also kickstart phase two of the £220m Talbot Gateway Central Business District.