Blackpool Council urged to apply for cash to improve ‘disgraceful’ gateway

Derelict hotels on South Promenade

Derelict hotels on South Promenade

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Community leaders today urged town hall bosses to bid for extra funding to help revamp a string of eyesore hotels close to a key gateway into Blackpool.

Opposition Conservative group leader Tony Williams and Blackpool South’s Labour MP Gordon Marsden say Blackpool Council should apply for cash from the Government’s Regional Growth or Coastal Communities Fund.

They say the cash could regenerate Bourne Crescent, close to New South Promenade, which is littered with dilapidated and crumbling buildings.

Residents and hoteliers also want the council to step in and do more to improve the landscape in South Shore – with fears raised about the impression the fire damaged Palm Beach Hotel and the boarded up Warwick and Kimberley Hotels leave to holidaymakers close to a major gateway into Blackpool and the Golden Mile.

The pleas come as the manager of one of the hotels said an oversupply of hotel rooms had led to the closure of businesses in the area, resulting to Bourne Crescent’s current state.

Concerns were last raised last year about the impression being given to visitors using the popular route into the town – but worried business chiefs say very little has changed since then.

And several of the buildings are in such disrepair that the situation has now become “embarrassing” for the resort, they claim.

The boarded up buildings are privately owned and council bosses pledged last year to look at the feasibility of working with owners to revamp the buildings.

In November last year, the council said it was doing all it could to both encourage and enforce building owners to take responsibility for their properties.

But opposition Conservative group leader Coun Tony Williams said the council should have moved quicker to help when the hotels started to close, and said the authority should now apply for outside funding to improve the area.

He added: “It is an awful eyesore. It gives totally the wrong impression.

“The council should be working with the owners of the properties. They won’t come back as hotels – there is not the market.

“We should look at ways of improving it. We need to be substantially more realistic with planning. They could be luxury flats. A nice landscaping feature would help.

“You have to talk with (the owners) to do something - the council do not seem to be doing anything.

“Demolition is the only option. They can’t be hotels. Last year we were 300,000 bed nights down – if there is no interest in hotels they could be flats. In terms of compulsory demolition orders or compulsory work, the council will not foot the bill - but they could have moved faster.

“It would be better if we could regenerate the area, but it is a three-way conversation between the owners, council and Government. It is on the seaside and I wonder if a coastal communities grant could help.”

Gordon Marsden, Blackpool South MP also urged Blackpool Council to look at outside funding to pay for improvements to the area.

He added: “I share the concerns over the situation with the hotels described. I think it is a massive issue and revival of that part of South Shore both for residents and visitors is a key part of what we need to do.

“In terms of the additional funding then the council might want to look at future bids to the Regional Growth Fund and Coastal Communities funding.”

Coun Gillian Campbell, cabinet member for public safety and enforcement, said: “We’ve looked into a number of funding opportunities that could improve the area. While neither of them are viable at the moment, we are happy to explore the options again in the future.”

The Gazette understands bids to the Coastal Communities and Regional Growth funds require bidders to prove how the money would lead to job creation or an economic boost.

The Palm Beach Hotel was gutted by fire in June last year, with other hotels boarded up and falling into disrepair.

Today tourism leaders and hoteliers said the buildings were having a negative impact on people visiting the town, with some calling the situation “embarrassing” and admitting guests brand the area a “disgrace”.

However, several admitted the council needed more powers to help and the fact the buildings are in private ownership made solving the problem difficult.

Claire Smith, of Stay Blackpool, said the area is the “shop window” for the resort, but currently looks “dreadful.”

She added: “All the buildings have private owners - it is not like the council can go in and buy them and knock them down.

“The council can have the power to compulsory make changes and then bill the owners, but it can be lengthy and really, really expensive.”

Susan Whadcock, 51, owner of the Ocean Bay Hotel in New South Promenade said: “I bought this hotel nine months ago. When I bought it the previous owners said the Kimberley Hotel was going to be refurbished into luxury apartments.

“I believe it was just a hope - nothing has ever happened. I would not have bought the hotel nine months ago if I knew it was still going to be a derelict area.

“It is embarrassing when I have guests turn up and they see the state of the hotels.

“The whole thing does not look good. I want something doing with them. I guess it is down to the owners.

“I do not think they will ever be refurbished. They need to be demolished. It is pulling this end of the town down.”

A spokesman for the Alderley Hotel in South Promenade Crescent added: “It is a disgrace. It does not do our business any good. As people come into Blackpool they have to enter this way. It is a mess - so many hotels look a mess.

“It is not very nice when they see our hotels they think ours are a dump too.

“Even if they were levelled off, demolished, that would be better than what it is at the moment.

“We get guests saying it is a disgrace – we have not been told anything.”

But Coun Campbell said the authority remained in discussions with the owners of the hotels to find a solution and the authority has effectively ruled out demolition.

She added: “We are aware The Palm Beach Hotel is in a bad condition following last year’s fire. It is an eyesore in that area and one that I am as keen as everybody else to get sorted.

“The building, and that whole area in general, needs a long term solution and we are in discussions with the owners to try and make that happen.

“Demolishing the building ourselves and charging the owners is not a position that I am keen to put the Council in, as it could result in tax payers having to foot the bill if we cannot recover the costs. It could also delay any future proceedings.”

When asked, the council said it could not elaborate on the current discussions.

It comes as the owner of one of the closed down hotels, Paul Bennett, managing director of the UK Holiday Group, which owns the Warwick , said he hoped the area could one day be transformed by a new development – and blamed too many hotel rooms for the area’s current plight.

He added: “We hope that the site of the former Warwick Hotel, together with other former hotel properties on Bourne Crescent, will become a landmark development of quality residential units for both local people and those looking for a second home on the coast.

“The financial crisis stalled negotiations with potential buyers but we are hopeful that a high profile developer will come forward with a scheme that takes full advantage of this unique opportunity.

“As one of Britain’s biggest domestic holiday companies, Blackpool remains an important destination for our 100,000 plus annual holidaymakers.

“The reality is that Blackpool, like so many other UK coastal resorts, has far too many hotel beds and this leads to falling room rates, falling standards, lack of investment – and inevitably to hotel closures.

“Bourne Crescent is clearly no longer relevant to Blackpool in its capacity as a seaside holiday town.

“The future of Bourne Crescent lies elsewhere, and we are sure that it’s just a matter of time before its current sad appearance will be transformed by a quality development that will prove to be a worthy landmark along this important gateway into town.”