HUNDREDS of jobs will be created when work finally begins on a £220m scheme to revitalise Blackpool town centre.
A combined total of around 800 jobs will be up for grabs as the first phase of the Central Business District gets underway.
At the peak of construction, 364 people will be employed building a state-of-the-art new council office block, a flagship Sainsbury’s supermarket and new infrastructure around the town centre.
Once it opens, 400 permanent roles will be created by Sainsbury’s at its new store.
And town hall bosses have pledged to ensure local residents are the main beneficiaries from the jobs boost.
Developers were joined by dignitaries today at a sod-cutting ceremony on the site on Talbot Road to mark the start of work.
It is estimated up to 230 people will be employed on building the council offices at the peak of the contract, and 74 on the supermarket.
In addition, 20 jobs will be created to install new roads and infrastructure, while the refurbishment of Talbot Road multi-storey car park will create 40 jobs.
Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said securing local jobs would be his priority.
He said: “We put local labour targets into all of our external contracts.
“Contractors delivering Decent Homes work under Blackpool Coastal Housing all met and indeed exceeded targets for local employment.
“We anticipate contractors will make use of an increasingly large skill base of young people who have completed basic construction skills courses with our local training partners and the colleges.
“It will boost the local economy as the very action of having almost 400 new people working on a town centre construction project brings in additional finance to the town, even in terms of buying lunches, newspapers, drinks and the like.
“In itself, the construction project will be a micro-cosm of what we expect to happen when we bring in staff from our outlying offices into the town centre when construction is complete.”
Blackpool Council hope at least half the jobs created will go to local people and are working with Connexions, Blackpool Build Up and Hays recruitment to ensure resort residents get first choice.
Work will first commence on the council offices before getting underway on the car park in November and the supermarket in January.
The Sainsbury’s store is due to be finished by January 2014, with the council offices to be finished in April 2014. Buchanan Street and George Street are being widened to take town centre through traffic and a new public square will be created in front of the council offices.
Future phases will see further development including three hotels, shops, more offices and possibly a new police station built on land around Blackpool North rail station.
Coun Gary Coleman, cabinet member for regeneration and development, said: “It’s a great boost for the economy of the town centre as well as creating local jobs for local people. I’m sure everybody agrees this area needed a lift.
“Today marks the start of the project we’ve been talking about for so many years.
“It’s such an exciting time and I look forward to seeing the new landscape take shape.”
The scheme is being carried out in partnership with Muse Developments.
Its regional director Mike Horner said: “Today is the first step towards realising the transformation of this part of central Blackpool into a vibrant commercial district.
“This is the first phase of a comprehensive scheme which will revitalise this important gateway to the town’s Blackpool North Station.
“We are looking forward to working closely with our partners at Blackpool Council to bring about this much needed change.”
The town’s MPs also welcomed the start of work.
Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden, who is also shadow minister for skills, said: “The construction phase alone should give significant opportunities not just for local people to be employed, but also for apprentices from across the Fylde to be taken on board as well.”
Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard added: “I welcome the positive news about jobs in the local area. We need sustainable private sector jobs in the medium term and that can only be achieved by addressing issues like infrastructure and skills.”