An ambitious six-point plan to revitalise Blackpool’s core will put the resort back in competition with some of the region’s biggest rival shopping meccas, town leaders believe.
The Gazette can lift the lid on a raft of proposals tabled by town centre bosses which they believe will boost growth and bring more people than ever into Blackpool.
In the coming days, The Gazette will examine, in depth, plans to improve shopping, leisure, transport, business growth and tourism.
It is hoped the 15 year plan will put the town back at the heart of the Fylde coast.
Blackpool Council leader Simon Blackburn said: “Town centres the length and breadth of the country have suffered at the hands of ever growing ‘one-stop shop’ hypermarkets, and vast out of town retail centres.
“We have to respond to this, protecting the best bits of our existing centre and implementing policies which will focus business activity and retail growth into the centre of town.
“By bringing in significant numbers of council staff from old, obsolete outlying buildings and putting them in the town centre, we believe there will be a significant positive impact on retailers, from newsagents to coffee shops, clothing stores to electronics.”
He said it was vital that Blackpool offered something “unique” .
“Trying to be the next Trafford Centre won’t work anymore than trying to scrape a living from providing ever more pound shops and charity shops,” he added.
The plan has been drawn up in response to figures which reveal while thousands of people work here, the town is lagging behind when it comes to local spending.
Official figures show more than 6,000 people are employed in Blackpool town centre.
But Blackpool attracts only about a third of the spending power of local residents – around £316m on non-food retail.
•• Re-establishing the town centre as the first choice shopping destination for Fylde coast residents Priorities outlined include reducing the number of empty shops and controlling the spread of charity and discount stores by providing more attractive retail space such as the new units currently being built beneath the Talbot Road multi-storey car park. The next phase of the Houndshill shopping centre is also still on the cards, while the plan outlines how there is also scope to develop retailing within the Winter Gardens.
•• Strengthen the town centre as a vibrant leisure, entertainment, cultural and business tourism destination for residents and visitors Central to this is developing conference facilities, while work is continuing to secure a major leisure development on the Central Station site. New town centre leisure facilities could include a cinema, according to the plans.
•• Grow the town centre as a place to do business by creating a Central Business District and creative industries hub
•• Around 900 council workers are due to transfer to new offices now being built on land off Talbot Road, and due to open in spring next year
It is hoped further offices will be built in future as part of the £220m new Central Business District.
•• Create a choice of high quality homes within and around the town centre Around 400 new homes are to be built on land between Princess Street, Rigby Road and Central Drive. Work has begun on clearing the site ready for construction to begin.
•• Improve the quality of buildings, streets and spaces and their maintenance and management Aspirations range from improving Promenade buildings to transforming the arrival experience at Blackpool North station. High quality development on key vacant locations such as the former Yates’ site and the former Abingdon Street Post Office will be encouraged.
•• Provide convenient access to the town centre by all modes of travel and enable easier pedestrian movement Talbot Road multi-storey car park is being refurbished and a public square and new roads are part of the Central Business District. Future ambitions include extending the tramway up Talbot Road to link in with Blackpool North station and a refurbishment of the station itself.