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‘We’ll fight for millions more to keep up resort’s revival’

Change is coming: Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin in Blackpool. He is pictured with Edwin Booth from Lancashire Enterprise Partnership Pictures by Dan Martino

Change is coming: Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin in Blackpool. He is pictured with Edwin Booth from Lancashire Enterprise Partnership Pictures by Dan Martino

A major cash windfall that will help revitalise the Fylde coast economy has been welcomed, but residents have been told: “This is not the end.”

Blackpool is set to receive £50m in Government funding by 2021, with most of it coming in the next two years, as part of the £230m Lancashire Growth Deal which was unveiled yesterday.

The resort will get £38m by 2016, including a £26m loan to tackle serious housing problems in the town.

A further £56m has been identified by Blackpool Council to fund a raft of projects, bringing the total investment to £106m.

Schemes that will receive backing next year include a new heritage visitor attraction at the Winter Gardens, which will be part-funded by a Heritage Lottery Grant, and investment in Blackpool and The Fylde College as part of efforts to set up a national energy college.

Edwin Booth, chairman of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, which negotiated the historic deal with Whitehall, said: “This is a major event but it is not the end.

“We don’t stop negotiating with the Government and we don’t stop accessing as best we can the funding that may be available to us. There are a number of elements that we had to concede and we will be going after the rest of them over the next five or 10 years.”

As part of the Deal, the LEP has committed to building 1,055 new homes on the Fylde coast, 30,823 m sq of commercial floor space and creating 790 jobs in the area.

Paul Maynard, MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, said: “This is a good balance of what will help local residents and help the seaside economy here.

“But this is not the end of the road for local road funds. There is a lot more we still want to do. I am pressuring hard for the new A585 to Fleetwood and we need a conference centre in the town.”

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden welcomed the projects announced as part of the deal but said more is needed to ensure the revival of Blackpool as a whole, not just the town centre.

He said: “This money has been a long time coming.

“Huge cuts to local government funding has exacerbated many of the long-term problems the town has and we desperately do need this money.”

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin was in Blackpool yesterday for the announcement and said the cash will be vital in addressing problems in the resort.

He added: “I think it can go a long way. The Prime Minister has been very keen on things to rebalance the economy – there is no doubt during the early 2000s we, as a country, allowed London to become over-dominant.”

He also highlighted on-going rail improvements and the recent announcement Blackpool’s direct train link to London will return, as major steps forward for the region.

HOUSING

Yesterday’s announcement includes a £26m loan to help Blackpool Council address major housing problems in the resort.

The cash will help bring problem properties in the private rented sector back up to standard. Coun Gillian Campbell, cabinet member for housing, said: “It’s going to be absolutely fantastic. It will allow us to buy up some of the more problematic houses of multiple occupancy and houses where we have issues.

“We can buy them, renovate them, do them up to decent home standards and rent them out to tenants.

“There may be some stipulations that we still have to flesh out. For example, they may have to be economically active.”

As the money is being loaned to the council, she said, any money spent will have to be recovered.

“The money won’t go terribly far,” she added. “But we can still make a massive difference with it. It’s is just the beginning of the story but £26m is a huge amount of money.”

Council leader Simon Blackburn said: “If it is possible for bad landlords to buy a property, it is also possible for a good landlord to buy it and we want to facilitate that. We are making it harder and harder to be a bad landlord and easier to be a good landlord.”

TRANSPORT

New electronic signs are planned in Blackpool to help direct traffic towards available car parks, with the bulk of the £1.7m funding coming next year.

Town hall bosses hope the new ‘intelligent system’ will ease traffic problems by directing cars away from the Promenade.

Another £3.8m is being provided for vital bridge repairs on: Plymouth Road, Squires Gate Lane, Devonshire Road, Waterloo Road, Harrowside, Princess Street, Rigby Road, a gas works subway near Rigby Road, Watson Road and Chapel Street.

Between 2016 and 2021, the Government will also provide £2.1m towards extending the tramline along Talbot Road to Blackpool North train station.

The remaining £16m needed has already been identified by the council.

The planned M55 to St Annes link road is among the projects to receive funding. The Government will contribute £2m – £600,000 in the first year – while the LEP has earmarked a further £12m.

The road is seen as vital to support business growth at Whitehills and Blackpool Airport as well as providing transport links for future housing developments.

WHERE THE MONEY WILL GO

Blackpool will be given £38m in guaranteed funding in 2015/16 from the government, with another £13.6m provisionally agreed for future years.

Cash has been earmarked for each project with various organisations, such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, the LEP and Lancashire County Council, bridging the funding gap.

The cash will fund:

A heritage visitor attraction – £21.2m (£1.5m from the Growth Deal)

An integrated traffic management system – £2.4m (£1.7m from the Growth Deal)

Bridge maintenance – £4.3m (£3.8m from the Growth Deal)

M55 link road to St Annes – £15m (£2m from the Growth Deal)

Creating an energy centre at Blackpool and the Fylde College – £12m (£6.2m from the Growth Deal)

Green corridors to improve town centre gateways – £7.3m (£6.6m from the Growth Deal)

Tramway extension – £18.1m – (£2.1m from the Growth Deal)

Private sector housing intervention – £26m Growth Deal loan

Mental health and employment pilot scheme – £1.5m from Department for Communities and Local Government.

 

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