First look at £31m vision for Blackpool regeneration project

Artists impression of a new hotel in Bickerstaffe Square proposed as part of phase 2 of the Talbot Gateway
Artists impression of a new hotel in Bickerstaffe Square proposed as part of phase 2 of the Talbot Gateway
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This is the £31m vision for the next phase of the Blackpool town centre regeneration project.

New images show how a tram station and four-star hotel are at the heart of the plans for the Talbot Gateway Central Business District, which are due to go before councillors today.

If approved, Blackpool Council expects to borrow £17.5m towards the cost of the scheme, which includes extending the underpass from Blackpool North train station to the new tram terminal.

It follows the first tranche of the development, which saw a Sainsbury’s supermarket open along with new council offices at Bickerstaffe House and the refurbished Talbot Road car park.

Council leader Simon Blackburn said: “If you are going to invest you have to be in the game properly.

“Where there has been high quality investment in Blackpool in the past it has worked.”

Blackpool Council’s executive is being recommended to enter into an agreement with developer Muse to kickstart investment when it meets today.

The full cost is £23m plus £7.8m already spent on acquiring the Wilkinson’s site on Talbot Road where the hotel and tram terminal would be built.

Councillors are also being asked to agree to borrow £17.5m towards the project, with the remaining £5.5m coming from the development trust account for the Talbot Gateway.

The money would be repaid using earnings from the hotel.

Council leader Simon Blackburn said the authority had to invest in the town.

He said: “No-one else is going to do it. No-one else is going to build the tramway, no-one else was going to invest in the trams or the work to transform the Promenade.

“We will get that investment money back. Where there has been high quality investment in Blackpool in the past it has worked. Just look at the Big Blue hotel.

“Geoffrey Thompson was a visionary and realised that it would make money and attract people to the Pleasure Beach and to Blackpool. It really is doing that.

“That’s why Amanda Thompson is investing £16m in a new coaster.

“One thing we learned from our visit to Orlando and meeting the biggest players in the world, is that if you are going to invest you have to be in the game properly.

“Look at the Sandcastle. When the council looked at investing in it, it did it properly. If you look at other municipal water parks around the country they are a laughing stock while the Sandcastle still attracts thousands of visitors. It will be the same with this hotel. As a council, with a steady income from business rates and council tax, we can borrow at very low rates at the moment.”

Global hotel groups Hilton, the Accor Group and Intercontinental have already indicated they would support their brands being represented in Blackpool, with Intercontinental suggested as the preferred brand.

A report to the executive committee says: “Muse is now looking to develop the eastern side of this area as a four star 140-bedroom hotel with retail units on the ground floor and the provision of a wide interconnecting underpass between the hotel, the new tramway terminus and Blackpool North Station.

“To enable this there is a need to enter into another (second) supplemental deed to allow this development to proceed.”

The phase also depends on the tramway being extended up Talbot Road to link Blackpool North with the track opposite North Pier, with the council awaiting the go ahead from the Secretary of State for Transport.

The council has been working with Muse since 2009 with the first phase seeing the development of a Sainsbury’s supermarket, council offices at Bickerstaffe House, and the refurbished Talbot Road multi-storey car park with units below now occupied by Mr Basrai’s World Buffet restaurant, and The Gym.

However the second phase had previously stalled with previous plans for a £14m hotel on the site of St John’s car park shelved by council chiefs.