Town centre jobs key to Blackpool's future says council leader Simon Blackurn

Empty shops in Blackpool town centre
Empty shops in Blackpool town centre
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Attracting investment to Blackpool town centre will be among the priorities for council leader Simon Blackburn after his party retained control of the council.

He said it was time for fresh ideas to make town centres still relevant amid people's changing shopping habits.

Coun Simon Blackburn

Coun Simon Blackburn

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Coun Blackburn, whose Labour group held onto power with a reduced majority after last Thursday's local elections, said: "Town centres across the world and the UK are changing.

"That means we have to repurpose our town centre as a place where people work and where more people live, and it is also about the night time economy, food and beverage.

"The notion of people just going into the town centre to shop is changing.

"And I'm convinced our plans so far are pushing us in the right direction.

"Getting more jobs into the town is vital. We can improve education but there also has to be jobs for our young people as well."

Changes have already included relocating 260 staff from Gordon Slater Motor Insurance into Bickerstaffe House on Talbot Road.

In February the council revealed it was setting aside £1.25m towards developing plans for new office accommodation in the town centre as part of preparations for phase two of the Talbot Gateway which is due to begin next year.

The St John's car park on East Topping Street is already earmarked for office development as part of the Talbot Gateway scheme.

Average turnout among voters across Blackpool was low at just 29 per cent, and Coun Blackburn admitted it had been difficult this time to persuade people to come out and vote.

He said: "It has been enormously difficult to motivate people to come and vote as they feel the two main political parties have failed them.

"That's why we have seen the Greens, Liberal Democrats and Independents doing well."

Labour won 23 seats, down from 26 ahead of polling day, while the Tories gained three seats to give them 15 councillors in total with four seats going to independent and non-aligned candidates.