Levelling Up Fund: Blackpool succeeds in £40m bid for new university, but hotel and transport plans rejected

Blackpool has scooped £40m from the government's Levelling Up Fund to help create a new carbon-neutral “multiversity” campus in the town.
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In an announcement late on Wednesday, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said that the investment will put the Talbot Gateway “at the forefront of artificial intelligence and robotics learning”.

Blackpool Council is set to receive the full amount it requested towards the project as part of a joint bid with neighbouring Wyre Council.

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When the local authorities’ pitch was made public last year, it was revealed that the facility - a partnership between Blackpool Council and Blackpool and the Fylde College, in association with Lancaster University - would be able to accommodate well over 2,000 students.

Blackpool's "multiversity" has moved a step closerBlackpool's "multiversity" has moved a step closer
Blackpool's "multiversity" has moved a step closer

It is intended to meet the needs of local, regional and national employers - and Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove will be in the resort on Thursday to officially announce that the government will be stumping up more than 60 percent of the cost of the £65m scheme.

Blackpool South MP Scott Benton said that the news was “a big win for Blackpool”.

“We now have the funding we need to create this state-of-the-art multiversity, [which] will provide the people of Blackpool with the skills they need for the jobs of the future.

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“So far, since I was elected, the government have provided £262m in extra funding to Blackpool for a variety of different projects, including the £39.5m Towns Deal and £40 million to relocate the court complex to allow the Blackpool Central development to go ahead.

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“This £40 million application is on top of that and will make a huge difference to our community. I’ve been lobbying ministers for months to ensure that we received this money and it is a huge vote of confidence in Blackpool and everything we are doing,” the Conservative politician said.

Blackpool Council leader Lynn Williams said that the authority’s regeneration plans for the town have been “ongoing for more than 10

years now”.

"The awarding of this money is testament to the continual and tireless work to make these plans a reality for the people of Blackpool. Our priority is to provide decent, secure jobs for local people, encourage economic growth and to enable locals - young and old - to make the most of the opportunities available.

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“£40m will go towards providing a new world-class university experience for residents which would be carbon neutral in its operation. The new learning environment would facilitate upskilling, reskilling and lifelong learning within the town. Our town revitalisation plans will also be supported by bringing many students into the heart of Blackpool. The learning opportunities will be linked directly to local job opportunities filling any skill gaps across the Fylde Coast.

“Multiversity will be delivered through a partnership involving Blackpool Council and Blackpool and the Fylde College in association with Lancaster University. It will accommodate approximately 2,300 learners with many able to gain higher-level qualifications.

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“It is heartening to know that our vision for the regeneration of our town has been recognised by central Government and we will continue to work with them and our partners across the town to make this vision a reality.

“Things are really tough for some of our residents right now but there is hope for the future, I am fully committed to making Blackpool better for all who live, work and visit our incredible town,” Cllr Williams added.

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The remainder of the bill for the multiversity will be covered by £9m site assembly costs already approved as part of the Town Deal and £16m from a Blackpool Council loan, to be prudentially borrowed and repaid by Blackpool and the Fylde College via a lease.

Blackpool had also put in separate bids for £8m towards the cost of converting the former Post Office into a Hotel Indigo and £15.4m for a town centre access scheme to improve traffic circulation, introduce bus priority measures and assist pedestrians and cyclists - but neither of the proposals was accepted.

Fylde Council’s £13.1m pitch to revitalise St Anne’s town centre and Promenade Gardens and improve connectivity between the station gateway and the Promenade - integrating the town centre and seafront - was also unsuccessful.

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Lancashire as a whole has been handed £200m of levelling up cash to fund a plethora of regeneration schemes across the county.

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Six local authorities in the county have been awarded money for their proposed projects from the second round of the nationwide Levelling Up Fund.

Unsuccessful bidders will get the chance to bid again after the government confirmed that there will be a third round of allocations from the fund.

The £2.1bn worth of investments announced on Wednesday follows £1.7bn of schemes that were approved in the first round in 2021. The government has previously pledged that the fund will distribute a total of £4.8bn for use on projects designed to reduce inequalities between different parts of the country.