Potential investors are being lined up to look at the feasibility of a key development site in Blackpool, it was claimed today.
The resort’s Conservative group has criticised ruling Labour bosses over a “lack of action” on the town’s prime Central Station site, and say they have held talks with venture capitalists in the hope of bringing a full size entertainment complex to the car park, which has been awaiting redevelopment since Central Station closed 50 years ago.
Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservatives on Blackpool Council, says he has spoken to a number of potential investors.
With them, he has drawn up proposals based on similar plans for a new arena $200m arena in Seattle, in the USA.
Coun Williams said: “I have recently had meetings with members of the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association together with two private investors and an independent architect to formulate an initiative to seek interested parties to invest in an ‘Ocean Arena’ in Blackpool.
“Blackpool is the perfect location for a multi-purpose event stadium and it’s something the town desperately needs.
“Not only would the arena welcome international top names in music and entertainment etc it would also accommodate events, competitions, indoor sport, conferences and exhibitions all year round.”
The town hall’s assistant chief executive Alan Cavill today said it was “incorrect” to say there had been no movement on the site since a super casino bid collapsed in 2008 – and outlined a string of moves officers were making behind the scenes to come up with a new plan for the site.
And council leader Simon Blackburn today labelled Coun Williams’ statements as pre-election “imagineering”.
But Coun Williams maintained the council was not doing enough to attract investment to the Central Station site.
He added: “The council continue to sit on their hands in regard to the Central Car Park site preferring to invest our money at the wrong end of town.
“It’s quite clear the police station will be moving and rather than the location be handed over to an existing operator to expand their own empire, I want to see new ideas and investment.
“I believe an arena such as this would be welcomed by most of the people in the town and if it was entirely up to me I would also be giving them a say on any potential design and use. The next step is to try and secure the financial interest from both the private and corporate sectors and to form a challenge board which should include local business and community representatives to collectively drive this venture home.
“We envisage that part of the funding would be supported by new-to-the-town retail outlets within the body of the design, integral hospitality, restaurants and leisure activities that will compliment existing operators along the Promenade.
“The original thoughts on the design concept would be similar to those submitted for the new Seattle Arena in the USA. This design incorporates a very flexible set of options for a multi-purpose venue and even has some outdoor sports areas.
“It’s very early days but the quest has started and so far I have been very encouraged by the interest shown by the people I have spoken to.”
Coun Williams said it was too early to be able to name any of the investors he was speaking to.
He said: “Regardless of the town’s political make-up after May, I will still be pursuing this.”
Relocating Blackpool’s central police station and law courts is key to any redevelopment of the Central Station site, and police chiefs are expected to announce in the next couple of months that the Bonny Street Station will move.
One location being considered is the site of the former Progress House council offices on Clifton Road which have been demolished.
Blackpool had hoped to put a Las Vegas-style supercasino on the site but the proposal was thrown out by Government in 2008.
In February last year, Prime Minister David Cameron exclusively told The Gazette that if the council wanted to still pursue the possibility of a large casino on the Central Station site, it would be looked upon “favourably”, but nothing has come of it.
Meanwhile, the council is still working with the Greenbank partnership which has proposed putting a snow-based attraction on the site.
Coun Blackburn said: “Anyone who imagines that Coun Williams is able to deliver on his pre-election imagineering will have a very long and ultimately fruitless wait.
“To fully develop that site as a whole you would need the police and court buildings to move, you would need to scope the site to explore the logistical building and infrastructure issues, both above and below ground – something we are looking to do to move the development forward.
“By law you would also need to go through a tendering process to appoint a developer.
“It is not as simple as speaking to someone with an idea.
“We are working to develop the site and residents can expect to hear about steps forward soon but, make no mistake, the process is a complex one.”