The future of a multi-million pound hotel is in doubt – because the design clashes with historic Blackpool Tower.
Despite being a key project in Blackpool Council’s celebrated £100m regeneration of the resort, planners have now advised permission for a new five-star hotel on Central Promenade should be refused.
Revised plans for the conversion of the former Sands entertainment venue – which would house a new council-backed museum as well – have caused controversy because architects want to change the colour of the cladding to black.
The original design used a mixture of cream, bronze and green materials.
But the latest architect’s drawings show black aluminium frames, black exterior cladding panels and black-painted cross bracing.
The proposals have been submitted by Preston-based architects Frank Whittle Partnership on behalf of the applicant, businessman Peter Swann.
Town hall planners are recommending councillors reject the application because they say the new design is not fitting for such a prominent position on Blackpool’s Golden Mile close to the Tower.
Their report to the committee says: “A largely black building would not enhance or preserve the setting of the Tower, Woolworth building and the town centre conservation area.”
Work is already well under way to dismantle the former Sands entertainment complex after the original planning application was approved two years ago.
The revised applications seeks a number of changes to those plans, including a reduction in height, scrapping plans for parking spaces and fewer hotel bedrooms. However, planners say the colour change is the “key” reason it should not be approved.
Mr Swann is said to be “unwilling” to shift from the black colour scheme, according to a council report. He could not be reached for comment.
The building is earmarked to house the Blackpool Museum, a project being spearheaded by the council, on the first floor and is seen as a key component of the regeneration of the town centre.
The Sands Hotel is also the main beneficiary of investments totalling £8.86m made into a number of town centre projects from the council’s business loans fund.
Revised plans were submitted in December, which would see two new storeys added to the existing building, instead of the three originally applied for.
It means the hotel would offer 91 bedrooms instead of 96, with each room having views either over the seafront, the town centre or an internal atrium.
Plans for a basement car park with space for 55 vehicles have also been dropped from the updated application.
In a supplementary statement, Frank Whittle Partnership says the use of black cladding “will visually emphasise the vertical lines”.
The statement adds: “The reduced monochromatic colour palette has been proposed to be simpler than the previous colour palette and is in-keeping with the contemporary structure proposed, and is appropriate to its building type.”
Architects say the new design “will significantly improve the appearance of the building itself and the immediate surroundings” and will create “its own identity as a flagship leisure destination.”
But town hall planners warn the use of blacks, greys and silver colours is not suitable for a building within 45 metres of Blackpool Tower “which is one of the most well-known landmark buildings in the country”.
They say the previous application “reflected and was sensitive to the architecture in its immediate context”.
Planners add: “National policy makes it very clear that ‘poor design’ should not be approved.
“In this case it is considered the revised design with its largely black facades represents poor design and hence the instruction from national policy is clear.”
They acknowledge the regeneration benefits of the scheme, but say these are outweighed by the poor design.
There is no opposition to the reduced height of the hotel, or the loss of parking because that can be met by town centre car parks.
The application is due to go before the council’s planning committee on Tuesday.
Does this throw a spanner in works for museum plans?
If the hotel scheme stalls, it could place uncertainty once more over the future of the £13m Blackpool Museum.
Planning permission was granted last October to site the attraction on the first floor of the building and it had been hoped the museum would open in 2020.
The museum will have a ground floor reception area including a shop, with visitors then taking stairs or a lift to the first floor where the main exhibition area will be.
There will also be temporary gallery space, education areas and a coffee shop on the first floor.
The main part of the museum will be in the space previously occupied by the Sands restaurant and entertainment venue.
Around 40 full-time equivalent jobs will be created including a chief executive, curators, exhibition co-ordinators and ticket sellers.
Most of the funding is now in place for the scheme and it is hoped further grants will be secured in coming months enabling the attraction to open in 2020.
Previous plans for a £26m museum in the Winter Gardens were shelved due to an £8m funding gap, forcing the council to pursue a more scaled down project.
Key part of the masterplan
The plans for the former Sands venue have long been a key element of Blackpool Council’s vision for regenerating the town centre. Last summer, when the council outlined the timeline for its £100m overhaul of the resort, its support for the development of a five-star hotel was highlighted alongside the museum bid. The museum is intended to create another year-round visitor attraction to bring tourists into the resort and in an update last month, Blackpool Council said a detailed funding bid was due to made in the spring.