Blackpool firms fear bleak Christmas as new roadworks will close key roads

Only last week, a report highlighted the effects roadworks were having on Blackpool
Only last week, a report highlighted the effects roadworks were having on Blackpool
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Blackpool council has unveiled the next set of roadworks designed to improve the town centre, but businesses are worried that it will once again wipe out their Christmas takings.

Town Hall bosses have said that the raft of improvements, including a new conference centre and cinema, the new tramway and Premier Inn hotel are “progressing well”.

The scheduled improvements

The scheduled improvements

But the work will mean the closure of key roads in the coming months.

Talbot Road will remain closed from The Strand to Abingdon Street until December 14.

It will also remain closed from Abingdon Street to Dickson Road until January 18.

It will also be affected by the closure of Talbot Square for tramworks which is due to start November 5 to February 28.

And The Promenade will be closed from West Street to Queen’s Square from November 5 to January 21.

And High Street will become one way Northbound between Dickson Road and Talbot Road from November 5 to November 26.

But the council said sections of Talbot Road will temporarily reopen while there is a break for the Christmas period.

Dates will be published on its website and Facebook page, and diversion signs will be in place.

At the same time the council is set to offer “heavily discounted parking offer available at selected town centre car parks from December 1 to January 2.”

The council said this offer will be delivered in association with the Town Centre BID and will be promoted extensively in the weeks leading up the start of the Christmas shopping season.

Coun Gillian Campbell, Deputy Leader of Blackpool Council (pictured left) said: “We continue to move forward with the improvement works which will deliver a better Blackpool for both residents and visitors.

“The benefits of the work will be both tangible and significant in the longer term helping to create and support a better transport infrastructure, enhanced shopping and entertainment experiences, a more attractive environment and the potential to attract even more investment, footfall and spend into the town.”

Martin Heywood of Viva, which was hit hard by the road closures last December, said it was important to support the town’s private businesses through the crucial Christmas period.

He said: “We welcome the new investment in the town centre, as a whole host of regeneration projects (both private investment and public investment via the growth deal) will bring obvious benefits to the wider business landscape, including leisure and retail.

“As a long term vision, it’s the correct way to go. More quality bed spaces in the town centre, more conference delegates and leisure activity will bring huge daytime and evening footfall to the town centre which will kickstart further private sector investment and attract more shops into vacant units.

“However, the council must not forget the short term effects which are going to hit businesses hard. Especially independent ones which do not have the resources of national companies or council owned attractions. Personally I’d rather see Talbot Road closed from January to March rather than hit the Christmas period which many businesses depend on to bank a winter war chest for the first part of the following year.

“Last time around we had three junctions closed along Talbot Road which was a nightmare. This time around we shouldn’t see such huge diversions but the council needs to ensure traffic can still access the town centre rather than totally circumnavigate it.”

Big Woody from Big Woody’s Skate Shop on Talbot Road said the roadworks had decimated his business to the point of closure as it put off customers and passing trade.

He said: “By the time our section of Talbot Road is re opened it will have been closed for over a year which has seen the demise of our business and several others).

“We met with a representative promised us, almost four weeks ago , that the council would provide signs at key points on Talbot Road that named the shops that were open and gave directions as how to get to those shops, we are still waiting.

“We feel that Blackpool Council people really do not care that they have completely disregarded us and other small business owners affected by this ludicrously extortionate 400m tramway.

“Once again the council fails to see that all it is doing is making the town centre look and feel closed over what should be one of the busiest shopping periods.”

Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservative opposition on Blackpool Council said Christmas was the vital time for retailers and having roads closed once again would see businesses shut.

He said: “I only hope the council will consider free parking at Christmas. Heavily discounted is not good enough.

“This will block off the town once again over Christmas and put people off coming to shop here. The council should be opening up roads so people can get access to the shops. This is incompetence on a grand scale.”

The council’s update on the town centre improvements says that at the Houndshill Shopping Centre, there will be an extended shopping centre, more places to eat and drink and a new nine screen cinema with an IMAX-style screen, making Blackpool the preferred place for shopping and entertainment.

The council hopes construction will begin in the new year to build the three storey extension to the shopping centre with a Wilko store and restaurant on the ground floor and first floor.

It said the extended tramway will connect North Station to the Promenade, helping more people get to where they need to be by providing a direct link to shops, hotels and attractions.

As all of the work is being phased, only some areas of Talbot Road and its junctions will be closed at one time. The roadworks phase of the project will be complete by the end of February.

Work is taking place on High Street to create a safe and more modern footway into the train station that will be accessible to all.

The construction company for the new Premier Inn is currently on site and expected to complete their works by early 2020.

A 21st century state of the art conference centre is being built, encouraging more people to stay and shop in our town.

The steel frame for the main event space is being installed, with next steps including connecting the new build to the existing Winter Gardens. The conference centre is expected to open for business August 2019.