Thousands more car parking spaces are being planned to cope with a predicted surge in visitors coming to Blackpool.
Town hall chiefs are looking at options for a £16m overhaul of parking in the resort that will offset the loss of hundreds of spaces in the resort.
But with a series of major developments in the pipeline – including the conference centre, new hotels and more office space in the town centre – a further 1,900 spaces are said to be needed to accommodate the extra traffic.
No details have been revealed about the possible sites being considered for the new car parks – but Blackpool Council’s executive is being asked to approve spending up to £16m on the project at a meeting on Monday.
A report to members says the planned development of the Blackpool Central site and the next phases of the Talbot Gateway project means the parking situation needs “to be addressed urgently”.
A series of major projects are due to be completed over the coming years in the town centre, which will see several key car parks shut to make way for the developments.
They include Central, Tower Street and the car park at Wilko’s, which is being relocated to make way for a new tram interchange and hotel.
The report adds: “The existing provision is just adequate for normal usage, but the removal of Wilko and Tower Street from the parking stock will add to parking pressures, which will increase when other proposed developments come forward.”
However, leader of the Conservative opposition on the council Tony Williams said he was concerned about how the car parks would be funded.
He said: “They are borrowing a lot of money.
“The council needs to be more open with some of these decisions. How many car parks? Where are they going to put them?”
His comments come after it was revealed councillors at the same meeting will be asked to approve borrowing £41m to loan to the council-backed Blackpool Housing Company to continue its work converting old guest houses and houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs) into modern rental accommodation.
Coun Williams said he was concerned about the level of debt the council was planning to take on.
Some of the details contained in reports to members of the executive committee have not been made public – including information about the financial impact of the parking plans and the sites under consideration.
However, the money would come from the council’s “capital programme”, documents show. They add that it would not be in the public interest to reveal the sites under consideration due to “ongoing negotiations”.
The report to councillors adds: “With the overall number of visits (to Blackpool) increasing – from 17m in 2015 to 18m in 2017 – it is expected that the demand for parking and coach travel during the busy periods in Blackpool will increase even further. This demand is further increased by the many new developments either proposed or underway in the town centre, particularly considering that these developments are constructed on existing surface car parks thus reducing the supply even further.”
Officers estimate the conference centre will require an extra 500 car parking spaces once it has opened.
Meanwhile the Blackpool Central development will generate demand for a further 600 spaces on top of the 1,086 currently provided at the Central car park, which will make way for the new leisure scheme. The developers have agreed to provide a 1,250-space car par on the site and contribute towards a further 350 spaces elsewhere in the resort.
Phases two and three of the Talbot Gateway development – which will see a hotel built alongside the completion of the tramway extension and new developments – could need up to 750 more spaces, council officers estimate.
They say negotiations over bringing more office-based businesses into the town centre are still at an early stage but one is said to involved a “large office development”. Separate papers put forward for the same meeting confirm the ongoing discussions with the unnamed firm as part of a request for £1.25m to draw up initial designs to meet the demand for office space as part of the project.
They state: “Phase three has a potential inquiry to accommodate a large office development and if it were to materialise it is vital that the opportunity is not lost.”
The council estimates 1,593 car parking spaces have or will be lost as part of the ongoing works in the town centre. Including the 1,900 extra spaces needed to cope with extra demand, the parking report predicts up to 2,234 new spaces will be needed around the town centre, in addition to the 1,250 already planned for the Blackpool Central site.
It adds that the “additional demand is likely to be significantly less than this” due to people using public transport and the fact there will be a split between “daytime and evening uses” of the space.
Failure to approve the £16m funding for the car parks risk “undermining the huge economic benefits” of the range of projects planned as part of the town centre upgrades, it adds.