The mega £100m masterplan to change the face of Blackpool has been rubber stamped – and is set to “breathe new life into the town centre” over the next three years.
Town hall bosses have today confirmed the timeline for the series of huge schemes, which are aimed at making the resort the envy of the nation and include the town’s first five-star hotel, a £7m road upgrade project, a new museum, and the expansion of the Houndshill Shopping Centre.
Some £26m is also being pumped into the new conference centre at the Winter Gardens, while a new IMAX cinema, Wilko shop and restaurant will open at the Houndshill.
A new 144-bed four-star Holiday Inn and restaurant will be built at the North Station transport interchange – set to replace the current Wilko – and “several hundred” office workers from Slater Gordon Solutions Motor will move into the council’s HQ at Bickerstaffe Square.
Blackpool Council leader Simon Blackburn said the massive injection of cash will transform the resort and allow it to survive amid a national town centre crisis, with high streets across the UK now littered with shuttered, empty units, bargain stores, and charity shops.
Describing the “face of retailing” as “changing more extensively and rapidly than anyone can have expected”, Coun Blackburn added: “We are acutely aware of how these challenges are playing out in Blackpool, where the context of our retailing environment is already somewhat volatile because of the seasonal nature of footfall through the town centre.
“We are also conscious that a number of well-documented, reputable reports have shown those town centres that are most dependent on retail premises have suffered most badly, and those town centres with less retail, more offices, and other forms of leisure activities have fared the best.
“All of these investments and proposals address that issue, and will bring new footfall, spend, and life into our town centre. Put together, they will deliver transformational change.”
The £7m road Quality Corridors road project will see King Street, Deansgate, Edward Street, Topping Street, Cookson Street and Dickson Road refurbished. No timeframe has been put on this project yet.
The concrete proposals, which follow years of planning – with work already visibly underway on some of the schemes, including the tram extension in Talbot Road, conference centre at the Winter Gardens, and Sands venue – come weeks after a report unveiled plans to revive the town centre.
The ‘Blackpool Retail, Leisure and Hotel Study 2018’ will be used to revitalise Blackpool’s high street, with out-of-town retail and leisure projects set to run the gauntlet of tough new rules.
Just under a third of all spending on goods such as clothes and electronics is in the town centre – around £267m – but annual spending has dropped by nine per cent since 2010.
Around £173m is spent at shops at Blackpool’s three edge-of-town retail parks: Blackpool Retail Park off Squires Gate Lane, Clifton Retail Park, and Cherry Tree Retail Park in Marton.
And Mike Riley, from the Houndshill’s management company, said today’s confirmed plans will “help to secure and develop the heart of Blackpool’s retail offer for the future.”
International cinema developer John Sullivan added: “We are excited to be working with the council on this fabulous new development, bringing the latest cinema technology to the Blackpool audiences.”