Action needed now to save Blackpool town centre warn councillors

Fears have been raised that multi million pound investment to transform Blackpool town centre may come too late for some businesses.

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 3:13 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th April 2021, 3:14 pm

While regeneration is on the cards including the extension of the Houndshill Centre, the new Winter Gardens conference centre, Blackpool Central leisure quarter, and new office development, councillors have warned some shops are already closing.

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Go ahead for phase two of Blackpool's Houndshill Shopping Centre as council sign...

Coun Maxine Callow told a meeting of the tourism, economy and communities scrutiny committee: “I know we have some wonderful ideas and an excellent team working, but while we’re doing this time is marching on.”

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Artist's impression of Houndshill phase two

She warned the town centre was losing its Debenhams store, WH Smith on Bank Hey Street had shut and Toni&Guy hairdresser’s on Birley Street has also recently closed down.

Coun Callow said: “I have many friends who live in the north end of Blackpool and they say to me they are not coming into Blackpool anymore, they would rather go to Cleveleys.

“And this breaks my heart. They don’t feel there is a lot to entice them into Blackpool to shop.”

She added: “Birley Street wants to make you cry with all the empty shops. I know we have very attractive coffee shops there but they are struggling with the atmosphere with all these empty shops.”

Coun Maxine Callow

Coun Gary Coleman said some neglected buildings, such as near the Grundy Art Gallery, were in “a disgusting state”, which was bringing the town centre down.

He also asked what the council was doing to replace Debenhams in the Houndshill Centre.

Nick Gerrard, prosperity programme director for Blackpool Council, said it was hoped to get more investment through a £20m bid to the Government’s Levelling Up fund to improve town centre streets.

But he said schemes including the property improvement fund which has seen shopfronts upgraded, and the refurbishment of Abingdon Street Market were bringing about change.

The second phase of Houndshill will include a cinema as part of moves to diversify the town centre, and in relation to the Debenhams site he added “we are actively pursuing things to resolve that.”

Mr Gerrard said: “All the research shows we cannot just rely on retail. That’s what has driven our focus on Houndshill phase two.”

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