The regeneration of Blackpool town centre looks set to continue apace in 2019 with investment in schemes including the conference centre poised to reach significant milestones.
Town hall chiefs are bidding to move away from “an over-reliance” on retail to protect the resort core from threats to the high street.
Key to this will be the completion of £26m conference facilities attached to the Winter Gardens by the end of the year, with organisations said to be already queueing up to see what will be on offer.
In the meantime, private investment is forging ahead with the Pleasure Beach hoping to open its new hotel in the spring.
Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said: “2018 has been a crucial year in terms of refocusing town centre strategy so that it plans for a vibrant mix of uses, including an enhanced leisure and business offer, rather than having an over-reliance on retail.
“The coming year will see some important milestones in the regeneration of the town centre.
“We have already seen around another 200 office workers move into Talbot Gateway through the relocation of Slater Gordon and we are confident our ongoing investment, particularly in public transport, will attract thousands more jobs into the town centre in the years to come and breathe new life into the heart of Blackpool.”
Claims company Slater Gordon has moved to Bickerstaffe House from its previous base on Blackpool Business Park.
Michael Williams, managing director of the Winter Gardens, said interest in the new conference centre was growing steadily.
He added: “The conference and exhibition centre is due for completion before the end of 2019 with the first events being held early in 2020 following the commissioning of equipment and statutory safety checks.
“During 2019 we will be hosting a series of hard hat tours and familiarisation visits as we currently have a waiting list of organisations who would like to visit the venue with a view to hiring the facilities for their conferences and events.
“Following a focused sales and marketing campaign we also have a number of organisations who have expressed an interest in booking the facilities for their events.
“We are also in dialogue with a number of existing clients who are looking to expand their events into the new facility.”Coun Tony Williams, leader of the
Conservatives on Blackpool Council, welcomed investment but warned it must not be at the cost of existing businesses.
He said: “I am clear of the need to support our tourism sector and to deliver regeneration.
“New hotels are all well and good but we need proof there is a demand, and also support is needed for existing small businesses.
“We need to think about how we can improve our neighbourhoods beyond the tourist areas, delivering better quality housing and year-round employment.
“Quality homes and more diverse economy can be delivered under new policies.”