Northern Powerhouse minister: Blackpool becoming 'year-round destination'

Jake Berry
Jake Berry
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Blackpool is on its way to becoming a holiday destination all year round, the government's Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry is expected to say today.

Mr Berry, Tory MP for Darwen and Rossendale in east Lancashire, is due to visit the Winter Gardens to talk up the impact of government funding in the north.

He is scheduled to meet local politicians and business people to hear their plans to boost the resort's appeal outside the busy summer seasons, and said tourism has a 'big play to role' in the Northern Powerhouse project.

The Winter Gardens received £18m for a new conference centre, while £5m was given to Blackpool's Coastal Community Team to help regenerate the town and boost tourism, the Department for Communities and Local Government said.

The investment means the number of events help in the town centre every year is expected to increase by 30 per cent by 2020, compared to 2015.

Speaking ahead of his visit, Mr Berry said: "The Northern Powerhouse is about boosting economic growth and creating jobs for local people.

"Tourism has a big role to play and this government is investing £18m in Blackpool's Winter Gardens to re-establish the town as a destination for all seasons.

"As we progress with building the Northern Powerhouse, I'm delighted to see hardhats on heads, and spades in the ground, as work starts on the new conference centre."

The strategy was announced by then-Chancellor George Osborne in 2014, and is an attempt to bring towns and cities in the area together to rival London and the south economically.

Mr Osbourne said at the time it would be a 'collection of northern cities sufficiently close to each other that, combined, they can take on the world'.

It has been the subject of much debate, with the government criticised in recent weeks for scrapping electrification of the Leeds-Manchester rail line while still going ahead with Crossrail 2 in London.

Labour claimed the cancellation will mean longer journeys for passengers, while shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said: "Pulling the plug on electrification shows the Tories' disregard for Wales and Yorkshire, which will continue to suffer from underinvestment, and proves the 'Midlands Engine' and the 'Northern Powerhouse' are just more empty slogans from this government."

Blackpool South MP, Labour's Gordon Marsden, said: "It's welcome that Jake is here and I know the council will be talking to him about the funding that has been given to help us extend the Winter Gardens as a key conference centre, and hopefully that will bear fruit.

"That money from the government is appreciated.

"But over the last five years, and Jake as a Lancashire MP will know this, £450m of money that used to come to Blackpool from government has been stripped away, and that has had a devastating affect on the ability to deliver services."