Vision unveiled to revive Blackpool town centre

Blackpool has updated its town centre strategy in order to meet the changing needs of the high street.

By Shelagh Parkinson
Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 4:00 pm

The fresh document, covering development over the next 15 years, warns of challenging times ahead as people's spending habits change.

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Events, pop-ups, more independent shops, public realm and pedestrianised areas are key to the future success of the town centre, according to the report prepared for the council by consultants CBRE.

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Blackpool's Town Centre Strategy has been updated

Footfall has recovered well following the pandemic but the report warns residents' perception is 'everything is geared towards tourists'.

While the town centre's immediate locality is deprived, the wider Fylde coast has a high level of affluence meaning there is potential to attract bigger spenders.

The council's executive is being recommended to agree the new strategy when it meets on Monday May 16.

A report by director of regeneration and communications Alan Cavill says since the previous strategy was agreed in 2013 "significant changes to priorities have been seen in town centres, both in relation to Blackpool specifically and across the nation, with the public choosing to engage in different ways with their local centres."

Work has begun on the second phase of the Houndshill Centre

Blackpool has benefited from multi-million pound investment in recent years including in the new conference centre, tramway and hotels including a new Premier Inn with work currently under-way to build a Holiday Inn.

Construction of the second phase of the Houndshill Centre with a new cinema complex is also under-way, while the site of a £100m office development for the civil service is being prepared for construction.

The new strategy sets out six areas of priority which it recommends should be central to future action.

Public realm - Clean up graffiti and rubbish, de-clutter and remove outdated street furniture, consider the needs of disabled people, enhance public safety including anti-terrorism measures, further pedestrianisation of Bank Hey Street, create a walking route as part of the Illuminations.

Zoning and districts - Previous attempts to do this "have not come to fruition". but the report says zones such as for food and beverage, shopping and culture would mean "navigating the large town would be easier". Zones could be given an identity using lighting, signs, furniture and colour ways.

Community - More green spaces are needed to combat "the harsh concrete façade" in the town centre. Housing should continue to be improved through My Blackpool Home and schemes to improve the quality of rented accommodation provided by private landlords.

Events - Campaigns such as the Christmas village on the Tower Festival Headland last December, and the Sand, Sea and Spray urban murals have previously been successful. Vacant units, with many on Bank Hey Street and Victoria Street, could be 'enlivened' through pop up community use and events. Also promote pop up shops, cafes, studios and exhibition space.

Culture and entertainment - This is already "incredibly strong" but needs to be "packaged, highlighted and promoted to Fylde Coast residents." There is an opportunity to build a "solid brand", with the report saying "the town centre can be brought to life using the cultural offer woven into the annual events programme". This includes working with local musicians, creating flash mob events linked to performance at theatres and encouraging local dance schools to bring performances to the town centre.

Heritage - Blackpool has strong heritage but there are some "forgotten" areas in need of investment. Heritage should be used "as a catalyst for bringing new and diverse uses to the town centre and giving a new relevance for local communities and visitors".