Work starts on plan to transform Blackpool town centre

A multi-screen cinema is part of the Houndshill development
A multi-screen cinema is part of the Houndshill development

Progress on four projects in Blackpool town centre is moving ahead – paving the way for a multi million pound transformation of key sites.

Contractors are due to begin preparatory work this month on land on Tower Street earmarked for the second phase of the Houndshill Centre, including a new Wilko store and cinema.

This will pave the way for the council to demolish the existing Wilko store on Talbot Road where a new tram terminus and hotel will be built.

Meanwhile council chiefs say the contract to extend the tramway up Talbot Road is running to schedule and work to lay the track will be finished by February next year.

Work is also underway on the fourth project - the redevelopment of the former Sands cabaret venue into a five star hotel.

Alan Cavill, director of place at Blackpool Council, said: “A major target for the tramway project has been to hand the roads back as soon as possible and there are no delays on the contract.

“All the infrastructure, including the rails and crossings, will be in place by February 2019.

“The underpass between Blackpool North station and the Wilko site where the tram terminus and hotel will be is being widened and deepened and that is part of the foundations of the hotel.

“The contract to start work on the Tower Street site, for the second phase of Houndshill which will include a new Wilko store, has been commissioned and investigations on the site are due to start on July 16.

“The new Wilko store can be built within months and should be ready by the first half of 2019.

“The cinema including an IMAX screen is still going ahead and we are hoping to sign up for that shortly.

“This will also add value to the conference centre being built at the Winter Gardens.”

How the schemes link together

- Tramway: Work is being carried out at the moment to extend the tramway up Talbot Road from North Pier to Blackpool North Station as part of a £21m scheme funded through £16.4m from the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership and £4.7m from the council.

- Tower Street: Investigations are due to start on July 16 to prepare the site (currently a car park) for the construction of a three storey extension to the Houndshill Centre.

A Wilko store will initially be built on the ground floor in time to open in the first half of next year, enabling Wilko to vacate its current building on Talbot Road.

The nine-screen cinema complex, including an IMAX cinema, will be built later on the upper two floors.

- Wilko site, Talbot Road: Once Wilko has relocated next year, its current building will be demolished to make way for a hotel which is due to open in 2021.

The six storey four-star hotel will have 142 bedrooms and will ‘wrap around’ the new tram terminus.

The proposal also includes a temporary 127 space surface level car park although in future phases this is earmarked for office development.

A temporary tram stop will be created initially to separate passengers from the hotel construction site.

The council is borrowing £17.5m towards the £31m total cost.

- Sands building redevelopment: Businessman Peter Swann also owns the Sands venue on Central Promenade where work has begun to transform the property into a 96 bedroom five star hotel and leisure complex.

The multi-million pound scheme is set to be completed for spring 2019.