Blackpool submits multimillion-pound town deal proposal

Blackpool Central Master Plan

A multimillion-pound bid that could help shape Blackpool’s future has been submitted to the Government after extensive engagement with local residents.

With support of the Blackpool Town Deal Board, Blackpool Council has put forward its ambitious Town Deal bid for a share of up to £50m of the £3.6bn Towns Fund.

The resort is one of 101 UK towns bidding for a Town Deal with an investment of up to £25m in each place – or up to £50m in exceptional circumstances.
The Towns Fund is a government scheme aimed at unleashing economic growth potential with a focus on regeneration, improved transport, better broadband connectivity, skills and culture. The bid also now forms a key part of the town’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan.

As part of the development of the bid, the public were invited to help shape Blackpool’s future and to have their say on how they thought the money should be used.

An online survey was launched and more than 30,000 people read about the Town Deal, with in excess of 6,600 visitors to the website, leaving 1,119 comments.

A further 101 telephone interviews were carried out to help decide the top priorities to be put forward.

Leader of Blackpool Council, Cllr Lynn Williams, said: “We’re delighted with the response from the public at a time when face-to-face consultation has been virtually non-existent.”

Feedback was overwhelmingly positive with a range of suggestions and ideas on improving housing, improving the town centre, attracting new businesses and creating new, high-quality jobs, improving mental health services, investing in transport, improving skills and employment support for adults and supporting young people into work and education.

Priorities for investment were identified as:

  • Housing market
  • Strengthen and broaden the tourist offer
  • Town centre regeneration
  • Attract new businesses including technology
  • Youth services
  • Transport
  • Mental Health
  • Addressing homelessness

While not all of these are eligible for funding through the Town Deal with its focus on economic infrastructure, they are identified as priorities for funding through other sources on which government and other agencies support will also be sought.

Individual projects that could benefit from the £50m funding include the relocation of the courts from Blackpool Central to release the latter phase of the site, delivery of new road and access improvements at Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone to open up development sites to attract new investment and high-quality jobs, as well as ideas on new digital technology to help retail, leisure and transport services, provision of a Youth Hub to help the young unemployed, a town centre-based development to help start-ups and small businesses, and a scheme to upgrade and modernise the illuminations.

Paul Smith, chair of the Town Deal Board, said: “Investment in our town is needed more than ever as we move to the next stage of the economic recovery from COVID-19.

“The Town Deal funding will play an important part in the kick-starting of our economic recovery, bringing forward key projects that will help the growth of the town in both the short and long term.”

Alongside the request for £50m from the Towns Fund, a series of further ‘asks’ have been outlined to government to further develop the economy and tackle some of the complex patterns of deprivation.

These asks include a further £500m Town Deal funding to turbo charge the economy, to ensure a civil service hub is created in the town centre, support the potential of Blackpool’s high speed fibre connection to the North Atlantic Loop, extend the Opportunity Area programme and funding until 2030, invest in building a new university campus in the town centre, extend the Enterprise Zones fiscal benefits until 2026, invest and support the Fylde Coast Tram Loop, pilot intensive neighbourhood schemes in certain Blackpool wards and work with the town to rebuild the economy, reduce unemployment and tackle mental health following the COVID-19 crisis.

The Town Investment Plan will also include use of funding from other sources, for example, the Future High Streets Fund, the Government’s Opportunity Area Programme, Homes England, the Affordable Housing Programme, the Arts Council and the Lottery.

In addition to the main Towns Fund investment, the Government has written to Blackpool Council offering a grant of £1m now to fund capital projects that can be delivered this financial year. This grant will be used to support capital expenditure set out in the Towns Fund guidance.

Blackpool has also welcomed funding worth £8.6m for two ‘shovel ready’ town centre regeneration projects from the Getting Building Fund, aimed at giving the economy a quick boost, post COVID-19.

Two projects have been allocated funding, Houndshill Shopping Centre – phase 2 development, and Abingdon Street Market.