£300m Blackpool Central transformation full steam ahead as plans are approved
Proposals to create a new world-class, year-round leisure destination at the former Blackpool Central railway station have been given the green light, driving forward the town’s regeneration and post-COVID recovery plans.
As one of the UK’s most important regeneration projects, the £300m scheme will be the largest single investment in Blackpool for more than a century and is expected to create around 1,000 new jobs, bring an estimated 600,000 additional visitors each year, and boost annual spend in the town by around £75m.
At a meeting of Blackpool Council’s planning committee yesterday (October 12), members approved Nikal Ltd’s and Media Invest Entertainment’s detailed planning application for the initial phases of the scheme, which include a new 1,306-space multi-storey car park and Heritage Quarter. Outline plans to deliver a major public events square for live events, three indoor entertainment centres, a hotel, restaurants and additional leisure and hospitality space at Blackpool Central were also given the go ahead.
Delivering a new multi-storey car park is critical to unlocking the wider Blackpool Central scheme as it will free up land for the future phases and ensure that there continues to be appropriate parking provision for visitors to the town and local residents.
The redevelopment of Blackpool Central will restore the site’s existing heritage buildings to create a thriving new Heritage Quarter.
The Grade II-listed former King Edward VII Picture House will be transformed into a new ‘Artisan Food Hall’, which spills out onto new outdoor space for ‘al fresco’ dining. The locally-listed King Edward VII pub will be refurbished into a new pub and hotel, creating a modern, family friendly environment offering quality food and beverages. The King Edward VII apartment building will be renovated into a high quality ‘Aparthotel’ keeping its original character.
Approval of the plans follows a public consultation with the local community, which saw more than 700 people get involved and an overwhelming 90% express support for the vision.
Richard Fee, chief executive, Nikal, said: “This is a key moment for levelling up Blackpool’s visitor economy post-COVID. Blackpool Central will help transform and futureproof the town’s tourism offer, and last night’s approval is an important step forward in our journey. Our lead investor, Alan Murphy, has been behind the project from the beginning and is delighted to see the scheme coming to fruition.
“We have worked hard to ensure that the scheme will complement Blackpool’s current attractions and wider leisure offer. This approach will help us to secure game changing benefits for Blackpool – drawing in 600,000 additional visitors a year and boosting annual spend in the local economy by £75m.
“We are now looking forward to getting spades in the ground to build the multi-storey car park and Heritage Quarter, which are the catalysts for delivering our wider vision.”
Norbert Reichart, chief executive, Media Invest Entertainment, said: “This decision is fantastic news for the rejuvenation of the town. Blackpool is the undisputed entertainment capital of the UK and our scheme will help cement the town as a must visit year-round destination for generations to come.
“The resurgence of staycations and the UK opening back up to international tourists creates huge opportunities moving forward to attract more visitors and encourage tourists to stay longer on their trips to Blackpool. We believe that the Blackpool Central experience will be at the heart of maximising these opportunities.”
Cllr Lynn Williams, Blackpool Council leader and cabinet member for tourism and culture, said: “Yesterday’s decision is a major milestone for this transformational regeneration project which has been widely anticipated by our residents who can now look forward to seeing activity on site as construction starts in earnest.
“The development means so much more to our residents than just a new leisure and entertainment destination, as it brings lots of new, varied and skilled year-round job opportunities, extra footfall and revenue to local businesses, and breathes new life into a run down and neglected part of the town, which will vastly improve the area and will have a positive effect on the surrounding residential streets and local population.”
The scheme is a key part of the Blackpool Town Deal – a bold vision to drive the regeneration of the town and its post-COVID economic recovery. The Town Deal is supported by £39.5m of government funding from the £3.6bn Towns Fund.
Nikal and Media Invest Entertainment are working closely with Blackpool Council to unlock the Blackpool Central redevelopment opportunity through the relocation of the courts to facilitate the last phase of the scheme.
Once the world’s busiest train station, Blackpool Central Railway Station closed in 1964 and has since been used for car parking and outdoor events. The wider site has seen a number of uses over the years, including as a police station and law courts.
Construction of the multi-storey car park and Heritage Quarter is expected to start in 2022 and will take around two years to complete. Nikal and Media Entertainment Invest Entertainment will also prepare a detailed planning application for the wider scheme during the delivery of the multi-storey car park and Heritage Quarter.