Silicon Sands – Blackpool banking on renewables powered data centres

Blackpool councillors are to be asked to approve plans to fund a new specialised business park with solar powered data centres close to where the CeltixConnect-2 internet cable hits the Lancashire coast, carrying up to one third of the world’s internet traffic.

The project is part of the Blackpool Enterprise Zone, which also covers business parks at Squires Gate Industrial Estate and Blackpool Business Park off Amy Johnson Way, as well as Blackpool Airport, and has attracted 2,500 new jobs since it was granted Enterprise Zone status in 2016.

A report to Blackpool Council’s Executive includes plans to grow the Enterprise Zone by creating two new developments amid a total £84m investment are now being recommended for approval.

A new high tech business park called Silicon Sands, centred around a series of data centres powered by renewable energy is designed to attract new businesses which require ultra-fast internet speeds, such as advanced manufacturing, virtual reality and esports, making the most of the CeltixConnect-2 internet cable, which carries up to one third of the world’s internet traffic via Blackpool Airport. 

The cable sends data from Blackpool to New York under the sea in less than 0.064 seconds and offers significant benefits for businesses that need ultrafast and reliable internet.

The development would also position Blackpool as a leader for green data, with the data centres powered by renewable energy while also being liquid immersion cooled to increase efficiency and reduce emissions. Any excess heat created from the data centres would then be reused to heat surrounding buildings in a district heat network.

Plans to build a first data centre at Silicon Sands, as well as Blackpool’s first solar farm and a battery storage by Blackpool Airport, will be progressed, along with the relocation of some airport administration buildings. Plans have already been submitted to build a new access road to Blackpool Airport and new hangars.

Councillors are also set to grant approval to build a new road providing a second access to Amy Johnson Way, opening 10.5 hectares of land for new and growing businesses at Eastern Gateway. Work on the new road connecting to Common Edge Road is expected to start early next year and completed before March 2026, as a requirement of the £7.5m grant from the Blackpool Town Deal.

Cllr Mark Smith, Cabinet Member for Levelling Up (Place) at Blackpool Council said: “Blackpool Enterprise Zone is one of the best performing Enterprise Zones in the country and these numbers show how it is fast becoming a very desirable location for growing and relocating businesses. New jobs and businesses are creating more opportunities for our local people and are a big part of our plans to make Blackpool better.

“We have ambitious plans to create even more jobs in the near future. This involves attracting businesses by building a new road which will open up the business park, as well as relieving congestion on Common Edge Road and Amy Johnson Way in the long term. 

“Our plans at Silicon Sands show that we can make Blackpool a leading location for high tech jobs of the future, while tackling the climate emergency at the same time. Having data centres with ultra-fast connections as part of the Enterprise Zone will help us stand out as a leading destination for growing technology companies. This will bring more high-quality, future proof jobs to the town and increase opportunities for our local people.”

A proposed first data centre would be built on land off Squires Gate Lane, on the site of Blackpool Airport’s old fire station and engineering yard, which was demolished in March.

Blackpool Council is the accountable body for Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone, which is a 144-hectare site across Blackpool and Fylde and is earmarked to create 5,000 new jobs by 2041.

Between 2016 and 2022, businesses moving to the Enterprise Zone were eligible for business rate relief and enhanced capital allowances if investing in new machinery.

Blackpool Council awarded £2.7m in business rates relief to 75 local Fylde and Blackpool businesses during the period and committed to awarding a further £1.6m in legacy relief until 2027, taking the estimated total to £4.3m over the lifetime of the scheme.