Plans for a £300m new leisure development in Blackpool have been welcomed by hoteliers – but they have called for the theme parks to be built before investment in more holiday accommodation.
Claire Smith, president of hoteliers group StayBlackpool, said her members were concerned it could be some years before the Blackpool Central scheme benefited them.
Developers Nikal Ltd and Media Invest Entertainment secured planning permission this month for investment which includes three indoor theme parks. But among the first element of the scheme is a new Heritage Quarter on Central Drive which will see space above the King Edward pub and the former King Edward Apartments converted to apart-hotels.
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There are also plans for a 200-room hotel within the main development on the site of Central Car Park.
Ms Smith said: “We are delighted Blackpool Central is going to happen. It will create lots of jobs and be a wonderful new area with lots of different things to keep visitors interested. We always need new projects to keep the visitors coming to Blackpool. But the first things to be built will be in the King Edward area, and that is the hotel accommodation.
“We’re thrilled to bits about what will be built in the long term, but if the attractions are not part of the early stages then our members worry there will be a lot of new holiday accommodation without providing people with more reasons to come and visit. So for us, it is about what is being built when. We need the attraction element to be part of the early phases.”
While full planning permission has been granted for the Heritage Quarter and a multi-storey car park, there is only outline approval for the three indoor theme parks which will be part of later phases of the 10-year development plan.
But Richard Fee, chief executive of Nikal Ltd, said the scheme had to be delivered in phases, and the holiday accommodation within the Heritage Quarter was designed “to complement, not compete” with existing provision.
He said: “To deliver a regeneration project of this scale we have to bring it forward in phases. The construction of the multi storey car park and Heritage Quarter are the catalysts for delivering our wider Blackpool Central vision.
“We plan to start construction on the multi storey car park in 2022 and will deliver the Heritage Quarter after this, which we anticipate will open to the public in 2024. We’ll be bringing forward detailed plans for the other elements of Blackpool Central – including the three indoor entertainment centres, hotel and new public realm – during the delivery of the multi storey car park and Heritage Quarter.
“We have carefully shaped our Heritage Quarter plans to complement, not compete with, Blackpool’s current holiday accommodation by designing an aparthotel offer that provides something different to what is currently available in the town. It’s also important that, as part of our planning permission, Blackpool Central is not allowed to cater for more than 60 per cent of the extra hotel accommodation demand generated by the scheme, which will spread additional visitor business across local hoteliers and B&B operators.
“Blackpool Central will provide a year round, world-class leisure destination, attracting 600,000 additional visitors a year, boosting annual spend by £75m, and creating over 1,000 new jobs. This will help to futureproof the town’s leisure and tourism offer for the benefit of local residents and businesses.”
The former Central Station closed in 1964 and has since been used as a car park with previous attempts to redevelop the site for leisure use failing to get off the ground.
A 1,306 space seven storey car park will be the first element of the scheme with work due to start next year.
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