Blackpool submits town deal proposal

By Ged Henderson

06 Aug 2020

A multi-million-pound bid that could help shape Blackpool’s future has been submitted to central government.

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

The resort is one of 101 UK towns bidding for a deal 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.

It comes as the resort looks to move forward a raft of regeneration plans that include the ambitious Blackpool Central project.

As part of the development of the bid, people in the resort 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 over 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.

Blackpool Council leader, Councillor Lynn Williams, said: “The online survey has allowed us to reach more members of the local community than we would otherwise been able to do.

“The input has been considered and thoughtful, and is vital in helping us create a plan for the future of Blackpool, so thank you to all who took part.”

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

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 and the 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.

There is also a focus 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 for start-ups and small businesses, and a scheme to upgrade and modernise the illuminations.

Paul Smith, who chairs 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.

“The Town Deal Board welcomes the opportunity to develop a long-term strategic partnership with government that will further develop the economy, tackling some of Blackpool’s historical challenges, leading to a healthier and happier lifestyle for all residents and reduced pressure on the public purse.”

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 and support the potential of Blackpool’s high-speed fibre connection to the North Atlantic Loop.

The wish-list includes investing in building a new university campus in the town centre, extending the enterprise zones’ fiscal benefits until 2026 and investment and support for the Fylde Coast Tram Loop project.

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.

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