Blackpool council hopes to buy resort attractions

Michael Hunt

Blackpool Council has said in an announcement today that it has a 50-50 chance of purchasing the most known attractions within the resort.

The council has offered to buy Blackpool Tower, The Winter Gardens, The Golden Mile Centre and Louis Tussauds from Leisure Parcs if it is successful in obtaining funds.

The sale is dependent on a successful bid for funding from the European Regional Development Fund. The project management committee met on Tuesday this week (1 December) and gave approval to the bidding process. Money granted from this fund could potentially be matched by a package of public funding and used to acquire the assets.

The offer comes as a result of recommendations made in Sir Howard Bernstein's report on the regeneration of the town after the casino bid was unsuccessful. It called for consideration to be made of the private leisure assets within the resort and how they can attract funding to boost their regeneration. By bringing the iconic landmarks into the public sector they can benefit from allocations of heritage funding that could not be accessed by Private sector owners.

Cllr Peter Callow, leader of Blackpool Council, said: "For a long time there have been questions asked of us as to what we can do to help the Winter Gardens and Tower and bring them in line with other regeneration activity in the town.

"They are two of Blackpool's best assets and a highly significant part of our history that we must build on to secure our future. If we can access the extra funding, we can protect the public's interest in them and turn these attractions into something that can last well into the twenty first century.

"This is still at the very early stage of the process and there is a great deal of work that needs to be done to secure the funding but what it does show is the Council's ambition for Blackpool's future."

If the sale is agreed and goes ahead the funding acquired for the sale will also cover the cost of some capital works to rejuvenate the attractions. While a long term plan for the running and development of them is prepared Leisure Parcs will continue to run the sites.

If the bid is successful the transaction would have to be agreed by the end of the financial year in March 2010. A decision will be made on the funding in the new year.

Doug Garrett, chief executive of ReBlackpool, added: "The Tower and Winter Gardens have been attracting tourists to Blackpool for more than 100 years. By bringing them into public ownership we can ensure they benefit from the additional funding which may be available for their development and making them a platform for the resort to build on and around for the next 100 years.

"Given the potential funding which may be available, the time is right to take this bold step and acquire these assets – which can then underpin the overall regeneration programme for the town to deliver a 21st century resort."

Leisure Parcs took ownership of the Blackpool's most famous landmarks when Trevor Hemmings bought First Leisure's resorts division for around £74m in 1998. Trevor Hemmings' Leisure Parcs are considering a bid of around £40m.

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