Winter Gardens Conference Centre

Blackpool targets national conferences after Government cash boost

Six seaside projects are set to receive more than £6.5m in funding across the North West, including a £2.9m grant towards a £23.9m development to establish Blackpool as an attractive venue for conferences.

Work on the new £25m conference centre could start later this year, after the final portion of funding was allocated from the Government’s Coastal Communities Fund. Due to be built on a car park within the Winter Gardens, it will provide conference accommodation, including breakout rooms and exhibition spaces, adding to the Empress Ballroom and the Opera House and allowing the complex to host up to 7,000 delegates.

Refurbishment works will also unveil the full exterior of the outside of the Empress Ballroom for the first time in years.

Blackpool Council has commissioned the plans from architect Bisset Adams, along with Max Fordham Mechanical & Electrical Engineers, Morgan Tucker Civil & Structural Engineers and Right Solution conference consultants.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, leader of Blackpool Council, said: “Major conferences in Blackpool bring thousands of delegates in the town centre, who in turn spend money in our local shops, restaurants and hotels, helping our businesses thrive and allowing them to take on new workers. Now that funding is being allocated and the planning permission granted, I am keen that this work starts as soon as possible and we are already having conversations about attracting major conferences back to the resort ready for its re-opening in 2019.”

Other projects set to receive funding from the Coastal Communities Fund in the North West include; a £1m grant towards constructing 12km of coastal path in Solway, a £2m contribution towards improvements to Southport’s grade two-listed pier, £99,000 for redeveloping a disused B&B on Blackpool seafront into a creative hub and café, £444,000 towards a project to raise the profile of conservation sites on Walney Island in Barrow-in-Furness, and a £270,000 grant to redevelop the historic Old New Quay on Whitehaven Harbour.

Since 2012, the Government has invested £120m in projects through the Coastal Communities Fund across the UK. The funding aims to encourage economic growth and jobs in coastal towns and communities.

According to the Government, the funding is helping coastal tourism regain its position as England’s largest holiday sector, and coastal tourism is now worth £8bn to the economy each year.

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