Government promises ‘real and urgent change’ for Blackpool

Funding to expand Blackpool airport, relocation by Government bodies to the Fylde coast and major intervention in the housing market are all being considered to drive the town's recovery, the Government Office for the North West said as it published the first in a series of progress reports on the regeneration of Blackpool following its failed casino bid.

The report, by Liz Meek, regional director of the GONW, was commissioned by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears to measure progress against the recommendations of the Blackpool Task Force published last year.

Meek said: "Tourism, housing, economic development and transport work is being taken forward with urgency. A strong and experienced team is now in place at ReBlackpool, the town's regeneration agency. The regional agencies and central government are working together to deliver real change for the people of Blackpool."

Among the initiatives detailed in the report are:

  • "…an opportunity to relocate Government organisations to the Fylde Coast. Sites are available and it is felt that the area offers an attractive location to conduct business. GONW is doing scoping work on this with a view to identifying organisations which are looking to relocate."
  • "…the potential of support from the NWDA that would significantly increase the capacity of the airport and facilitate planes being based there. This has clear opportunities for providing quality, well-paid work."
  • "…a need to intervene to strengthen the Blackpool housing market. Investment through English Partnerships and the Department for Communities and Local Government has been agreed. Some improvement needs to be driven by more robust regulation. Blackpool has bid with Preston to be housing growth point and the decision on this rests with CLG."

Meek added: "Blackpool has a special place in the nation's hearts. We want the town to keep that hold on our affection while equipping it for its future as a 21st Century resort."

"While it is clear that while Blackpool faces many challenges the foundations for a successful future are being laid."

Earlier this week ReBlackpool, the urban regeneration company, appointed Manchester City Council chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein as its new chairman to help with the delivery and implementation of the Blackpool masterplan.

Doug Garrett, chief executive of ReBlackpool, commented: "ReBlackpool welcomes the continual dialogue we now have with central Government and hope to build on the successes of the schemes included within the taskforce report. We have developed strong relationships with the private sector and other partners and are working together to secure the economic prosperity of the town."

ReBlackpool received £35m from English Partnerships to deliver schemes and is considering replacing some sea front with mixed developments including hotel, residential, commercial and retail.

Muse Developments is also moving towards signing a development agreement for the £220m Talbot Gateway mixed-use scheme at the entrance to the town.

Blackpool and Fylde College is planning a £90m relocation to the town centre.

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