Hassall seeks swift resolution to Blackpool casino site

Ian Hassall, the recently appointed director of land and property at ReBlackpool, the town's urban regeneration company, wants to bring the Central Station site once reserved for the super-casino to market "swiftly" for a new visitor attraction.

Ian HassallHassall joined ReBlackpool after 13 years in Liverpool, latterly as chief executive of Liverpool Land Development Company, before it merged into Liverpool Vision. He will work alongside ReBlackpool chief executive Doug Garrett to deliver the URC's masterplan for the town centre. In Liverpool, he was in charge of preparing development sites and improving routes into the city in four areas; Edge Lane, Speke Halewood, north Liverpool and the A580.

In Blackpool, the 20-acre Central Station site on edge of the town centre is an early priority. Hassall said: "I've been speaking to a number of developers who have expressed strong interest in bringing uses to the site that aren't constrained by housebuilding's current woes.

"There are plenty of regional developers with cash and an appetite to still do deals at the moment."

Hassall said no timetable had yet been set for publishing a brief but he would be reluctant to go through a lengthy tender process. He added: "A swift process with an invitation to the market, appointment and then get on with the delivery would be better."

Potential uses for the site must be entertainment driven with a strong visitor attraction the key criterion for any developer looking to bag the site.

He also said talks were ongoing with major landowners in control of holdings surrounding the site, which is currently a car park and owned by the council. The Noble Organisation, Leisure Parcs and the police authority all hold land which could be included in the development to enlarge its scope.

Hassall also expressed his frustration at the protracted contract negotiations between Blackpool council and Muse Developments over the Talbot Gateway project.

Muse was appointed preferred developer in April 2007 but legal agreements are still being worked up for the £220m project.

Hassall, who has been in post two months, said he did not know the causes of the delay but added: "It's taken far too long to convert appointment into a contract. Ideally by now Muse should be starting on the ground and sorting site assembly which may include compulsory purchase orders. That could take another 18 months to two years which makes progress all the more important."

Experience of delivering such large projects was lacking in the town to date and was one of the main reasons Hassall was brought to Blackpool, he said.

If and when it is delivered the 1.3m sq ft Talbot Gateway scheme will feature 175,000 sq ft of retail, a foodstore of 80,000-100,000 sq ft, 90,000 sq ft of leisure and 185,000 sq ft of offices as well as hotels, a cinema and 470 flats.

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