Nikal and Media Invest Entertainment’s leisure scheme can go ahead after the council’s planning committee universally backed the proposal despite objections from nearby Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
The £300m Blackpool Central, to be constructed on the site of the former train station of the same name, features three indoor entertainment venues including a 127,000 sq ft flying theatre.
Other elements of the scheme include:
- A 70,000 sq ft public square
- A 200-bedroom hotel
- A 1,300-space multistorey car park
- A heritage quarter – with food hall and aparthotel
- Bars and restaurants.
Nikal and Media Invest predict Blackpool Central could create around 1,000 new jobs, attract an estimated 600,000 additional visitors each year, and boost annual spend in the town by around £75m.
The Pleasure Beach objects
While Blackpool Pleasure Beach supports the redevelopment of the 17-acre site, which has been in the offing for more than 20 years, the rival attraction opposed the plan.
Blackpool Central’s designation as a theme park and the proposed use of mechanical rides put it in direct competition with the Pleasure Beach, according to the company’s planning advisor.
The advisor said Nikal and Media Invest’s plan posed a “serious threat” to the Pleasure Beach’s existence and that there is no precedent in the UK for two theme parks “happily co-existing” in the same town or city.
In response, Nikal and Media Invest’s planning consultant Spawforths said the developers had no intention of building a “small indoor version of the Pleasure Beach”.
Adrian Spawforth, managing director of the consultancy added that the development aims to “help Blackpool provide a more diverse leisure offer to attract more visitors”.
Yesterday, the developers’ plans went before Blackpool Council’s planning committee. Full planning permission was sought for the seven-storey car park, required to unlock the rest of the site for redevelopment, and heritage quarter.
These elements are to be delivered first, and Dutch firm Ballast Nedam is lined up to build the car park, as first revealed by Place North West.
The joint venture asked for outline planning permission for the remainder of the project, including the three indoor theme parks.
Blackpool Council’s planning committee unanimously approved the proposals, prompting committee chair Cllr David Owen to quote Shakespeare’s Julius Caeser.
“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat; and we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”
He added: “What Brutus said to Cassius almost fits the bill here. We hope the project is a great success and that we have a new visitor attraction in the middle of Blackpool for the delight of our visitors and our own residents. We hope for greater things.”
Richard Fee, chief executive officer at Nikal, said: “This is a key moment for levelling up Blackpool’s visitor economy post Covid. Blackpool Central will help transform and futureproof the town’s tourism offer, and last night’s approval is an important step forward in our journey.
“We have worked hard to ensure that the scheme will complement Blackpool’s current attractions and wider leisure offer. This approach will help us to secure game-changing benefits for Blackpool – drawing in 600,000 additional visitors a year and boosting annual spend in the local economy by £75m.”
Norbert Reichart, chief executive officer, Media Invest Entertainment, said: “Blackpool is the undisputed entertainment capital of the UK and our scheme will help cement the town as a must-visit year-round destination for generations to come.
“The resurgence of staycations and the UK opening back up to international tourists creates huge opportunities moving forward to attract more visitors and encourage tourists to stay longer on their trips to Blackpool.”
Cllr Lynn Williams, Blackpool Council leader, said: “Yesterday’s decision is a major milestone for this transformational regeneration project, which has been widely anticipated by our residents.
“The development means so much more to our residents than just a new leisure and entertainment destination, as it brings lots of new, varied and skilled year-round job opportunities, extra footfall and revenue to local businesses, and breathes new life into a run down and neglected part of the town.”
- Hear more about Blackpool Central at the Future of Retail + Leisure event on 21 October