Talbot Gateway

UKREiiF: Why Blackpool deserves the spotlight

Nick GerrardMy face dropped when I heard nobody else was coming to UKREiiF in 2022, writes Nick Gerrard of Blackpool Council.

“You’re the first to sign up, but more will follow,” I was told.

A few years later and we’re gearing up for our third consecutive year, promoting all the opportunities in Blackpool to 12,000 investors and delegates.

Going back to that first 2022 conference, we weren’t expected to be taken seriously. “Blackpool – it’s all beaches and tourism, there’s no business to be done there,” we were told. Roll on three years, and we’re continuing to prove those perceptions wrong.

As Place North West themselves said this year when we headlined the North West Emerging Hotspots event, Blackpool is a place where exciting things are happening.

So when we set up stall at UKREiiF again next week, here are the things you need to know first.

A £2bn growth and prosperity programme

You read that right. There are two billion reasons to invest in Blackpool right now.

Over £1bn worth of major projects have completed in the previous decade and another billion pounds’ worth of projects are well under way.

Those projects include a major £350m scheme that is transforming the Talbot Gateway around the train station, bringing 8,000 workers and students into Blackpool. That includes a new four-star Holiday Inn, Marco Pierre White restaurant, and extension of the Blackpool tramway to the main rail station which opens in June.

Meanwhile, a new 200,000 sq ft office for 3,000 government workers is to be completed in the next 12 months. Add to that a Multiversity campus for 3,000 more staff and students, which has secured planning permission and funding and is now in detailed design.

There are development opportunities surrounding the Talbot Gateway, for residential and office accommodation, as well as retail, so there are still plenty of opportunities to get involved.

We also have plans for a major leisure development at Blackpool Central, and are enabling over 25 hectares of commercial land around Blackpool Airport at the Enterprise Zone, with sites becoming available from next year – more about that below.

Leading in levelling up

It’s fair to say that Blackpool has never had a better relationship with the Department of Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities through our status as a levelling up pilot area. Almost £400m worth of capital funding from the Towns Fund and levelling up projects makes us one of the highest funded areas in the country. We were named as one the government’s initial three pilot areas for levelling up in 2022.

As well as supporting some of our major regeneration programmes such as the Multiversity, a new road at Blackpool Enterprise Zone, a new courthouse for Ministry of Justice, and a refurbished Abingdon Street Market, the funding is also supporting a major overhaul of our housing portfolio.

Levelling up Blackpool is one of the government’s major ambitions. That, combined with strong local leadership and ambition, brings enormous opportunities for investors to join us on that journey.

An artists impression of how the Multiversity could look

Fast growth opportunities

Blackpool’s business reputation sometimes goes under the radar, but as the major economic powerhouse of the Fylde coast, our credentials are strong.

Boasting a strong supply chain to local neighbours BAE Systems, as well as a thriving food and beverage and supplements industry, means that clusters of quality businesses are easy to find on the Fylde coast. With a skilled and talented workforce to match, connected to one of the country’s leading further education colleges, means a strong pipeline of talent.

Add to that the fact that land and labour rates in Blackpool are roughly 17% lower than the national average, and developers can improve viability by attracting national operators with cheaper land, helping to reach fast growth.

Manufacturing, Sciences

A visitor economy worth almost £1.7bn

While our economic offer isn’t all about the visitor economy, we can’t ignore the £1.7bn industry which supports over 22,000 jobs across the Fylde coast.

Blackpool attracts more than 20 million visitors a year, through a range of large-scale family events and our location being a short direct train away from Manchester and Liverpool.

With a season that runs from March to December and a spending power unmatched by any other northern seaside town, the potential for leisure and retail developments in Blackpool is huge.

Blackpool beach

Silicon Sands – a home for ethically powered data

Blackpool sits on top of the internet.

The CeltixConnect-2 cable, which sends up to one third of the world’s internet traffic, connects Blackpool to New York and Northern Europe in less than 64 milliseconds. The outcome is that Blackpool can be the UK’s answer to Silicon Valley.

The area where the cable lands, at Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone, we call Silicon Sands. Our masterplan involves using access to the cable to create a series of data centres, powered by renewable energy, which can attract businesses that require ultra-fast, low-latency internet, such as artificial intelligence.

Going even further, our ambition is to have a data centre that is also liquid immersion cooled, with the excess heat powering a heat network for surrounding businesses. Our vision is to embrace future industries, while also showing what is possible to tackle the climate emergency. You can find out more about this at our fringe event on Wednesday 22 May.

On the other side of the Enterprise Zone, we have plots of oven-ready development land coming to the market this year at Eastern Gateway – a perfect opportunity to get involved.

The above is just a microcosm of the opportunities Blackpool offers, which is added to by our excellent transport links by road, rail, and air, while a devolution deal for regional strategy is also on the horizon.

Blackpool is at the start of an accelerated journey to serious growth. If you want to help us to realise that vision, then come and see us at stand B50 in New Dock Hall or keep up to date via Blackpool Makes It Work.

  • Nick Gerrard is growth and prosperity programme director at Blackpool Council


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Your Comments

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Sounds promising for Blackpool – it certainly needs a shot in the arm, having some of the poorest districts in the country.

By Francis

Blackpool has always been a place for all ages,all who share a need for fun,relaxation, marriages,hen,stag events,.we need to be up to date and providing this for all who visit Blackpool,.Sharing our town ,and being part of it,makes the. Town,and our visitors want to return,.And yes of course still work to be done ect,But we are achieving this for the next generation,.And for all in and around the town,.would love to come back in 100 years,and walk down Blackpool promenade,.local,

By Joanne golder

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