The huge town centre regeneration schemes that you see up and down the land take years, sometimes decades to deliver. Developing Blackpool Central is no exception! It’s been a winding route, taking half a century. But finally it’s happening!
- Developing Blackpool Central
- In the Beginning…
- Failed Plans…
- Developing Blackpool Central – the road to regeneration
- Dec 2018: £300m LEISURE DEVELOPMENT REVEALED
- Sep 2019: DEVELOPMENT OF BLACKPOOL CENTRAL SITE ONE STEP CLOSER
- Jan 2020: THE DEAL FOR LAND AT BLACKPOOL CENTRAL
- Summer 2021: PLANNING FOR THE FIRST PHASE
- Jan '22: GREEN LIGHT AND FUNDING FOR BLACKPOOL CENTRAL
- Spring 2022: CONSTRUCTION OF CAR PARK BEGINS
- And the next steps…
- In the Way of Development
- The Man Behind the Plan
- Looking for somewhere to stay?
- While you’re here…
Developing Blackpool Central
Blackpool Central is the big site in the town centre which was once the Central Railway Station. Today, it’s temporary use is as a big surface car park. It’s going to see a major £300m redevelopment as Blackpool Central Indoor Entertainment Park.
It will include a new major public square for live events, such as music concerts, light shows, sporting events and markets. Along with that new hotels, restaurants, a food market and this multi-storey car park.
This £300m leisure development will create over 1,000 jobs for local people. It will attract 600,000 additional visitors each year and bring millions of pounds of additional spend into the town.
The 17-acre development site includes one of Blackpool’s biggest surface car parks. Along with the magistrates’ court building and the former police station. It was once earmarked as the site of a Vegas-style super-casino. Here’s what it looked like back before anything happened –
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Here’s our Blackpool Central Video Playlist – we’ve been charting the development of the site for our Visit Fylde Coast YouTube channel.
In the Beginning…
The Blackpool Central project name relates back to the days when the site housed the resort’s main railway station. At its peak, Blackpool Central Station was the busiest in the world. Various terminus delivering routes to more destinations saw it grow to become huge by 1911. Closed in 1964 it’s been a prime development site ever since. There’s loads of really interesting photos at the link below – do you remember any of it back then?
Moving Central Station to Chapel Street
Local historian David Wall tells us that there were at least two initiatives over the years to move Central Station to the Chapel area to release the prime site land for development.
The 1938 scheme was halted because of WW2 – along with the view that it would be “too costly”. Talks were continued with the Transport Commission after the war. The idea was revisited in 1956, but without any significant progress being made. These illustrations are by a Mr Tunstall who worked for the Blackpool Tower publicity department. They are his idea of how it might look.
Super Casino Plans for Blackpool Central
As the 1990’s turned into a bright new millenium, Blackpool held an ambition to become the ‘Vegas of the North’ with a string of casinos and conference centres. The centrepiece of which was to be a ‘super casino’. These were the largest permissible in the UK, with at least 5,000 sqm of gaming floor, up to 1,250 slot machines and unlimited jackpots. It’s the equivalent of the larger casinos in Las Vegas.
The then government, led by Tony Blair, planned to license just one of these ‘Super Casinos’ in the UK. Blackpool was one of numerous towns and cities which submitted a bid. In July 2001 a Government Gambling Review boosted hopes that Blackpool could become Britain’s casino capital.
By January 2005 Hotel giant Hilton had worked up a substantial plan. They hoped to build a £600m development including bars, shops, a conference centre and retail complex. An ‘entertainment lounge’ was included, plus 2500 car parking spaces.
In preparation for it, Blackpool and the Fylde College launched the UKs first Regional Gaming Academy on 22 February 2006. It even came complete with its own training casino.
Then in 2007 ordinary Blackpool folk featured in the BBC4 programme ‘The Great British Holiday’. It followed them for a season in the run-up to the UK Super Casino bid.
Sadly that wasn’t to be and in 2007 Blackpool lost its bid to Manchester. But with the plan shelved in 2008 it wasn’t built. However the 2005 Gambling Act still has provision for one Super Casino somewhere in the UK – although none exist to date.
On 15 October 2009 multi-million pound plans were revealed for Blackpool Snowdome. Developers Wigan based Greenbank Partnership proposed the massive indoor site in the middle of Blackpool. It would have included shops, bars and a hotel.
By October 2001 the £250m project, by now dubbed ‘Xanadu’, was gathering support. Now the plans for the site included a purpose built conference and exhibition centre. Greenbank Partnership had originally been looking at a 70 acre site in Wigan.
Of course this was another shelved project, consigned to the book of ideas. And a new conference centre is now open at Blackpool Winter Gardens.
Developing Blackpool Central – the road to regeneration
Blackpool Council had been in negotiations for some years regarding the Blackpool Central site. Officers and councillors had travelled to Florida several times for meetings.
In November 2017 the Council Leader and Director of Place attended the IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) conference. Held at the Orange County Conference Centre in Orlando, it was the second time they’d attended.
An exclusivity and non-disclosure agreement was in place with a potential developer regarding the 20 acre site. What we now know to be an ‘attraction led’ indoor area with a themed hotel and retail.
Dec 2018: £300m LEISURE DEVELOPMENT REVEALED
We were really excited to be at the media event in December 2018. There, plans were revealed for the biggest single investment in Blackpool’s tourism industry for more than a century.
The £300m Blackpool Central development will bring world-class visitor attractions to a landmark site on the famous Golden Mile. Along with new hotels, restaurants, food market, event square, residential apartments and multi-storey parking.
The original theme was ‘Chariots of the Gods’, inspiring the masterplan for the long-awaited redevelopment. It’s the global publishing phenomenon, written by Swiss author Erich Von Däniken, exploring alien encounters and unsolved mysteries of ancient civilisations.
The original proposal for the anchor attraction was the UK’s first “flying theatre”. A fully-immersive thrill ride that will create the incredible sensation of human flight. Shelved some time later, but here’s what it might have looked like –
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New Leisure Destination at the Heart of the Resort
The Leader of Blackpool Council describes the Blackpool Central project as a potential “game changer”. Creating a unique, first-class leisure destination in the heart of the resort.
The project began as a collaboration between two companies. Nikal Ltd is a UK-based development company, and Media Invest Entertainment owns intellectual property rights to Chariots Of The Gods. Blackpool Council is working closely with both parties to help “unlock” the development opportunity. Delivery is expected to be in several phases over an eight to nine-year period.
Several key components to the first draft included:
- the UK’s first flying theatre Virtual Reality Experience. The most advanced VR experience on an epic scale. Free-roam, multi-player capability, body tracking, and motion simulators for unmatched realism in game-play.
- Greatest Mysteries Multimedia Exhibition Space. The world’s first multimedia exhibition of its type exploring extra-terrestrial influences on the great ancient civilisations. A fully-immersive educational and entertaining experience created with leading-edge technology.
- Adventure Land. Expansive indoor family entertainment centre. Incorporating a series of physical and mental challenges including free-fall hang gliding, rope courses, adventure trails and interactive climbing walls.
- Thrill & Gaming Zone. Fully-themed gaming zone. With thrill and family rides, arcade games, laser tag arena, bounce park and bumper cars.
- Alien Diner. Themed bar and event restaurant concept with “roller coaster” service, hourly special effects shows and exploration tours.
- an artisan food hall, and event square
- and a 150 bedroom hotel.
The UK’s first Flying Theatre: An extraordinary attraction that will provide an unparalleled flying sensation. The indoor theatre will be fully immersive. Enjoy on-board special effects including wind, fog, water and scents, with state-of-the-art projection and surround sound.
Legoland Windsor pipped Blackpool to the post on this one, opening the UKs first flying theatre in March 2021.
Sep 2019: DEVELOPMENT OF BLACKPOOL CENTRAL SITE ONE STEP CLOSER
In September 2019, Council Leaders announce that terms are agreed and signed with developers for lease of land at Blackpool Central. It brings a deal one step closer that will allow the £300m regeneration proposals to get underway.
Throughout 2019 the Council continued negotiations with Nikal around the terms of the development and bringing the proposals to fruition.
Jan 2020: THE DEAL FOR LAND AT BLACKPOOL CENTRAL
Final terms of the legal contract for the land release were signed by all parties in September 2019. It’s an important step forward and means that initial development works on the 17 acre plot can get underway.
The land disposal is based on a sale agreement by Blackpool Council to Nikal Ltd and Media Invest Entertainment. It’s for the long lease (250 years) to deliver various phases of the site. All in accordance with the masterplan approved in December 2018. DWF Legal Advisors and JLL Property Consultants acted on behalf of the council.
Simon Blackburn, was then Leader of Blackpool Council. He said, “We’re delighted to finalise details of the contract. We’re confident to have secured the best possible deal for the site. The final agreed terms meet our desires and ambitions for the comprehensive redevelopment of Blackpool Central. The agreement offers Nikal and Media Invest Entertainment flexibility around the phasing programme. This will ensure the effective viability and deliverability of the project. Whilst securing the council’s ability to retain the revenue income from the site for the long term future.
“We’re looking forward to continuing work with the developers on this game-changing, high profile regeneration project.
Sadly, Blackpool’s aspiration for the first flying theatre was pipped to the post by another UK attraction. And the Chariots of the Gods theme lost favour too. Another two ideas consigned to the book of unused suggestions!
Next Step: Planning Application
A hybrid outline/part detailed planning application for the car park was submitted next.
The Council will continue to operate and take the revenue of the majority of the existing car parking spaces on Central, Chapel Street and Bonny Street throughout the Enabling phase. This will ensure limited impact on car parking spaces in and around the town centre for visitor parking. Once the new multi-storey car park opens, the existing surface level car parks will close. Thus making way for construction of Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the development.
Summer 2021: PLANNING FOR THE FIRST PHASE
Following a consultation period in May 2021, the hybrid planning application went in to Blackpool Council for the vision to redevelop the Blackpool Central site into a world-class, year-round leisure destination.
The approved, detailed planning application for the initial phases of Blackpool Central includes a new 1,306 space Multi Storey Car Park and proposals to create a Heritage Quarter.
A new multi-storey car park (MSCP)
The delivery of a new Multi Storey Car Park is critical to unlocking the wider Blackpool Central scheme as it will free up land for the future phases and ensure that there continues to be appropriate parking provision for visitors to the town and local residents.
And a Thriving new Heritage Quarter
This includes an Artisan Food Hall with outdoor space, including al fresco dining, a new pub and hotel, and high quality Aparthotel. Proposals to create a thriving new Heritage Quarter will restore the site’s existing heritage buildings.
The locally listed King Edward VII pub will be refurbished into a new pub and hotel, creating a modern, family friendly environment offering quality food and beverages. Next to it on Central Drive, the Grade II Listed former King Edward VII Picture House will be transformed into a new ‘Artisan Food Hall’, which spills out onto new outdoor space for ‘al fresco’ dining. And the King Edward VII apartment building will be renovated into a high-quality ‘Aparthotel’ keeping its original character.
Jan ’22: GREEN LIGHT AND FUNDING FOR BLACKPOOL CENTRAL
Proposals to create the new, year round, world class Blackpool Central leisure destination got the green light in October 2021.
The detailed planning application for the initial phases has been approved by Blackpool Council Planning Committee. It includes the new 1306 multi storey car park and creation of the Heritage Quarter. Building the car park enables the rest of the site to be developed.
Outline plans have also been passed for the rest of the site. The following phases include a major public events square, three indoor entertainment centres, a hotel, restaurants and other new hospitality and leisure spaces. The detailed planning application for the rest of the site will now be worked up. 90% of the 700 respondents to public consultation expressed their support for the plans.
Spring 2022: CONSTRUCTION OF CAR PARK BEGINS
The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) is one of the UK’s largest pension funds. They’ve signed a contract with Nikal, the developer, to finance construction of the new multi-storey car park. Once complete, Nikal will lease the multi-storey to Blackpool Council and they will operate it too.
The 1,306 space, seven storey car park will take about 16 months to complete. Site preparation is due to begin in early Spring 2022. The timeline for the first phase of works at the Heritage Quarter is completion by Spring 2024.
And the next steps…
The outline planning application for future phases of the scheme is next, including:
- a major public events square for live events,
- three indoor entertainment centres,
- and additional leisure and hospitality space.
The top three most important aspects of the plans identified by respondents in the consultation were:
- creation of new jobs and local economic benefits,
- boosting Blackpool’s tourism offer,
- and delivering new attractions.
The vast majority of feedback welcomed plans for the new Heritage Quarter and highlighted that it will help boost footfall and breathe new life into the buildings. Many residents also shared their aspiration for the scheme to be a catalyst for improving and regenerating the surrounding area and Central Drive.
Get in touch with the project team if you have any questions about the plans or would like further information.
- Phone: 0800 689 1095
- Email: email@example.com
In the Way of Development
In this game of ‘town centre chess’ two important buildings needed relocating for this exciting development to be realised.
- The police station headquarters has already relocated to new premises at Clifton Road, Marton with the old Bonny Street Police Station still to be demolished.
- And the Law Courts at Blackpool which will relocate to the site of the former Devonshire Road Hospital. A funding announcement in November 2022 will enable this part of the plan to be realised.
The Man Behind the Plan
Alan Murphy is the main investor at the back of the scheme led by property company Nikal Investments.
He made most of his money from AM Paper, a loo roll and paper towel maker which turned recycled tissue paper into loo roll, a massive producer of own-brand products for supermarkets. He sold the business for more than £150m in the 1990’s and is now one of the North West’s biggest property investors.
Mr Murphy lives not too far away from Blackpool in Chelford, Cheshire. He’s also father to former Hollyoaks star Davinia Taylor.
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