Blackpool Central site aerial view 2021

Developing Blackpool Central

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

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 –

Enjoyed this video? Why don’t you subscribe to our Visit Fylde Coast YouTube channel – make sure you don’t miss out!

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?

Read More: About the history of the site as a railway station here.

Blackpool Central Railway Station
Blackpool Central Railway Station

Failed Plans…

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.

Hilton Plans for Blackpool Central Super Casino in 2005
Hilton Plans for Blackpool Central Super Casino in 2005

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. 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.

Indoor Snowdome

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 –

Enjoyed this video? Why don’t you subscribe to our Visit Fylde Coast YouTube channel – make sure you don’t miss out!

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.

Blackpool Central Masterplan, Chariots of the Gods Entertainment Park
Original visual for the Blackpool Central Masterplan, originally called ‘Chariots of the Gods Entertainment Park’

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.

Flying Theatre at Blackpool Central

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.

Signing Heads of Terms for the Blackpool Central Development
Signing Heads of Terms for the Blackpool Central Development. L-R – Nick Payne Managing Director Nikal, Cllr Simon Blackburn Leader of Blackpool Council, Norbert Reichart, CEO of Media Invest Entertainment

Throughout 2019 the Council continued negotiations with Nikal around the terms of the development and bringing the proposals to fruition.

Blackpool Central Masterplan, Chariots of the Gods Entertainment Park
Blackpool Central Masterplan, Chariots of the Gods Entertainment Park

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 was completion by Spring 2024.

Read more: About the development of the Multi-Storey Car Park here

Artist's impression of the car park, seen from Seasiders Way
Artist’s impression of the car park, seen from Seasiders Way

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,
  • hotel,
  • restaurants,
  • 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.

In the Way of Development

In this game of ‘town centre chess’ there are two important buildings which must be relocated before exciting development can be realised.

  • Bonny Street Market closed at the end of the 2022 season.
  • The police station headquarters has already relocated to new premises at Clifton Road, Marton.
  • Both closed, the old Bonny Street Police Station and Law Courts are awaiting demolition.
  • The Courts will relocate to a new-build on the site of the former Devonshire Road Hospital.

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.

Looking for Somewhere to Stay?

Book your stay with the Visit Fylde Coast and StayBlackpool accommodation guide. Know that you’ll have a great place to stay with a choice of Trusted accommodation.

All the properties listed on the Visit Fylde Coast websites by StayBlackpool are annually inspected. This means that you can book with confidence, safe in the knowledge of a great stay, somewhere that’s safe, clean and legal, at the very best price.

Bookings from these sites are also ultra-low or zero commission. This means that more of the money from your booking helps to support the local economy.

Search for Accommodation

Accommodation you can trust from StayBlackpool

Arrival Date:
Type:
Area:
Keyword:

While you’re here…

Go to the homepage of the Live Blackpool website for the latest updates.

Love the Fylde Coast? Sign up for your email newsletter. Packed full of interesting things it arrives in your inbox all 52 weeks of the year.

Join us on Facebook at our Visit Fylde Coast Facebook Group and follow us on Twitter @visitFyldeCoast
Plus hundreds of videos to watch on our YouTube channel – from all over the Fylde Coast!

Booking a stay? Pick a safe, clean and legal place to stay, at the very best price. Book with the Visit Fylde Coast and StayBlackpool guide.

What do you think? Leave a comment below

Share on

23 thoughts on “Developing Blackpool Central”

  1. I’m wanting to move to Blackpool from Australia to be closer to family. But some of my extended family visited Blackpool Christmas 2022 and said there were a lot of drug users/sellers on the streets of Blackpool central area and they were happy to leave. I’ve since seen the plans for regeneration and wondered what were the council doing in regard to lowering crime in central Blackpool. Does anyone know?

    1. The Central area of Blackpool has a problem with transience, like all big coastal towns, because people think the streets of the seaside are paved with happiness and move here expecting to find it. A huge programme of regeneration is underway all around the area which will help with the problem but will take time. Blackpool is a huge area so don’t let it put you off from moving here. There are lots of residential areas which are very pleasant to live in, especially slightly out of the centre of town. There are also a lot of very affluent areas with very expensive properties. As regards to lowering crime, there’s an extensive CCTV system in the town centre and a lot of multi-agency work taking place to address it.

  2. Money would be better spent on poverty in Blackpool. Churches and other aides are handing out food bags to families in poverty. There many children in poverty in Blackpool, one of the worst places in the country for deprivation.
    I’m a pensioner paying £100 a month council tax and what do the council do for the elderly. They line the pockets of people in the tourist industry, but what about the residents. The council should be trying to do more for the needy and stop paying mega amounts of money for icons on the sea front and other developments.

    1. That’s true, but by creating economic opportunity people can earn a better life for themselves, lessening their dependency on local authority help. Give me a fish and I eat for a day. Teach me to fish and I eat for a lifetime.

      1. Unfortunately it seems Blackpool HAS been mainly run by Muppets and Gangsters in the past.
        Y’all need to get your leaders to stop being romantics and realise that the secret to regenerating Blackpool is to stop the xenophobia and seek to attract people from the South instead of the traditional North!! Northerners already know and love Blackpool, but live close enough to go home, whereas those from further afield would stay longer. Cheap flights from London would bring in new money and many more upmarket consumers who and those sentimental to the nostalgia that Blackpool should play on, alongside the modern up to date and futuristic developments necessary to appeal to the broadest range of visitors. Focus more on delivering a higher quality and class of product (at an affordable price point), but maintained to decent standard that will help ensure it’s longevity.

  3. I think they should leave it as a surface car park. It’s the main attraction to Blackpool for me. Many people don’t like multi-storey car parks – whether made so-called ‘accessible’, or not. I don’t use them – horrible dark concrete places – , but the central car park is great, because it’s very easy to find, and near the seafront for those who find walking difficult. The main gripe I hear about Blackpool is that there is no substantial parking available at most of the the hotels. With the coming of electric vehicles, thought needs to be put to providing lots of surface parking complete with charging points. Too many ‘amusement’-type things are not going to attract the older people who are important visitors at midweek times, and the lack of easy surface parking will put them off coming.

  4. I think we definitely need a better shopping centre in Blackpool and great to have more entertainment places but just don’t know why more hotels when there are so many ? Also I would love to see more entertainment on north peir my grandchildren love the pantos they do in the theatre when they do them just not enough goes on and it all needs to be affordable for families with children

  5. How about Blackpool actually invests in a proper shopping centre….?
    The current one is very very poor, literally just one level of shops and one level of food outlets.

    Take Cardiff as an example with its St. David’s 2 development which is an amazing success.. How about that for revenue and jobs

  6. Omg,
    This sounds awful! Immersive theatre, entertainment, and the rest, and wait -9 years to complete?
    And this will improve Blackpool????? I think not!

  7. We have been to Blackpool many times on coach holidays. The last time we saw Dr Who pictures on the lamp posts and several other interesting pictures but this year we specially came up for the lights but it was very disappointing. I don’t think we will come again.

  8. While I’m sure at the time they had good reasons to swap North station for Central station in terms of closure. I think that now with the increasing numbers of passengers and services, no real expansion space for Blackpool North and with the added bonus of it being nice to look at. They should have gone with the original plan of closing North but still closed the central line therefore having trains going through the Blackpool South line. That is just my thoughts anyway.

    1. Not feasible, would cost far too much and too many bridges in the way. Getting trams to run on the south line to link the rail system together makes more sense.

  9. I started work in 1952 as a train booker at Blackpool Central signal box which stood at the end of platforms 7&8. I then moved on to start as an engine cleaner at Rigby Road Motive Power Depot the following year where I stayed until the Beeching axe in 1963.

    I certainly remember the crowds, the late night return trains on Saturday night after dancing at the Tower and Winter Gardens to the likes of Ken Macintosh and Ted Heath , the smoke, the steam and the Victorian buildings that made up the old Central Station as well the station at Blackpool South and all the way round the coast line via Lytham.

    Are there any of the Rigby Road boys left ?

    1. Hi Brian,

      I would love to talk to you about your railway memories in and around Blackpool for a new TV series where we are looking at doing a story on the history of the railway in Blackpool.

      Please email me at fran.jarvis @ viacomstudiosuk . com

      Thanks
      Fran

    1. Absolutely, when will Blackpool council realize this is their biggest unused asset. There are other authorities in the UK who would love to have an already built airport within their control.
      Blackpool airport has such a huge catchment area… Cumbria to name one, the good folks of this area need to travel to either Glasgow or Manchester, Blackpool would be ideal for them not to mention Preston and the rest of Lancashire.
      So much for the Northern ‘Powerhouse’ seems like the lights have gone out when it comes to Blackpool.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Most Recent

Illuminasia in Blackpool

Illuminasia

Illuminasia was a larger than life attraction of Chinese lantern craft, indoors in the Olympia...

Recent Updates from Local Businesses

What's On in Wyre

What’s On in Wyre

Find out What's On in Wyre, with great family friendly entertainment from Wyre Council
Scroll to Top