Funding approved for Winter Gardens conference centre

A new conference centre in the Winter Gardens is one step closer following funding approval announced by the Government.

The brand new conference centre will increase the capacity of the Winter Gardens, allowing it to host over 7000 conference delegates at any one time; potentially bringing major conferences back to the resort as well as creating jobs and boosting the local economy.

The funding for the Winter Gardens is part of a £69.8m fund to improve various projects across Lancashire.

The new centre, to be built on the site of the former car park on Leopold Grove, is hoped to welcome conferences by spring 2019.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, Leader of Blackpool Council and Chair of the Lancashire Combined Authority, said: "By coordinating the efforts of the 14 political Leaders of Lancashire, and the business-led Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, I felt confident that we would secure the best possible outcome for Lancashire.  The Prime Minister’s announcement today confirms that this approach was crucial.

“We had hoped to secure somewhere in the region of £35 million from Growth Deal 3.  To have been awarded just shy of £70 million therefore is nothing short of a triumph, and shows the value of us all working together, and I want to thank all of the Leaders of Lancashire, and my fellow LEP directors for their support and efforts to bring home this result.

“Projects around advanced manufacturing in Blackburn, the Burnley Growth corridor and huge housing delivery South of Lancaster will make significant improvements to those communities, and bring in further millions of pounds of private sector investment.

“But for us here in Blackpool, the icing on the cake is that we can now deliver on our plans for a £20 million state of the art Conference Centre - linking the historic Winter Gardens to the new facilities it needs.  This pulls together various strands of investment and infrastructure planning including new town centre hotels aimed at business tourists, the new tramway extension and the potential for further new restaurants and other growth around the Winter Gardens site.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity, secured by collaborative working, which will alter the face of the resort forever.  People can start to expect to see preparatory works onsite in the late spring, as we begin the process of building Blackpool's conferencing future."

The project, which is expected to cost around £25m, is also subject to a successful funding bid to the Coastal Communities Fund.

Blackpool Council has commissioned the plans from architects Bisset Adams, who previously worked on designing the refurbishment of Central Library in Blackpool, along with Max Fordham Mechanical and Electrical Engineers, Morgan Tucker Civil and Structural Engineers and Right Solution conference consultants.

The brief was to create a high quality contemporary building which respected the historical and architectural significance of the rest of the complex, but which offers innovative solutions to the challenges of twenty first century conferencing, such as security, as well as providing an improved public realm and environmentally friendly build.