New development perceived as a corner stone in Talbot Gateway project

Detailed plans for the hotel, to be built on the site currently occupied by Wilkinson’s at Talbot Road, have now been submitted to the council’s planning department as part of the £7.8m second phase of the Talbot Gateway project.

Since it will be among the first things a visitor by rail would see when they come to the resort for the summer holidays, it is seen as a key corner stone in the Talbot Gateway project. The plans include the demolition of the Wilko’s building, which has been described as an outdated eyesore.

With plans for the tramway to run from the Promenade down Talbot Road to the site, developer Muse, which has been working with Blackpool Council on the project, said the existing underpass leading to Blackpool North Station would be widened and improved during the scheme to create a link between rail and trams to the tourist area on the front.The new artist impression shows how the tram stop would integrate with the hotel and offices,.

The designs include landscaping and improvement to the footpaths with replacement pedestrian steps and ramp between the station and High Street.Construction on the £22m tramway extension is expected to start in 2018. The five-storey hotel would have a mixture of standard, accessible and executive rooms and room on the ground floor for five shop units designed to add interest to the street level.It would also have a restaurant and conference facilities within the building and wheelchair access.

If given approval by the council, once the Wilkinson’s building has been demolished, part of the site on the west would be used for temporary car parking for up to 97 cars until plans are brought forward at a later stage for offices.

However, the final scheme will not have its own car parking, instead relying on public car parks in the area.

Mike Horner, regional director for Muse Developments, said: “The proposed hotel forms the second phase of the successful multi-award-winning Talbot Gateway project, which has already delivered a refurbished multi-storey car park, civic office and Sainsbury’s at Bickerstaffe Square.

“The new, full service hotel will provide 142 four-star quality rooms plus conferencing and leisure facilities, which will complement the rest of the scheme and further enhance the offer available in this part of the town.

“This, together with the proposed new tram terminal, will transform the arrival experience from Blackpool North railway station into the town, as well as providing more transport choices for locals and visitors alike.

”How Planning of Manchester states in the application that the bid would be ‘an important next step in delivering the comprehensive regeneration’ of the area.

It said: “The Talbot Gateway scheme is transforming the heart of Blackpool and reviving one of the key gateways into the town centre into a modern and thriving commercial and family friendly district for local people and visitors alike.

“The existing building on the site is outdated and visually unpleasant and consequently it appears out of character with newer higher quality developments within the locality.

“A number of new full-time positions would be created within the proposed development during the operational phase including job opportunities for the running and managing of the hotel and restaurant and also the new retail units.

“There would also be an opportunity to use local firms to help with the construction work.

”What will it mean for existing hoteliers?

The project has brought mixed feelings for some in the resort.

Claire Smith, from hoteliers organisation Stay Blackpool, said while it was vital for Blackpool to progress with such grand scale investment plans, the resort could be nearing its limit for chain hotels.

She said: “I appreciate that for the new conference centre to be a success and for Blackpool to go forward in this increasingly globally competitive world we investment and new brands and new standards.

“However, I do feel that we are pretty much reaching saturation point with these types of hotel plans.

It might be better for new developments if instead of hotel rooms they incorporated good quality apartments which would bring people into the town centre and support the evening economy.

Recently a report said there could be 800 new hotel rooms in Blackpool, if all the new hotels are built, including this one, the Hamptons hotel in South Shore, the one at the former Abingdon Street Post Office, the conference centre and the former Yates site. What we don’t want is for these to adversely affect the cracking little independent B&Bs which would need to be supported otherwise they might go out of business.

”She added there was no point in building luxury hotels and a beautiful new conference centre, for them only to be surrounded by empty or shoddy buildings or places where owners have been forced to take in benefits clients because their business had been taken away.

Apart from the aesthetic point of view there is the danger of losing the great variety of accommodation in our town,” she said. “Not everyone wants the same bland rooms you can find in London or Amsterdam or wherever.

“Blackpool is about being different, about friendly hotels offering really good service and detailed local knowledge to families telling them the best places to go and the best deals. If we are not careful we are going to push little B&B owners out of existence and that would also hit taxes and the economy. We are moving forward in Blackpool steadily but we have to be aware of any detrimental effects.”