In March last year the then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, invited a taskforce to review the totality of economic, social and environmental development plans in the Blackpool area. The Blackpool taskforce comprised senior representation from Blackpool Council, ReBlackpool, English Partnerships, the North-West Regional Development Agency and Government Office North-West.
The taskforce reported in July 2007 and made a number of observations and recommendations. Since that date, the Government have been actively engaged in discussions with Blackpool and national and regional agencies about how best to take forward the recommendations. On 1 February, the Secretary of State for Transport announced a centrepiece of the Government’s response to the taskforce, confirming a £85 million investment of public funds to renew Blackpool’s trams. This and other announcements are contained in the response I am publishing today, which includes:
Education and Skills: Over £100 million will be spent on a complete overhaul of Blackpool’s education facilities, including new schools, a new town centre further education campus, a new higher education facility and major investment in skills training. This investment is vital to produce the highly skilled and qualified workforce that Blackpool needs to diversify from its traditional but declining employment base.
Transport: A £100 million boost to local transport is underway, with an announcement earlier this month for a modernised tram system, together with investments to improve the airport and important studies to take forward rail and road improvements. Improved connectivity is vital to bring not just visitors but also new investors and jobs to Blackpool and its Fylde coast neighbours.
Resort: £82 million already committed to improve the beach and resort offer, with improved seafront defences, investment in events and a promise to respond constructively to bids from Blackpool for investment in the illuminations and further beachfront improvements.
Regeneration: The NWDA is investing, with ReBlackpool, to take forward major town centre regeneration including theTalbot gateway. This initiative, together with environmental improvements, will help restore Blackpool’s position as a major shopping and sub-regional centre.
Housing and Accommodation: English Partnerships will be investing an initial £35 million in the South beach and North beach areas to help improve the housing mix and create more mixed communities. Housing investment will help reduce the surplus of unsuitable houses of multiple occupation and stimulate private sector investment in improved hotels and housing.
Working Across Administrative Boundaries: The Government applaud the co-operation between Blackpool and its Fylde coast neighbours on a multi-area agreement, and the recognition that economic regeneration needs joined-up work both within the town and with neighbouring authorities.
Other recommendations in the report will be the subject of feasibility studies and funding bids, and I am pleased to note the co-operation between the NWDA, English Partnerships, HEFCE, Government Office North-West and Blackpool in developing future plans.
The regional director, Government Office North-West, will report to me on progress on a quarterly basis for the next year, and I intend to visit Blackpool within a year to discuss progress on regeneration.