Blackpool: the North West’s next big regeneration area?

Blackpool has a long-standing history as the North West’s entertainment capital, drawing in visitors to the world-famous Blackpool Tower, the Pleasure Beach and annual illuminations. That said, Blackpool’s appeal has waned in recent years; it is a town with high numbers of people living in poverty and many social problems, including a lack of high quality housing.

Following a parliamentary report that claimed seaside resorts have been neglected in recent years, with “young people being let down and left behind”[1], areas such as Blackpool are now the focus of major regeneration plans.

In September 2018, Blackpool Council confirmed details of a £100million project to transform the coastal town, hoping to breathe new life into the area and restore it to its former glory. The extensive scheme aims to tackle issues such as housing, infrastructure, commercial space and leisure facilities.
Infrastructure and commercial improvements

Over £26million is being invested into a new, state-of-the-art conference centre that will open for business in August 2019.

A new £23m tram extension from the Promenade to Blackpool North Station has also been planned, creating a link to the newly-electrified railway and a new 144-bedroom, hotel and restaurant complex.

In addition, a £7m Quality Corridors programme will see the refurbishment of Deansgate, Edward Street, Topping Street, Cookson Street and Dickson Road.

Plans for Blackpool’s renovation were given another financial boost in March 2019, as part of the Government’s Coastal Community Fund. Part of wider plans to attract outside investment and create more jobs in seaside towns, Blackpool Council was allocated a further £1.75million to create a new museum, centred around the history of the area.

The intention of these investments is to drive more people to the area, positioning Blackpool as a viable alternative to some of the North West’s key towns and cities.
Encouraging regeneration through housing

However, we believe that the town’s residential options must also be vastly improved. According to a report by housing charity Action in November 2018, more than 1,000 homes in Blackpool have been empty for longer than six months. These properties could be used to create high quality affordable housing, which may encourage outside investment, helping to improve high streets, leisure facilities and more.

The Future of Seaside Towns report, published by the Regenerating Seaside Towns and Communities Committee, recommended that new housing action zones should be part of a “comprehensive package of measures to support housing regeneration in coastal areas”. [2]

Blackpool Council has announced its support for this system, which could include extra funding to convert and regenerate buildings, review the impact of Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates on the local market and strengthen measures to boost housing quality.

At HS Property Group, we have experience in delivering exceptional quality social housing in other regeneration areas across the North West, including Oldham, Tameside and Salford and welcome plans for the transformation of Blackpool.
Assessing long-term goals

The importance of offering a financial stimulus to these struggling towns cannot be overestimated – they are ripe with development potential. Often, vacant properties and derelict brownfield sites can be converted into high quality accommodation that will help to tackle the UK’s housing crisis.

Larger cities in the North West, such as Manchester and Liverpool, are densely populated yet the cost of living in these areas is skyrocketing. There is also a lack of accessible social housing and care for vulnerable people, resulting in an ongoing homelessness problem that the country is struggling to fight.

Focusing on improving the standard of living in the region’s coastal towns, such as Blackpool and Morecambe, will enable them to compete with these large cities. The rental market in these places is significantly cheaper, with safe and secure housing more accessible. Improving housing and job prospects will be key to positioning these areas viable places to live, work and play, and could help to diminish the UK’s housing crisis.

Offering temporary financial aid to these towns can increase an area’s reputation, resulting in greater economic prosperity and more buoyant property and job markets. To achieve this, there needs to be a greater focus on the residential market, which will serve Blackpool’s long-term goals, and collaboration between the public and private sector.

The area cannot rely on infrastructure and commercial improvements alone – better quality, fit-for-purpose housing lies at the heart of true regeneration.