Concern over empty units at new resort landmark

Open for business: An 'artist's impression of the Talbot Gateway which has one unit occupied. Below: Leader of the opposition Coun Tony Williams
Open for business: An 'artist's impression of the Talbot Gateway which has one unit occupied. Below: Leader of the opposition Coun Tony Williams

Fears have been raised over a flagship development in Blackpool becoming a “white elephant” – with just one business unit occupied months after it opened.

Opposition leaders on Blackpool Council have asked why there are not more tenants moving into the Talbot Gateway development.

Coun Tony Williams

Coun Tony Williams

Of the six units available to rent, just one is currently occupied – by sandwich chain Subway – although a second is due to be fitted out by a buffet restaurant soon.

And the boss of the first firm to open at the site says she has already closed down, claiming there were simply not enough customers in the area to stay in business.

Fears were raised at the council’s last full meeting, with council bosses also admitting they are “disappointed” that some parties have not followed up their interest.

Coun Tony Williams, leader of the opposition on Blackpool Council, said: “These are very attractive units but people obviously think they are at the wrong end of town.

“They are very isolated and this development is in danger of becoming a white elephant.

“I for one would have left the bus station as a bus station, and then perhaps retail would have flourished.

“It seems to me there is no-one from the council knocking on doors and trying to bring in new businesses to Blackpool.”

Fill sandwich shop was the first business to open at development – but it shut after just three months.

Owner Barbara Beckett said: “We had opened and were trading quite well and we tried to grow the business but then Subway opened next door and that affected our business.

“We just didn’t have the confidence to stay in terms of the level of customers in that area.”

Warwick Tunnicliffe, of the St John’s Traders Association, said: “I am disappointed the units are still empty.

“We were hoping for it to be fully let and that it would bring more people to the area and we could all work off each other.

“I think the council needs to consider offering some serious incentives to get these units let. For example reduced rents or a rent free period.”

The 126,000 sq ft office and retail development was part of the£70m initial phase of the development, which also includes the Sainsbury’s supermarket, public square and the refurbishment of the Talbot Road Car Park.

The Talbot Gateway Central Business District masterplan also includes proposals for a second phase which may include hotels, offices and leisure developments.

The completed scheme is valued at £220m.

The first phase of the development was completed in July.

The car park opened October last year and staff began moving into council office in May this year.

Coun Fred Jackson, deputy leader of Blackpool Council, said efforts are being made to turn the situation around.

He said: “There’s a tremendous amount of interest in suites available.

“We have been disappointed, some people we thought would come in didn’t​ carry on through.

“Hopefully within the next few months we should have people in there.”