Rethink over £14m hotel

The proposed site of a �14m Holiday Inn in Blackpool
The proposed site of a �14m Holiday Inn in Blackpool

Town hall chiefs have pulled out of building a four star hotel alongside the Talbot Road multi-storey car park in the town centre.

Blackpool Council had agreed to invest around £11m towards the £14m total cost of the scheme on the site of the St John’s car park on East Topping Street.

The only place big enough for a conference centre is the Winter Gardens so I think the Syndicate site would be a better one for a town centre hotel

Tony Banks

The project, to deliver quality accommodation to meet conference demands, was due to kick-start the next phase of the Talbot Gateway Central Business District.

But the council has decided to look at alternative sites in the town centre instead.

The move was welcomed today by existing hoteliers who had warned the proposal was in the wrong place.

Tony Banks, who owns four hotels in Blackpool, including The Royal Carlton on South Promenade, said: “If the town wants the conference trade back, we have to be able to put a security cordon in.

“The only place big enough for a conference centre is the Winter Gardens so I think the Syndicate site would be a better one for a town centre hotel.

“However I think the council is being forward-thinking at the moment.

“I am working closely with them on my own investment plans for the Promenade and they are being very supportive.”

Mick Grewcock, who owns four and five-star accommodation at Queen’s Mansions in Bispham, said: “I am glad they are not going to put a hotel on the St John’s site because I just didn’t think that was the right place.

“But I do think we still need a good four-star hotel in the town centre, it just needs to be a better site.”

The council had proposed to facilitate the building of a 130-bedroom hotel, which had been expected to be a Holiday Inn, by borrowing £11.3m, with the other £2.7m coming out of the existing development pot for the Talbot Gateway.

The investment would have been repaid through hotel profits.

But the proposal came under fire from Conservative opposition group leader Coun Tony Williams who claimed the earmarked site was the wrong location for a hotel.

He said: “I called in the hotel decision when it first came to the executive, and at the subsequent meeting I produced figures based on hotel industry models that clearly showed not only was the financial model proposed by the council extremely risky but that the occupancy forecast was way off the truth.

“Despite my evidence the committee rejected my call-in and Coun Blackburn in particular stated the hotel would still be going ahead.

“Thank goodness the council has finally seen sense and another U-turn has been made.

“Everyone in the town knew this was a foolish folly that would have cost tax payers millions of pounds.

“This council know nothing about running commercial businesses. They should be attracting more private investment instead of playing Russian roulette with residents’ money.”

A spokesman for the council confirmed the East Topping Street plan had been shelved and alternative sites were being considered instead.

A planning application for the scheme was lodged around May this year, but was withdrawn shortly afterwards.

But during a briefing to announce the latest budget cuts earlier this month, he said the council had to take a more businesslike approach to handling its assets.

Referring to the St John’s site, he said: “What a private operator would do is get planning permission and sell the site or get someone to look at the site.”