Blackpool’s bid for £20m from the government’s Levelling Up Fund has been rejected – leaving a £7m gap in funding for the £25m refurbishment of the former Abingdon Street Post Office.
The scheme by developers Ashall Projects to bring the Hotel Indigo brand to the resort, was granted planning permission on Tuesday November 16 with councillors warning the Grade II listed building had fallen into disrepair.
However the funding shortfall could now cast a shadow over the proposals, with the council unable to resubmit a bid to the Levelling Up fund until spring 2022 at the earliest.
Now town hall chiefs say they are looking at “different funding structures” for the project.
Artist’s impression of the Hotel Indigo
Coun Mark Smith, cabinet member for enterprise, business and job creation said: “We were disappointed that the Levelling Up Fund bid was not approved first time round but Blackpool is still eligible for two Levelling Up Fund bids and is awaiting the launch of the second round of bidding which we currently anticipate will be in spring next year.
“Whilst we may resubmit the Post Office scheme as a second round bid, we are committed to seeking a way to ensure the delivery of this scheme and are now actively exploring with Ashall Projects other means of securing this development through different funding structures, in order to bring forward this transformational development and refurbishment of a prominent historic building in Blackpool town centre.”
Mark Ashall of Ashall Projects said: “We are disappointed that the levelling up fund application was not successful and we are currently reviewing our options with respect to funding arrangements.”
In her report, due to be presented to a full meeting of Blackpool Council on Wednesday, council leader Coun Lynn Williams says: “Blackpool submitted three bids with a total value of £20m, including £7m to cover a funding gap on the refurbishment and conversion of the former Post Office building for a branded boutique hotel.”
Coun Williams adds: “Unfortunately, we were notified that the Blackpool bid had been unsuccessful on 28 October and are due to attend a session to provide detailed feedback.
“I am sure members will share my disappointment that this part of the government’s Levelling Up agenda does not appear to extend to Blackpool.”
Councillors have approved plans for the Post Office to be converted into a 148-room Hotel Indigo and Indigo Suites.
They were told the condition of the building had deteriorated with significant water leaking into the building, the basement filled with water and gaping holes where some extensions had already been removed.
Blackpool’s Levelling Up bid also sought £9m for town centre road improvements including to ease congestion and improve the public realm between the Winter Gardens, the Houndshill extension and the Blackpool Central leisure development.
Another £4m was sought for redevelopment work and the creation of a new convention space with retail within the Olympia area of the Winter Gardens to complement the new conference centre under construction.
A total of 305 bids were submitted from across the country with 105 approved. A second round of bids is due to open in spring 2022.