Contractor chosen for first phase of £300m Blackpool attraction

Place North West


Dutch firm Ballast Nedam has been selected to deliver the 1,300-space multistorey car park at Blackpool Central, part of the enabling phase for Nikal and Media Invest’s 17-acre leisure development. 

Speaking to Place North WestNikal chairman Richard Fee said a hybrid planning application for the project is to go live on Friday and, subject to approval, Ballast will start the 15-month car park build in November. 

Nikal and Media Invest Entertainment are to seek full approval to remediate the Blackpool Central site, build the seven-storey car park, which has an end value of around £36m, and create the heritage quarter, while also seeking outline approval for future phases of the development. 

The car park has to be delivered first so that neighboring businesses such as SeaLife and Madame Tussauds don’t suffer a loss of parking provision during the redevelopment of the site, which is currently used as a surface car park. 

“Delivering the car park first is designed to protect the town centre,” Fee said. 

The 127,000 sq ft branded indoor theme park that will house Blackpool Central’s anchor tenant, the Chariots of The Gods Entertainment Park, forms the main part of the outline portion of the application. 

The Chariots of The Gods Entertainment Park, which is to include a ‘flying cinema’, is inspired by the 1968 bestselling book, The Chariots of The Gods, to which Media Invest Entertainment owns and controls the global media rights.  

Two smaller indoor theme parks, a 200-bedroom hotel, several bars and restaurants, and a 70,000 sq ft public square, also feature in future phases. The developers will seek full consent for these elements in the coming years. 

The hybrid application is being drawn up by master planner Spawforths and its submission follows the end of a period of public consultation, which saw the project receive 90% positive responses, according to Fee. 

“To submit a very, very large application after lockdown with a team scattered across the North of England using Zoom is heroic,” Fee said. 

Blackpool Civil Service Hub

Blackpool is close to signing a £100m funding deal for the civil service hub

Elsewhere in Blackpool, the council is awaiting final confirmation from the Government that it will relocate departments to a purpose-built 215,000 sq ft hub in the town centre before the authority signs off a £100m funding agreement. 

Blackpool Council’s executive committee approved the £100m funding deal for the scheme earlier this month but the council’s chief executive is awaiting the green light from Whitehall before the agreement is given final approval. 

Under the terms of the funding deal the council would contribute £82.25m and the tenant is to contribute £17.5m. 

It is understood the office would be occupied by Government departments already based in Blackpool, such as the Department for Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Defence.  

Leases on sites around the Fylde coast currently occupied by the DWP and MoD are due to expire soon.  

Speaking in the House of Lords in 2019, Baroness Jo Valentine said the departments “could be combined in a proposed civil service hub for thousands of jobs, which would provide year-round footfall for the local high street”. 

Designed by Make Architects, the office could house up to 2,500 civil servants. 

The scheme forms part of the Talbot Gateway masterplan, being delivered for the council by development partner Muse. 


Pair met by police at Blackpool North train station after romping on camera while sat near schoolgirl

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A randy scouse couple on their way to Blackpool were arrested at the resort’s railway station after being caught romping on camera by their train’s driver.


Mum-of-four Jessica Doyle, 38, was seen with her head on the lap of her now ex-fella Nathan Fowler – who was later seen wiping something on his coat – Blackpool Magistrates’ Court was told.

Doyle, of Melwood Drive, Liverpool, who wept as she was ordered to pay £239 in fines and costs, admitted outraging public decency on the Liverpool Lime Street to Blackpool North train last July.

Fowler, 31, of Stokesay Court, Ellesmere Port, didn’t turn up to court so magistrates ordered police to find and arrest him.

The pair were met by police at Blackpool North train stationThe pair were met by police at Blackpool North train station

Prosecutor Janice Vallance said the pair had a hotel room booked in the resort and were rumbling towards the coast when they were seen snogging.

Neither was wearing a mask despite Covid laws saying they should – catching the attention of the driver, who periodically watched them on the camera.

The court was told Doyle was seen with her hand down Fowler’s pants as the train approached Euxton, near Chorley.

Ms Vallance said: “The driver saw Doyle with her hand on his lap engaging in oral sex and, by the time the Northern Rail train reached Leyland, Fowler was seen wiping something from his hand on his coat.

“Later, each one blamed the other for what had gone on.

“There was a mother and her eight-year-old child sat nearby on that train.”

The couple were nicked by British Transport Police officers, who met the train at Blackpool North.

Defending, Hugh Pond said: “My client maintains the man instigated what went on.

“They had both been drinking and she cannot recollect what went on or anybody being nearby.

“This was an isolated incident in unusual circumstances.”

New Blackpool tapas restaurant set to open its doors next month at former Bella Italia site

LancsLive - Latest news, sport, business and more from Lancashire

“I thought, if it’s good enough for Bella Italia it’s good enough for me.”


Finos Tapas is set to open a restaurant in Blackpool next month
Finos Tapas is set to open a restaurant in Blackpool next month (Image: Insider Blackpool)

A popular restaurant that serves authentic Spanish cuisine is coming to Blackpool next month.

Modern tapas restaurant Finos Tapas, is expanding with four new restaurants following on from the success of the flagship eatery in Preston which opened in 2018.

The Lancashire sites are set to open first with the Lytham site opening a week on Monday (June 28).

This will then be followed by Blackpool’s restaurant which is opening on Church Street not far from the Winter Gardens around mid-July.

The premises is actually the same location as the Bella Italia and is currently empty inside.

The new Finos Tapas restaurant is where the old Bella Italia restaurant is on Church Street
The new Finos Tapas restaurant is where the old Bella Italia restaurant is on Church Street (Image: Insider Blackpool)

Owner Mark O’Rourke, also owns 263 which is Preston’s only AA Rosette restaurant.

He told Lancs Live: “When the premises became available I thought, if it’s good enough for Bella Italia it’s good enough for me.

“I realised it’s in a really good location in the middle of everything.

“There’s a Nando’s not far however I feel like Blackpool really needs some more good and diverse eating establishments.

“The Blackpool restaurant hasn’t launched yet but it will be after the Lytham one is opened and then after that Blackpool’s will be Kendal followed by Chester.”

Fino Tapas
Fino Tapas is expanding (Image: Fino Tapas)

Finos Tapas offer selection of small dishes which are described as “slightly more adventurous” and something very different from the typical and more formal starter, main course and dessert.

Its produce is locally sourced with beef and eggs from Walton-le-Dale, Chicken from Goosnargh and tomatoes and lettuce from Tarleton.

The restaurant’s traditional cured meats, olives and cheese are imported from Spain, as all of its wines and beers.

To find out more about Finos Tapas, please visit the website here.

Blackpool care home staff vaccination figures among highest in UK

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93.7 per cent of staff have had their first dose of the vaccination and 83.8 per cent have had their second dose.


Blackpool town centre from above

Blackpool town centre from above

More than nine in 10 care home staff in Blackpool have had their first Covid vaccination – meaning the town has one of the best take-up rates in the country.

It comes as the Government is expected to announce Covid vaccinations will be compulsory for all staff working in care homes for older people in England.

Figures show as of June 16, 93.7 per cent of staff have had their first dose of the vaccination and 83.8 per cent have had their second dose.

This is above the England average of 83.7 per cent (first dose) and 68.7 per cent (second dose).

Karen Smith, Blackpool Council’s director of adult services, said: “Our vaccination rates for staff in care homes still remain among the best in the country, and this is a testament to all those who are doing their bit to protect the vulnerable, themselves and their families.

“In addition to all of the essential measures already in place, our fantastic vaccination rate is helping us to ensure that care homes are as safe as they can possibly be.

“We have worked closely with social care providers and the NHS to do everything we can to both address vaccine hesitancy and to keep employees informed of the latest developments.

“This includes a weekly virtual Q&A session with care providers to address any questions or concerns that staff may have.”

Ms Smith said they would continue to encourage the remaining staff to have their jabs.

She added: “Regarding the announcement on mandatory vaccinations, our high uptake has placed us in a strong position.

“Given the vaccine’s role in protecting staff, service users and the wider community, we will be continuing to encourage everyone to book an appointment.”

Workers who have not been vaccinated so far are expected to be given 16 weeks to have the jab or face being moved out of front-line care roles, and could potentially lose their jobs.

Blackpool music venue loved by celebs seeks answers after being snubbed for Covid recovery funding

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Bosses at The Galleon Bar say they are now £38,000 in debt after Covid restrictions and lockdown hit them hard

Stephen Pierre (left) with Jools Holland (middle)

Stephen Pierre (left) with Jools Holland (middle) (Image: The Galleon)

The Galleon Bar, situated on Abingdon Street, is one of Blackpool’s quirkiest and well-loved bars.

Described by music legend Jools Holland as ‘the best decorated music venue he had seen in Europe’, the bar is no stranger to celebrity visitors with even James Nesbitt popping in for a pint last month.

The grassroots music venue has earned its good reputation through its 65+ year history of promoting live music and has served as a community hub for both local and visiting live entertainment fraternity since its opening.

Its commitment to nurturing young local talent, as well as bringing musicians and performers to Blackpool has allowed the venue to become a well respected community asset.

However, when the coronavirus pandemic hit bringing three national lockdown and a raft of local restrictions – The Galleon was hit hard.

Bosses at the venue took out their own loan to stay afloat, leaving them thousands in debt, and the matter has been made even worse after The Galleon failed to secure Government funding to help them stay afloat.

The bar has always prided itself of being an ‘attitude free-zone’ venue inviting those from all ethnicities and sexualities during decades when society could be deemed as being a lot less tolerant to those who are different.

The Galleon relocated in 2010 following a compulsory purchase and demolition of the original site in Adelaide Street.

It is now owned by the son of Darell Pierre, a well-liked and popular tram driver in Blackpool and one of the few black men to live in the town in the 1960s.

Hollywood Actor James Nesbitt OBE enjoyed a pint at the Galleon music venue this week
Hollywood Actor James Nesbitt OBE enjoyed a pint at the Galleon music venue this week (Image: The Galleon)

Current owner Stephen Pierre re-opened the Galleon in respectful memory of his late parents, Kathleen and Darrell Pierre, who were one of the few mixed marriages to settle in Blackpool in the 1960s.

Darrell was a keen supporter of live music, sport and education and many of the bus and tram passengers in Blackpool fondly remember him .

This legacy of equality and diversity is still reflected in the Galleon’s customer base, as well staff and musicians, that represent all ages, ethnicities and sexualities.

Now living in London, Blackpool-born Stephen, a musician himself, has successfully run the bar for over a decade and he commutes from London every fortnight staying at his sister’s house.

In 2015, with help form his duty manager Mark Turner, the first Blackpool Jazz and Blues Festival in 2015 was born.

Queen quote from Bohemian Rhapsody
Queen quote from Bohemian Rhapsody (Image: The Galleon)

At first Stephen wanted to organize this event in London however Mark, recognizing the need to raise the cultural profile of the town, suggested that it should be done in Blackpool.

Stephen agreed and has put on the events ever since from his own pocket and using his own time with a small team of like-minded people, many of whom volunteered in an attempt to keep costs down.

He told Lancs Live: “Blackpool can be a difficult place and at the time selling Russian crosswords in the town would have been easier than setting up the first ever Jazz and Blues festival.

“To our surprise however it was a great success and the Winter Gardens got on board as well as so many local musicians and performers from other cities.

“I’m so glad, thanks to Mark, I decided to set this up in my hometown as it was very much a cultural injection that was needed.”

The lively music schedule of the grass roots music venue was heavily impacted however with the onslaught of the Coronavirus pandemic.

A week at the Galleon would usually consist of seven nights a week of live performances ranging from solo acoustic acts to full jazz, blues and grooves bands, plus a Sunday afternoon ‘free and easy’ open mic vocal session, frequented by many now retired performers.

Beatles "Abbey Road" on the way to the toilets
Beatles “Abbey Road” on the way to the toilets (Image: The Galleon)

Its twice weekly open mic events were a hotspot for young local talent, and were hosted and attended by many music tutors, and professionals who acted as mentors to the amateur performers, in some cases leading to paid professional gigs at the venue.

A number of local student photographers have also used the well decorated venue as a site to expand their portfolio.

In addition to many music videos, documentary pieces, including Talking Head interviews being filmed in the venue, it has also held a number of preliminary audition stages for professional television productions.

During the first lockdown Stephen took out a Bounce Back Loan which kept the Galleon afloat however, at the time, a further autumn lockdown had not been anticipated.

The Galleon didn’t apply for Arts Council England’s first Cultural Recovery Fund however in September 2020, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that all venues had to close by 10pm, the late night venue lost 75% of its turnover instantly.

Adapted Bobby McFerrin quote on the walls of the Galleon
Adapted Bobby McFerrin quote on the walls of the Galleon (Image: the Galleon)

Given the fact that the premises has no outdoor facilities and no kitchen Stephen was forced to put his staff on furlough and close.

In January 2021 came the second round of the Cultural Recovery Fund to which Stephen and Mark filled out a lengthy application form.

They outlined in detail how, despite Stephen taking out his own loan to get through the first lockdown, the government requirement to serve food and close by 10pm had severely impacted the venue’s income.

The Galleon Bar on Abingdon Street
The Galleon Bar on Abingdon Street (Image: The Galleon)

They also stressed that the grant would help them pay towards suppliers, staff, maintenance and a plethora of annual live music events which in turn support Trinity Hospice and the Streetlife Trust.

The venue was also prepared to adapt to restricted capacity and reduced hours if restrictions were not eased and would endeavour to support musicians with digital outcomes if and when necessary, which included recorded music sessions.

Given how much the Galleon has nurtured local talent it stated that it would also support occupational therapy to musicians and would still be a platform for them promoting “digital togetherness”.

It also stressed that keeping costs to a minimum and joined up collaborations with Blackpool and Fylde College Uni students and various Blackpool & Fylde community groups will encourage a regular customer base to remain sustainable in the future.

Cinema seating brought in via train from Preston
Cinema seating brought in via train from Preston (Image: The Galleon)

Despite the fact that the Galleon has already survived stormy waters up until this point, its application was rejected on three sets of criteria.

The first being that ACE felt that they did not outline how the grant would be used to support is cultural operation, that it did not clearly demonstrate how the venue will adapt plans if restrictions do not ease and that they did not show how they plan to ensure it viability and sustainability for the period of July 2021 – 31 March 2022.

The decision has left Stephen and Mark reeling and the musical community, both locally and nationally, have come out in support including Blackpool MPs Scott Benton and Paul Maynard.

Arts Council England do not reconsider decisions made in regards to unsuccessful applicants which has left Stephen wanting answers.

Stephen added: “Even if we could have been awarded a smaller discretionary fund, we would have accepted that, but to not have received a single penny is two fingers to us as far as I’m concerned and it really doesn’t add up.

“There are far bigger venues than us, who have a lot more money who have been awarded funding, and I think they need to be reminded that it’s not the Cultural Refurbishment Fund but the Cultural Recovery Fund.

“No other venue has done quite what we’ve done to raise the cultural profile in Blackpool and there’s nowhere quite like us.”

Both Blackpool Constituency MP’s are making representations to The Arts Council England on behalf of The Galleon Bar regarding missing out on the much needed Cultural Recovery Fund (CRF) grant.
Both Blackpool Constituency MP’s are making representations to The Arts Council England on behalf of The Galleon Bar regarding missing out on the much needed Cultural Recovery Fund (CRF) grant. (Image: The Galleon Bar)

He added: “The amount of instruments, memorabilia we have, we’ve got a tardis, a phone box, cinema seating -we’re so unique and an absolute gem in Blackpool.

“I’ve asked numerous times for an indepth explanation of how we failed the criteria and each time we just get back what we failed on but they can’t really tell us why.

“The form was very complicated with a lot of things that weren’t relevant and whether you’re the Dog and Gun Pub or the Royal Albert Hall you should have a form that is relevant to you.

“If we’ve done something wrong on the application form I’d like to know however they won’t tell us how we’ve gone wrong and won’t entertain the idea of looking at their decision again.

“We’re now £38,000 in debt, Mark and I have both suffered health problems because of this and now the future of the venue is uncertain.

“The till tells the tale of this and we need answers as to why we have been discriminated against in this way.”

Despite the Galleon giving an injection of alternative cultural events that is desperately needed in Blackpool, neither the venue, nor Stephen himself, have never been given any awards or recognition on a local or regional level.

A spokesperson for Arts Council England said: “While the Culture Recovery Fund is the biggest one-off investment in culture in the nation’s history, the crisis is unprecedented and we regret that not every organization can be helped at this time.

“Rightly, the criteria to be awarded a grant are rigorous, but we have been able to support every applicant that met all the criteria.

“We understand that organizations that were unsuccessful will be disappointed and we have published resources both for organizations and individuals, which include alternative sources of support.

“The Government have announced an additional £300m to extend the Culture Recovery Fund and continue supporting cultural organizations as the sector recovers from the impact of Covid-19. We welcome this further investment and will continue to work with DCMS on the distribution of this funding.”

‘Chariots of the Gods’ ditched at Blackpool Central

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The developers behind the £300m visitor attraction have decided not to name its showcase indoor theme park after the 1968 pseudoscience book. 

Nikal and Media Invest Entertainment had planned to use the title of Erich von Daniken’s book as the brand name for a 126,000 sq ft entertainment venue.

However, the Blackpool Central joint venture has opted against it after market research found the brand did not chime with a younger audience. The attraction will now be known as Blackpool Central Indoor Entertainment Park, according to Nikal director Richard Fee. 

Media Invest owns the rights to Chariots of the Gods, a book that attempts to link possible alien encounters with unsolved mysteries about ancient civilisations. 

Despite the name being dropped, it is understood that the content of the venue and its attractions, which include a flying theatre, will still be based on von Daniken’s book.

The decision not to run with the Chariot of the Gods brand does not impact Media Invest’s involvement in the project, Fee added. 

Media Invest and Nikal’s partnership came about because the two firms have shareholders in common. 

Earlier this week, the joint venture lodged a hybrid application for the Blackpool Central project.

The first element to be delivered will be a 1,300-space multistorey car park, followed by a heritage quarter. The heritage quarter will see several listed buildings transformed and refurbished to include a food hall, hotel and pub.

Later stages feature three indoor entertainment venues, including Blackpool Central Indoor Entertainment Park, as well as a 200-bedroom hotel, and a 70,000 sq ft public square.

Subject to planning approval, the 17-acre project is scheduled to complete in the second quarter of 2029.