The purpose of the Blackpool Town Centre Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) is to encourage the economic revitalisation of the historic centre of the town through a programme of conservation led regeneration projects. The scheme is jointly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Single Regeneration Budget and Blackpool Council and is administered by the Council. Funding has been agreed to support projects for a period of three years starting from April 2006.
Grants will be available for schemes that preserve and enhance the character of the Town Centre Conservation Area through the repair and conservation of buildings, reinstatement of lost architectural features, bringing back into use vacant historic floor space and the enhancement of public spaces.
The THI represents a key partnership initiative in the Council’s resort regeneration strategy. The contribution, imagination and enthusiasm of local businesses and property owners will be vital in maximising the potential of the THI to lift the areas trading potential. Together, the THI Partnership will enliven this historic area, making it more attractive for shoppers, businesses, visitors and residents alike.
Talbot Square is the civic centre of Blackpool and includes many of the buildings necessary for the proper civic and commercial functioning of a town, including the Town Hall, the former Public Library, Market, main Post Office, former Theatre and Banks. It also includes once grand hotels and the Winter Gardens one of the largest Victorian entertainment centres in the UK. Talbot Square was declared a Conservation Area on 25th January 1984 in recognition of the character of the area and the important role it has played in the development of the town and the Conservation Area was renamed as the Town Centre Conservation area when it was extended in 2005/6.
Several of the buildings and structures in the conservation area are listed as a result of their individual merit. The townscape character of much of the area is formed by the group value of the many smaller late nineteenth century properties which front the streets to the eastern side of the Conservation Area. These blocks of two and three storey late nineteenth century properties, with shops at ground floor and the characteristic Blackpool box bay windows, form the character of Clifton Street, Talbot Road, Abingdon Street and Cedar Square.
A significant length of the seafront, including North Pier, the War Memorial and the Grand Hotel Metropole is located within the Town Centre Conservation Area. Most of the historic buildings close to the seafront are architecturally imposing and include the Clifton Hotel, Yates’s Wine Lodge (the former Public Library) and Blackpool Town Hall. These buildings have been located to frame Talbot Square, once the Town’s most important civic space.
Over the years, many small changes to individual buildings and a lack of private investment have led to the loss of much of this special character. The main retail area of the town has shifted further South to Bank Hey street and the Hounds Hill shopping area, leaving the traditional retail streets within the Conservation Area to smaller businesses, not always able to afford to repair and maintain traditional buildings.
The Blackpool Town Centre Townscape Heritage Initiative seeks to restore some of this lost character through grant funding the repair and restoration of period properties. The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded a grant of £1 million matched by a further £1 million from the Council and £300k from the Blackpool Challenge Partnership.