Plans have been unveiled to build a six storey block of flats on a prominent site close to Blackpool’s historic Winter Gardens.
If the scheme is given the go ahead it would see the current three storey building anchored by Pizza Express overlooking St John’s Square bulldozed to make way for redevelopment.
Applicant Daniel Berko of Blackpool (Church Street) LLP wants to build 29 apartments on the site on the corner of Church Street and Abingdon Street, while retaining commercial uses on the ground floor.
This would be for retail, betting shop and restaurant use.
As well as Pizza Express, other units on the ground floor are currently occupied by betting company Ladbrokes and Warren James Jewellers.
The site overlooks St John’s Square within the Town Centre Conservation Area.
But in documents submitted as part of a planning application lodged with Blackpool Council, the applicant says the existing building “offers little in terms of architectural merit to the area.”
The design brief adds: “In replacement, we propose a high-quality development, which responds to the context through sensitive material choices, and enhances the existing character. through its design features and proportion.
“The proposed redevelopment will also provide a more efficient use of the site
which is currently underutilised in its current form and has been for some time.
“An intensified and flexible commercial use of the site would be in keeping with its town centre location, and would be facilitated by its high level of public
“The proposal will greatly improve the streetscape of Blackpool town centre, whilst enhancing the existing character.”
The applicant originally had ambitions for a nine-storey development but scaled it back to a part six, part seven storey scheme.
They also considered a hotel development for the site but opted for residential flats after feedback from their research showed “there is no quantitative or qualitative requirement for additional hotels in Blackpool.”
It is hoped bringing more people to live in the town centre will help in “maintaining town centre vitality and viability which is becoming
increasingly important as the shape and purpose of town centres continues to evolve.”
The design brief adds: “The scheme will look to create an elegant and inviting new street frontage, and tie in with the surrounding context through its use of materiality that takes note of Blackpool’s rich architectural heritage in a complementary and harmonious manner.”
Encouraging more town centre living has been proposed as part of strategies to revitalise high streets which have lost out to the boom in online retail in recent years.
Proposals have previously been put forward to convert space above shops into flats including on Bank Hey Street and Queen Street in Blackpool.
Joan Humble, chairman of Blackpool Civic Trust, said they would be looking closely at the plans due to their proximity to the Grade II listed Winter Gardens.
She said: “The Civic Trust is currently examining the proposal and will be making representations.”
Elaine Smith, of the Winter Gardens Trust, said she feared the proposed building would overshadow the Winter Gardens.
She added: “It is possible to have modern and old architecture together but I don’t think this particular one fits the bill.
“I am all for having apartments on high streets in the town centre, but I think a number of adjustments need making to this block.”
Businessman Robert Wynne, who owns the neighbouring West Coast Rock Cafe on Abingdon Street, said: “Blackpool needs more quality residential properties in the town centre but whether this is the right site, I’m not sure.
“But the town is missing a population living centrally and it can be empty during the week.”