There are still no firm plans in place for the relocation of Blackpool’s law courts prompting fears this could hamper progress on the resort’s £300m new leisure attraction.
Town hall chiefs say it will cost up to £13m to move the building and free up land for future phases of the Blackpool Central development set to transform the Central Car Park site.
But talks with the courts service have so far failed to come up with a firm plan to transfer the justice buildings to a new site.
With the police station now vacant, the relocation of the law courts remains key to future phases of the project to deliver a world class entertainment complex including a virtual reality ‘Flying Theatre’.
However the hitch will not delay the first two phases of the scheme, with a planning application now set to be submitted this autumn by developers Nikal Limited and Media Invest Entertainment.
Blackpool Council’s executive has approved spending of £1.9m to support and protect the council’s interests in the delivery of the Blackpool Central scheme.
This includes complex land sale arrangements to ensure the town gets the best deal.
But officers admit issues around the former Bonny Street police station and courts are ‘extremely complex’.
A report to the executive says the police station, which has been replaced by a new police station on Clifton Road in Marton, may be demolished separately from the courts.
The council has identified a suitable site for the courthouse, which has not been revealed, but says relocation is “unlikely to occur in the short term” with investment of between £10m and £13m needed.
The report adds: “A delay in managing and resolving future premises for the courts may have an impact on the delivery of phase three (not the early phases) of the proposed development.”
Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said he was confident there would be no delay, and the council had known from the start the law courts needed to be relocated.
He said: “We are negotiating over the court buildings and I expect this to be resolved in time for there to be no delay to the Blackpool Central scheme.”
But Conservative group leader Coun Tony Williams said: “Nothing can happen on the Central Station site unless the court buildings are moved and I doubt if the minister of justice will want to pick up the bill of up to £13m to make a move they don’t even seem keen to do.”
A spokesperson for HM Courts and Tribunals (HMCTS) said: “We have not yet received a formal proposal to relocate the court but will consider one if it is made by the council.”
The spokesperson added the council had made contact with HMCTS to discuss the feasability of relocating the courts.
He said the buildings are occupied on a long lease and HMCTS “currently have no plans to relocate the magistrates and county court within the local area.”
The first phase of the scheme will be enabling work to build a multi-storey car park on the Chapel Street side of the site.