Celebrating skaters have hailed a decision to allow an ice rink to remain in place as “common sense” prevailing.
Members of Blackpool Council’s planning committee voted six to two in favour of the Fylde Coast Ice Arena on part of the former TVR factory site in Bristol Avenue, Bispham, which had been opened without having planning permission.
Dan Nicholson, who runs the rink with his wife Vycki (CRCT), told The Gazette after the meeting: “I’m thrilled and I think the council members in their wisdom have made the right decision.”
The original application for the scheme was approved in February 2013 but subsequently quashed following a legal challenge by the Property Alliance Group (PAG), owners of the Sub Zero ice rink in Cleveleys.
Speaking at the Town Hall meeting, attended by around 50 supporters of the ice rink, a representative for Manchester-based PAG said: “The applicants have ignored the planning system and opened without permission with blatant disregard for the planning process.
“To grant consent tonight would send the wrong message to the public that you don’t need to get planning permission before you proceed with development.”
Responding, Mr Nicholson said: “These Manchester-based people are the objectors.
“A dangerous precedent and a dangerous message would be to have non-local people influencing this decision.”
Officers had recommended the application for refusal despite attracting 159 letters of support, compared with 47 letters of objection.
Committee chairman Coun David Owen moved for refusal of the application, which was seconded by Coun Jim Elmes.
Coun Owen said: “I don’t think anybody on this side of the chamber doubts the commitment of the young people who are keen on ice skating and ice hockey.
“The work being done in the building is to be admired.
“Sadly a planning committee is sometimes ruled by its head and not always ruled by its heart.
“I’m going to make myself extremely unpopular by asking that the recommendation be approved.”
Three councillors - Couns Mark Smith, Adrian Hutton and Tony Williams - spoke in favour of the plans for the site, which had been empty since TVR closed in 2006 with the loss of 250 jobs.
Coun Hutton said: “We have a building here that has been abandoned for six years with little or no interest from anybody taking it on.
“The facilities that have taken it on have turned a derelict building into a fairly nice leisure facility which is an asset to Blackpool.”
Coun Williams added: “It’s a brilliant scheme with a great future.”
Couns Owen and Elmes were the only two of the eight-strong committee to vote against giving the plans to give the green light, after the inital motion of refusal was rejected.
However, Coun Williams told Mr Nicholson: “It was a brave decision to carry on with the application when permission was in limbo, this could have gone against you.
“I would advise anybody else in the same position not to do what you’ve done.”
Outside Town Hall, rink users shared their delight.
Alex Irvine, 38, from Avon Place, North Shore, said: “We’re obviously 100 per cent behind the decision.”
His son Ethan, 10, added: “I like the decision because I like playing ice hockey at the new rink.”
Nick Bell, 43, from St Lukes Road, South Shore, said: “It’s fantastic, common sense prevails.”