Jobs hope as Blackpool Airport’s unused site granted enterprise zone status

An artist's impression of how Blackpool and The Fylde College's energy HQ might look
An artist's impression of how Blackpool and The Fylde College's energy HQ might look
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This is how the former international terminal at Blackpool Airport could look when the proposed enterprise zone at the site gets under way.

The artist’s impression of the £9.8m development supporting 3,180 jobs from the college was revealed to councillors at an informal meeting with the airport’s owners Balfour Beatty.

The announcement of an enterprise zone is fantastic news and is a key element of Blackpool Council’s vision for jobs and growth in Squires Gate.

Blackpool Coun Mark Smith

Blackpool and The Fylde College has been looking for a location for its energy college since last year’s announcement that it would become a national hub for energy sector training.

It had been proposed that it be sited on South Car Park off Yeadon Way, but since the airport’s closure and a campaign to turn the Squires Gate site into an enterprise zone focusing on the Fylde coast’s energy expertise, the airport had become the more likely location.

The current terminal would be demolished and a new one built closer to the main runway.

The image came as the Government confirmed the go-ahead for the enterprise zone days after Fylde MP Mark Menzies asked questions about it in the House of Commons.

Today he said: “I am delighted that the Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone has now been officially announced.

“As someone who is a great supporter of enterprise zones, I believe this project could bring huge financial benefits to Fylde and the wider Blackpool area.

“I was pleased to see the Minister highlight the impact this could have on protecting Blackpool Airport for the future, as I felt that was a key issue when lending my support to this endeavour.

“I hope this will now put the site on a sound financial footing from which to grow the airport back into the thriving regional hub I know it can become”

Blackpool Coun Mark Smith, Cabinet Member for Business and Economic Development, said: “The announcement of an enterprise zone is fantastic news and is a key element of Blackpool Council’s vision for jobs and growth in Squires Gate.

“With this in place we can move forward with our plans that will create up to 3,000 jobs – from manufacturing to office jobs and crucially taking advantage of the Fylde Coast’s unique opportunities in the energy sector including renewables and off-shore oil and gas.

“The interest that has been sparked in the business world already could make it one of the most successful enterprise zones in the country, and that can really be put down to the combined effort that has gone into these plans.

“Another priority that we’ve maintained throughout these discussions, which we have now secured in the plans for the Enterprise Zone, is the future of Blackpool Airport’s operations. And by protecting key infrastructure such as the main runway, we’ve also secured the potential for expansion and the return of more commercial flights should it become more viable in the future.”

Campaigners from Save Blackpool Airport welcomed the announcement but said it was vital that room was left for the return of commercial holiday flights to Blackpool.

Danny Nicholson, chairman of Save Blackpool Airport, said: “The enterprise zone could be a fantastic thing for Blackpool and it could help support the airport. However, 3,180 jobs is quite a claim and it will be interesting to see if that is the case.

“The energy college will be good for the town especially if it focuses on green energy and technology for the future, but if the college is all about fracking, which I think may be more likely, then that is not such a good thing for the area.”

Rob Blower, from Save Blackpool Airport, said: “This confirms what we already suspected that the terminal is going to be flattened. But they do however also confirm that the new terminal is to be built closer to the runway.

“What we need to do now is try and get the specifications of this planned new terminal to see if they are serious about leaving options open for the possible return of future commercial flights.”

During the Fylde Council briefing, Balfour Beatty said Blackpool and The Fylde College had committed to a Lancashire Energy HQ within the Enterprise Zone opening in 2017 at a total project cost of £9.8m with the college investing £3.6m and £6.2m coming from the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership.

It said: “Green energy is high on the government agenda both nationally and regionally, and as a significant area of investment for the UK. Lancashire Energy HQ will provide the latest technologies and training for the UK energy sector as a centre of excellence.

“Lancashire Energy HQ will meet an identified skills gap – providing significant local and regional benefits and opportunities for local people and the wider Lancashire population to gain practical skills in this growing sector and support inward investment to the Fylde Coast.

“The Energy HQ will create and safeguard 3,180 jobs.”

Balfour outlined to Fylde councillors the state of play at the airport since its closure last October and some of its plans for the future.

It told how after buying the airport in 2008 it had made a loss of £1.5m a year and how a decision was taken in 2014 to restructure the airport and the operating company entered liquidation ending commercial holiday flights by Jet2.

Councillors were told that there was no realistic short term sustainable demand for volume scheduled passenger traffic at Blackpool and that the old passenger terminal was not in service and the arrivals building had been removed.

Daryl Platt, executive director of commercial development at Blackpool and The Fylde College said: “Our plans are for a Green and Renewable Energy College with the potential to place Lancashire firmly at the forefront of the high-tech, highly skilled energy industry, by supporting the local employers to recruit the technically skilled workforce they require.

“With Balfour Beatty’s plans for a proposed Enterprise Zone and a newly built airport terminal, it makes sense to site this centre of excellence at its heart.”

A spokesman for Fylde Council said: “Councillors and council officers had an interesting meeting with Balfour Beatty.

“We were particularly interested to hear of the college’s plans for the energy headquarters. We have not received any planning applications but when we do we will consider it very fully.”