£25m Blackpool centre may 'bring back party conferences'

artist's impression of conference centre Image copyright Blackpool Council
Image caption An artist's impression of the new £25m conference centre

A new £25m conference centre in Blackpool could be key to bringing party conferences back to the resort, said the council leader.

Outline plans have been submitted to develop the Winter Gardens site including a state-of-the-art conference hall for 2,000 delegates.

The centre would be linked to the Empress Ballroom and Opera House to form a joint capacity of up to 7,000.

The town last hosted a major party political conference in 2007.

Council leader Simon Blackburn said the council had been working to "secure business and tourism and conferencing facilities" for the resort.

"Huge amounts of work are being undertaken, by me and others, to try and turn this dream into reality.

"If we are successful, this will herald a dramatic new chapter on Blackpool's long and proud conference history."

If plans are approved, the authority will submit bids for cash to build the venue on Leopold Grove, he said.

First built in 1878, Blackpool Winter Gardens was developed to become one of the most important entertainment centres in the country.

After World War Two, conferencing became a core part of the offer, with all the major political parties holding their annual conferences at the venue.

The council's executive will consider the proposals on 18 July.

Blackpool's party conference history

  • 1976: The then Labour Chancellor Denis Healey arrived at the conference in Blackpool having applied for a loan to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to bail out the country
  • 1981: Conservative Norman Tebbit gave his 'Get on your bike' speech following riots in Toxteth and Brixton
  • 2002: American president Bill Clinton turned up to speak at the Labour conference and later popped out for a late-night snack with his actor friend Kevin Spacey
  • 2007: All major political parties move their national conferences out of Blackpool

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