Urban Splash prom vow

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Developers Urban Splash have pledged their commitment to Morecambe’s central promenade area – despite fears they might go bust.

The company’s latest accounts reported pre-tax losses of £9.3m and debts of £234.4m.

This led the company’s auditors Deloitte to say there was “material uncertainty” over the Manchester-based firm’s ability to continue 
operating because £213m of the debt was immediately

repayable.

But Urban Splash, who restored and reopened Morecambe’s Midland Hotel in 2008, are in talks to restructure payments on their debt.

An announcement is expected on this soon.

Meanwhile, the regeneration company remains buoyant over its controversial plans for a mixed-use scheme on land close to Morecambe’s flagship hotel, including private flats, car parking spaces and new pedestrian areas.

“We know that people in Morecambe care about this scheme as much as we do and that is why we amended the plans (in July this year) to reflect feedback from the local community and include the rescaling of buildings to improve the views over and along the promenade,” said a spokeswoman for Urban Splash.

“We are looking forward to working with the council and progressing these in the coming months and making future announcements about the scheme.”

The latest company accounts, for the year to March 31 2011, show a drop in revenues from £34.5m to £29.1m, almost half what they were in 2009.

But last year’s £10.3m pre-tax loss was reduced to £9.4m, and both improved on 2009 which saw a loss of £39.3m.

The firm made an operating profit of £1.7m in 2011 and fixed assets increased from £271m to £256m.

Recently Urban Splash, whose Concert Square development kickstarted regeneration in Liverpool in the mid-90s, has been forced to rent out many of its swish properties nationwide rather than sell them due to tough property market conditions.

It also abandoned plans for an £80m development at the former Pleasureland fairground in Southport and to create an American-style diner in Liverpool city centre.

The award-winning firm, run by Tom Bloxham MBE, has just unveiled a new 24-berth marina, public park and promenade at Cotton Field in Manchester.

In an interview in February 2012, chief executive Jonathan Falkingham admitted the firm could have gone under when the ‘credit crunch’ first hit in 2007.

“We learned a salutary lesson – we probably ended up growing too quickly. There has been a lot of pain in the last few years.”

Mr Falkingham also said the company’s failed attempt to manage the Midland, which they eventually sold to charity the Lancaster Foundation in 2011, also set them back.

“We were getting into doing up hotels nationally, but it became a bit of a distraction.

“We spent a disproportionate amount of time on the Midland Hotel in Morecambe.”

Lancaster City Council planning committee is expected to make a decision on Urban Splash’s Morecambe plans later this year.