The announcement that Blackpool’s Squires Gate Airport and adjoining land is being designated as an ‘Enterprise Zone’ in the Chancellor’s Budget Statement is welcome. The need for new employment in the town over and above seasonal jobs, usually of a minimum wage level, is a major economic issue on the Fylde coast generally.
Manufacturing employment in this area has been on a downward spiral over several decades. At one time Blackpool had factories building cars (TVR), coaches and buses (HV Burlingham); aircraft (English Electric and previously Vickers-Armstrong), and a host of consumer goods including carpets, biscuits and sweets. Aircraft in particular have been a mainstay for skilled employment locally through much of the past century. This continues today with BAE Systems at Warton - and its many sub contractors and suppliers. At one point during the war plans were drawn up to build a new tramway along Squires Gate Lane connecting with the Starr Gate tram junction as well as the Lytham Road tram service. This would have served the huge Vickers-Armstrong aircraft assembly plant which took up much of Squires Gate Airport land. Central and side reservation tracks were proposed at minimal cost - but reported lack of funding stalled the Transport Department’s proposal. Details of this project are in the forthcoming book on Blackpool’s trams and buses in the 1940s - ‘War and Austerity’.
Now that a renewed approach is being made to stimulate investment and employment in the same location, perhaps the issue of public transport links and services may result in dusting off the wartime tram scheme on Squires Gate Lane. This could connect Starr Gate terminus (a not particularly logical end point for light rail), both with the airport, the existing retail park, and developments in the new Enterprise Zone. Catching a tram to the Airport has been on and off the table over many years. In fact Blackpool’s Lytham Road tram service terminating across the road from the municipal airport at Squires Gate and always included ‘Airport’ on tram destination blinds. The FHLT have made a point of adjusting the destination screen on their tram on display at Pleasure Beach terminus - to ‘Squires Gate and Airport’ from time to time - a reminder that Number 290 was frequently assigned to this route from 1937 to 1962 when the Squires Gate tram service was replaced by Bus Service 12.
All Aboard for the Squires Gate Enterprise Zone and Airport perhaps?