One important plus in Blackpool's week has been the announcement of Government approval for establishment of a new Enterprise Zone which
takes over the Airport terminal and adjacent land at Squires Gate.
Blackpool International - not anymore. Leisure travel gives way to higher education and technology training for the future skills needs of the energy sector and growing new companies. The former terminal buildings (below on the final day of operation) will be turned into a College training campus for specialist sectors and industry requirements, especially in northwest England.
The full details of the emerging redesign and layout for this important tract of land which is owned by a consortium of interests have yet to be announced. However
a clear strategic element is the creation of an Energy Sector Training and Skills Centre which will form part of Blackpool and the Fylde College (BFC). Given the Fylde coast's growing engagement with sustainable energy development and investment across a broad range of technologies - the establishment of a national centre for training specialist skills is acknowledgement of the Fylde's nearly unique
From nuclear fuels (Salwick); gas field development in the Irish Sea, offshore wind
farms in Morecambe Bay, fracking (the sector that dares not speak its name) in the shale gas potential underlying this area of England, waste to energy power station under construction at Fleetwood, tidal flow energy schemes on the Wyre estuary, gas storage planned in former salt caverns over Wyre, and technology research at differing levels by public and private organisations - all underpin the new role for Squires Gate Airport.
Squires Gate will retain an aviation capability but more restricted in scope. A new
airport terminal will be constructed away from the traditional site and reflecting limited use. This will continue with short haul services to the Isle of Man
and Northern Ireland, as well as helicopter operations for the gas field rigs, private
corporate aircraft and flights, and emergency services. Possibly limited charter.
The new Enterprise Zone is intended to encourage new businesses to set up in proximity to the Fylde's diverse and expanding energy sector, while taking benefit from skills training curriculum of the Centre. Other developments include the relocation of Blackpool's bus fleet from its nearly hundred year old base at Rigby Road. It also opens up (again) the possibilities of connecting all this new investment with a light rail link along Squires Gate Lane as part of strategic infra- structure planning for the Fylde coast. Indeed the potential for tram train operation using some of the South Fylde railway could be given a major boost with the announcements this week. Of course any new tramtrains would need to be given a smart blue and white colour scheme !
Goodbye to all this - former airline users at the old Blackpool Airport in 2014.