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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Northern Powerhouse in Leopold Grove

The Government Cabinet Meeting in Manchester today is symptomatic of heightened awareness of a strategic shift towards rebalancing the UK economy away from the dominating influence of the City of London and financial service sector in the capital. There is no denying the sizeable benefit to the UK Treasury from the sector over the years - however this has tilted the country's economic profile away from manufact-uring and other productive and wealth generating areas.

Leopold Grove is up the street in this current scene at the Winter Gardens. The sight of scaffolding holds out hope this landmark structure might finally be receiving care and attention along its western facade.

Over several decades this imbalance has become accentuated to the point where Britain's northern towns and cities have become worse than poor cousins to the Home Counties. A simple contrast in the quality of railway infrastructure and regional rolling stock is an easy litmus test - in particular in the northwest with its appalling trains and stations where time has stood still (while foreign owned operator profits have not).

Blackpool struggles, like most northern urban centres with its own especial social and economic problems. But some 'green shoots' are appearing if one takes the time to look more closely around the landscape. The new energy technologies college structure is nearing completion where Blackpool's airport terminal once stood ; two new 'enterprise zones' are drawing new tenants and investors at Squires Gate and the Hillhouses Estate close to Fleetwood (adjoining the dormant railway line to Poulton); a tram extension from the Promenade as far as Blackpool North holds out the real possibility for further tramway development in the coming years - possibly to St Annes and Lytham, as well as the important health care cluster at Victoria Hospital.

In today's Government statements and briefing new funding is to be provided to hurry along the mid-size conference centre now being tacked on to the Winter Gardens site, with access from Leopold Grove and the Church Street frontage. A very positive step by both Council, the LEP and Northern Powerhouse partner(s). A pity the much heralded Museum of Blackpool couldn't have actually achieved meaningful deliverables after nearly two years of hot air from its corps of well paid professionals and advisors hired for the occasion (but not on the Council's payroll). It looks like the conference centre will emerge and get built well before any display is embedded next door. No green shoots here. How many designers does it take to create a display of heritage artifacts in an enclosed space in Blackpool?

Private sector businesses just get on with the job in the real world - with new operations and quiet expansion. Hopefully both the two Enterprise Zones will show the value of their strategies in 2017. It is looking that way. Whilst the Pleasure Beach Company is investing in a remarkable new 'thrill' ride for 2018, our own proposals for an equally thrilling visitor experience are 'work in progress' further north up the coast at Wyre Dock. Not one but two tidal energy schemes are being worked on nearby along with sizeable investment in new waste to energy power stations at that Hillhouses EZ. Fleetwood's fortunes are equally on the turn and integral to a rejuvenated Fylde coast economy - at last. Now about that Ferry service....

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