As 2017 winds it way down and gives way to the next calendar year - signs of change are evident at many levels in the town's fabric. Continuous work along the main rail link into Blackpool from Preston is seeing metal fabrication now appearing to host the overhead power wires for electric trains running into Blackpool North. Contractors are preparing the ground with realignment of utilities before wholesale excavation of road
surface on Talbot Road allowing embedding of a second generation of tram track from
the Promenade. The concrete monolith housing Wilko's premises is set to finally disappear during 2018 allowing an enhanced tram terminus adjoining Blackpool North, together with other new investment on the site and removing a blot on the landscape.
Sadly the Council's planners are also determined to level the now closed 'Hops' public house which holds together the bisecting road junction at Cookson Street - to be replaced by the favoured Council solution - more car parking, as if this part of Talbot Gateway needs ever more tarmac. A classic piece of Blackpool townscape is set to be demolished for no good reason. A pity the same policy could not be applied to the sad avenue of tired and desperate 'retail' properties running down Talbot Road from Dickson Road. A widened 'boulevard' with trees and stylish lighting would present a far more welcoming entry for visitors arriving by train - along with trams traversing this key town centre artery to the seafront and what was once Blackpool's civic forum. Below :
Ramshackle streetscape leading to the seafront - the present image presented to visitors - and residents tempted to 'shop' in Blackpool's now woebegone town centre (or at least the degraded section in this view).
The Hounds Hill Shopping Centre is to gain a new cinema complex and further stores fronting onto the Winter Gardens; whilst nearby 'Sands' complex will find itself totally redeveloped with hotel and a proposed 'Museum of Blackpool' among other new assets transforming this part of Blackpool's promenade. All for the better, although I'm not sure about the Museum's chances given the last three years of futile endeavour at the Winter Gardens which expended much on fees and outside consultants but not a wit in real terms or delivery of any practical value for the town. In comparison the Council's fast tracked decision to develop a bespoke conferencing venue adjoining the Winter Gardens - with a realistic market potential is on course for delivery in 2019.
Further south on the promenade developers are replacing redundant 1920s properties with a modern hotel and apartment structure - to open in 2018 (almost a hundred years on). Hopefully this approach will similarly move further northward to extinguish the lingering remnants of late 1920s' structures and joining up with the new Pleasure Beach development. This is bringing an exciting (is there any other?) thrill ride, along with a further extension to the popular 'Big Blue' Hotel replacing the redundant 'Starr Inn' set to be demolished soon.
Enterprise Zones at Squires Gate and on the periphery of Fleetwood at the former ICI industrial complex - are now attracting new investment bringing jobs and a technology focussed future for the Fylde coast. The new Energy Technology Campus has opened on the same site as Squires Gate Airport terminal building; whilst preliminary thoughts turn to potential for upgrading the south Fylde rail line, and a new tramway service into the Enterprise Zone on former airport land. Relocation of Blackpool Transport's bus operations is already ordained, with a newbuild headquarters sited within the Enterprise Zone - but as yet to be formally approved. Watch this space for change.
The future of the Rigby Road transport site is a matter for conjecture with the removal of Blackpool Transport Services from its traditional operating base (since 1922). Housing development is now refocussing Rigby Road and Foxhall area and with a smarter image than the god awful the red-brick housing developments favoured by land hungry national landbank happy builders. In Fleetwood plans are being worked up for regeneration of Wyre Dock on waterfront land owned by Associated British Ports - here a comprehensive private sector scheme will include a working tourist tramway and heritage transport centre as part of 'Fleetwood Quays' development.
These, and much more front burner developments in Blackpool in particular, are set to point the Fylde coast in a new direction offering a positive future for all its communities and in particular millenial generations. Below : About which -modern facilities aimed at providing skills fit for a world economy - a hallmark of Blackpool & The Fylde College with diverse higher education and training portfolio across the Fylde coast.