Blackpool & The Fylde Coast - All Change
As previously covered in previous Blogs on this site - Blackpool is now undergoing change from its frozen state of the 1990s. A fresh breeze is blowing through the Council's team opening up new development across this Unitary Authority. Starting with repairing infrastructure at the town's road bridges - now nearing completion whilst the railway takes on a new look with gantrys now standing like sentinels along the trackbed leading from Poulton to Blackpool North. The destruction of the concrete Wilko building which now looms over the station approach and Talbot Gateway is scheduled for later this year - no doubt to great public applause. A bright clean dramatic design bringing a new hotel and office space will fill the void complete with tram station and new escalator access to the train station forecourt. Hopefully some trees will be planted to replace those recently chopped down for upgrade work.
Leopold Grove meets Church Street - circa 1960. This rooftop view taken by Colin MacLeod is one of his especial images featuring in the 2018 edition of Tribute to Marton Trams with its enlarged number of pages. The bus is number 347 delivered in 1959 while the classic Marton 'Vambac' tram number is unknown. The equally classic parked cars are bringing no revenue to the corporation coffers, parking being free in those times. The equally classic bus shelter has sadly long gone but epitomised an age of civic pride from the 1920s. Today work is ongoing in Leopold Grove round the corner from St John's Church precinct to create a new conferencing facility linking with the vastly improved Winter Gardens heritage. The Owners of the Sands are pressing ahead with their development that brings a further new (and modern) hotel to Blackpool's central leisure district, whilst plans for the comprehensive redevelopment of the former 'Central Station' site will be unveiled shortly. This will sweep away the abysmal features of what once was a vibrant railway terminus and the 'Golden Mile'.
New housing plans for the area around Foxhall Village and Rigby Road will follow on transfer of Blackpool Transport's operations from their home (since the 1920s) to a new base - yet to be finally approved but likely to be at the new Enterprise Zone at Squires Gates (subject to Council approval). A new bespoke bus garage and maintenance facility should be fittingly geared to the new generation of buses which the company has boldly brought into service transforming Blackpool's public transport system. The trams new home at Starr Gate has capability to hold further deliveries beyond the two new trams delivered in 2018. But further extensions which could emerge through joined up planning with regional bodies should warrant a second tram operating base in the next decade. It should be made clear that the Author is not aware of specific plans by the Council or the Operator at this time.
Further south the Pleasure Beach Company will be launching its new thrill ride this year adding to the cluster of excitement now concentrated on its property. A new hotel extending the successful 'Big Blue' hospitality venue will add to the company's leisure offer. Another modern hotel nears completion near to 'Harrowside' showing up the dated 1920s properties which are still a feature of Clifton Drive, some evidently awaiting the demolition squad. Elsewhere in Blackpool the Energy Technology campus is now in business for students and graduates needed by expanding companies investing in the Fylde and the northwest generally. At Layton the Council have pressed the button on a rapidly developing new housing development geared to more modest income earners and a change from the interminable rash of 'exclusive' and 'luxury' private sector developments that are a feature of the Fylde coast market - adding traffic and social service demands without giving worthwhile contribution to communities, other than more traffic congestion and fewer green spaces.
Heading north; ongoing utility and energy investment is bring offshore gas from the Irish Sea onshore to storage chambers (all newbuild) under undisturbed fields across the River Wyre. A Chinese investment will soon realise half a billion pounds worth of newbuild power generation at the Hillhouses Enterprise Zone. While the Wyre Dock Development Company is putting in place plans which will bring stimulus to the creation of the rail link into Fleetwood utilising the dormant railway line from Poulton through Thornton and Hillhouses Enterprise Zone as far as Wyre Dock. This is far from being accomplished, but the first credible seeds to secure Fleetwood's place in the UK rail network are being implanted during 2018. Image : courtesy Colin MacLeod