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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Positive News By The Seaside

The search and negotiations for a new Blackpool Courts hq has been concluded and involves the Council owned land at Devonshire Road and Talbot Road junction. This was formerly the site of the original 'Isolation Hospital' subsequently becoming part of the NHS in more recent years, and latterly a proposed car park little used if at all.

This will finally allow obliteration of the Stalinesque concrete monolith currently housing Blackpool Magistrates Court among other services sited next to Chapel Street. The clearance of this 1960s horror releases land for the proposed new leisure development on what is still referred to as the 'Central Station Site'. Despite the travails imposed by the viral infection on communities across the UK (and indeed globally) - Council staff have continued to perservere in efforts to renew the resort's image and visitor offer on several fronts. The Council are also looking hard at encouraging service sector investment in the town centre with new job creation (outside of retail) being paramount. The courts move will further strengthen the case for extending the new tramway on Talbot Road beyond the North Station and 'Talbot Gateway' scheme. A tram service as far as to Layton centre (I am partial to this personally living closeby) would logically facilitate eventual extension to Victoria Hospital as well as providing tram access to Blackpool Zoo and Stanley Park (green space) from the seafront. Since the NHS complex is a major employer as well as year round destination for patients, relatives and friends - growing in size exponentially it can well justify year round tram service connectivity, particularly if its dual role incorporates access for visitors into Stanley Park and the adjoining Blackpool Zoo.

Colourful transport to Blackpool Zoo not long ago. Competitor leisure attractions ensure the Zoo does not have everything its own way ! Both BTS Solo buses and Catch22Bus rear entrance Routemasters are sadly just memories on Blackpool's services in 2020.

Whilst Blackpool town centre has seen far better days and struggling to gain a semblance of quality retail in the face of department store closures and fall off in footfall (in common with urban centres throughout the UK) - the unique character of the resort will continue to sustain new commercial investment matching expectations of millenial generations. The conference centre nearing completion next to the Winter Gardens and Opera House complex is a further linchpin in securing renewed interest in the town's investor appeal. New hotels are appearing of a high quality and international branding with four projects well underway along the seafront - and further proposed investments are in the wings including several intended to form part of the Central Station site development; and ironically North Station's precincts on the original station property, until recently occupied by the Wilko business. The cummulative effect of these projects will be to marginalise Blackpool's traditional bed and breakfast image as a seaside resort - in favour of new build operations offered through hospitality chains at competitive (read affordable) prices. Bed and breakfast businesses will continue to survive but only those with upgraded facilities and online bookings can expect a long term future.

The impending demolition of the Wilko property next to North Station has been given go ahead by the Council with a schedule of key objectives over the next two years. These naturally include completion of the tramway extension on to the redeveloped 'Talbot Gateway' site alongside newbuild hotel and office structures. These will transform the location entirely - and for the better. Hopefully neighboring properties in proximity will similarly become objectives for redevelopment so that Talbot Road itself presents a renewed streetscape (complete with tram service) freed of the seedy look it retains in 2020.

Blackpool Transport has announced it is gearing up for improved service frequency on bus routes - with caveats that relate to government guidelines being further adjusted. Rusting tram tracks continue however to underline the omission of the tram service (indeed any trams at all) along the seafront. No announcements thus far have emanated from Rigby Road as to when this state of affairs will change :

Bare concrete walls depressing the entire area around North Station are soon to crumble at the endeavours of demolition teams - finally.

no doubt the thorny issue of personal safety and fare collection on the trams is posing a continuing challenge to BTS. Hopefully it will be resolved - however transitionally in the coming weeks.

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