Blackpool Town Deal* - Correction 8 August
Birmingham City Centre Underpass : Temporary before ground level reconstruction for a new tramway begins.
Our local news media today reports on Blackpool's £500 Million Town Deal Bid to Central Government and expectations on a decision being given (up or down) in September/October timeframe. Noteworthy among a potpourri of budgetted schemes is funding to enable the fylde tram loop scheme to proceed as well as capital investment in further phases to the Talbot Gateway development. Correction Posted : It seems I was over egging the level of funding sought by the Powers that are responsible for the Town Deal Submission. Instead of £500 Million (which would be very nice indeed) the actual Bid Amount is £50 Million for Blackpool Town Deal and I apologise for any apoplexy caused by informed readers of this Blog. Some, indeed All, of the stated aims of the Bid are worthwhile proposals given the state the town central area finds itself in 2020. Fingers crossed the submission ticks relevant boxes in London.
The latter include siting new government offices/departments in the town centre and relocating and consolidating the Blackpool & Fylde College operations onto a newbuild campus also in the town centre. The Devonshire Road / Talbot Road site formerly and originally used as an Isolation Hospital and currently a Council car park is to become the location for the Magistrates Court and associated services - needing a new venue from the Lubyanka premises still operating off Chapel Street.
An overhaul of the Illuminations attraction to something more becoming of the 21st Century is part of the mix, along with investment in the new Enterprise Zone established on Squires Gate Lane. The need to orientate the local economy away from leisure and hospitality to provide groundwork for new generations having worthwhile employment potential is a big priority within the Council's Bid.
Manchester Metrolink - Bright and Airy station platforms - all of which are fitted with real time destination and tram information screens as well as adequate seating, ticket issuing machines and kept spotlessly clean (more or less). Compare these to Blackpool Council's depressing job lot shelters with minimalistic metal bench seats, no real time signage and rarely cleaned (or so it seems).
One might of course throw in need for demolition of properties from North Station all the way to the seafront with creation of a wow factor avenue of light and dramatic effects freed from charity shop tat, third rate eateries, tattooists and low end bars. Culminating in a totally made over civic centre space and actual 'Talbot Square'. Fortunately a bold start by the private sector has been the new hotel structure replacing what had been Yates Wine Lodge classic features from the 1890s. Elsewhere providing land to allow a year round exhibition amplifying Blackpool's visionary role in hosting very early application of electric power in the 1880s with the first street running electric tramway in the country - and electric lighting (not to mention of course the Tower itself) - should be high on the Council's regeneration list.
Rebranding the 1930s concrete edifice still housing the town's main railway terminal - and giving it a makeover which fits into the Talbot Gateway scheme with a transport interchange worthy of the name. As opposed to the cheapening blandness of Network Rail's paint job and make-do effort at Blackpool North. The less said about Blackpool South's grim offer - the better. A look at Birmingham's reconstruct of New Street Station hub and the ever busy Grand Central commercial centre presents practical lessons in upgrading a railway precinct - complete with tram station alongside. Once upon a time Blackpool's executive offered up a not dissimilar impression of how the future Blackpool North transport interchange was going to appear; (albeit on a slightly smaller scale) with both buses, trams and trains almost seamlessly merging within a striking structural design. At least that was the promise in those once better times.
Given the attention and budget now being directed northward by Government to address imbalance in England's socio-economic profile - an upwards trajectory of Council aspirations is called for, even if timeservers filling some of its Ward Seats remain loath to embrace this country's fast changing political dynamics. It seems for far too long the town has had to make do with third rate band aid schemes, when bold choices are within reach through the involvement of younger and smarter generations.