Blackpool's Green And Verdant Land - Not
Recent reports on urban locations in England cite Blackpool as one of the most deprived towns in the country as far as urban greenery is concerned. Whereas at one time Blackpool was renowned for the quality of its streetscape and the upkeep of green space - principally due to its pro-active Parks Department, nowadays the absence of trees, tended shrubbery, flowering plants and managed lawns are noticeable in much of the town's central wards.
Of course this (as usual) stems from ever tightening discretionary budgets and a marginal parks team. The one singular 'jewel in the crown' is of course Stanley Park - a 1920s creation aimed at widening the scope of Blackpool's leisure offer away from the seafront. partly as a employment creation project. Allied to this singular initiative was construction of the town's new hospital on adjoining land - a further strategy with a century of success and continuing development up to the present day.
Blackpool's civic centre and public realm - Talbot Square seen here in the late 1930s following removal of the tram service to Layton which terminated to the left of the new bus (and tram) shelter erected in the centre. Contrasting Corporation buses are at the inbound stop, with an open rear platform model in earlier green colours on the right hand side. Well dressed visitors traverse past the photographer. The Town Hall retains its original 'steeple' surrounded by classicly designed structures which include the Clifton Hotel just off camera on the right hand side. Not a tree in sight. Photo : Copyright John Woodman
By way of contrast the once leafy avenue which shaded Whitegate Drive (and its tramway) is now denuded for the most part with mostly barren streetscape devoid of original character and greenery. The town centre was never known for foliage, nor flowery plantings. Hence the even more barren corridors devoid of any semblance of nature - a void hardly enhanced by the 'Mars Attacks' lighting structures erected in ill judged decisions (and tax payers underwriting) by previous Councils. While much is being made of the new Talbot Gateway scheme adjoining Blackpool North station and immediate surrounds, the impression caused by the tawdry offer along Talbot Road from the Station to the Promenade presents the exact opposite. Beginning with blaring noise emanating from 'Ma Kellys' and its attendant street pedlars - also known as beggars - arriving visitors are treated to a continuum of so called 'charity shops', tattoo parlours and ever more bars until they finally (and no doubt thankfully) reach the town's civic 'centre' within sight of the sea..
Lytham Road at least retained a semblance of arboreal foliage along much of its residential district. Photo : John Woodman
Whereas once upon a time Talbot Square was 'graced' by well maintained bank buildings, the Edwardian; or was it late-Victorian? splendour of Yates Wine Lodge structure bisected the junction of Talbot Road with Clifton Street; and the still eminent Town Hall marked the coming of age of the municipal Corporation, a purposeful civic impression was imparted on visitors. Trams to Layton and Marton had their terminus in the middle of the Square with a classic designed shelter providing relief from intermittent westerly winds and rain. However no trees or greenery found space amid circulating pedestrian footfall. This is likely to remain the case given return of trams on to Talbot Road.
Visitors will now have a chance to avoid traversing Talbot Road's urban blight once the new tram service to the town's (1930s) railway terminal opens. Demolition of properties bordering this important town centre artery would allow creation of an avenue of light and treescape for residents and visitors. This at least would provide a semblance of civility and style, along with the passage of electric trams (and buses) in due course. Regrettably both Lytham Road and Central Drive offer equally dispiriting impressions for visitors arriving in the resort - but the chance to uplift at least the northern section of Central Drive adjoining what is to become Blackpool's newest leisure complex brings with it potential for positive change and renewal. Perhaps even with trees?