• John Woodman

Courts - Layton - Victoria Hospital - Blackpool Zoo - Stanley Park

John Woodman


News this week that Blackpool Council have signed off on expansion of the Zoo's wildlife habitat to enlarge and enhance existing facilities for lions - further underlines the importance of the cluster of visitor destinations to the east of the town. The present disjointed mix of bus services to the hospital, zoo and Stanley Park has been a quandary for visitors and residents alike for over four decades. By contrast is the success of the Pleasure Beach and its adjoining leisure venues - the Sandcastle and South Pier gaining year on year through millions of visitors arriving on the town's trams - and latterly Promenade Bus Service 1.


Attention to creating an east west fixed rail axis from the town centre which importantly provides a year round 24/7 service with high frequency trams (and electric buses) - should be on the radar of this Authority's urban planners and strategists. As has been pointed out on this Blog an immediate step towards an east west light rail corridor is already taking place with the tram extension from the promenade as far as Talbot Gateway/Blackpool North. Whilst its inception has been long delayed the capital investment is showing signs of nearing completion on Talbot Road; itself a part of the town's commercial shopfront badly needing a facelift. Plans to consolidate government offices in outlying parts of the town have now been approved (and funded) with a multi level structure to be created at Talbot Gateway infilling land between Church Street and Talbot Road. This will in turn generate considerable year round footfall for businesses located in proximity - as well as increased daily demand for bus (and tram) services on the Talbot Road corridor.


Further along Talbot Road the town's courts and related administrative offices are planned to take up the open site adjoining the junction with Devonshire Road - creating a further footfall hub along this key road corridor. Layton itself has a sizeable community, well served by local shops and services, as well as being a cross roads for traffic avoiding traversing the town centre. Important schools add to peak time travel demand while the year round demands of the Fylde coast's main healthcare cluster at Victoria Hospital with its enhanced specialist departments generate employment and visitor numbers 24/7. Fast and efficient single decker buses and trams with spacious capacity are pre-requisites for both elderly and infirm needing hospital attention.


Adjoining the Hospital complex is the town's premier 'green space' in the form of Stanley Park. Ever popular since its opening in the 1920s, Stanley Park has gained ever more importance as focus on environmental issues dominate 21st Century concerns at almost every level. Allied to global pressures is increasing need for species conservation - in which the role of 'zoos' have taken on ever more importance. Sustaining the protection of all manner of animals, fish and fowl have become far greater objectives than providing 'visitor entertainment'. Blackpool's Zoo, a municipally inspired enterprise, is morphing into an important regional site for species conservation, The imminent creation of 'Eden of the North' on Morecambe's seafront testifies to the relevance (and urgency) of plant species conservation - and the economic positives which flow from investment in 'infotourism' - not to mention the job creation merits. No doubt an electric light rail link connecting Morecambe's coastal infrastructure with Lancaster's city centre and the west coast mainline rail artery - will logically emerge in due course. (There was a tramway service between the two towns in the first decades of the last century - but pulled by horses!)


On a more modest scale Blackpool with its Fylde partnering authorities and the County Council need to be giving attention to bolder transport initiatives that open up new dimensions fit for the 21st Century and generations to come. The town's east west tramway has already made a start with ongoing work to Talbot Gateway: Phase Two to Layton and Phase Three to Hospital and Stanley Park are destined to become integral parts of the town's future.


1939 : First steps towards 'Talbot Gateway' the steelwork in place for the town's new multi-level car park and central Bus Station. The finished structure still stands today. Adjoining is the town's new 'St John's Market' which sadly didnt survive retail trends after the 1960s. Its site is to become part of the new government office complex due to dominate this section of the Gateway development in the 21st Century.


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