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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Indulging Global Warming - on a treeless Fylde Coast

John Woodman

Where are the trees ? Once upon a time Blackpool's roads were bordered by arboreal corridors which provided seasonal shade and softened an often harsh urban streetscape. Lytham Road and Whitegate Drive in particular were noteworthy for the mature trees that gradually emerged during later decades. Blackpool's town centre now totally lacks trees* having becoming a barren landscape bereft of greenery. Not much can be said for other Fylde coast communities similarly afflicted by a seeming shyness for trees of any kind, with the possible exception of Lytham which has managed to maintain some treelined roads.

Instead our urban landscape is graced by lines of parked cars. Any spare land is transformed into change hungry car parks, usually as cash cows for the local Council following demolition of this or that structure. The former massive Central Station and its approaches being one immediate example; whilst the now demolished Hippodrome provides a neat quadrangle of vehicle spaces, as does the one time St John's Market site next to the town's central bus station (itself long gone). Blundell Street's tram depot site became another open car park shortly after the depot building was taken down leaving just tracks as tangible evidence of its former purpose.

The town's sole cultural centre and art gallery seemingly run as a showcase for out of town design wannabes under Art Council London mandarins stands next to an adjoining plot given over to yet more car parking space, whilst an abortive effort to tempt Council staff to park their cars on land previously taken up by Devonshire Road hospital - never managed to attract customers. The town centre itself being bereft of any green space whatsoever, beyond the token three or four trees embedded in the pedestrianised space next to what was once Blackpool's principal place of worship. One solitary tree manages to linger on Corporation Street in sight of Council offices in token deference to the obvious disdain which arboreal matters are held by Blackpool's 'leadership'.

Rising sea levels forecast with ongoing climate change mean the entire Fylde coastline is threatened during this century, despite sea defence work which continues. Consistent planning approvals for new housebuilding schemes by the three (or is it four?) local authorities adds thousands of new shoebox type structures on the perimeter of Fylde communities - almost always without thought being given to parallel social needs or matching requirement for public transport services. And minus embedding 'green space' or screening trees. Added charges taking away from profits of rapacious developers being a definite and absolute no no for planning committees.

More housing on smaller and smaller plots now leaves private car parking to be subsumed within the structures themselves. The preference of inserting more and more car parks tempt visitors to the coast away from public transport (of any sort). Indefinite and uncertain decision-making on strengthened railways, whilst endorsing wider roads for greater traffic flow are the legacy we are leaving for tomorrow's generations. This is the price paid under supine local authorities filled with time servers seemingly in thrall to private sector developers ever keen to transform this part of England's 'green and pleasant land' with tracts of computerised 'executive' home schemes. Witness the transformation of the sandhills along Clifton Drive; the periphery of Poulton and surrounds of Garstang, Great Eccleston, Thornton et al - pick any Fylde community. If new sustainable employment was the driver for these property schemes one could give some allowance. It is not.

Barring visitors cars from the coast full stop, whilst providing park and ride alternatives with fast and intense tramtrain networks plus feeder bus services (all electric) will emerge, whether local councils like it or not - in the decades to come. Demolition of semi derelict streetscape owned by usually absentee property owners - and its replacement with greenscape and dense tree planting as mandatory features, would do much to change the now ramshackle image of Blackpool's central districts - in particular. But apparently the full implications of climate change have passed by Council offices along the Fylde's coastline.

Of course all this is happening under the current disenchantment of today's political setup whereby this distinct area of the northwest is micro-managed by three 'local authorities' plus an uncertain regime in Preston supposedly responsible for the County Palatinate's wellbeing. However signs of popular discontent are evident through the western world, starting of course in the US; but also now fast emerging within the monolithic EU structure following the UK's 'Brexit'. This has underlined need for nation states to strike independent and 'sovereign' paths freed from top down controlling and unelected technocrats (or whatever they are called in Brussels).

Lets start with tree planting and ring fencing remaining 'greenspace'; whilst building up electric powered public transport services fit for the 21st Century throughout the Fylde. Younger generations are likely to be unforgiving of the 'business as usual' lethargy now dominating our public bodies and entrenched political blocs with ageing institutions unwilling to let go of the reins of 'power'. Term limits on council membership being a good start lest, we slip further into the sclerotic control of everlasting timeservers - the consequences of which are far worse.

Below : these two trees didn't make it in the Talbot Gateway scheme - pity about that

In former times trees abounded along Blackpool's residential roads - providing backdrop on numerous enthusiast tram photos. Below : Lytham Road tram stop plus tram

and Whitegate Drive at Hornby Road junction - plus another tram.

Images : John Woodman


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