More Positive News for Blackpool's Regeneration
This week sees approval being given to implement a further phase in the redevelopment of land adjoining Talbot Gateway which has seen positive changes to the area containing Blackpool Council offices and the railway terminal - Blackpool North. Importantly the announcements today involve decisions to proceed with a £50 million office scheme bringing almost a thousand jobs to the Gateway complex. Demolition of properties due south of the existing Bickerstaffe House and Car Park complex will give impetus to current plans aimed at economic regeneration in the town centre. Whilst no details are available on the user expected to take up this sizeable office scheme - the likelihood of a relocated (or new) central government agency assigned to Blackpool would seem to fit with decentralisation policies now being pursued in London.
As previously mentioned on this blog Blackpool has form in being selected for the transfer of public sector staff (once called 'civil servants') from the capital. World War Two saw several such transfers of Ministry staff from London to the resort, and ensuing long term employment benefits for the Fylde. Some which continue to the present day. The Council's development partner, Muse, is a key principal in realising this pivotal development which accompanies the now ongoing work involving an important project which is set to transform the former North Station site. This includes of course both modern office space, a hotel and final piece of the tramway extension from the promenade to link with the existing Blackpool North railway terminal. Unfortunately these plans preclude the tram extension being fitted alongside the railway concourse - due mainly to ground level differences. But much like the experience at Dublin's Connelly train terminus and the tram extension to the station itself - a smart escalator access between the two will work just as well.
The direct employment benefit for the town centre will certainly outweigh earlier plans for a seamless interchange envisaged a decade past allowing both heavy and light rail shared platforms. Attracting new jobs into the town centre other than seasonal leisure has to be welcomed. Inching Blackpool's economy away from almost total reliance on visitors year on year makes sense - along with further strengthening of high education and technology skills training in tandem with companies such as BAE Systems. All the new home owners and families being lured to the coast in private developments springing up on fields and vacant sites need job potential as well - ideally accessed locally rather than further strangling the Fylde's nineteenth century road network with increased daily commuter traffic.
Another million pound investment in the existing light rail infrastructure has also been announced this week - although this is hardly likely to improve on the shoddily built passenger shelters (so called) which contrast with German built 'supertrams'. Blackpool's tram services originally were provided with well maintained and attractive shelters during the 1920s - painted in Corporation green and cream and sourced locally in the Department Foundry on Rigby Road. They gave all weather all round protection from the elements - and far surpassed the present drab efforts purporting to provide 'shelter' alongside the tramway's upgrade to light rail.
Smarter transport shelters - on Lord Street, Southport - note the seating.