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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

When It Rains It Pours

John Woodman

On the one hand there is much to applaud in Blackpool's strivings to improve its condition with ongoing investment around the Talbot Gateway development in a partnership involving Muse Development and Blackpool Council. The emergence of improved infrastructure in and around North Station with optimistic schemes for new government offices relocated from London being part of the town centre's transformation. Relocation of the run down Courts and administrative offices from their 1960s site on Chapel Street, to Council owned land formerly occupied by hospital and healthcare at Devonshire Road will further augment the town's overall sense of physical change.

Against these, and further ticks in positive boxes, are self inflicted downsides emerging most recently through an unholy alliance of Home Office Home Counties think, corporate groupies going under the title 'Serco'; and the blemished hospitality brand artfully known as 'Britannia Hotels'. In spite of very recent public pronouncement by Blackpool Council of its opposition to plans by this troika to turn over the Metropole Hotel property on the promenade to house immigrants arriving in this country unsanctioned - an unsavoury transfer of over 140 families and individuals took place in recent days. No doubt there is good economic sense for Britannia Hotels to engage with Serco to offer sizeable accommodation units for foreign immigrants needing to be housed in Britain - with guaranteed government funding and revenue streams. Smart thinking by both companies.

Will it survive climate change on the Fylde's coastline?

Blackpool is not alone in feeling the social and financial cost of this arbitrary policy. Wolverhampton and Wigan are among other communities similarly having the same deals inflicted on them by Britannia and Serco, with Home Office concurrence (if not blessing and washing of hands in large bowls).

The Metropole property is a landmark building with history reaching back to the earliest days of seaside leisure, when it was known as 'Bailey's Hotel'. Given that Britannia Hotels have carefully negotiated purchase of several large Blackpool hotel properties during the past decade : Norbreck Hydro and the Savoy being but two, in addition to the Metropole site, there could very well be intention of further 'transactions' being worked up to bring in ever more numbers of 'tired and huddled masses yearning to be free' to the Fylde coast. A rebranding of the Britannia business from hotels to 'refugee management and accommodation' with relevant change to its operating profile would be in order. Some observers might well feel that nomenclature is well deserved. Blackpool's Council made known their immediate opposition to announced plans by Britannia and Serco when they came into public view - with intention to seek court injunctions barring early arrival of unsanctioned immigrants. However deft moves by the corporate duo have made a mockery of this local authority's role and public concern with a sizeable transfer of 'guests' into the Metropole property by last weekend. So much for democracy in action with this Government.

;Levelling Up of the North' by the Government favours northbound transfers of immigrants needing public services, especially through the already stressed NHS and local authorities. Whether free travel passes from BTS will be added to the refugee package remains to be seen.

There is also the small matter of global warming to contend with - bringing much higher sea levels to our coastline in coming years, as ice caps melt ever rapidly at both Poles. Blackpool Council's decision to site its new light rail facility on low lying land at Starr Gate now requires a rethink. Both the depot and the Metropole could well disappear under the waves. Along with those marvellous new housing developments along Clifton Drive facing sandhills and the Irish Sea. Forward planning has taken on an altogether different complexion requiring hard choices and fresh ideas.


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