Blackpool has been burdened with a negative reputation but the town is far more than the sum of its parts, writes Liv Parr of Hawkins\Brown.
Blackpool has been the UK’s most popular seaside destination for more than a century, and yet, it is consistently listed as one of the most deprived areas in the country. Growing up in Blackpool, this disparity was not lost on me.
While the bright lights and riotous fun of the promenade never ceased, as with so many seaside towns, the lure of cheap breaks abroad and the recession of the 2000s put pressure on Blackpool’s economy. The seasonal summer glut of tourism could no longer sustain the town year-round. Blackpool needed to regroup: to extend its appeal beyond the peak season, diversify and reinvigorate its economy and, create a sustainable future for its residents and visitors alike.
Blackpool Council has long been live to the need for regeneration to keep Blackpool relevant.
It has honed a clear, ambitious and holistic placemaking strategy for the town which aims to “create a destination that engenders immense civic pride, attracts new generations of visitors and reaffirms Blackpool’s status as the most popular beach resort in the UK.” Key actions include bringing together Blackpool’s rich heritage with contemporary year-round attractions like the Blackpool Museum, a project in partnership with the V&A expected to open in 2021.
The Council also recognises that successful regeneration takes a package of measures and has committed to investing in transport infrastructure, clean beaches and provision for new businesses that offer real jobs for local people.
When people think of Blackpool, they might recall childhood summer staycations: the sea, the sand, the prom, the piers, the Tower, penny arcades and tongue-in-cheek seaside charm. In more recent years, people might think of the negative associations of stag and hen dos or the ill-effects of the recession.
But Blackpool is greater than the sum of all these parts. When I think of Blackpool, I think of the wealth of brave and bold architectural moments – old and new – that punctuate the coastline and townscape; the glorious and affordable Victorian housing stock five minutes inland from the gleaming Irish Sea; the friendly people, proud Sandgrowners and adopted Blackpudlians alike; and, a town that hasn’t given up despite socio-economic challenges but instead is reinventing itself as a multifaceted destination where people want to visit and live.
I am proud of my hometown and the progress it has already made. Moving forward I would like to see Blackpool continue to make bold moves in the built environment by prioritising design quality and capitalising on the potential social value of projects through the procurement process.
I would also like to see a strategy that targets attraction and retention of graduates and encourages locals that have found success outside of Blackpool to return to their hometown to contribute to Blackpool’s economy and success as members of the workforce or as residents employed elsewhere.