Liv Parr

My Place | Blackpool

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.

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Unlike other distressed northern towns named in this My Place series, Blackpool really does have the ingredients to prosper and is best placed to prove its critics very wrong. This is already beginning to happen.

A framework of well integrated public transport systems: the tram runs North to South along the entire length of the built up area, delivering you to the heart of services regularly, its network is being expanded to link in with the northern station, which is also being revamped, whilst south line has recently been improved and electrified and serves to alleviate congestion on the other.
A motorway ends right in the town and links it with other regional clusters for jobs, goods and services. This could be improved with better junction approaches from the centre’s periphery. If the airport was re-opened for Europe-bound flights again, then you’re in the league of competing with Liverpool and Manchester for a market catchment of Preston-Glasgow.

An improving worker base: trusts and academies are consolidating costs and operations to combat the poor school outcomes and investing in new buildings. The college is expanding into the energy sector and providing new degrees, you’re right to note that retention of graduates would strengthen this process. Quality housing in the south and north eastern edges is bringing in working families from wealthier wards in Amounderness which eventually will offset the more transient, poorer demographic of the blighted off-promenade wards, this demographic is a young and large however, lessening the ageing crisis in Blackpool that is a problem other towns are having to plan decades of provision for, the town continues to attract inward migration.

Strong and improving public assets: The council moved to ownership of key cultural destinations years ago and has turned them around impressively, this visible and unique local history is intrinsic to the towns story that most residents had lived, which is a better basis for building civic pride than many cities even can boast, which is finally being championed and better protected. World class and accessible tourism offer in the Pleasure Beach, Sandcastle and Zoo. A large, central park, and although the coastal wards are among the most dense in the UK, the improved quality of the coast and beaches offers a unique, open and healthy public space. Establish better green links in the centre and one between the coast and park would drastically improve this situation, akin to the chines of Bournemouth and Poole.

In summary, I agree wholeheartedly that Blackpool is very much a place to note. It is a good proving ground for any aspirant planners interested in redevelopment and community planning.

By Desseisor

The council should do something about the Ibis Hotel at Talbot square as it is an eye sore.

By Anthony

Great piece! Being Blackpool born and bred, it is close to my heart and many of these comments resonate strongly with me. An adult life and career in London has not dampened my love for this vibrant, future looking, quirky and much loved town.

By Wayne McKiernan

As much as you praise blackpool council it still falls short on looking after the local residents dirty streets no go areas planting trees in the wrong place

By Alistair Wallace

Having just come back from a over night stay in your beloved Blackpool, I finger the place as a drug, drunkenness place that is the worse place to holiday any where in the uk. Just remove the shiny false top layer and you will find a run down city that is full of empty houses, hotels and theft and curruption.

By Derrick Emptage

Wow. Talk about a p.r. peice.
Glorious and affordable Victorian housing? You mean slum lodgings that surround the town centre and are a haven for crime and drug use?

Occupied mainly by people who have no connection to this town but came here thinking life might be better after spending a week here in summer once?

A strategy of regeneration? White elephants and ego boosting projects. The council continues to pat itself on the back while at the same time brushes under the carpet the financial disasters that it oversees and asks you don’t look too closely at how it rewards itself.

By True sandgrown

Totally agree with Alistair, you can praise the Council to the heavens but they are and have been the root of all that is going wrong ,in this town, the filth, the deprivation, the antisocial behaviour, the dereliction and empty propertys, fly tipping, homeless, home owners who cant sell there propertys and loose thousands ….and a Council who totally ignores the law that being the Section 215 notice and totally leaves its residents of Blackpool at the mercy of environmental dangers, rats, rubbish, gardens full of rubbish and I dont mean just a newspaper, …sofas, fridges, chairs, bags of household waste, I can go on…so no Livi I dont praise the Blackpool Council I deploy them and will summon them to comply with the law that being SECTION 215 NOTICE and I call upon all sane Blackpool residents who really want to do something about Blackpool to also confront this joke of a club with their short comings and use the 215 law to get this place cleaned up and make it for all if us a nice place toi live not just for the tourist and not just for the Tower.

By Grant Smith

Why dont they clean the street. Go down Queen st after Fri night piles of sick outside walkabout and nearby. Were is the council .

By J walsh

I have been coming to Blackpool for over 30 years and I do love the place and i am not lying when i say I have seen it at it’s worst and I have loved seeing the changes being made this past few years. My only gripe is the council should be working more closely with the police to stop the beggars they are becoming a nuisance and a threat. Whilst I understand some may be genuine I know most are not and when you say NO they get angry and threaten descent hard working people. However yes Blackpool may have a bit to go I still love the place and I hope to continue to visit for many more years to come.

By Liz Laird

I agree with the comments below. I’ve lived here since I was 11 I am now 56. Blackpool at one time was a vibrant lively community full of entertainment and pride. Then 10 years ago things changed for the worst. Hen parties late night clubbing clearly a few minority on drugs which has gotten worse over the years. Nothing for kids to do unless you have money which a lot of families are struggling due to not many jobs. Lots of people homeless so very sad indeed. This town needs a shack up and most definitely a massive clean up. Not just the prom. but for the local people and bring back faith in the community and trust in are council. Much needed.

By Jackie Desjardins

Although I agree and disagree with most of the comments, why can’t we have a bus station in the town centre, instead of it scattered across numerous places. If I was a holiday maker arriving in Blackpool, I’d have no idea where to go to get a bus, as I’m sure most of us locals don’t.

By George Birchall

I’m glad to see a positive article about Blackpool for a change. I think what the Council has done in the last few years in acquiring some of the heritage assets has been quite a good move and a really good start to the regeneration that’s needed in Blackpool. The new conferencing facilities that are being built at the Winter Gardens look impressive and I really hope that they can provide some further trade to the hotels and restaurants in Blackpool, especially during the out of season periods. However there is still a LONG way to go. It seems to me that Blackpool as a town doesn’t know what it wants to be and I find that walking around the town it really is such a disjointed place. I really do think that culturally it needs to offer more, otherwise it isn’t going to attract any other type of person than what it attracts now. I hope that in the next year a lot of the public realm improvements will encourage people to set up independents in the town centre. I’d love to see a better standard of bars and restaurants as currently in comparison to other neighbouring towns and cities the offering is quite poor.

By Scott D

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