Sea change: How coastal towns are back in business A lot of front ...

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Sea change: How coastal towns are back in business A lot of front ...

A lot of front:

Rethinking Britain’s

favourite resort

Sea change:

How coastal towns

are back in business

365: Blackpool’s regeneration magazine

summer_07


A C U I T Y I S W O R K I N G A L O N G S I D E R E B L A C K P O O L T O

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365

Contents

Editor: Sarah Herbert

sarah@3foxinternational.com

Deputy editor: Kirsty MacAulay

kirsty@3foxinternational.com

Art editor: Terry Hawes

terry@3foxinternational.com

Contributors: David Gray, Alison

Jones, Julie Mackintosh

Advertisement sales: Lee Harrison

lee@3foxinternational.com

Production: Sue Mapara

sue@3foxinternational.com

Managing director: Toby Fox

toby@3foxinternational.com

Printed by: Pyramid Press

Images: ReBlackpool, Lancashire and

Blackpool Tourist Board, Terry Hawes

Published by:

Lower Ground Floor

189 Lavender Hill

London

SW11 5TB

T: 020 7978 6840

F: 020 7978 6837

For ReBlackpool

The Wellington Building

Squires Gate Lane

Blackpool

FY4 2QY

T: 01253 478 909

www.reblackpool.com

Subscriptions and feedback:

go to www.blackpool365.com

© 3Fox International Limited 2007. All

material is strictly copyright and all rights

are reserved. Reproduction in whole or in

part without the written permission of 3Fox

International Limited is strictly forbidden.

The greatest care has been taken to ensure

the accuracy of information in this magazine

at time of going to press, but we accept

no responsibility for omissions or errors.

The views expressed in this magazine are

not necessarily those of 3Fox International

Limited or ReBlackpool.

04 Blackpool is looking to its strengths

to create an internationally renowned

21st century resort. Plus, details of

the schemes that will transform the

seafront, town centre and airport

20 What’s going on? Our map points out

the projects planned to spearhead the

town’s transformation

24 Sir Peter Hall, chair of ReBlackpool,

discusses his hopes and ambitions for

his home town

28 English seaside holidays needn’t be a

thing of the past. Blackpool is bucking

the trend and leading the way to

renaissance

34 Encouraging new business is at the

heart of the town’s bid to create a

healthy and diverse economy

38 Parting shot


Blackpool 2012

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365

Sea change

Blackpool – spiritual home of the

British seaside holiday – had fallen

on hard times, with visitors and

trade down. But, as Sarah Herbert

reports, radical plans are turning it

into a resort fit for the 21 st century

Family fun, glitz, bright lights… for

more than a century, Blackpool took

millions of people each year to another

world beyond the daily grind. The Prom

behind its seven miles of seafront was

lined with deckchairs, faces turned

towards the sun, and not an inch of

sand was visible between holidaying

families on the beach.

Blackpool played a huge part

in democratising the British family

holiday. The railway’s arrival in the

1850s saw a huge boom in visitor

numbers from all walks of life, and the

following few decades saw incredible

development, with three piers and the

Promenade built, the tramways created

to transport visitors from one attraction

to the next, and the iconic Blackpool

Tower. Following close behind came

the music halls and theatres, along

with innovative amusements, such

as the Pleasure Beach and famous

Blackpool Illuminations.

Up until the 1960s and 70s, the

larger-than-life resort had more than

17 million visitors a year, staying in

more than 100,000 beds in hotels or

B&Bs. Blackpool quickly became the

largest holiday destination in the UK.

But it couldn’t last. As consumers

became increasingly demanding, and

tempted by cheap airfares to overseas

resorts, they fell out of love with British

seaside holidays, and with Blackpool

– its attractions increasingly being

perceived as cheap, tacky and samey.

Its nostalgic appeal was not enough

to save Blackpool from being left

behind by holiday-makers chosing

higher-quality resorts and attractions,

with new experiences and the latest

technology. Millions still visit, but there

has been a spiralling decline in visitor

numbers and, therefore, income.

The problem has been so severe

that Blackpool developed worryingly

high levels of intense social and

economic deprivation, affecting 70%

of the population. It became the 10th

most deprived area in the UK, with

life expectancy at an all-time low, and

unemployment, teenage pregnancy and

suicide rates on the rise. And as other

previously deprived urban centres in

the country reverse their decline and

begin to thrive, Blackpool’s condition

looked even bleaker in comparison.

Something radical needed to be done.

The answer was to build on

its strengths. Doug Garrett of the

town’s urban regeneration company

ReBlackpool says: “The regeneration

has to be based around Blackpool’s

tourist industry. Its core function is as a

resort, not just another place to live.

“Blackpool has something for

everyone. The best rides in the world,

three piers, an incredible seafront, six

working theatres, the biggest clubs in

Europe, the best indoor waterpark, the

tallest roller coaster, an excellent zoo…

Many, many positive things.” Splendid

as these attractions are, they have

only buoyed the town’s economy for

a few, sunny, months of the year. For

Blackpool to succeed it has to become

a year-round international, as well as

national, entertainment destination.

And it’s all happening. In 2003 a

£1 billion masterplan was drawn up by

international urban design company

EDAW (responsible for, among other

things, Manchester city centre and the

2012 Olympic site) and Jerde, a US

firm responsible for such remarkable

constructions as the Bellagio Resort

Hotel. Its aim is to establish Blackpool

as a spectacular, world-class resort

for the 21st century – creating more

than 20,000 jobs and kick-starting a

major programme of regeneration. The

plans cover five sq km, from the centre

of the resort to Blackpool airport,

from the Pleasure Beach to north

pier, containing the Golden Mile and

Blackpool Tower, the sea front, road

and rail arrival points, and could take

15-20 years to be fully realised.

Central to the masterplan is

transforming the resort’s heart, and

reason for existence – its seafront.

But it also has a number of other

key themes. One is the creation, or

regeneration, of a collection of distinct

neighbourhoods – a feature common

to the most memorable towns and

cities – distinguished by their own

landmarks, public spaces and parks,

connected by tree-lined liveable

streets. Another is creating new

entrances and gateways to the town

»

The revamped South

Promenade, with the

sculpture ‘The Sound

of the Wind Looks

Like This’, one of

many adorning

the front


Blackpool 2012

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365

to improve visitors’ first impressions,

and help increase confidence, both

for incoming investors and local

businesses. And another is to improve

the transport facilities, both in the form

of car parking and, more sustainable,

the famous trams or, indeed, walking.

The plans to transform the resort

physically and in spirit are being coordinated

by ReBlackpool, established

in October 2005, and funded by,

and working closely with, Blackpool

Council and the North West Regional

Development Agency (which has

invested more than £70 million over

the past seven years, and will invest up

to £50 million more to help deliver the

masterplan). The URC has a big job

on its hands, and one that changes all

the time. Not least with the non-arrival

of the hoped-for casino, something

of a cornerstone for the masterplan.

Obviously, the town is disappointed,

but such plans may yet happen. Says

Garrett: “Everyone knows about

the casino. The idea is still right for

Blackpool. It has the right leisure mix

and makes sense for us, and it may

yet happen. Whether we get it or not,

however, the masterplan is about so

much more. Yes, the casino would

mean a lot of private investment

coming to the town, which would be a

big plus, but now the challenge is to

ensure the right mix of development to

encourage people to come anyway.”

The transformation has already

started. On the sea front, the sea wall,

thanks to a national coastal defence

programme, is being rebuilt into a

series of headlands extending 60m

into the sea, with sweeping steps

leading down to the beach, to be

topped with ‘the People’s Playground’

(see page 13), a series of ‘magical’

public spaces.

South Beach, a formerly unattractive

part of the south promenade, is now an

inviting entrance to this end of town,

with the world’s largest glitterball and

cunning shelters which turn with the

wind to keep its occupants cosy, on

top of newly illuminated and restored

walkways (see page 13). And the

central entry point of the town from

the nearby M55 has turned tarmac

into spectacular recreation space in a

£13.5 million project, Central Gateway,

which includes new parks and a

soaring sculptural climbing tower.

The railway entry point, now called

the Talbot Gateway (see page 9), is

the third area to be transformed, this

time from a jumble of roads and car

parks into a retail, business and culture

hub for the whole coastal region,

with squares, shops and apartments.

Work is expected to start next year,

and agreement negotiations are

ongoing with preferred developer Muse

Developments (formerly called Amec).

This, in addition to a huge extension

to Houndshill shopping centre to the

south of the town centre (see page

15), will hopefully tempt shoppers

back, who currently go elsewhere

for quality shopping. And for those

arriving by air, the airport’s recent

refurbishment means it can become a

hub for both the town and the whole

region. Blackpool is well placed to take

advantage of the growth in domestic

tourism, and the increasing distances

travelled by foreign visitors.

Of course, regeneration is not all

about physical redevelopment. The

commercial space created around

Talbot Gateway and the airport will help

address the small office market (there

is only 190,000sq m of commercial

space at the moment) and secure more

year-round employment, as will local

economic partnerships and commitment

towards employing and training local

people, and plans for a university

campus in the town centre, along with

enterprise and incubator centres, will

help improve the level of qualifications.

Money has been earmarked to increase

the breadth of events and attractions,

and plans are afoot to address the lack

of affordable housing, and oversupply of

sub-standard holiday accommodation.

As Garrett says: “We need to encourage

people to come for two or three nights,

not just day trips or one-nighters. And

we have to improve the quality of the

accommodation. These days people

expect the same, if not greater, level

of luxury and mod cons that they now

have at home.” This process has begun,

with such places as the Big Blue Hotel

(see page 34) – not a nylon sheet in

sight – but has some way to go.

The town is looking forward. The

new £8 million Infusion rollercoaster is

the first in the world to be completely

suspended over water, and the zoo is

getting £10 million during 2007 and

2008. And the glamour quotient is on

the up: Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen

– him of the dandyish shirts and outré

home furnishings – both opened

Central Gateway in 2006, and is in the

throes of designing a section of the

famous Illuminations. That can only be

a good thing. J

Facts and figures

• Blackpool’s population of

around 142,000, has a higher

than average number of

‘comfortably off’ residents

• 21% of residents have no

qualifications, and low wages

(net household income is only

85% of UK average)

• The average house price, at the

end of the first quarter of 2007,

was £126,804, compared to

the North West average of

£151,341 (Source: Halifax)

• Home ownership is high, at

77% of all households, but so

is private rental (13.6%). Only

4.6% of residents rent from the

council (UK average 14%).19%

of all dwellings are flats, and

38% semi-detached houses

• Local estate agent Allits says:

“The residential market is very

active and robust”

• Rents rose from an average of

£110 per sq ft in 200 to £125

in 2006, according to Colliers

CRE. They range from £90

per sq m in the town centre,

£120 at Blackpool Technology

Centre, to £150 for purposebuilt

premises at Vicarage

Lane

• The total rateable value of retail

premises in the town amounts

to £40 million


page_

365

It’s all change, from

the world’s largest

glitterball, to town

centre redevelopment,

as well as major sea

wall reconstruction


Blackpool 2012

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365

Major developments are under way

to return Blackpool to its former

glory, making it a great place for

visitors and residents

Grand

entrance

Talbot Gateway will

create both a new

arrival point and

a commercial and

residential focus for

residents

In the 1850s, at the beginning of its

heyday, the northern part of Blackpool

was where it all happened. Visitors

would flood through Talbot Road

Station, and it was in this part of town

where many of the foundations of the

resort – the first stretch of promenade

and the first of Blackpool’s three piers

– were focused. The area became a

hub for hotels and guesthouses, as

well as the main shopping area, with

an elegant arcade and winter gardens.

With the arrival of the tram,

Blackpool North Station, as it was

renamed, became a major transport

interchange. However, over the past

50 years, the once thriving area has

become run-down and faceless, thanks

to both the shift southwards of the

town’s focus towards the tower, Golden

Mile and Pleasure Beach. The prime

shopping area, and pedestrianised

streets, were also built south of the

town centre, while the Talbot area

became a fragmented, transitional zone

between town centre and residential

neighbourhoods, used mainly for

parking.

Doug Garrett, chief executive of

ReBlackpool, puts it frankly: “When you

get off the train today, it’s like arriving

into a bear pit, a hole in the ground.

What we need is to create the sense

of arriving somewhere special. The

area needs to become more legible,

with vistas to the seafront and tower.

At the moment there’s nothing to grab

you and say that Blackpool’s a fun

place to be.”

A cornerstone of the masterplan is

to give this area an identity once more,

and establish it as the area’s natural

choice for shopping, work and pleasure.

To this end, the Talbot Gateway

scheme will transform the Northern

»


Blackpool 2012

page_10

365

Top: The world’s biggest

mirrorball

Above: The ‘wave wall’ feature

at South Beach

Above right: Central Gateway

brings visitors from the

motorway via dramatic new

parks and sculpture

Station and existing Talbot Square into

a pedestrian-friendly civic and cultural

quarter, enhancing the vitality of the

town centre and acting as a catalyst for

the regeneration, bringing £285 million

of investment into Blackpool.

The £285 million development,

acting as a northern anchor for the

town centre, will include shops, a multiscreen

cinema, two hotels, offices

(including a new home for the council)

flats and parking. As well as creating an

exciting arrival point for visitors, it will

also provide quality jobs and homes for

local people and act as a transport hub

for the tram, train, bus, coach and taxis.

From a shortlist of three

developers, ReBlackpool chose

Muse Developments this April as its

preferred developer for the scheme.

Mike Horner, Muse regional director,

said: “Everyone knows Blackpool as a

tourist and leisure destination, but we

want to put something back in for the

local population – for those people

who actually live and work here.”

The focus will also be on forging

a modern and enticing public realm.

“Blackpool needs a step up in quality,”

says Horner, “and Talbot Gateway will

provide this as a well-designed urban

quarter of high-quality architectural

buildings linked by pedestrian-friendly

streets and exciting public spaces.”

The 12.8ha development will be

delivered in phases over the next six

years, with planning permission to be

sought after consultation with local

residents and businesses, allowing

progressive refinement and adjustment.

The first phase, which Muse aims

to have on site by the end of 2008,

will comprise a 7,200sq m food store

and 19,000sq m of high-spec retail.

Completion is expected by 2010.

Bryan Gray, chair of the NWDA,

commented: “Talbot Gateway is a vital

part of the masterplan to regenerate the

town centre, and will mean a significant

increase in job creation, providing

further benefits to the community.”

Talbot Gateway is one of a number of

gateways in the masterplan, created

to transform first impressions, help

lift investor confidence and act as a

catalyst for private leisure and tourism

investment. The idea is to soften road

and rail entry points into the town, with

pocket parks, street trees and garden

planting schemes.

The first phase of the Central

Gateway project, which opened

in 2006, joined the motorway to

key attractions with the capacity

for a three-lane highway among a

contoured green parkland, spectacular

illumination, footpaths, cycle paths,

a play area, all-weather pitch and

secure landscaped public car parking.

The most striking features of this

£13.5 million project are two 20mtall

climbing towers spelling out the

word Blackpool. It includes George

Bancroft Park, Blackpool’s first newly

constructed park since 1926.



This follows the success of the

completed £4.4 million Southern

Gateway, which turned a desolate

area of car parks and wasted space

between the Pleasure Beach and

Sandcastle into a dramatic new

entrance point, with new street

lighting, modern sculpture – including

the world’s largest mirror ball, a

sparkling LED-lit recycled glass wall

in the shape of a crashing wave, and

sculpted shelters that turn with the

wind – and new public spaces, with

moulded walls and a raised lawn, for

both locals and tourists.


page_11

365

Seaside special

Any regeneration of Blackpool has to a recreation space, and ‘leisure and

focus on the seafront: the heart of the learning opportunities’.

town, and its very reason for being. More precisely, the project will:

It is therefore a vital part of helping •Transform the central seafront into

Blackpool become the UK’s biggest a year-round urban park for local

short-stay resort. Plans are already residents and visitors

under way to bring the seafront •Create a playground with universal

into the 21st century, on the way appeal for children and adults

stimulating private-sector investment, •Optimise the use of the beach and

reviving seafront businesses and rethink its lighting spectacle

creating 900 new jobs.

•Give Blackpool’s next generation a

Encompassing the whole area, chance to influence the evolution of

and encapsulating the new spirit of their seafront and get involved with

adventure, is the ambitious £52 million, world-class designers

3km-long ‘People’s Playground’. After •Regain the pioneering spirit and

an international design competition sense of achievement of Blackpool’s

and public exhibition, landscape

Victorian creators.

design practice LDA Design was

The transformation is already under

chosen to create a ‘place of escape way, thanks to the coastal protection

and fantasy’, with summer and winter work begun in 2005. The initial

promenades reflecting the surrounding impetus behind the scheme was a

Top: The People’s Playground

coastal habitat, a surreal dunescape nationwide coastal defence initiative,

– for ‘children’ of all ages

Above: Blackpool’s famous

of ‘kingdoms’, and an aerial light show which will protect the sea front and

trams on the Promenade inspired by the Aurora Berealis. Joining 1,500 vulnerable properties, which

the seafront to the hinterland will be is now being built to incorporate the »


01

In November 2002

Blackpool Borough Council

commissioned EDAW’s team

of urban designers, landscape

architects and economic

development specialists

along with Los Angelesbased

architects the Jerde

Partnership to provide the

strategic direction to deliver

bold and progressive change.

After a period of design and consultation,

a masterplan incorporating both physical

and aspirational regeneration proposals

was produced. The vision for the future of

Blackpool was of a renewed national and

international destination that embraced the

material and spiritual changes to become

a sustainable, year-round destination

incorporating balanced and healthy

neighbourhoods.

The success of the Blackpool vision

relied upon an implementable, high quality

masterplan combined with a coherent,

integrated strategy that would deliver benefits

for visitors and residents alike. As a result, a

series of additional initiatives were formulated

to support the objectives of the masterplan

and ensure that the socio-economic benefits

could be fully realised and made accessible

to local communities.

Of particular importance in the delivery

of the masterplan were issues related to

‘placemaking’: transforming Blackpool’s

image by focusing upon the public realm,

land use, the promenade, lighting and

public open space. From the masterplan,

three key projects were identified for early

implementation to establish a benchmark

for quality and engender confidence in the

deliverability of the vision. It was implicit in

the strategy that the public realm had to

come first and act as a catalyst to enhance

the role and values of adjacent buildings

and landholdings.

Spring - Vision and Masterplan completed

Autumn - EDAW and Jerde Partnership commissioned

Spring - Design starts on Sea Defences

2002 to undertake Vision and Masterplan for Blackpool

2003 Summer - Construction starts on Southern Gateway 2004

Spring - Construction starts on Central Corridor/George Bancroft Park

Summer - Southern Gateway completed

Existing Town Centre

Restaurant

Retail

Retail (Anchors)

Residential

Hotel

Office

Market

Railway Station

Civic

Conference

Casino

Parking

Surface Parking

Police

Pleasure Beach

Promenade

Aquarium

Water Park

Education/University

Stadium Uses

Tourism

Court

BlackPool maSterPlan Study

Blackpool Masterplan Study incorporating both physical and non-physical regeneration proposals


05

02

01

03 04

Southern Gateway

Southern Gateway was

proposed as the first of these

spaces to provide a new

entrance into Blackpool and

lighting along a one kilometre

stretch of promenade. It

provides an anchor and

backdrop to the intense arrival

experience already captured by

the Irish Sea and the Pleasure

Beach. It enables efficient

movement routes, introducing

a critical new east-west

connection with the Pleasure

Beach and promenade. Bold

planting and lawn areas have

been introduced to counter the

predominantly hard landscape

along the promenade.

GeorGe Bancroft Park

(central corridor)

The Central Corridor site gave

EDAW the opportunity to

provide a major new park for

Blackpool and bring nature

back into its heart. The existing

site was dominated by a vast

surface level car park, gable

ends of housing and a busy

road dividing two communities.

The new park, opened in

spring 2006, now provides a

striking arrival for visitors to

Blackpool and a safe, relaxing

and enjoyable place for people

who live and work in the area.

The park’s bold new landscape

structure includes over 650

large trees and 75,000 shrubs

and herbaceous plants. Two

climbing towers designed in

collaboration with artist Gordon

Young create visual impact,

and have already become a

firm favourite in the climbing

community. A play area, a

multi-use games area for

5-a-side football, a bouldering

wall and community garden

terraces provide a series of

diverse park experiences.

BlackPool Promenade

and coaStal defenceS

Blackpool’s promenade and sea

wall are recognised as two of

the most important elements

to Blackpool’s future success

as a resort. EDAW’s scheme

involves a radical rethink of the

traditional approach to coastal

defence through a responsive

process, in an integrated

piece of infrastructure, art and

public realm that considers

the environmental context

and impact. Inspiration comes

from Blackpool’s historical

coastal landscape of beaches

and rolling sand dunes - the

enormous sea wall is being

replaced with a series of steps,

low walls, and catchment

areas matching the colour of

the beach sand. Steps run the

entire length of the scheme

to reconnect the town with

its beach.

What sets seaside resorts

apart from other towns is

spectacular public spaces,

beaches, promenades, parks

and squares. Embracing the

rich historical legacy, promoting

year-round use and protection

from the extreme coastal

weather is vital. But the real

challenge is to inject them

with an imaginative dynamism

and innovation to appeal to

21st-century visitors and

investors alike.

EDAW’s masterplan set

the context to transform the

resort physically, economically

and socially, and focused

considerable attention on the

resort stimulating investment

and bringing forward strategic

proposals. The first three major

public realm improvements

mark the beginning of a

transformation for the whole

town, and have set the path for

Blackpool’s continuing renewal.

Summer - Design starts on Promenade

2005 Autumn - Construction starts on Sea Defences

2006 Spring - George Bancroft Park opens

2007 Construction continues on Promenade and Sea Defences

01 George Bancroft Park

(Central Corridor)

02 Blackpool Coastal Defences

and Aspirations for the Golden

Mile Promenade

03-04 Integrated Promenade

Seating

05 Staircase Study

06 Southern Gateway

07 New Sea Defences

07

06

For more information, contact Juli Grot: juli.grot@edaw.com

www.edaw.com


Blackpool 2012

page_14

365

Left: the new sea

wall is already under

construction, with 60m

headlands going into

the sea.

designs of the People’s Playground

project. The huge scheme (contractor

Birse’s biggest-ever civil engineering

project), funded to the tune of

£73 million by DEFRA, NWDA and

ERDF, will see the sea wall expand

seawards in the form of six newly

created 1,200sq m headlands,

projecting 60m into the sea, with

‘Spanish steps’ leading down to the

sea (and one day to be topped by

LDA’s dunes and illuminations).

A £4.8 million second phase of

NWDA investment is improving the

parade areas between the headlands,

including enhancing the tramway

along the seafront. These works

started in November 2006, and are

anticipated to be completed late

2008. The promenade – home to

trams, cars, pedestrians and even

horse-drawn carriages – is seeing

the first phase of track renewal works

(thanks to £10.7 million Department

for Transport funding) the first phase

of which is complete, and the second

phase due to finish in 2008 or 2009.

In addition, transport consultant JMP

has developed a movement strategy

for the seafront, to create a seamless

pedestrian transition between highway

and promenade.

“The redevelopment of Blackpool’s

3km central promenade is certainly

going to put the town back on the

map,” says Doug Garrett, ReBlackpool’s

chief executive. “Our aim is to ensure

that Blackpool becomes renowned as

a 21st-century world-class tourism

destination. The innovative and unique

redevelopment of the promenade is the

first big step in making this happen.”

Flying high

Aeroplanes first took off in Blackpool

in 1909, with a magnificent air show

of daredevils displaying their primitive

flying machines.

However, it was not until 1927

that an actual aerodrome was built,

from which adventurous types could

fly to the Isle of Man for £1.80 return.

During the Second World War, three

runways were built, mainly to test

Wellington bombers and provide a

base for Spitfire fighters. After the war,

Squires Gate, as it was known, became

a civil airport, and has continued to

grow ever since, with a £2 million

terminal building opening in 1995.

Now, Blackpool International is

the fastest growing regional airport in

the UK. The surge began when the

council sold the airport in 2004 to

property developer MAR Properties. By

2005 a record 350,000 passengers

took to the skies, flying to over 20 UK

and European business and leisure

destinations. These numbers have

been further boosted by Jet2.com’s

decision to establish Blackpool as a

base, and now has three aircraft based

at the airport.

A £2 million refurbishment of the

terminal in 2006 gave the airport

a new, fresh and modern look to

meet the needs of the estimated

600,000 passengers expected to

use the airport in 2007 – with new

infrastructure, passenger facilities, new

air routes and parking. By 2025, it’s

reckoned that 3.3 million passengers

will pass through the airport, and it

will have played a leading role in the

regeneration of the town.

According to Gareth Kennedy,

the airport’s director of business

development: “In 2006, the airport

either directly or indirectly supported

more than 700 full-time-equivalent

jobs and generated more than £20

million of income to the Lancashire

economy. In addition, it is a major

gateway for tourists, and research

has shown that in 2006 around 35%

of the airports’ passengers were

tourists visiting Blackpool and the

surrounding area.”

Retail

therapy

Above: The greatly

expanded Houndshill

will provide highquality

retail for

residents and visitors


page_15

365

Right at the centre of Blackpool,

beside the Blackpool Tower complex

and a minute from the prom, is a

cluster of tower cranes, a physical

sign that Blackpool’s regeneration

is very much under way. They are

extending Houndshill Shopping Centre,

Blackpool’s only enclosed shopping

centre, at the heart of the prime retail

area and supported by the town’s

multi-storey car parks.

The £35 million extension by

Modus will increase Houndshill’s retail

floor space to 35,000sq m, including

a contemporary food deck, and give

Blackpool its first department store for

12 years, in the shape of a 10,000sq

m Debenhams. A first-class line-up

of other tenants has been confirmed,

including high-street favourites such as

Next, Boots, Clarks and River Island.

Blackpool is badly in need of a

major retail development and quality

department store to attract back the

60% of Fylde regional shoppers who

have abandoned Blackpool in favour

of other centres such as Preston or

Manchester over the past 10 years. The

extension of the centre is thus a vital

piece in the regeneration of the town.

Work started last year, and already

the old car park has been demolished,

lots of concrete poured, and most

of the external works completed.

Attention is shifting internally,

especially to the Debenhams store,

and to the ‘pod’ area being built to

house three of the units. The centre is

due to be finished by Spring 2008.

The site has been offering valuable

opportunities to local people. An

agreement between contractor

Balfour Beatty and local colleges and

organisations offers work placements

to local people, and local students

from Preston College are getting work

experience on site as part of its Firm

Foundations initiative, which exists

to address the skills shortage in the

construction industry. Balfour Beatty is

also operating a waste management

scheme which aims to eliminate,

reduce, reuse, recover or dispose of

items safely and responsibly. »


Blackpool 2012

page_16

365

Below: Blackpool ‘s

town centre in the

19th century

Near right: Wind

turbines on the seafront

Green light

Putting

the house

in order

It has to be said, Blackpool’s housing

market is far from healthy. Over the

past 30 years it has suffered, along

with the economy. Now, housing failure,

driven by an imbalance in supply and

demand, is causing social deprivation.

Problems include a surplus of poor

quality private rented accommodation,

a dearth of good quality family housing,

and too little new stock (half as much

built since 1965 as the rest of the

UK). There are also too many homes in

multiple occupation, and a huge oversupply

of B&Bs for the sector to be

economically viable. It also suffers from

the nationwide problem of affordability,

despite the average house in the

town costs £30,000 less than the UK

average.

With these problems in mind the

Council and English Partnerships are

working up an intervention strategy,

based on five objectives:

• Stabilising and growing the

population, and increasing diversity

• Matching housing provision to the

population profile resulting from

economic growth

• Creating a balanced market, with

a choice of high-quality housing in

sustainable communities

• Re-establishing neighbourhoods in

the centre where current residents,

and newcomers, want to live

• Reducing the supply of poor quality

hotel accommodation.

The first area to be addressed will

be Blackpool’s ‘brownfield’, the inner

resort, where the problems of multipleoccupancy

dwellings, failing B&Bs and

socio-economic deprivation combine,

yet where the cost of improvements

are high, thanks to coastal position and

fragmented ownership.

To make sure Blackpool’s future

development is sustainable in an

environmental as well as a community

sense, renewable energy sources

will be at the heart of the plans.

ReBlackpool is working with Arup

to investigate the use of solar and

thermal heat technologies in order to

produce energy-neutral developments.

The plan is to power the Illuminations

(which use nearly a million kilowatt

hours of electricity emitting some 420

tonnes of CO2 every year) by wind

turbines, which have already appeared

on the sea front. As Doug Garrett,

chief executive of ReBlackpool says:

“Blackpool has plenty of wind! It’s

constant through the day, and not just

in winter. We’ll even make a feature

of the turbines, lighting them up as an

attraction.”

The council is committed

to acquiring all energy through

sustainable sources. This is embodied

by the Solaris Centre, converted

from the old solarium into a centre

of excellence for environmental

action, tourism training and business

enterprise. This zero-energy building

generates more electricity than it

uses, via its wind turbines, a combined

heat and power plant. It is home to

the council-run Resource Efficiency

Centre, an ERDF-funded scheme to

help businesses to improve efficiency

of energy and water use and take

advantage of micro-generation.

Among many regional initiatives are

a University of Central Lancashire’s

North West Centre for Waste

Management, in Preston, which helps

companies minimise and recycle

their waste, and hoteliers are putting

together schemes for trade waste

recycling and buying locally.


One of the 8m-tall

rotating wind shelters

on the Southern

Gateway, winner of a

Civic Trust award


Blackpool 2012

page_18

365

Education and enterprise

Above: Plans are

under way to

boost the existing

Blackpool College

with university-style

campus

Blackpool could soon see a universitystyle

higher education campus in

the centre of the town. Plans are

afoot to develop the Blackpool site

of Blackpool and the Fylde College

(which has three other campuses) to

allow its higher education students to

benefit from a university-style setting.

At the moment, the college

runs more then 70 degree-level

courses, several specialising in skills

relevant to the local economy, such

as leisure, hospitality, engineering

and management. The majority are

accredited by Lancaster University, an

associate college since 1993.

The expanded and modernised

campus would include halls of

residence, for which planning

permission has just been granted. It is

due for completing and opening by the

beginning of the 2009 academic year.

Another huge boost to education,

along with innovation and enterprise,

is the successful bid for £10.8 million

from the Local Enterprise Growth

Initiative (LEGI). The funding, a grant

from central government, will help

Blackpool residents, particularly in the

more deprived areas, take advantage

of the opportunities from the physical

regeneration, by addressing the deepseated

economic problems.

The funding will be a bit help in

increasing business confidence and

promoting a positive enterprise culture.

By 2017 the aim is to increase selfemployment

to the national average,

raise the number of businesses in

Blackpool by 1,000, and reduce the

number of benefit claimants by 4,000.

To do this, a number of projects are

proposed. These include:

• Start-up funds, training and

mentoring for those starting their own

business

• HERO enterprise in education

programme for eight secondary

schools

• Blackpool Quality Business Initiative

to help improve businesses in

the visitor sector and attract new

investment into the resort core

• Creative industries starter incubator

facility

• Aviation and construction academies,

linked to the growth of Blackpool

Airport and the large-scale building

work of the regeneration programme

• Neighbourhood employment team

helping the longer-term unemployed

into jobs, or even their own business.


page_19

365

Light fantastic

One of the great traditions, and

spectacles, of Blackpool is the

Illuminations. From their beginnings in

1879, when eight arc lamps bathed

the promenade in ‘artificial sunshine’,

it’s now a £2.4 million show stretching

almost six miles, using 200 miles of

cable and wiring to light more than a

million lights of various shapes and

sizes, including 5,000 floodlights

and spotlights. Over 66 nights, 3.5

million visitors are drawn to see them,

spending more than £275 million.

It keeps 45 joiners, electricians and

engineers in employment year round,

and uses up 65,000 staff hours. Since

1999, the Illuminations have made a

massive 37% energy saving by using

low-voltage power and low-energy

lamps. Together with the two wind

turbines, the greatest free show on

earth could be carbon-neutral by 2010.

The Illuminations are undergoing

another sort of reinvention. The

Festival of Lights will this year

feature an exhibition, ‘Artificial

Sunshine’, on the history of the

Illuminations, a parade of hundreds

of lit-up motorcycles cruising down

the prom, and an artistic reinvention

of Thunderbird Three. For even more

culture, the Blackpool Culture Festival

in February is a showcase for artists to

display their work, from photography to

performing arts.

And, for the first time, a famous

designer will be involved in designing

the lights – in this case a quarter-mile

section near the tower. Laurence

Llewelyn-Bowen’s exact designs are

still under wraps, but no doubt his usual

flamboyance will shine through. “I’m

totally seduced by Blackpool’s historical

reputation for giddy glitz,” says Bowen.

For me, as a designer, this is the

ultimate in seeing my name, or at least

my design, up in lights.”

Of course, he’s not the only

celebrity involved in the lights. Ever

since they were first switched on

by Princess Louise, the turning

on ceremony has been a draw for

celebrities: this year it’s David Tennant

of Doctor Who fame, and star of the

BBC’s Blackpool series, doing the

honours.

It’s not just the Illuminations that have

drawn the crowds. Blackpool has

long been synonymous with fun and

excitement of all types, with its Pleasure

Beach, Golden Mile and events ranging

from air displays to jazz concerts. But

it’s not resting on its laurels. As part of

the bid to create a unique entertainment

experience, and to help increase yearround

activity, Visit Blackpool has won

a £3.5 million NWDA grant to support

a series of signature events over the

next three years., all designed to be

unique to Blackpool, and to build on its

strengths. They would fall under five

themes:

• Strictly Dance: Building on

Blackpool’s reputation for ballroom

dancing – the world championships

are held here every year – expanding

it into salsa, street, northern soul, etc

• Fire and light: To increase the

number of light-related festivals

through the winter, including those

for Diwali or the Chinese New Year

• Blackpool remembers: The town

has always had a reputation for

armed forces R&R. These events

would make it the centre for reunions,

and memorabilia.

• Magic and illusion: Building on

February’s magic conference, these

events would extend such events to

encompass burlesque, illusion, and

other branches of magic.

• Sport: With its miles of sand,

Blackpool would be the natural place

to be the centre of excellence of

beach sports, from volleyball to more

adreneline-fuelled activity. J

Above: Every year,

thousands of people

flock to see Blackpool’s

Iluminations turned on

by a celebrity du jour


What’s going on?

A guide to Blackpool’s main

development projects


Blackpool is a distinctive town with

magnificent character, and yet, in

recent decades, has struggled to

preserve this celebrated heritage.

Talbot Gateway, a new mixed-use

development, seeks to overturn

the trend of lost investments by

ambitiously restoring the area with

a sense of pride and place. The

development plans to transform

Blackpool into a visitor’s destination

that can be enjoyed by the area’s

unique and loyal community. The

Talbot Gateway team recognises

that in order for Blackpool to thrive,

change needs to occur.

As a means of staying competitive,

Talbot Gateway will increase the

town’s choice of jobs, housing,

environments, and local attractions.

The Blackpool Council and

ReBlackpool have formed ambitious

programs to reinvent the town.

These programs aim to transform

its image, build on its core strength,

and improve its offerings to

residents and visitors alike and will

once again make Blackpool a national

and international destination as well

as an outstanding place to live. In

conjunction with emerging projects

such as the Sea Front, Hounds Hill,

and the Conference and Casino

Quarter, Talbot Gateway presents

a genuinely fantastic and rare

opportunity to serve as a catalyst

for the town’s needed improvements.

After careful consideration of

Blackpool’s history and character,

we believe the proposed Talbot

Gateway development will create

a new civic and cultural heart for the

town and provide the necessary focus

for local residents to help restore

Blackpool as the principal destination

for the primary Fylde population.

Talbot Gateway will become the

place to live, work, rest and play—

a hub of activity helping to strengthen

and revitalise the town centre, and

trigger sustainable change well

beyond the Gateway’s boundaries.

For Development and Letting Enquiries:

Alan.Harris@montagu-evans.co.uk

Tel: 0161 235 6363

Tim.Claxton@dtz.com

Tel: 0161 236 9595


Another mixed-use

development by:

TALBOT

GATEWAY

Blackpool’s new mixed-use quarter


Sir Peter Hall

page_24

365


page_25

365

With 50 years’ planning experience,

former resident Sir Peter Hall is the

perfect person to drive Blackpool’s

regeneration programme forward,

says Julie Mackintosh

Friend reunited

School reunions are generally

acknowledged to be depressing

affairs. After all, time lends the sort of

enchantment to childhood memories

that’s probably best left undisturbed.

And who really wants to discover

their childhood sweetheart is married

to the (now millionaire) class bully?

Depressing indeed…

So it was that with rose tinted

glasses Sir Peter Hall travelled

northwards to attend Blackpool

Grammar’s class of 1948 reunion

almost a decade ago. “I was heading

back to the town of my youth – to

the seaside resort of the 1940s and

1950s,” remembers the ReBlackpool

chair. The reality of what he

encountered was shocking. Hall recalls

how he was “shattered” by how the

place had “declined since the golden

age of the British seaside”.

“The image issue is very

interesting,” he reflects. “While

millions of people have a sentimental

attachment to the town, the latter

day perception is pretty downmarket.”

Blackpool, Hall concedes, is primarily

perceived to be for older visitors and

stag or hen parties. “I think Blackpool

managed to beat off the challenge

of the sun until the 1980s, but now

we are also competing with the

phenomenon of city breaks both within

the UK and Europe.”

So, a decade ago, buoyed by

the get-together with his former

classmates (as it happens this trip

down memory lane was a resounding

success), Hall was imbued with a

desire to give something back to the

town – and it was here that fate took

hold. Back home in the South East, he

was about to throw a newspaper into

the rubbish bin at the local train station

when an advertisement caught his eye.

Sporting a picture of Blackpool Tower

the ad was inviting applications for the

post of regeneration company chair.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

As a veteran of the planning and

regeneration industry – he has been

an academic in the field since 1957

– how does Hall assess Blackpool’s

renaissance so far? “Our greatest

achievement to date has been to

select Muse Development as preferred

developer of the Talbot Gateway

project,” he says, pointing out that

construction of the £285 million

mixed-use scheme is about to get

under way. “And our Living Landmarks

initiative, which is set to transform the

seafront, has been shortlisted by the

Big Lottery Fund.”

It’s all part of a far-reaching

masterplan to turn the town into an

all-season resort drawing in a wide

range of visitors. That’s certainly how

Hall will measure success. “We must

attract investment that brings all-year,

all-market clientele to Blackpool. The

conference trade is vital and it does

exist but there’s still not nearly enough

business tourism.” What about the

leisure element? “Of course: leisure is

what Blackpool does, in the way that

engineering is what Preston does,”

he says. Entertainment choices

and retail experiences will

»

ReBlackpool

The regeneration company has a

12-strong board, led by Sir Peter,

backed by a committed team. Its

strategy can be summed up in

three statements:

Vision: a resort that is embracing

physical and spiritual change.

Goal: to create a year round

economy that delivers a total

experience, focused around quality

at all levels and at all scales; in

product, service and environment.

Imperative: to deliver an array

of world-class facilities that

can evolve and respond to the

dynamics of the leisure market.


Sir Peter Hall

page_26

365

feature heavily in Blackpool’s future

but housing will also have a strong role

to play. Hall finds the involvement of

English Partnerships in a potentially

major residential scheme particularly

encouraging.

It’s impossible to discuss the town’s

regeneration future without addressing

its failure to secure the super casino.

After all, most observers considered

Blackpool as the obvious right place.

On this subject, Hall talks with candour:

“Like everyone else we thought

Manchester had no case. I still find the

panel’s decision puzzling,” he says. A

casino is still likely to feature in future

plans for the old Central Station site,

which Hall says will be even better than

they originally foresaw.

Residents of the town took the

loss of the casino bid hard. “There is a

great deal of weariness and a blame

culture,” concedes Hall. “You have to

understand the psychology of living

in a seasonal seaside town. People

spend months waiting for visitors to

return, and it’s really imperative that

they do.”

This disappointment may well

have been at the root of the change

of council administration from Labour

to Conservative at the recent local

elections. Though, whatever the hue

of the local authority, ReBlackpool

will have a good relationship. “We’ve

always worked well with the council

and I’m confident this will continue.”

Hall has been in the regeneration

business for 50 years, latterly as

the chair of the Town and Country

Planning Association during the

1990s and as professor of planning

and regeneration at the Bartlett School

of Architecture, part of University

College London. So how does he

rate the development landscape of

today? “I wouldn’t like to say we have

a new wisdom that didn’t exist in the

1960s, but I don’t think we’ll see huge

mistakes on that scale again.” But, as

he points out, hasty judgements can’t

always be made about regeneration.

“The Millennium Dome has widely

been regarded as a white elephant,

but I think that time will see it become

a very successful entertainment

venue and tourist attraction, which will

ultimately see it judged a success.”

The physical business of

regenerating in Blackpool is a mixed

bag, with development on largely

derelict areas such as the station site

perceived to be “relatively easy”, while

effecting change in built-up areas

significantly more problematic. Perhaps

unsurprisingly, sharply focused CPO

powers would be on Hall’s wishlist,

as would more money for transport

investment.

Overall, however, the ReBlackpool

chair is resolutely positive about

Blackpool’s future. “This town has such

a special place in so many people’s

hearts. ReBlackpool is committed to

creating a better future for the town,

and there is the drive and energy to

deliver it.” J

curriculum

vitae

Professor Peter Hall is currently

professor of planning and

regeneration at the Bartlett School

of Architecture and Planning,

University College London, and

senior research fellow at the Young

Foundation. From 1991‐94 he

was special adviser on strategic

planning to the Secretary of State

for the Environment, with a remit

including the Thames Gateway and

the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. From

1998-99 he was a member of the

Deputy Prime Minister’s Urban Task

Force, which reported in June 1999,

and in 2006 he was a member of

the expert advisory committee to

the Barker Review of the planning

system.

He holds a masters and PhD in

geography from the University of

Cambridge, and has taught at the

London School of Economics, the

University of Reading, and University

of California at Berkeley, where he

Sir Peter Hall

has high hopes for

his home town of

Blackpool

is now professor emeritus of city

and regional planning. He holds 14

honorary doctorates from universities

in the UK, Sweden and Canada.

He is author or editor of more

than 35 books on urban and regional

planning and related topics, and is

an honorary member of the Royal

Town Planning Institute, an honorary

fellow of the Royal Institute of British

Architects, a fellow of the British

Academy and a member of the

Academia Europea. He was knighted

in 1998 for services to the Town and

Country Planning Association, and

in 2003 was named by Her Majesty

Queen Elizabeth II as a ‘Pioneer in

the Life of the Nation’.


Seafront regeneration

page_28

365

The subtle decline of England’s coastal towns has been

the subject of much debate, but the sands are slowly

shifting in their favour, as Alison Jones discovers

Turning the tide

The sunshine enjoyed by English folk

in recent summers – though it may

be hard to remember in this year’s

deluge – has done more than just

redden the cheeks of mad dogs and

Englishmen. The trend towards soaring

temperatures may well have heralded a

new dawn for English coastal towns.

With above average temperatures

for the ninth summer in a row – plus

environmental concerns, anxiety about

terrorist threats and a heavy dose of

nostalgic 30-something parents all

keen to relive childhood memories

involving buckets and spades, rock

pooling and ice cream – for the

first time in a generation British

holidaymakers are coming back to the

traditional seaside towns.

And it’s about time too. Cheap

flights and package holidays have

meant that coastal towns have been

struggling over the past 20 years

to compete with the guaranteed

sunshine, high quality and low prices

that a trip to the Costas can bring.

It’s all a far cry from the 1930s, when

more than 15 million Britons took

their annual holiday at English seaside

towns. While their popularity continued

through the next three or four decades,

by 1999 only 44% of seaside holidays

were taken at home.

While the tide is beginning to turn

– a combination of hotter summers,

the increasing appeal of the country’s

regenerating cities, and the ‘Islington

on Sea’ effect of a few niche resorts

is attracting more and more people

for seaside trips (recent research from

YouGov shows that 25 million people

spent at least one night at the seaside

in 2005) – coastal resorts need to rely

on more than just day-trippers and

short stays to sustain their economies.

To maintain income all year long, longterm

regeneration plans are vital.

After their decades of decline, the

43 coastal towns in England have

suffered deprivation, with problems of

transience, poor transport networks

and inadequate housing, highlighted

in a report by the Department of

Communities and Local Government

Committee (DCLG) in March 2007.

English Heritage and CABE have

also reported similar problems for

coastal towns. Their Sea Changes

report, published in 2001, stated

that the difficulties experienced by

coastal towns were similar to those

of inner cities, with high levels of

unemployment and benefit claims,

poor education and low income. Indeed

in the 1980s places like Hastings in

East Sussex earned nicknames such

as ‘Costa del dole’ as its seafront

B&Bs switched from accommodating

holidaying families to housing DSS

tenants.

As coastal towns tend to be popular

relocation destinations, they can suffer

from disproportionate in-migration

(with former holiday accommodation

well suited to non-employed housing

benefit claimants) and, conversely, the

migration of young local people unable

to find permanent jobs and affordable

housing.

Their future depends on a

sustainable year-round economy

providing better-paid employment and

a full-time community that attracts

new business and provides new jobs.

The DCLG report recognises that

as it would be difficult to adapt

»

Blackpool seafront,

and tower, in the

town’s heyday


page_29

365


page_31

365

a national strategy to the diverse

problems faced by coastal towns,

there needs to be greater government

understanding and appreciation of

their needs, such as, for example,

their often geographically isolated

location at the end of transport

networks, making it difficult to attract

new business to the area and thus

hampering the economy. The report

also suggests establishing a network

to extend the use of best practice

in coastal town regeneration and

a national advertising campaign

promoting the English seaside as a

tourist destination.

To create new coastal destinations

that will attract the investors and

businesses needed to establish a

sustainable 12-month economy,

the report emphasises the need

for regeneration to be for living

communities – places people want to

live and work – as these will be places

that also attract visitors.

This is something that a town like

Blackpool – surely the archetypal

seaside town – can certainly relate to.

“One of Blackpool’s major issues is the

need for a more balanced community,”

explains Paul Spooner, English

Partnership’s regional director of the

North West and West Midlands. “We

need to attract more owner-occupiers

and first-time buyers. The whole area

is being smartened up and we want to

support that work with improvements

in housing stock to encourage people

to the area.”

“The problems associated with

seaside resorts are exaggerated in

Blackpool because of its size,” admits

Reg Haslam, director of development

at ReBlackpool. “We have an enormous

stock of holiday accommodation, and a

great chunk of the seafront dedicated

to tourism, a role now in decline.

We’re focusing major investment on

accommodation both for tourists and

residents. A change in the housing

tenure should help to create a healthy

community.”

While tourism accounts for 85% of

Blackpool’s economy, its regeneration

programme will also develop other

sides of its economy, as well as turning

the resort into a year-round destination.

The vision being advanced in

Blackpool – to become a modern

resort offering world-class standards in

conferences, entertainment, retail and

nightlife – must happen as wholesale

change if Blackpool is to succeed.

And while certain aspects of the

town’s bold and slightly risqué image

must be retained, it needs to lose the

cheap and cheerful, tawdry aspects.

The Northwest Regional Development

Agency is working closely with

ReBlackpool on its vision to create

a year-round economy focused on

quality at all levels and at all scales of

product, environment and service.

In its 2003 report, A New Vision

for North West Coastal Resorts, the

NWDA found that most seaside towns

in the region were placing too much

emphasis on tourism as a catalyst

for regeneration. Because of the

long-term downward trend in tourism,

many towns have begun to re-invent

themselves, inspired by other oneindustry

towns, such as former mining

communities.

The one exception was Blackpool:

the report reckoned it will be able

to sustain the tourism base to its

economy. It does need to diversify

its offer, however, while building

on its strengths. Spooner explains:

“Blackpool has a very coherent

masterplan for the development and

growth of the town centre, and we’re

keen to play our part in unlocking that

potential. It is important to stimulate

the economy and attract people to

live and work in Blackpool – it is a

pleasant and improving environment

for relocation.”

Ian Whittaker, NWDA policy and

partnerships manager for Lancashire,

adds: “It is imperative to deliver a range

of world-class facilities that respond

to the dynamics of the leisure market,

while delivering unparalleled economic

and social improvements to the

residents of Blackpool.”

Other coastal towns could learn

from Blackpool’s long-term vision, and

dedication. As Spooner says: “English

Partnerships is investing directly and

indirectly to help Blackpool improve its

offer, as we recognise the economy is

changing. There is a need to support

regeneration led by local people and

partnerships.”

The redevelopment programme

in Blackpool is the product of wide,

intense and long-term consultation

with the public, which is key to its

long-term success, explains Haslam.

“There is an appetite for radical

change and we’re taking the lead in

a whole range of areas,” he says. “We

recognise that the answers to local

problems don’t lie in the minds of

politicians, they lie in the hearts and

minds of local people.”

»


Seafront regeneration

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365

Blackpool’s

regeneration is well

and truly under way,

with signs of new life

all along the sea front.

Blackpool’s plan – of reinventing

the British seafront to create a

place that fits today and tomorrow’s

lifestyles’ – is a ‘bold and ambitious

target’, according to Shifting Sands,

another report by English Heritage

and CABE, which examined the steps

seaside towns are taking to address

their problems. The report says that

there are encouraging signs that the

English coastline is at the beginning of

a ‘new era of imagination’.

Importantly, this report

acknowledges the huge contribution

that seaside resorts have made to the

country’s cultural identity and heritage.

“Coastal towns are now reinventing

themselves with ‘flair and imagination’,”

it says, “designing new high-quality

buildings and open spaces using the

‘bold ideas, outstanding initiative and

good design’ that characterised the

resorts in their heyday.”

It seems the pioneering spirit that

created Blackpool and epitomises

English seaside resorts – from the

18th century days of ‘taking the air’

to today’s terrifying rollercoasters

– is alive and kicking. It’s now just a

matter of finding new and innovative

ways to capture people’s imagination

– something that seaside towns have

always done so magnificently well. J


Business case study

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365

The new Blackpool needs a diverse, competitive and

healthy year-round economy. Kirsty MacAulay finds

out what is drawing new businesses here, and how the

town can do even better

Brisk business

Number One

Claire and Mark Smith set up

Blackpool’s only five-star B&B in

2004, and a mere two years later won

the 2006 Enjoy England B&B of the

year award. With a family tradition of

running guesthouses – Mark’s parents

and grandparents were in the business

– it’s not surprising that the Smiths

have had such success. They are in the

process of setting up a second hotel to

open later this year.

They first decided to set up

a top-quality B&B after noticing

an imbalance in the type of

accommodation available. Claire

explains: “Blackpool is moving on, and

we felt the level of accommodation

needed to move with it. We believe

Number One is a reflection of what’s

happening in the town.

“Blackpool is well on its way up. But

it’s a such a town of contrasts – there

are pockets of real joy but we need to

attract private investment. It is a very

exciting time to be here, and there’s a

definite buzz about the place again.

“When we started out there was

very little support available for small

businesses like us. We used to make it

up as we went along, but the support

now is absolutely fabulous. All the

agencies are linked so you only need

to make one phone call. I really believe

that if you want to succeed here there

is no excuse.”

Left: Number

One’s top quality

accommodation has

been a big hit


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365

The Big Blue Hotel

The Big Blue Hotel was established

four years ago by Blackpool Pleasure

Beach to fill a gap in the market. David

Cam, director of the Pleasure Beach,

explains. “The one thing Blackpool

is missing is enough hotel rooms to

satisfy 21st century demands. People

have high standards now and expect

modern, purpose-built hotel rooms with

en-suite bathroom, which Blackpool

was lacking. We were hoping investors

would come in and lead the way and

eventually thought, if nobody else is

going to do it why don’t we.” Two thirds

of the rooms in the hotel are family

rooms at prices families can afford.

The hotel was an immediate hit,

and within a year of opening a 40-bed

extension was planned. The Pleasure

Beach attracts business tourism out

of season, with its large halls and

auditoriums offering both space for

exhibitions and conferences and

evening entertainment for delegates,

providing a complete package.

The Big Blue Hotel has won several

awards, including Blackpool Innovation

of the Year in 2003, Blackpool and

Lancashire’s large hotel of the year in

2004/5 and 2006/7, and a nomination

for Trip Advisor’s best family hotel in

Europe 2006.

David enthuses: “We want people

to try and steal our crown. Blackpool is

a good place to set up a business, so

we’re busy telling people what we’ve

done and how profitable it has been to

encourage them to join us. The sooner

people start building the better –

we want to be surrounded by highquality

hotels.”

Above: The Big Blue

Hotel sits in the

shadow of Europe’s

tallest rollercoaster

The Federation of

Small Businesses

At its 1974 inception, in Blackpool,

the Federation of Small Businesses

had just five members. Today it has

200,000 and is the largest business

organisation in the UK. Blackpool

is still home to the federation’s

headquarters and 1,200 of its

members.

Tourism accounts for 80% of the

federation’s members, but Steve Pye,

chairman of the Blackpool branch,

claims the emphasis is changing.

“Although the casino chapter might be

closing, another is opening: the airport

is expanding dramatically and the

local football team has been promoted

to the Championship – all of these

things can drive the economy. We’re

actively approaching people who

might want to be involved in the

revival of Blackpool.”

Pye claims the regeneration

programme will attract lots of

investment to the town and plenty of

diverse businesses.

He suggests that those considering

setting up a business in Blackpool

“do their homework and test the

marketplace”, but assures them that

this is the home of the entrepreneur.

“Blackpool has a history and tradition

of being an entrepreneurial town,

several of them are now multimillionaires.

“Today there is plenty of information

out there to help – it is just a case of

getting it across to the right audience.

A business advice fair was held last

year to show people how easy it could

be to start up a business or expand

an existing one, and Blackpool’s local

strategic partnership is at the forefront

of its bid to encourage new business

providing input from across the

spectrum.”

»


Business case study

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365

Funny Girls

Above: The lavish

interior design of the

Funny Girls venue

is equalled by the

glamourous outfits

and outrageous shows

Basil Newby created In the Pink

entertainment in 1979, then, in 1994,

when Blackpool was still a major venue

on the live entertainment circuit, set up

Funny Girls cabaret show. “Big names

used to come and play Blackpool at

the height of their career,” he says.

“People like Tom Jones and Shirley

Bassey. Now they only play here at the

end of their career. It’s not the same.”

Although tourism has changed

dramatically since he started the

company, Newby still believes

Blackpool has what it takes to

succeed. “The casino plans were great.

This place would be like Las Vegas

on heat with a casino: where else in

the UK could you have that but in

Blackpool? I feel very positive about

the town’s future, things are slowly

happening, and parts of the town look

fantastic, although until it’s complete it

does makes the rest of the town look

like the poor sisters.”

Newby claims that running a

business in Blackpool is easy, as the

council is very pro new business,

and he hopes new investors will

be committed to the town. “I would

recommend Blackpool as a destination

for new businesses. We’re really on the

brink of something big here with the

regeneration plans – it’s definitely a

good place to invest.”

The regeneration programme

recognises the need to both

stimulate new business and

develop existing companies.

Local initiatives include the

creation of a £2.8 million

Enterprise Centre to provide

incubator accommodation

for new companies,

development of the business

park and technology park to

foster economic diversity, and

the council’s enterprise and

business development

division, which encourages

growth and continued

investment in the town.


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365

Parkinson Building Contractors

Tangerine Confectionery

A series of acquisitions led to

the establishment of Tangerine

Confectionery in 2006. With sites in

Poole and Liverpool, it has retained

its headquarters and two factories in

Blackpool. Non-executive chairman

Chris Marshall explains: “We never

considered moving our base from

Blackpool – we need to maintain our

employees and their expertise.

“I’ve been really impressed with

the attitude to work here. People

are remarkably straightforward and

honest; it is a pleasure working with

them. I would recommend Blackpool

as a business location, it has a stable

workforce and a great atmosphere. I’ve

fallen in love with the town.

“Blackpool is in need of inward

investment and a bit of TLC. Most of

all it needs people to prove their faith

by putting their hands in their pockets.

The town needs new money.”

One major advantage, according to

Marshall, is the transport network. “The

M55 takes you out of town straight

to where you want to go. Considering

it’s on the coast it is remarkably

well-linked, the distribution system is

excellent.”

Although they have had little

dealings with the town’s business

initiatives Marshall hopes that as the

company settle into the Blackpool

scene they might work together with

the council and other agencies.

Below: Parkinsons

constructed Blackpool’s

Devonshire Road

Exemplar school

Parkinson Building Contractors was

set up in 1934 as a local family

business. Since then, the company has

grown extensively with a turnover of

£30 million, employing 130 people in

Blackpool, with construction centres

in York and Bury. The company is

constructing the new Enterprise

Centre, due for completion in July, to

provide ongoing support, advice and

information for new businesses.

Managing director Peter Glenn

claims that Blackpool has plenty to

offer businesses relocating or setting

up in the town. “There is a large and

readily available labour market that

you wouldn’t find in many other towns,

it also has good communications

systems and transport routes and lots

of initiatives to help local businesses.

“Blackpool has a fantastic future.

Our roots are firmly laid here, and we

intend to maintain them and be a part

of the regeneration of the town.”

There are several good initiatives

to help local businesses, claims

Glenn. “Blackpool has more to offer

than just the seafront. Things do

need to change, and a lot of people

are passionate about making the

regeneration work. We need a positive

step forward, and the Local Enterprise

Growth Initiative will kick-start people

to realise the opportunities available.”


Contact

page_38

365

For more on Blackpool’s regeneration, contact Kate Staley at ReBlackpool on 01253 478928


Are you helping to

transform Blackpool?

Make sure everyone knows.

Use 365 magazine to promote your company and its work to

more than 35,000 regeneration professionals.

Contact Lee Harrison 020 7978 6840.


Revitalising the economy in Blackpool

The Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) is working in

partnership to strengthen the economic development of Blackpool by:

• Investing nearly £60 million in Blackpool over the next 3 years, working with ReBlackpool, the Urban

Regeneration Company.

• Helping to deliver the Blackpool Masterplan which will see the construction of major developments

including the Talbot Gateway, a £230 million scheme to re-establish the town as a first choice retail, business,

civic and cultural centre.

• Regenerating the Central Seafront with a £12 million investment as part of a comprehensive £73 million coastal

protection scheme.

• Supporting the development of a Conference and Leisure Quarter, providing space for a major new visitor attraction

for the town.

• Establishing a regeneration taskforce for the town, with a clear focus on examining the economic, social and

environmental development plans for the area.

For further details please contact 01925 400 100

or visit www.nwda.co.uk or

www.englandsnorthwest.com

NWDA H7-07

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