Blackpool’s bid to carve out a brighter future by building on its rich past was today backed by one of the country’s top heritage custodians.
Chief executive of English Heritage Dr Simon Thurley told a national conference at the Winter Gardens while seaside towns had suffered some of the worst deprivations as a result of the recession, they remained at the “core of the identity of England.”
His comments came as a leading businessman called for Blackpool to make more of its heritage in order to boost visitor numbers to the town.
Stephen Pierre, owner of the Galleon Bar in Abingdon Street, said: “We can no longer rely on trade from June to October like in our heyday and this could help to give the town an all-year-round economy.”
Around 100 delegates attended the conference which also saw the launch of a new book ‘Blackpool’s Seaside Heritage”.
Dr Thurley told The Gazette: “Anyone who disparages Blackpool is out of their mind because Blackpool has a fantastic heritage and arguably it is the world’s greatest seaside town.
“The buildings in it are some of the most special buildings ever built for the entertainment industry and when they were building Disney World in the 1950s, the designers of that came to Blackpool to see what was happening here.
“The council is doing a fantastic job in nurturing and protecting its buildings and we were delighted when the council bought the Winter Gardens and The Tower.
“Iconic is a word which is used too much, but the Winter Gardens is an iconic building.”
Mr Pierre, who is planning to offer heritage talks for school pupils at the new Galleon Coffee Shop he is opening on April 5, believes there is potential for heritage to help boost visitor numbers.
He said: “You get schools from down south coming up to Salford to visit the Imperial War Museum but we have the Tower Ballroom, the Grand Theatre and attractions like Blackpool Tower, plus we have the added attractions of the sea, piers and Pleasure Beach.
“There is a lot of history here but I don’t think Blackpool makes enough of it with things like heritage tours and weekends, school visits, rides on vintage trams and tram simulators.”
He added: “All this heritage could be worth millions if you factor in the knock-on effect in terms of spending in B&Bs, bars and other businesses.
“Blackpool is missing a massive opportunity at the moment.”
The council is hoping to bid for £3m from the Lottery Heritage Fund for a museum inside the Winter Gardens, which would tell the history of the resort.
Council chief executive Neil Jack said he expected to hear in June whether an initial bid for funding to develop the main bid had been successful.
He told the conference, heritage was a priority.
Mr Jack said: “Our heritage is an enormous part of what we are about and forms a big part of what we are trying to do in the town.
“We are trying to make it part of what makes Blackpool special and draws people here from all around the country.”
He added: “We want to be a town that is fit for its future but doesn’t forget its past.”
Referring to the book launch, he said: “This kind of recognition isn’t just important locally, but it is also important to enhance the town’s image and credibility on a national stage.”