A six week consultation on the name of a new Blackpool school will be launched this week – and will give hope to campaigners urging it to be called after football legend Jimmy Armfield.
Following a groundswell of public opinion, the Fylde Coast Academy Trust (FCAT) will ask residents to choose either the Avenue Academy or the Armfield Academy in a questionnaire set to go live on its website.
The group, set to open an all-through school on the site of the former Arnold school in Lytham Road, South Shore, next year, initially rejected calls to honour the former Pool captain and World Cup winner.
But it softened its stance and listening to the community after former resort mayor Robert Wynne launched a petition, which was signed by hundreds of people and backed officially by the Seasiders.
The questionnaire, which will only be available online, will go live after FCAT bosses meet later tomorrow, and will ask residents which name they prefer.
Although Mr Wynne’s petition has proven pivotal in urging an FCAT rethink, those who have signed it will have to take the questionnaire to have their views considered, it is understood.
Whichever answer gets the most votes will win, and a decision will have been made by the time FCAT hosts public consultations in the town. A previous consultation did ask residents to suggest a name, though the Armfield Academy was not one of those put forward.
The Avenue Academy was chosen because it ‘relates well to the number of roads in the area with avenue in their name’, FCAT’s since retired chief executive officer Felicity Greeves told The Gazette in October.
Her replacement Tony Nicolson later said that, while the trust was ‘mindful’ of Arnold’s heritage – Jimmy is a former pupil – it ‘felt a new beginning was needed in line with our key objectives’.
However, they have now expressed a willingness to honour the 81-year-old World Cup winner and former Pool captain, who was recently diagnosed with cancer for a second time, for his contributions to the town
A spokesman for Blackpool FC said: “Armfield, the only living Freeman of the Borough of Blackpool, was a distinguished pupil of the former school and has worked tirelessly in education, welfare and for various charitable causes.
“He is a President for Trinity Hospice and Age UK, Blackpool, an Altogether Now ambassador for mental health and wellbeing, and chairman of the Lancashire Partnership against Crime.
“Capped 43 times for England during his playing career, Armfield is Blackpool Football Club’s record appearance holder who has a statue and a stand in his name at Bloomfield Road.
“He continues to live in South Shore and remains an inspirational figure for people in the town.”
John Topping, FCAT’s community relations and estates lead, said: “We are very pleased that the groundwell of public opinion, brought to our attention by The Gazette, has facilitated the revisiting of the consultation process.”