‘My town needs mending’

Run down buildings are damaging Blackpool's appeal, it has been claimed.
Run down buildings are damaging Blackpool's appeal, it has been claimed.
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Blackpool is losing its lustre.

That is the claim from campaigners who have slammed the council for neglecting vital areas of the town.

And the main focus of their anger is Festival House on the Promenade which is already rusting just two years after opening.

A once shiny plaque commemorating its official launch by Prince Edward in February 2012 as part of celebrations to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is now almost illegible due to rust.

Shirley Matthews, who is a tourism ambassador for Blackpool and has helped restore Little Marton Windmill, claims many areas have been neglected.

Mrs Matthews said: “As a sandgrown’un and proud of it I am horrified at the general run down state of some of Blackpool’s buildings.

“I had friends over from Australia and after they went to see the famous Golden Mile, and saw its run down appearance they did not venture further into the town.

“To visitors what an eyesore they see with tacky souvenir shops or stalls and a jumble of run down hotels.

“Not all I add, but unfair to those well run establishments whose bread and butter trade it is.

“The main artery into town, Central Drive, has its dilapidated shop fronts and Talbot Road leading to the new glass state of the art buildings is crying out for some attention.

“St John’s Square is still a no man’s land without a seating area and a little greenery and the Wedding Chapel is now losing its golden facade with areas of rust.

“Blackpool is renowned for its sea, sands, and shops and its famous B&B’s so why is there well run establishments who find themselves next to rotting properties with absent landlords.

“My town needs mending from the bottom up.”

Town centre businessman Stephen Pierre, who owns the Galleon Bar and the Galleon Coffee Bar, said: “People don’t want to invest when there are so many boarded up properties.

“No-one wants to open a nice boutique-style business next to a rat infested eyesore.

“But I think a lot of the problems are down to high business rates. People cannot afford them and so properties get neglected.”

Community activist Bruce Allen, of Mereside Residents Association, said; “It’s terrible that Festival House has gone rusty - the plaque was meant to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee.

“This council gets the money for schemes and does the job but then walks away from it without carrying out any maintenance.

“The Festival House is on the seafront and was always going to be affected by the salty air.”

Blackpool Council says it will replace the plaque.

Alan Cavill, assistant chief executive for tourism and regeneration, said: “Festival House has been a real success story for Blackpool with more than 700 ceremonies taking place in the two years since it opened.

“As you would expect with any building at such a location, it has been designed and engineereed to account for weathering and the conditions that come with the seafront, is made from self cleaning materials and is expected to have a mutli-coloured hue.

“We do, however, understand Ms Matthews’ point regarding the plaque and it will be being replaced soon.”

Chief executive Neil Jack also defended the council’s record on looking after the town.

He said: “A huge amount of work has been done to improve Blackpool’s built environment over the last few years and it is disappointing people are focusing on negatives rather than celebrating the positives.

“Since the purchase of The Blackpool Tower and the Winter Gardens in 2010, millions of pounds worth of heritage and conservation work has been taking place to protect the town’s most famous assets.

“Blackpool Council has spent £30m in tackling potholes to protect drivers and the taxpayer from claims while a massive project to upgrade all streetlights and traffic lights in the borough is continuing.

“There is the new Talbot Gateway Central Business District which has already completely transformed a rundown area of town into a modern, progressive area which is ripe for investment and when it comes to making the area greener, “Blackpool Council has planted around 5,000 trees throughout the borough in street and woodland projects as part of our partnership with Global Renewables.

“The Promenade is also a significantly greener place; work which was part of the multi-million pound sea defences which are protecting thousands more homes from flooding.

“Improving Blackpool is a never ending task and a massive challenge which we relish, however, it would be made much easier if everyone pulled in a positive direction and talked the town up rather than down.

“It is also important to say that, while we are doing everything we can, we need the private sector to share in the drive to improve and invest to make Blackpool an increasingly attractive and modern place.”