Look At It This Way - October 3, 2014

Photo Neil Cross'Blackpool International Airport, Blackpool
Photo Neil Cross'Blackpool International Airport, Blackpool
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I make no apology for returning to the subject of Blackpool Airport for the second time in four weeks.

I like Blackpool Airport. I don’t want to see all that aviation history hived off for yet more housing. I use it two or three times a year – and don’t begrudge the airport development tax.

I also use Liverpool airport, which may make a modest profit but still carries huge debts. Manchester is bloated on its own self-importance and has a glut of low-cost operators, which makes it a far less enjoyable experience. Marginal airports such as Blackpool provide a pleasant and environmentally friendly alternative to regional superhubs. It also offers excellent all-year flying.

Sentiment alone can’t keep the airport aloft. Others have closed across the country, with more to come. The recession played its part, along with decades of neglect by successive governments who indulged the inflated egos of southern air hubs while Boris played fantasy island with his Lego airport. And why did I get passed a free Manchester 2014 Labour bag at the conference last week plugging a runway for Gatwick? Stick Gatwick.

I’d love to see investment in air, as we have in the multi-billion HS2, which will provide a handful of stops in the North. If I was Blackpool Council or Balfour Beatty I’d hammer at the door of Simon Rigby, the magnate who wanted to save Preston Bus Station and ended up with the Guild Hall. Or I’d go to see Stephen de Nardo, the American (Riveroak) investor who wanted to save Manston airport in Kent, and say fancy your chances in Blackpool? Three bids were shot down in flames, including one for £5m just before Manston closed.

Riveroak wanted to keep it open as a cargo airport, a Sky Port and integrated aviation services hub, with passengers following in 2017.

Rather like bingo at the Grand, which kept it going until theatre came back – anything that keeps our airport an airport is a good thing. Once it’s gone it’s gone, and if there isn’t a viable catalyst to economic regeneration in its place, rather than yet more housing or a superstore.

We may as well turn the town into a cul-de-sac and invite street artists to paint over the international airport sign.

Blackpool’s track record on transport of any kind isn’t great. We may be at the seaside, but we’re not a port, so escape by sea is not an option. We have trams that are a credit to the town but neighbouring pensioners are charged to use them.

We have a road network that makes us wish the Romans, rather than the Victorians, had fallen under Blackpool’s spell. Motorway works are timed for the height of the Lights. Yeadon Way is about to close for six months for remedial work.

We finally have a direct rail link to London thanks to campaigners – such as The Gazette – but you have to wake with the larks to catch it at 5.25am, and then board it again eight hours after arriving. No time to catch Wicked at the Apollo, even the matinee. You could do a spot of Christmas shopping if you can stay awake. Use it or lose it, say rail chiefs. Easy for them to say.

We have used Blackpool Airport. And I suspect Blackpool Airport has used us a little too – with regard to the development fee.

But it’s been badly served by others.

A slipped disc leaves me feeling insecure

Security blankets take different forms. Mine’s a car tax disc.

It used to be a full coal bunker, back in the days when we were skint.

A full coal bunker meant warmth. And the warmth extended up the chimney into the little box seat in the bedroom above – more reliable than central heating.

A full food cupboard was another.

During the bedsit years, I was so hard up I’d walk eight miles home in order to sneak a few cans of beans and some spuds out.

My mother was on to me of course. She used to order extra and leave them strategically placed.

Security blankets are now the council tax bill paid, annual house insurance, pre-paid seasonal prescription ticket – and my car tax disc.

Remember that feeling at school of opening a new essay book for the first time?

That’s how I felt when I slipped my new disc into the plastic holder.

I felt bereft removing it. My car feels empty without it, my windscreen bare. So I’d quite like the council to come up with a replacement – a little disc that says “my council tax pays for the Lights” for me to flash at Illuminations fund collectors.