When is a holiday zone not a holiday zone?
Four hundred petitioners reckon they have the answer.
When Blackpool Council says it’s not.
Eighteen months on tourism traders are still smarting from the local authority’s decision to exclude a sizeable chunk of South Shore – along with other areas closer to the town centre – from the officially designated holiday zone.
A triangle of streets, Station Road, Withnell Road and Osborne Road, have been out in the cold since 2010.
The controversial shake up, to reduce the resort’s “over supply” of holiday accommodation, turned stretches of the roads between Bond Street and Lytham Road into mixed residential neighbourhoods. The other side, between Bond Street and the Promenade retains protected tourism zone status.
Business owners say hit and miss zoning is blighting the area – and trade for all. Four hundred traders are now petitioning Blackpool Council to revise its policy and reinstate holiday zone status.
Gill Wilson, of the Keighley House Hotel, Withnell Road, says: “Everyone should be entitled to the same. House prices here have gone down by at least 25 per cent because we are not in the holiday zone.
“A 21-bed hotel on this road went for just £53,000 at auction, it’s so unfair. HMOs and holiday makers don’t mix.”
Yet, short of the Tower Circus band playing We Do Like To Be Beside the Seaside – the area concerned couldn’t seem more “holiday zone” if it tried. And it is trying.
The streets are lined with guesthouses, “beach” markets, cafes, ice cream sellers, gift shops.
A closer look reveals some are struggling. “Today’s room rate £12.” “Overnight guests welcome.” “Contractors accepted.” “Vacancies.” Growing DSS trade is evident too.
So is it a holiday zone?
Depends on where you stand.
One end of Station Road faces South Pier. You can hear shrieks of delight from Pleasure Beach thrill seekers. That’s in the tourism belt proper.
At the other end – beyond the zone – the day trippers strolling through, along with the longer stay visitors heading for hotels or holiday flats, have opted to park on Europe’s largest outdoor car park.
The visitors are baffled by the exclusion of parts of the area as a holiday zone.
“It couldn’t be more holiday zone if it tried,” says Iain Sinnett, who’s staying at Windsor Holiday Flats on Withnell Road.
He’s brought daughter Molly, five, along for her first taste of Blackpool. “Our aim was to have a traditional seaside holiday,” says Iain. “And that’s just what we’re enjoying. My mum comes every year and stays here. She’s here with us along with a childhood friend of mine. It’s good value for the flats although pricy when you add the extras on.
“The resort should try to win families back. I arrived on Saturday and there were lads falling over drunk, stripping off, bad language. It’s not so bad in this area.”
Iain, a Scot, now lives and works in Sweden, added: “It’s a bit of a culture shock coming here.”
But Molly is enjoying the experience. “Blackpool’s fun,” she declares.
At The Shepperton Hotel, on neighbouring Station Road, there’s a rare No Vacancies sign – in the tourism exclusion zone.
Geoff Harvey, landlord for 11 years, has just finished breakfast for guests, assisted by Jayne Oaslin, 23. He’s incensed by the holiday zone exclusion. “It doesn’t protect us. I’d say we have half and half now, tourism and other elements. They didn’t put a cap on HMOs but this is a holiday zone, or should be.
“We’re five minutes from the seashore, five minutes from the biggest attraction in Blackpool, the Pleasure Beach, yet the council has ostracised us, discarded us. It’s blighting the area and bringing property values down too.”
Jayne adds: “I don’t get it myself. How can this not be a holiday zone? I’ve lived in Blackpool all my life. Visitors coming for the Pleasure Beach would rather stay here than the other side of town.”
Holidaymakers Mary and Steve Wilkie and son Jack, 12, agree. “Blackpool needs to make up its mind what it wants to be,” says Mary. “This is clearly a tourist zone but it’s one that needs help.”
Gift shop owner Thomas Kennedy sells rock, candy floss and other souvenirs on Station Road, in sight of a brown “tourist information” sign and sound of the Pleasure Beach.
“How can this be a holiday zone and the other end isn’t? It’s all a holiday zone. It’s as Blackpool as the rock I sell.
“This area needs more investment. It needs a sensible approach.”
Hair stylist Rachael Beastow has run a salon on Station Road for 15 years.
“For the last three I’ve traded alongside a burned out site and just wish the council would do more to get that moved on.
“If I messed up on a client’s hair I’d have to accept responsibility but the council doesn’t.
“One of its biggest mistakes was the one way traffic system at Bond Street – it nearly killed the area.
“I don’t much care one way of the other whether this is a tourist zone or not. It’s a double edged sword. It can protect some, and prevent others who want to get out.
“Let’s face it, the heyday of Blackpool is over.
“I get about 12 tourists coming in through the season and saying see you next year. The bulk of my trade is local. I prefer it that way.”