6,000 iconic deckchairs sold off

Crowded beach
Crowded beach
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They are as much a part of Blackpool as rock and fish and chips.

And there was once a time when the resort’s beaches were crammed with people sitting in deckchairs to enjoy the sun. But now town hall bosses claim demand for the loungers has dropped off so much the council has revealed it has sold off its entire stock of 6,000 to a private company.

Entrepreneur Maria Hopwood has bought them and plans to restore the canvas beach furniture which she will hire out or sell.

Her Chester-based company Deckchairstripes has invested more than £25,000 into the venture which includes acquiring additional storage space, spelling the end of deckchairs on Blackpool beach.

But today traders, residents and tourists on Blackpool seafront said the news was a “shame” – and the sale of the “iconic” chairs spelt the end of part of the resort’s proud heritage.

Holidaymaker David Eccles, 56, from Wigan, who was enjoying the sun near The Tower over the weekend, said: “It seems like a stupid idea to get rid of them.

“Years and years ago this part of the Promenade didn’t used to be here and there seems to be less beach these days.

“When I was a child the first thing my mum and dad did when we came to Blackpool was to get a deckchair, but that seems to be a thing of the past now.

“I don’t know why the council would want to get rid of their deckchairs, but it seems fewer people use them, and that’s a sign of the times.”

Lawrence and Suzanne Lally, both 68, from Warrington, have fond memories of a Blackpool’s deckchairs.

Mrs Lally said: “Deckchairs are a nostalgic part of Blackpool.

“When we were courting we came on a work trip and sat on a the beach on a deck chair.

“We’ve been coming here all our lives, but we remember coming here as children and there was always a sea of deckchairs.”

Mr Lally added: “I came to sit on these benches on the Comedy Carpet and I thought to myself it would have been a lot better if there had been a line of deckchairs, because there’s not a lot of seats around.”

And Judith Tunnicliffe, 58, from Leeds, added: “It’s a shame because they are an iconic part of Blackpool.

“But the improvements along the Promenade have given people more choice when it comes to seating.”

Promenade trader Paul Carpenter, 48, owner of Rock and Gift Shop, said: “When I was a kid I used to see deckchairs on the beach for miles, and Blackpool is famous for that, so it’s sad.

“They’ve taken away a bit of the heritage.”

Collette Campbell, of Gifts Galore, added: “They will be missed.

“It’s a beautiful day today and they would all have been rented out if they were here.

“They still need a few because there’s not enough seating on the Prom.”

A thousand windbreakers and 150 ticket machines have also been bought from the council.

Maria said: “Heritage Deckchair Hire was borne from a mixture of high customer demand and the fantastic opportunity presented by Blackpool Council.

“It was by chance we came across the disused beach items from Blackpool Council, and we took it as a sign to go forth with the new business venture.

“However, I really do feel that we’re the only business in the UK that has the experience, facilities and passion to take on a job of this mammoth size – reworking 6,000 deckchairs is no small task.

“We’re utterly thrilled to be in a position to keep the iconic chairs in use – it would be an absolute travesty to lose this institution of the British summer.”

The deckchairs are now available for hire for events, weddings, party venues and concerts.

Blackpool Council said the deckchairs had been put into storage in September 2011 when their popularity declined because people preferred to sit on the Spanish steps built into the £100m new Promenade.

Coun Graham Cain, cabinet member for tourism and leisure, said: “For decades the deckchairs were a familiar sight along Blackpool’s seafront. However over time they were used less and less until the service ceased in 2011.

“The new design of the seafront means people have more places to sit than previously.

“We found the majority of people would sit on the new benches or the Spanish steps and there was no longer a demand for the deckchairs.

“The chairs had been in storage for the past three years but we recently sold all 6,000 of them.

“It is always a shame when traditions like this fade away but it is just a sign of the changing needs of our visitors.”

However deckchairs remain a firm favourite with visitors to neighbouring St Annes beach.

A spokesman for Fylde Council said: “Our deckchairs are run by a concession and they remain very popular.

“We have hundreds of people on the beach on sunny days and we haven’t seen any drop off in demand here.”