Blackpool park is on track to re-open next year following huge investment
A multi-million pound scheme to restore a Blackpool park is set to be completed ahead of schedule next year.
Anchorsholme Park has been closed since 2015 to enable water company United Utilities to carry out a £100m engineering project which will help to improve the quality of the Fylde coast bathing water.
Residents have had to miss out on using the facility for several years but the payback is around £4.5m has been invested in creating an improved park which is due to re-open next summer.
Steve Wong, area stakeholder manager for United Utilities, said: "The park had been due to re-open in 2020 but now we are set for an opening next summer which is good news.
"The whole park has been largely funded by water bill-payers' money.
"And this is not what we do, but we wanted to ensure the park was restored to a high standard bearing in mind what we have taken out in order to do the engineering work."
The park's bowling club has remained operational throughout, and now boasts a new clubhouse, but some other amenities including the former pitch and putt course have been removed.
Mr Wong added: "That was a decision made by the council, and we have put in everything the council has asked of us."
Some United Utilities infrastructure is visible above ground, including a building housing motors for the new pumping station.
Although the pumps are underground, the motors need to be easily accessible for maintenance.
Some residents had concerns this would lead to noise disruption but the pumps will only run during heavy rain with noise levels "the same as a hand-dryer" according to Mr Wong.
The other main building on the site is a state-of-the-art new cafe which will be fitted out by the council, which will oversee the choice of an operator.
It overlooks a circular open air performance area designed as a focal point.
What visitors may not realise is they are walking across the top of a huge storm tank, installed by United Utilities as part of its drainage improvement project.
Hidden below the surface is a 30 metre deep circular shaft capable of holding up to 12.5 million litres of water.
Still visible for the moment is a two-metre thick concrete pressure chamber above the point were a 3.7km outfall pipe buried out to sea connects with the inland system.
But by the time landscaping of the area has been completed, all that will indicate what lies beneath will be a small metal grid.
Also leading off from the cafe will be play areas for younger and older children and work will begin early in the new year to build these.
The council has asked for an inclusive design which will allow children of different physical abilities to play together, with consideration also given to children with autism.
The value of the playground contract is £240,000, of which £175,000 has been contributed by United Utilities with the council providing £65,000.
Other facilities on the park will include outdoor seating areas and a trim trail. A multi-use sports area will have four tennis courts which can also be used for other activities.
Meanwhile the whole park will be much more accessible to the Promenade where multi-million pound new sea defences opened last year off Prince's Way.
There have been years of disruption - vital to upgrading water quality - but the project will deliver an attraction linking the park with the beach which looks set to become a favourite destination for both residents and visitors.