Blackpool’s Central Promenade is to be resurfaced at a cost of £140,000 after highways chiefs admitted block paving cannot withstand the level of traffic using the road.
Work is due to begin on Sunday to lay red tinted asphalt on the stretch between Adelaide Street West and Church Street in front of the Tower – the location of the much-discussed ‘Shared Space’ experiment.
It will replace the block paving which has had to be repeatedly repaired.
In a report to councillors, Blackpool’s chief engineer Will Britain says: “Block work has been replaced previously and to do the same again would be a false economy, as it is believed the block work would fail again.”
He adds: “The block paving on the highway between Adelaide Street West and Church Street on the Promenade has been deteriorating in terms of condition over a period of time.
“Previously, resource has been invested in replacing damaged block work, but as a result of the nature of the sub-base conditions, the block continues to deteriorate.”
The resurfacing will be carried out between Sunday and Thursday, from 10pm to 5am in order to minimise disruption. One lane will remain open at all times.
Coun Fred Jackson, the council’s cabinet member for municipal assets, said: “It’s been apparent for some time that the block paving work that was put in on the Promenade was not standing up to the task.
“This is disappointing and I think I speak for everyone when I say this is hugely frustrating.
“In order to prevent the need for further costly repairs, and having saved the money to do so on the Yeadon Way project, we decided to consult with the Highways Consultative Forum on whether to resurface the road now.
“They agreed it needed to be done.
“Work will therefore commence on July 5 and is expected to take around three weeks, weather permitting.
“We’re very much aware of the need to minimise disruption and, as such, the work is taking place through the night.
“Red asphalt is being used to ensure it is in keeping with the design of the surrounding areas of the Promenade and the block paving will all be recycled. We apologise in advance for any inconvenience.”
The new Promenade was unveiled in summer 2011 following a £2.5m investment which saw the carriageway controversially reduced from four lanes to two in order to link the town centre better with the seafront.
It was also designated an area of ‘Shared Space’ with a new 20mph speed limit, aimed at enabling pedestrians and cars to mingle safely.
But just months later the first cracks in the surface started to appear.
Paving was missing and in some areas the surface had sunk.
At the time, Coun Fred Jackson, who was then cabinet member for highways on the council, told The Gazette: “I don’t think we would want to see asphalt on that stretch of the Promenade”.
He added that he thought it would “ruin the aesthetics of that area”.
The new surface will be the same as that already in place to the north and south of that part of the Promenade.
Consultation on the decision to replace the block work has been carried out at the council’s Highways Forum.
Carol Holmes, from South Shore, who represents Blackpool Blind Society and the Low Vision Committee, on the forum, welcomed the changes.
She said: “Some drivers have told me they find the current layout very confusing, so I think laying a more traditional surface will improve safety.
“We have always had concerns about the lack of kerbs which makes it difficult for people with guide dogs or canes to differentiate between the pavement and the road.
“So we are hoping as part of this work, that a tactile layer can be introduced in the pavement which guide dogs and cane users can recognise.”
Bill Lewtas, of the Blackpool Licensed Taxi Operators Association, said: “We are pleased the Promenade will be reverting back to asphalt. We said at the outset that block paving was not suitable here.
“It is a very busy road so doing the work overnight and leaving it completely clear during the daytime is very much appreciated.”
The Tories were in power when the decision was made to reduce the road from four to two lanes and build a new shared space highway.
But Coun Tony Williams, current leader of the Conservatives on Blackpool Council, said the problems were caused because the block work was not laid properly in the first place.
He said: “If the council had used the right blocks in the first place and checked that they were being laid correctly, they wouldn’t need to be spending this amount of money on repairing their original mistakes.
“This is another costly council blooper.
“Also starting this work in the height of the season regardless, of whether it’s day or night working, is just plain stupid.”
The scheme was originally paid for out of the £100m pot of European and Northwest Regional Development Agency funding for the new sea defences and headlands.
The £140,000 cost of the latest work will come from savings made on other council projects.