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Blackpool and Fylde Coast review of the year: January to April

Review of the year: January to April
Review of the year: January to April
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The people and events making the news in 2017

JANUARY

POVERTY ON THE RISE IN RESORT

Poverty was reported to be on the rise in Blackpool as ‘desperate’ families sought help in their droves from food banks and homeless centres.

One resort soup kitchen saw a rise in the number of people it served over the previous 12 months.

Amazing Grace founder Mark Butcher (pictured, inset) said he had even set up a children’s room in response to the number of families left with nowhere else to turn to.

£600k DEBT WRITTEN OFF BY COUNCIL

Uncollected debts of more than £600,000 were written off by cash-strapped town hall chiefs at Blackpool.

The debts included a six-figure sum owned by one business that was dissolved in 2015, and almost £100,000 racked up by a charity under investigation.

Council leader, Coun Simon Blackburn, said that while it was true the council had a worse collection rate than many areas, the areas involved were among the most deprived.

VIC’S A&E ON VERGE OF COLLAPSE

The number of people waiting more than 12 hours in A&E at Blackpool Victoria Hospital had doubled in the past year.

The surge in patients left languishing for half a day as over-worked staff struggled to cope with raising demand sparked fears for the future of the NHS.

The shocking figures - which include 100 pensioners aged 90 and above - were blamed on Government cuts due to

DREAM BECOMES A £25M REALITY

Tourism chiefs were popping the champagne corks after Blackpool was awarded £25m to realise its conference centre dream.

The massive development, which included a new hotel, would allow the Winter Gardens to host up to 7,000 delegates.

It was hoped the announcement would put the resort back in the big league with potential to see the return of major political

Blackpool Council leader, Coun Simon Blackburn, said: “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity which can change the face of this resort forever.”

FEBRUARY

JOB LOSS FEARS AT NORCROSS

Almost 400 workers faced an uncertain future amid plans to shut another civil service building on the Fylde coast.

Government plans to sell off Tomlinson House, at Norcross, were branded ‘completely wrong’ by Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden.

Fears were raised in Parliament that proposals to create a new civil service hub in the North West - and dispose of sites, would mean the loss of experienced staff.

12 CRIMINALS STILL AT LARGE

An armed robber and a drug dealer were among 12 criminals who were still at large after absconding from Kirkham Prison - but police wouldn’t say who they were.

The Gazette revealed that half of the dozen men who had fled the open prison and evaded police had been on the run for more than a decade.

FIRST ROUND TO BELOKON

Victorious Blackpool FC president Valeri Belokon was ready for his second judgement day with the Oyston family after sensationally winning round one.

A judge in Manchester ruled in the Latvian’s favour in a bitter legal wrangle over the development of the South Stand at Bloomfield Road. It would be the start of a memorable year for the Latvian...

COMPLAINTS OVER VIAGRA HOTEL

A landlord found himself in hot water after renaming his business the Viagra Hotel.

The move angered councillors who said the branding above the Dickson Road guest house - which promised guests ‘we will keep you up all night’ - should be taken down.

Owner Neil Marshall said the name was harmless fun.

MARCH

LANDMARK CHURCH FACING DEMOLTION

A landmark 19th century church in the heart of Blackpool was to be demolished, The Gazette revealed.

High running costs were blamed for the decision to knock down Christ Church with All Saints, on Palatine Road.

It was hoped a more modern building - smaller with potential for car parking - would be erected in its place.

FIRST GLIMPSE OF £25M MUSEUM

Gazette readers were given a first glimpse - through an artist’s impression - of how Blackpool’s £25m new museum would look if the resort’s Lottery dream became a reality.

The museum inside the Winter Gardens was set to have its own entrance from Adelaide Street and would showcase more than 80 exhibits setting out the history of the country’s leading seaside resort. It was later downgraded and is now set to be housed in a revamped venue on the Prom.

MP HEARD SHOTS FIRED IN TERROR ATTACK

A Blackpool MP said he heard the sound of gunshots as a terrorist attack brought chaos to the streets on London.

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden was on his way to vote in the House of Commons when he heard what turned out to be gunshots.

He told The Gazette: “Within about two minutes we were taken downstairs, I think they wanted people away from the windows and to another building in Whitehall.”

ROW OVER £2M OFFICE REVAMP

A row broke out after £2m was earmarked to refurbish offices belonging to Blackpool Council - while space in a nearby £20m remained empty.

Contractors were carrying out repairs to Municipal Buildings on Corporation Street, ahead of the JobCentre and a police inquiry desk being opened.

But questions were asked why the services could not have been put into the recently opened £20m Bickerstaffe House.

APRIL

SHOCK OVER POLICE’S FRACKING COST

The extra cost of policing the controversial fracking site of Preston New Road was revealed to be a staggering £450,000 a month.

Cash-strapped Lancashire Police said the cost of the on-going operation was an extra strain on its already stretchged resources.

Calls were made for the Government to cover the fracking-related costs via a special grant from the Home Office, since it overturned Lancashire County Council’s decision to reject the application.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE FIGURES REVEALED

Fewer than a fifth of domestic abuse incidents reported to police led to a charge or summons, The Gazette revealed.

Lancashire Police recorded 5,265 domestic abuse related incidents in the six months between July 1 and December 31 2016.

But figures in a Freedom of Information disclosure showed that only 954 were charged or summoned to court, with a further 253 perpatrators given cautions.

SPICE PROBLEM OUT ON STREETS

The issue of people in Blackpool using the drug spice was revealed.

Shocking images taken in broad daylight showed how suspected users were being turned into ‘zombies’ by the substance, previously known as a legal high.

A Gazette investigation sparked calls to help addicts who were ditching heroin for the cheaper drug.

SCHOOL OUT OF SPECIAL MEASURES

The headteacher of a school once branded among the worst on the Fylde coast said the hard work was far from over after it was removed from special measures.

Less than two years after a damning Ofsted report that raised concerns over safety at South Shore Academy, inspectors said “sheer grit and determination” had turned its fortunes around.

Headteacher Jane Bailey said she wanted to make sure the school got ‘good or outstanding’ when she left.