WE’RE next door to each other but worlds apart. That is the message to town hall bosses who are trying to lump Cleveleys and Thornton together in a bid to follow David Cameron’s idea for the Big Society.
That scheme is about all things local – creating a series of bottom-up rights to give people a chance to take on powers previously exercised by local authorities.
Last week, Wyre Council jumped on the bandwagon, approving the idea to help different groups run local services, or take over council-run services if they so wish.
Under the banner Neighbourhood Engagement in Wyre, the council scrapped its six area forums in Cleveleys, Thornton, Fleetwood, Poulton, Over Wyre and the Rural forum. And replaced them with six engagement areas – Poulton, Over Wyre, Thornton-Cleveleys, Fleetwood, Rural East and Central Rural.
But for some, binding Thornton and Cleveleys together as one has led to fears the two towns will not be treated as individuals.
Irene Horner, of Thornton Action Group, described the merger as “archaic”.
She said: “The reason why there were separate forums for Cleveleys and Thornton was because the two communities have very different issues that concern them.
“Essentially, Cleveleys is concerned with the retailing centre and the holiday industry – there is little green space – whereas Thornton, with the closure of ICI, has become a dormitory town, with a rapid expansion of family homes and the majority of wage earners commuting outside Thornton to work.
“Thornton also has been trying to preserve and enhance its green spaces, hence the concern about proposed housing development.
“These proposals which put Thornton and Cleveleys together, set back the clock six years or more regarding community involvement.
“The ward boundaries are archaic and certainly pre-date Amounderness Way.
“They need to be revised, so as to properly reflect the two communities.”
But Lancashire County Councillor Andrea Kay, who represents both Thornton and Cleveleys in her role, believes the towns should work together.
She said: “Yes, they have different issues because the people that live in the towns are different ages.
“Cleveleys is a seaside resort with an older population. It relies on trade to keep shops open, when meetings are held in Cleveleys, we talk about the future of the town.
“We talk about the type of development that will bring holidaymakers in, such as car parks, the trams, attractions and accommodation.
“In Thornton, there are more young families, the majority of housing is not quite as expensive, and it is proving a great location for first-time buyers.
“They are looking at issues such as housing developments and the new train which could bring people to Thornton and take commuters out – it is residents using the town, not so much tourists.
“But I don’t mind the umbrella term, Thornton-Cleveleys, as long as individual groups within those areas continue to do good things, I don’t think the name matters.
“Both towns are on the up. I predict a big year for Cleveleys in 2012 with the reopening of the tramways – that will bring people from Thornton to the town.
“And, likewise, the train line from Poulton to Burn Naze, which I really support, will bring people from Cleveleys to Thornton.”
It is believed the term Thornton-Cleveleys was taken from the original railway station which served the towns to the south of Station Road in Thornton.
Originally opened in 1865 and named Cleveleys, the station was renamed Thornton for Cleveleys at the start of the 20th century, but closed in 1927 when a new station opened.
In February 1953, the station was renamed again, this time to Thornton-Cleveleys, until it was closed to passengers in the 1970s.
Jane Littlewood, author of Visit Cleveleys, said when she first moved to the area it took some time to work out whether she lived in Thornton or Cleveleys.
She said: “My address was Thornton-Cleveleys, and for ages I wondered where exactly I lived. It took me ages to work it out.
“But it’s just the term used, it has developed from the station and just stuck I suppose, although it doesn’t exist and the towns are quite a distance from each other.”
Mrs Littlewood, also chairman of the Rossall Beach Residents’ Association, believes the towns should do more to work together.
She said: “At Cleveleys we have got different issues because we are on the tourist side of the tracks.
“But community issues remain the same, everyone has to deal with anti-social behaviour and day-to-day living, in that respect the issues are the same.
“I think allowing local groups more power is a great way to improve the area we live in, we already have a lot of groups working hard and that will continue.”
Peter Gibson, leader of Wyre Council, said: “The council does not have the authority to determine ward boundaries. That is the responsibility of the Local Government Electoral Commission.
“Attendance at the Cleveleys Forum was on average only about 12 to 15 people, which could not be taken as being representative of the wider views of Cleveleys residents, while many of the issues that were being raised at meetings of the Thornton Forum replicated those at Thornton Action Group meetings.
“We are endeavouring to design a better way for us to work together with local groups for the benefit of all our residents.
“This is just the first stage of the process.
“Over the next few months, we will start to put some meat on the bones, and engage with relevant officers, members, parish councillors, resident groups, etc to flesh out our proposals.”