BACK in January 23 1998 The Gazette published my letter asking “is there a master plan?” and I used the expression long before the supercasino plan came along.
At the time things were not really improving in Blackpool despite all the various schemes being proposed and so now, 13 years later things seem more positive.
The wilderness years of Leisure Parcs have passed and Merlin Leisure appear to be investing and moving rapidly with their plans.
Blackpool will have possibly the finest Promenade in the world which is nearly completed and 13 miles long.
My late father in law, Bob Blackwood, a confectionery manufacturer in Blackpool since 1944, proposed in 1957 that the Hawker Aircraft Factory at Squires Gate, which was closing down, should be converted into a conference centre.
This was considered a joke at the time but within 15 years the NEC at Birmingham has proved to be a huge success despite limited accommodation in the area. This month’s spring fair takes over the entire complex. Blackpool is the only major seaside resort without a modern conference centre.
We have the huge ex-Pontins holiday camp site (pictured) passed for leisure use, and adjacent to an airport and railway station, which should be considered for hotels and a conference centre and the ex-Mecca site on Central Drive (proposed for 400 homes) which could also be considered.
A conference generates huge amounts of cash for the town’s infrastructure of a town, the recent pigeon show proved the busiest three day period by far and generates millions of pounds.
The crux of this letter is that Blackpool is unique, probably worldwide, in having a huge amount of surplus accommodation.
The days will never return when there is a shortage of bed space in Blackpool but if hundreds of thousands of rooms are available for holiday and leisure use the balance should be available for new homes, to breathe new life into the town centre.
We do not need new housing at Peel, Pontins, Marton Moss and the old Mecca site.
It can be done in Blackpool itself. Hoteliers cannot make a decent profit, and hotels can’t sell because they cannot show a profit. It’s Catch 22.
This is the way to go to resolve housing issues - but a greenfield site is always the easy option.As we embark on a new era I hope things will vastly improve. I still cherish the Mont Blanc Pen which I won for my 1998 letter. It reminds me of Blackpool and our hopes for the future.
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