Blackpool Council leader Simon Blackburn talks about his hopes for the town

From his office overlooking Blackpool town centre, two cranes can be seen on the skyline which illustrate for council leader Simon Blackburn the direction the resort is heading in.

Wednesday, 29th May 2019, 9:39 am
Coun Simon Blackburn celebrating at the election count

One is being used to construct the new conference centre at the Winter Gardens, while the other is based on the Premier Inn building site in Talbot Square.

Public sector money has funded the former, private investment is paying for the latter.

For Coun Blackburn, just starting his third term in charge at the town hall, the developments represent how far the town has come in recent years.

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Coun Simon Blackburn celebrating at the election count

And with further investment on the horizon including an Imax-style cinema at the Houndshill shopping centre, and a £300m leisure scheme on Central Car Park, he believes residents have reason to be optimistic.

He said: "Twenty years ago the town was on a knife edge, and there are many seaside towns that are now a shadow of their former selves.

"So to sit here and see two cranes putting up steelwork 125 years on from the Tower being built is testament to the town and its people.

"And to be part of that for eight years and hopefully for years to come is amazing.

"Blackpool is founded on the people who live and work here and the entrepreneurs who invest.

"But what we at the council do is try to create the circumstances in which people can invest and take risks, and for them to know we are here to tackle the problems the town faces.

"That's politicians of all political persuasion and I think team Blackpool can look back at the last 20 years and be proud of what they have achieved."

He believes one of the keys to the next steps forward is involving all 142,000 residents of the town in ensuring everyone knows about what is happening in Blackpool.

That's the reasoning behind his election pledge to give those who live here free access to resort attractions such as the Pleasure Beach and zoo.

It's something Coun Blackburn also hopes will put an end to the 'them and us' divide between residents and tourists.

He said: "We're continuing to work with leisure attractions in the town to make sure we deliver that in a way that makes financial sense to them and us.

"All shows and attractions in Blackpool used to have landladies previews at the start of the season and they were advocates for when people asked about those shows.

"We have potentially 142,000 people who could be advocates for Blackpool."

The idea is if people got one free entry to attractions, they would then share their experience on social media and this would help promote the town in a positive way.

Coun Blackburn said full details were still being worked up, but some of the council's marketing budget could be directed at the initiative.

Another way to reach out to the wider world could be to fulfill more of the potential of Blackpool's twinning arrangements with Bottrop in Germany and Sanya in China.

Coun Blackburn wants Blackpool pupils to be able to visit Sanya, while Chinese students could come to the Fylde to learn about hospitality management and the tourist trade.

He said; "I think there is a huge amount which could be done in terms of education.

"The Education Opportunity Area is trying to expand young people's horizons and help them aspire to more in terms of what they can achieve.

"And if we could get some kind of educational exchange, that would really help."

Under this administration, Blackpool will see its new conference centre open next spring bringing with it the hope of once more hosting prestigious political gatherings.

Coun Blackburn said: "In a few weeks time I will have been in Blackpool for 20 years and I remember waking up in Pleasure Beach staff accommodation where I lived, hearing the park coming to life.

"I remember thinking then it was a real joy and privilege to be somewhere like this.

"And on the night before the election count I stood before North Pier and watched the starlings come in at sunset.

"And I had exactly the same feeling of warmth and pride in the town that I had 20 years previously.

"There have been some really difficult times as well during the last eight years, Ofsted being one, and there are snags along the way.

"But the overall trajectory of the town is hugely positive."