Outspoken Tory MP tells Labour-run council it cares more about visitors than residents over roadworks rumpus
A war of words erupted as resort chiefs were accused of putting tourists before residents by crippling two main roads through roadworks carried out at the same time.
Blackpool North’s Tory MP Paul Maynard spoke out after roadworks started on two of the town’s main arterial roads shortly after the end of the Illuminations.
The council’s roads boss Coun Fred Jackson hit back at the claims, saying visitors and residents are treated “the same” – and even claimed he had never heard of a campaign set up by Mr Maynard aimed at improving traffic flow.
The row comes after the closure of the Prom at Talbot Square and erection of temporary traffic lights close to the railway bridge in Devonshire Road, which triggered mayhem earlier this week.
Coun Jackson said in yesterday’s Gazette there was “no easy time” for the work in Devonshire Road to happen.
Bringing it forward to avoid the three-month closure of the Prom would have meant it “clashed with the Illuminations and the Talbot Road and Dickson Road closure”, he added.
Mr Maynard said: “Five years ago I ran the ‘Get Blackpool Moving’ campaign, asking Blackpool Council to rethink our roads.
“The message, about keeping traffic moving on our Promenade, is as important now as it was then.
“Furthermore, the timing of the current works once again demonstrates how our local authority makes decisions which place the needs of visitors above those of residents. It is vital we get Blackpool moving again.
“Over recent winters we have seen numerous closures of Yeadon Way, significant disruption around the town centre and a lengthy blockade of the rail line between Blackpool and Preston, all of which cause significant disruption for those who live and work in the town all year round.” He said the delays caused by the latest roadworks were “unacceptable” and called on the council to ensure at least two of the three main roads leading into the town from the north are kept open at all time.
“They failed to do that on this occasion,” he added.
“I gather they have removed the lights from Devonshire Road for the time being, but they will return before Friday, which is unfortunate and I do hope it doesn’t inconvenience anyone again.
“I recognise it is always difficult to plan for things like this and we are a town very reliant on the long term tourism industry.
“However, for the residents sometimes it isn’t easy. I speak to some residents who feel visitors to the town are put before them and that should never be the case.”
Coun Jackson, cabinet member for highways, said he was “astounded” by Mr Maynard’s comments because “the Conservatives in Blackpool have always portrayed themselves as friends of the tourism industry”.
He added: “For him to accuse the council of putting visitors before residents is a little bit surprising, as we treat all the residents and visitors to the town the same.
“We care about them all and with the regeneration we are undertaking in the resort it is important to remember it is for residents as well as visitors.
“In response to Mr Maynard’s comments, I certainly don’t remember his ‘Get Blackpool Moving’ campaign that he is implying he ran and he has not made any contact with me over the years.”
Coun Jackson said it was “unfortunate” that “urgent” work on Devonshire Road – a busy route linking Blackpool to Bispham, Cleveleys, and Fleetwood – was needed now.
Temporary lights on the road were ordered to be switched off unless “absolutely necessary” amid fury from frustrated taxi drivers, bus drivers and others as the council stepped in to ease the traffic problems.
Coun Jackson said: “There is a large amount of earth that has moved at the site and it was urgent for Network Rail to start when they did.”
As motorists vented their anger earlier in the week, town hall bosses appealed for patience and said the problems should ease once Network Rail finishes its work on Devonshire Road on Sunday.
Matters were made worse for some by existing closures on Yeadon Way and Ballam Road. One resort cabbie said he spent 25 minutes in stationary traffic trying to pick up a fare 200 yards down the road, while a bus driver said services were delayed by as much of an hour.
Yeadon Way is closed until December 3 for essential repairs, while parts of the town centre around Talbot Square will remain shut over Christmas as part of the work on extending the tramway.