Tributes paid to visionary former Blackpool Council chief executive

Tributes have been paid to a former boss of Blackpool Council who was instrumental in the development of the resort during his 24 years working for the local authority.

Thursday, 13th January 2022, 4:25 pm

Derek Wardman, who died on December 9, aged 88, after suffering from cancer, joined the local authority in 1969 as deputy borough treasurer before becoming chief executive in 1985, a post he held until his retirement in 1993.

Born in Barrow, he settled on the Fylde coast where his vision saw him involved in key projects which transformed Blackpool during the 1970s and 1980s.

These included the Sandcastle Water Park, Blackpool Zoo, the Houndshill shopping centre, new housing at Heron’s Reach and The Village Hotel and golf course at Heron’s Reach.

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Derek Wardman

He also played a key role in the financial rescue of the Norbreck Castle Hotel – with the council stepping in to buy the property in the late 1970s, before selling it for a profit once it was back on a firmer financial footing.

During the mid 1980s he also negotiated a deal with then owner First Leisure to retain conference facilities at the Winter Gardens which were key to Blackpool’s hospitality industry.

Derek’s son Graham said: “He found working in Blackpool fascinating, more so than in other local authorities , because of the range of issues the council faced.

“He was involved in many significant projects with the council over the years, including, the financial rescue of the Norbreck Castle Hotel and conference centre in 1975 and later the Sandcastle complex.

Sandcastle Water Park

“Also the development and opening of Blackpool Zoo, the development of the Houndshill complex and later of the Heron’s Reach housing complex, the Village Hotel and golf course with public access footpaths and bridleways.”

Derek was also a Russian speaker, having learned the language during his national service, and put his talent to good use to help a Russian visitor who had arrived in Blackpool speaking no English.

Graham added: “He was committed to local government throughout his career and was prepared to put his job on the line in pursuit of what was right.

“He felt that mistakes should be owned up to and not covered up.”

Former head of tourism at the council Barry Morris, who worked with Derek and whose friendship with him continued into retirement, said: “Tremendous improvements were made to Blackpool while he was at the council.

“He realised it was a seaside resort and visitors did matter, but he also found money for projects such as upgrading the outdoor sports facilities at Stanley Park.”

Businessman Michael Prendergast, who knew Derek through his work in the hospitality industry, added: “He had an incredible propensity of being able to fund projects with great imagination which others could not.”

Derek was also presented with the golden pin of honour by Blackpool’s twin town Bottrop in recognition of his service and commitment to town twinning.

In his spare time he was a keen runner and continued running into his mid eighties.

He leaves his widow Muriel, three children and three grandchildren.

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