View from polling stations shows how campaign has polarised Fylde's opinions

On a quiet tree-lined street in South Shore some big decisions are being taken.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 23rd June 2016, 10:00 pm
EU referendum polling station at Claremont First Steps Community Centre in Blackpool
EU referendum polling station at Claremont First Steps Community Centre in Blackpool

For one day only power has been handed to the people and there is no shortage of takers for what has been branded a ‘once in a lifetime chance’

With bright sunlight filtering through the leaves, this small corner of Blackpool could pass for the continent.

But ask around and it seems many making their mark feel Europe is a world away.

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There’s nothing unusual or special about the polling station at Roseacre School.

It’s typical of the thousands around the UK - in classrooms, church halls, community centres.

The voters are certainly out in force.

A steady stream are filing through the doors, from all walks of life.

No matter which side of the fence you sit, the referendum has certainly engaged the public and polarised opinions.

The feeling, on a sunny morning in South Shore, is strongly skewed towards Brexit but there are those willing to stand up for both sides of the argument.

Standing at the school gates it’s quick to see how strongly held some opinions are.

“I voted out in 1975 and I’ll vote out now,” one man tells me with no hesitation.

“We should never have joined in the first place.

“I remember those decisions.

“I remember before that De Gaulle saying to us ‘non’.

“And that was supposedly one of our strongest allies.”

The ongoing expansion of Europe and its open borders make the decision as easy for him as it was more than 40-years-ago.

“We are paying in and supporting the smaller economies,” he says,

“And now you’re looking at more nations coming in, weaker countries who won’t be making a net contribution.

“We will be paying for them.”

While some might be angry about the cash paid to the EU, others are concerned about the scale of the organisation.

“We’ve been to Brussels,” says another voter.

“The scale of the European Union buildings is huge.

“It’s massive and we’re paying for that.”

For many placing a mark in the ‘leave’ box the issue boils down to just one matter – immigration.

There are fears about strain on local services, on doctors, schools and housing.

Amid the younger voters desperate to be out, it’s the buzzword of the day.

“It’s about immigration isn’t it,” said one young dad who had taken his two children with him to the polls.

“I’m voting out, no hesitation. There’s too many people coming in.”

It’s a fear which transcends generations.

“We’re a small island,” an older gentleman says as he heads to cast his vote.

“We don’t need more immigration, we don’t need more coming in.

“We need to be able to control our own borders.”

Others are just keen to give those in power a kick.

“I don’t like Europe and I don’t like (David) Cameron,” one voter makes clear.

“They’ve done nothing for us.”

The Gazette’s Roseacre exit poll is far from scientific.

For a start there are some who don’t want to share their views or voting intentions politely declining, occasionally with a knowing wink.

But body language is a hint.

There’s a swagger, a reassurance to those voting out.

Those willing to say they have voted remain are in a distinct minority – just one quarter of those happy to tell of their intentions making their mark in the remain box.

And it’s clear those who see Britain’s future inside Europe see themselves as the group with the most to lose.

“I’m European,” one yes voter says.

“We are together, we should all be working together. That’s the best way.”

Another voter has arrived with her European friend who, by dint of nationality, isn’t allowed to take part in the poll.

“It’s not fair,” she says.

“He lives here, why should he not have his say?

“If we leave it will be very bad. I’ve heard some farmers say they will be ruined.”

Perhaps the most perfect polling day picture is painted by two pensioners, chatting outside the gates.

The friends have already cast their votes, for opposing sides.

“I’m doing it for my grandchildren,” one says.

“I think from everything I’ve heard it’s better for them if we stay in – for jobs and the economy.

“I’m not sure it’ll still be there in 15 years but for now I’m in.”

“I’m the opposite,” her pal continues.

“I’m worried about the immigration, about there being jobs for my grandchildren.”

The pair do have a shared view on one thing, after months of campaigning.

“At least either way,” one sighs, “it’ll be over one way or another.”