The wheel of fortune is turning in favour of Blackpool, for so long a byword for the British seaside resort down on its luck.
Tourist numbers have fallen 30 per cent since the mid-1990s and council planners have announced their intention to transform the town into a world class destination – a move that could herald a rebranding of its identity as well as a host of signage, environment and street furniture commissions.
Urban design consultancy EDAW and Los Angeles-based experience architect Jerde Partnership have begun a consultation exercise with stakeholders this week, which will lead to the publication of a masterplan in six months’ time.
The brief is to provide the strategic direction to ‘reverse a decadelong decline’, according to EDAW managing principal Bill Hanway.
‘In addition to physical problems like the deterioration of infrastructure, there’s a spiritual and emotional [dimension],’ he says. ‘People in the town have been reluctant to admit that it’s sliding downhill. At some point, however, the lowest common denominator is reached and there has to be a change.’
Hanway adds, ‘We need to create a clear vision that will excite the imagination of investors and visitors while bringing true benefit and regeneration to the residents of Blackpool.’
Positioning the town as the Las Vegas of Lancashire was touted as the likely recovery strategy, when the Government proposed a relaxation of UK gambling laws earlier this year. But Hanway insists this is only one of a ‘series of options’.
Blackpool Borough Council head of planning Reg Haslam says that there is a need to strike a balance between Blackpool’s history and ‘creating a spectacular, yet functional, year-round resort destination’.