Hands off resort’s precious landmarks

Protected status: Stanley Park  and the town centre are the two existing conservation areas in Blackpool
Protected status: Stanley Park and the town centre are the two existing conservation areas in Blackpool

Heritage campaigners have pledged to protect Blackpool’s remaining historic buildings for future generations to enjoy.

Campaigners say the mistakes of the past cannot be repeated if the resort is to retain buildings which reflect its unique heritage as an entertainment centre.

Town hall chiefs have put together a fresh blueprint for preserving the resort’s most significant buildings.

And that includes taking a tougher stance against developers seeking to alter buildings of interest.

It comes as a new council report acknowledges many significant buildings have already been lost forever.

The Built Heritage Strategy admits: “So much has been lost even since the 1980s that policies are now required for the protection and enhancement of what remains.”

And it adds: “In the past, illegal and inappropriate changes have been made to important buildings”.

But preserving buildings must happen hand-in-hand with ensuring the resort meets modern day needs.

Change

The strategy states: “These policies will need to recognise the very genuine need for change now faced by Blackpool in the 21st century.”

Currently Blackpool has 40 listed buildings and two conservation areas – in the town centre and Stanley Park. Two new conservation areas are proposed at Foxhall and Raikes Hall, while the council has also recently produced its own local list of buildings deemed to be of significance.

Buildings on the local list include the Solaris at South Promenade, Bispham Tram Station, Warbreck Water Tower on Leys Road, the former Regent Cinema on Church Street, and pubs including The Mitre on West Street.

It is also proposed to take a tougher stance by ensuring enforcement action “is always taken where listed buildings are subject to changes or developments without the proper consent and consultation.”

The next steps include getting residents more involved in preserving heritage and undertaking a photographic study of all Blackpool’s listed buildings to capture their current state.

Heritage statements will be called for to accompany planning applications and it is hoped to work more closely with the Lancashire Gardens Trust to ensure parks such as Watson Road Park and Devonshire Road Rock Gardens are preserved.

Coun Christine Wright, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for culture and heritage, said: “Blackpool is full of historic buildings and fantastic heritage architecture.

“As a result it’s vitally important to protect our classic buildings and factor these important aspects of our history into decisions.

“We will therefore be launching a consultation on the strategy which will be published in the new year and we would urge people to take part.”

The Winter Gardens and The Tower are now owned by the council in a move taken to secure their futures.

Elaine Smith, chairman of the Blackpool Heritage Forum, said she believed the worst mistake was the loss of The Palace.

She said: “We have lost an awful lot of buildings. The worst mistake I think we made was the loss of The Palace.

“Nowadays it would have made a wonderful shopping mall, but in those days we didn’t have things like that and nobody had that kind of idea.

“It was losing money and I suppose people felt there were no other options for it.”

Mrs Smith said she hoped the new strategy would ensure existing significant buildings such as the Grade 2 listed Post Office on Abingdon Street would be properly preserved.

Beautiful

She added: “The Post Office is a beautiful building and I think it would make a fabulous town centre hotel 
because it is in a good spot with parking.”

Shirley Matthews, who is a heritage ambassador for Blackpool, said: “We heritage champions are fiercely proud of what Blackpool has to offer.

“I am glad Blackpool is stepping up to the mark where heritage is concerned we have a modern twist on tourism with our historic past.”

“We have lost a lot of buildings and there have been some terrible mistakes in the past, but there is nothing we can do now about buildings that have gone.

“Once they’ve gone, they’ve gone. I hope this strategy will add to that and help us protect what we have more stringently. We have some wonderful buildings, like the Winter Gardens which attracted people from all over the country when an open day was held recently.”

Joan Humble, chairman of Blackpool Civic Society, said: “I welcome the strategy and hope as many people as possible will look at it and make comment.

“Blackpool has lost so many of its heritage buildings – buildings associated with our entertainment heritage and with mass tourism.

“It’s important we protect the heritage this town has.

“We need to celebrate the past while making sure new buildings in the town are also of high quality.”

The new strategy will set out a framework for the next six years putting much stronger emphasis on the use of planning laws to protect buildings.

Policy on the historic built environment will also be strengthened within the Blackpool Local Plan which is currently being revised.

One building which members of the public did want to save was the former Syndicate building on Church Street which was also formerly the ABC theatre.

But Blackpool Civic Trust said anything of historical merit was stripped out of the building when it was converted to a nightclub in 2003.

Treasures which are lost forever

Some of Blackpool’s lost treasures include:

The art deco Derby Baths, which stood at the corner of the Promenade and Warley Road until 1990. Its demolition was hugely controversial at the time, but an attempt to have it listed failed.

The Palace, which stood on the Promenade alongside The Tower, was pulled down in 1962 and a Lewis’s store opened on the site in 1964.

Another architectural loss was that of Christ Church on Queen Street which was designed in the Decorated Gothic style and opened in 1866.

Despite a campaign to save it, the church was demolished in 1982 and the site used for a new Job Centre.

The Open Air Baths at South Shore, which were the largest in the world, were demolished in 1983 to be replaced by the Sandcastle water park.

More recently the Grosvenor Hotel, at the corner of Cookson Street and Church Street, which dated from 1874, was demolished, along with adjacent properties, for a car park in 2007.

In 1837 the Victoria Promenade opened on Victoria Street, comprising seven ground floor shop units, above which was an assembly hall, regarded as Blackpool’s first place of entertainment. It was demolished in 2000.

The Manchester Hotel was rebuilt in the modernist style in 1936 to the design of J. C. Derham. The use of detailed faience banding were characteristic of Derham’s work. It was altered in the 1960s and rebuilt in 
1996.

Looking like something out of Flash Gordon, Kent Tower, a sewage pumping station, was erected on the promenade at Anchorsholme in 1939. Its design is attributed to J. C. Robinson. It was taken down in 1982.