Save our “forgotten” war memorial.
That was the call today from worried community leaders concerned a piece of the resort’s heritage could be lost for good.
Campaigners say the stone memorial, in the grounds of the former Co-Operative Sports and Social Club, Preston New Road, in Marton, has been “left to rack and ruin” since the club closed its doors for good after going under two years ago.
Once pristinely maintained, the land around the monument, which still bears a poppy wreath, is now overgrown and unkempt.
Today the Co-Op, which still owns the land on which it is sited, has pledged to clean the area up after the concerns were highlighted by The Gazette –and added there were no immediate plans to redevelop the land.
But campaigners have now called for it to be permanently rehomed – fearing eventual redevelopment could see it damaged or disappear for good.
The memorial is being forgotten about... it is part of our heritage
Mike Coyle, 68, who works with the War Memorials Trust and Imperial War Museum, and also has the backing of the Royal British Legion and local councillors, is calling for action.
He said: “The memorial is being forgotten about and getting grubby. It’s a bit of heritage we need to look after.
“I walked past and realised it was derelict. I thought someone would have carried on (looking after it).
“It’s something that needs to be rescued. It’s gone to rack and ruin.”
He added: “No-one seems to know anything about it.
“I’m sure people will be interested just to know it’s there.
“The dedication on it is commemorating people who died in our name during the wars, so it’s significant.
“If it’s got to have a new home then so be it. I hope that whoever develops the land will take a sympathetic view.”
The memorial was first unveiled in 1957 by ex-serviceman Frederick Lord, and was designed to honour the many workers from the First Blackpool Co-operative Society who gave their lives in both the First and Second World Wars.
It also bears the words of the Ode Of Remembrance by poet Laurence Binyon.
And campaigners say there is growing support for the memorial to be moved on to public land to be appreciated by the community year round.
Ian Coleman, president of the Royal British Legion in Blackpool, said it was vital such memorials are preserved to honour the fallen and conserve the country’s history.
He said: “I think the public would have to find a spot that will be more fitting or, if possible, clear it up and make it possible for the public to visit.
“Perhaps it could be moved on to church grounds or some other suitable position where it can be appreciated and the names upon it not be hidden away but on full view for their sacrifice.
“We should all do what we can to consecrate the memory of those who’ve been lost.
“The day we forget what our servicemen personnel have done for our country will be the day we forget about our country itself, and that should never happen.”
The calls have been echoed by residents of Marton on a Facebook group, called Marton Past and Present, which was set up for residents to discuss developments in the area.
More than 20 comments have been posted by residents concerned about the future of the memorial.
Resident Sue Scott added: “So sad to see it looking like that, spent many an evening in there in my teens. Hope the memorial is shown some respect when the plot is redeveloped.”
Coun Adrian Hutton, Blackpool Council’s ward councillor for Clifton, where the war memorial lies, said he will do all in his power to support Mr Coyle’s work.
He said: “If I can do anything to support any campaign to preserve it or move it, I will.
“I will try to find out what’s happening with the property and then what we can do it either move it to a more appropriate place or get it tidied up.
“I think it would be better on public land where everyone can see it to remember the dead.
“Anything that commemorates our war dead has got to be preserved. It’s part of our heritage. We’ve definitely got to do something.”
The club closed in August 2013 after it was unable to meet debts of £42,000 and trading was no longer “sustainable”, according to former club chairman Peter Searle.
It had originally been sited on Victoria Road, but moved to its current site in the 1960s.
It had been opened as a social facility for Co-Operative employees at the nearby bakery, now McDonalds on Preston New Road.
A spokesman for Co-operative Group said: “The group still owns the site and we have instructed our agents to do the necessary work to tidy up the war memorial.”
He added there are no immediate plans for the future of the building and land.