Thursday, 10 January 2013

Regeneration might still come to Morecambe

Morecambe. A seaside town in the North West of England. Sometimes regarded as a bit of a joke thanks to Sam Jordison co-author of 'Crap Towns' which listed Morecambe as the third worst town in the UK back in 2003. I have fond memories of Morecambe as I grew up nearby and enjoyed the traditional delights it had to offer: Happy Mount Park, the 'beach', sixth form parties, the local nightlife and the funfair. I went back for the first time in 25 years on New Year's Eve and things have changed a quite a lot, some for the better and some for the worse. But what of the plans for regeneration?

The seafront walk with some, er,  modern street furniture (photo by the Ed)

First of all, a bit of history. Back in 1846 the Morecambe Harbour and Railway Company was formed to build a harbour on Morecambe Bay and also a connecting railway. By 1850 a small town began to develop to service the port and with the railway now providing a link to the mill towns of Skipton, Keighley and Bradford, Morecambe began to develop as a seaside resort, sometimes known as Bradford by the sea. Morecambe was a thriving seaside resort in the mid-20th century. Between 1956 and 1989 it was the home of the Miss Great Britain beauty contest.

And then things started to go wrong. Morecambe went into serious decline. As cheap package holidays to the sun became widely available, the tourists started to go elsewhere. By 1992 both its piers had been destroyed - this was soon followed by the closure of the indoor and outdoor swimming pools and the main fairground, home to Fun City and Frontierland.

So what of regeneration? Could Morecambe follow in the footsteps of other successful seaside towns in the UK that have seen massive investment and regeneration? Not exactly. Urban Splash has done a fantastic job refurbishing the old Midland Hotel (a fine example of 1930s architecture) and the 'front' has turned into a beautiful seafront that stretches for 5 miles with beaches featuring imported sand (don't walk out too far though, Morecambe is also famous for its sinking sand) and views across to the mountains of the Lake District. The seafront is now also home to a statue of one of Morecambe's most famous exports: the comedian Eric Morecambe. But the rest of it, well it's still Morecambe and full of boarded up properties and a derelict funfair. Urban Splash did try to kick-start regeneration of the area around the Midland Hotel, but the plans (originally submitted in 2007) have been subject to numerous objections by local residents. Urban Splash have not given up, but future plans look set to divide the town. Read the story as it appeared in The Visitor.

What's next for Morecambe? This video from the Guardian chews over the issues. The full article that appeared in the Guardian is here.

However it reinvents itself, it will still be Morecambe. And on a cold, crisp day in winter, Morecambe is beautiful.

If you're interested in finding out more about the regeneration of seaside towns in the UK check out the following links:

Action for Market Towns - regeneration in seaside towns
Coastal Communities Alliance - culture-led regeneration
GVA - seaside regeneration studies
Urban Regeneration and Renewal - solving the riddle of the sands: regenerating England's seaside towns

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