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Blackpool Promenade Regeneration

Apr 29, 2008
The statistics speak for themselves. A whopping E20m for 1,110 metres of Promenade which must last a lifetime. 420,000 man hours of work, mostly in the blistering cold. 15,000 square metres of paving, 1,910 tons of rock armor and 90,000 tons of filling materials an incomprehensible weight and, no doubt, a logistical nightmare to organize.

To say the People's Prom, started in December 2005, has been a big operation, is frankly dismissive.

The task undertaken by Wyre Council, contractors Birse Coastal and Cleveleys Seafront Partnership to put together the project has grown and grown.

It shouldn't be forgotten too, as the Promenade area becomes a feature for both locals and tourists to use and enjoy, that the scheme is primarily about defending the town - the first line of defence against mass flooding.

"The old sea defences had basically reached the end of their useful life," said Robert Posner, head of neighbourhood services at Wyre Council, who has helped to oversee the project. "They were not providing the standard of flood defence that was needed and there was a risk of failure.

"Cleveleys protects 9,000 properties directly from coastal flooding and a failure would have been catastrophic. It was recognised that as well as strengthening those defences, this was a chance to rejuvenate and restructure the whole Promenade. It's Wyre Borough Council's largest ever civil engineering project."

Public consultation saw designs from four firms considered with one bid, from designers Ferguson McIlveen, standing head and shoulders above the rest.

The money then came from a variety of government departments; Defra, the Environment Agency and the North West Development Agency as well as Wyre Council.

The Seafront Partnership also came together, with local businessman, Peter Wills at the helm with the express aim of making the seafront, the People's Promenade.

"It was always the intention that it should be for the people and to make sure the people input and access to the Promenade and its features, so they could use it as a recreational facility" Mr Wills said.

"That will now be furthered and we're looking at a five-year plan of activity.

"Some work is already under way to try to attract national and even interational events. "We're also now in the early stages of looking at developing a number of public art projects linked to the history and heritage of the area."

Unique challenges came throughout too, including the beached ferry, the Riverdance, and keeping an eye on marine life to minimising the impact on animals and plants on the shoreline as well as containing the impact of works on locals.

"Because of the difficult working environment, coast protection schemes carry inherent risks during construction," said Caroline Mottram, business development director for Birse.

"Maximising productivity during tidal windows is critical to project success, as is reducing potential risks of damaging sensitive marine eco-systems."

The complexities of their operation is far too great to explain here, but the key to solving those massive technical sues, according to Caroline, was working with the community.

"Key to successful completion of the scheme has been working in partnership with the Council," she said.

"Support from the local community has also played a major part in the scheme's success. We also thank the Seafront Partnership for their input."

Remarkably though the project has come together pretty much on schedule and without spiralling costs.

E3m is also in place for Phase Four of works, which will see work on sea defences extended to the boundary with Blackpool, get under way this summer.

The future looks bright indeed and at the end of Phase Three, with works the project as a whole more than three quarters of the way there, those involved are already feeling celebratory.

"It looks like a Promenade improvement rather than sea defences which is testament to the whole project," a delighted Mr Posner said.

"Hopefully it will help with the regeneration of Cleveleys as tourist destination in its own right and give everyone a Promenade to be proud of."
About the Author
John Gygax is a writer who has lived in Blackpool for over 30 years
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