Taxi plea as shortage of drivers puts pressure on Blackpool nightscene

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Blackpool party-goers are facing long walks home – after a shortage of taxi drivers has hit the resort’s famous night-time scene.

 

Reports say one operator which usually has 100 drivers on the roads after 8pm on a Saturday during the season, now only has 50.

Meanwhile long waits for cabs has led to outbreaks of public disorder in some of the town’s busiest late night areas.

Now council chiefs are introducing measures to make it easier for firms to recruit new drivers, while taxi marshalls have been employed to control queues in Queen Street.

There is a shortage of taxi drivers in Blackpool

There is a shortage of taxi drivers in Blackpool

The lack of cabbies has been blamed on drivers finding alternative jobs during the Covid pandemic and not returning to the industry.

Meanwhile potential new drivers faced costs of up to £800 to get their badge, which many cannot afford.

Dee Grant, a director of one of Blackpool’s biggest taxi firms C Cabs, said they had lost 200 out of the 500 drivers on their books before the pandemic.

She said: “All the companies have lost a lot of their night drivers during the pandemic.

“While there was still work for the day drivers, the night drivers have moved onto jobs with Amazon, Tesco and the like.

“On a Saturday night on Queen Street it’s like Beirut because people get angry if they can’t get a taxi and in Blackpool they’ve always been used to getting taxis easily.

“It’s also been difficult for out office staff getting abuse from people who are waiting.

“It’s a problem all over the country, not just in Blackpool.

“We’re now running a big recruitment drive to attract new drivers. and we’re offering a £300 bonus to new drivers who join us to drive evenings.”

Ian Wharmby, managing director of Black Tax, said their taxis had stopped going down Queen Street after one was attacked a few weeks ago and had a window smashed,

He said: “On Friday and Saturday nights if people are out late, they can’t get cabs and are having to walk home.

“A lot of drivers left last year because there was no work and they have other jobs and are not coming back.

“The drivers we have are working non-stop, so you can make some good money from it. ”

He added: “Some security has been put on Queen Street but we have stopped cabs going down there and are picking up at the library instead.”

Now all the taxi companies are calling on Blackpool Council to relax the rules for applying for a taxi licence so they can attract new drivers more easily.

John Cutler, managing director of Premier Cabs, said: “We need more consultation from the council with the trade on this.

“Recruitment is difficult at the moment, but it’s something affecting a lot of sectors including the hotels and clubs.”

The council has now agreed new drivers can apply for a one-year licence at a cost of £90, instead of needing a three year £250 licence.

It is also reviewing training requirements for new drivers which can cost up to £380.

A report by the licensing service says: “The pandemic situation has detrimentally impacted the taxi and private hire trade to the extent that trade is currently experiencing a significant reduction in the number of available licensed drivers.

“The two largest operators in the town are reporting difficulties in recruiting drivers and have also reported that evening driver resources are down 50 per cent on pre pandemic levels.

“One operator reported to the Licensing Services that typically weekend resources are significantly lower than pre pandemic levels.

“Of a fleet of 240 vehicles they were recently able to operate 120 vehicles during daytime operations (to 8pm) on a busy Saturday at the

height of the summer holidays.

“The same operator reported that this number reduced to 50 drivers after 8pm. Their pre-pandemic expectation would have been to put at least 100

drivers on after 8pm on a Saturday night during the same period of the season.

“Another operator reported to Licensing that prior to the pandemic they operated 101 vehicles. Within the first three weeks of the pandemic this was reduced to 12. They are currently operating at a level of 67 vehicles.

“All representatives of the trade the Licensing Service has recently spoken to all state that they are struggling to recruit licensed drivers.

“In response to the current situation it is proposed that the council re-introduces a one year driver’s licence for new applicants at a cost of £90. ”

A council spokesperson said training requirements are also under review.

They added: “At the moment the requirement for the three day training course has been suspended while the wider policy review is under way.”

The council confirmed taxi marshalls are operating on Queen Street, Dickson Road and Market Street on Friday and Sat urday nights and would also be out this Sunday for the bank holiday weekend.

 

What’s next for this stalled Blackpool housing project?

Home | Blackpool Gazette

The £50m stalled Foxhall Village housing development has now formally been put into the ownership of Blackpool Council after a year of wrangling with the administrators.

Work stopped in 2019

Work stopped in 2019

Work stopped in October 2019 when contractor Hollinwood Homes went into administration with just 193 of the planned 410 homes built.

Now the council, which is the landlord of the site, has agreed to work exclusively with Great Places Housing Group to find a way to kickstart the development after securing it from administrators Price Waterhouse Cooper earlier in August.

The exclusivity agreement will be in place for a year while the complexities of the site are unravelled which includes checking the quality of the work done on partially finished properties.

A council report says: “The complexities have meant that the administrator has exhausted the options to dispose and has agreed to surrender the leases, thereby returning control back to the council.”

The report warns the administration “has left an information vacuum meaning it has not been possible to secure technical information in relation to the work undertaken”.

This means there is some uncertainty over the “proven quality for work to recommence. ”

It could mean some of the work already done “being condemned or require further undertakings to provide the necessary satisfaction to support the progression of the scheme.”

Foxhall Village is considered a flaship regeneration project by the council which assembled the site with the help of a £2.7m government grant, with work beginning in 2014.

Failed guesthouses were demolished to make way for the estate on two parcels of land between Central Drive, Rigby Road and Tyldesley Road where roads are named after Blackpool FC’s famous 1953 FA Cup winning team.

Great Places Housing Association already owns 79 homes on the site and is committed to a further 40 homes in the stalled phase three.

The report adds: “Both parties have an interest in this, having already committed to the success of Foxhall Village.

“A stalled development, will not contribute to the long term goals for the area and long-term stagnation will place additional burden on the council to secure and maintain the site.”

 

Man found dead in Blackpool flat after ‘disturbance’ is named

Home | Blackpool Gazette

A man who was found dead at a Blackpool flat following a ‘disturbance’ that left a woman with severe head injuries has been named as 37-year-old Graham Kent.

Police at Mickleden Road on August 3 2021

Police at Mickleden Road on August 3 2021

The body of Mr Kent was found at the property on Mickleden Road at around midnight on Monday, August 2, shortly after police received a report of a ‘disturbance’ there.

A 35-year-old woman was also found with serious head injuries, and was taken to Royal Preston Hospital for treatment. It is understood her injuries were inflicted by Mr Kent, whose death is not being treated as suspicious.

A police spokesman said: “In terms of the investigation, it is a non-suspicious death.”

Police refused to provide further details about the incident, which will be fully investigated at an inquest at Blackpool town hall on Thursday, January 13 2022.

Lifeboat crews respond to multiple emergency incidents in Blackpool

Emergency services were called to multiple coastal incidents in Blackpool.

 

Lytham Coastguard were first called to reports a person had been pulled from the water near Central Pier at around 5.20pm yesterday (August 26).

The casualty, who was suffering from water inhalation, was being treated by paramedics and Blackpool Beach Patrol as volunteers arrived on the scene.

They were then taken to hospital for treatment after being transferred to an awaiting ambulance.

HM Coastguard Fleetwood and Lancashire Police were also in attendance.

The second emergency call came through at 8.55pm to help a small dinghy that had been spotted drifting off the coast near Manchester Square.

A spokesman for Lytham Coastguard said: “On arrival our officers scanned the area whilst RNLI Blackpool searched the water.

“After people on the beach were spoken to, it was determined this small dinghy came back ashore and made their way inland.”

RNLI Blackpool launched one D-class lifeboat following reports a dinghy had been spotted drifting off the coast. (Credit: RNLI Blackpool)RNLI Blackpool launched one D-class lifeboat following reports a dinghy had been spotted drifting off the coast. (Credit: RNLI Blackpool)

Robin Hood TV star Jonas Armstrong arrested for being drunk and disorderly in Ly…

One D-class lifeboat had been launched by RNLI Blackpool.

At 5.55am today (August 27), crews were called to help police search for a missing person in the Blackpool area.

“Just as our volunteers were arriving on scene reports came through that the casualty had been located by police,” the spokesman added.

Emergency services were called to multiple coastal incidents in Blackpool. (Credit: RNLI Blackpool)

Emergency services were called to multiple coastal incidents in Blackpool. (Credit: RNLI Blackpool)

“Team stood down and returned to the station.”

HM Coastguard Fleetwood and RNLI Blackpool had also been tasked but no launch was required.

If you find yourself in an emergency situation or see a coastal emergency, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.

If you are inland and see someone in difficulty on the water, be it on a river or a lake, you should ask for Fire and Rescue when you call for help.

Popular Penn & Teller comedy Magic Goes Wrong coming to Blackpool

LancsLive - Latest news, sport, business and more from Lancashire

Magic Goes Wrong is the latest in Mischief Theatre’s productions and it heads to the Opera House in November

A scene from Magic Goes Wrong play

Magic Goes Wrong arrives in Blackpool on November 24 (Image: Pamela Raith)

Comedy catastrophe play Magic Goes Wrong is set to bring the laughs to Blackpool this winter, when the nationwide tour arrives at the Opera House in November.

The Laurence Olivier award-nominated production, which originally opened at The Lowry Theatre in Salford in August 2019, will be on at the Opera House from Wednesday, November 24 to Saturday, November 27.

Written by Mischief Theatre in collaboration with stalwart American magician duo Penn & Teller, the show follows the adventures of a group of luckless magicians as they attempt to put on an evening of grand illusions to raise funds for charity.

But their plan quickly goes awry, resulting in mayhem and gory accidents in true black comedy style. And not a penny fundraised.

A scene from Magic Goes Wrong Comedy play

A scene from Magic Goes Wrong Comedy play (Image: Pamela Raith)

It is the third instalment in award-winning Mischief’s Goes Wrong… franchise, following hit West End shows The Play That Goes Wrong, and Peter Pan Goes Wrong.

Magic Goes Wrong will star Daniel Anthony as Mickey, Valerie Cutko plays Eugenia, Sam Hill takes the role of Sophisticato, Kiefer Moriarty will be The Blade, David Nellist has been cast as Mind Mangler, Jocelyn takes on the role of Prah Spitzmau and Chloe Tannenbaum will feature as Bar in the touring production.

 

Blackpool 5* B&B owner says resort is becoming a ‘dumping ground’ for the rest of the UK

LancsLive - Latest news, sport, business and more from Lancashire

The FourRooms Blackpool proprietor believes change needs to come from the Government

FourRooms Blackpool

FourRooms Blackpool

The owner of a five-star Blackpool B&B has said the resort is becoming a “dumping ground” for the rest of the UK and has urged for a compulsory licence to help bolster the town’s reputation as a holiday destination.

The comments, from Michael Elt, the man behind the five-star bed and breakfast FourRooms in Blackpool, come after concerns from Scott Benton MP about the standards of some accommodation in the resort.

Earlier this week, the MP for Blackpool South urged hotels and B&Bs to get behind local accreditation following ongoing complaints about the standard of holiday accommodation in Blackpool.

Michael Elt

Michael Elt

Michael uploaded a video to YouTube on August 26 titled ‘Dirt cheap Accommodation’.

In the video he reached out to those looking to book a holiday but also “want a bargain.”

He said that “Blackpool has, or did have, the reputation of cheap and cheerful but now it is just a detriment to the town itself”.

Michael added: “Many of you booking out there see a room for £10, £15 per night and think ‘great, that will do me.’

“This price also attracts the people who really just want to come to Blackpool, get drunk and trash the place.

“But then, the provider of the accommodation can’t afford to replace anything that has been broken, stolen etc and so the place then stays exactly the same way for the next visitor, which is you and then we’ve got the start of the downwards spiral.”

“Some premises are already at the bottom of this downwards spiral, but really all they care about is money and not about your treatment or your holiday – just money. Their way of thinking is, let’s get as many in as we can and make some money, whilst not investing in this dump.”

“So you’re paying for something that is, pretty much, a dump. Blackpool is then left with this image of, it’s a dump, and the people who have experienced the rubbish will also promote this fact.”

“if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Check all the reviews, speak to the property direct before you jump on that bargain as you may not experience the dream holiday, but instead the holiday from hell.”

“if you want dirt cheap, then i’m sure you’ll get it, you’ll get the dirt and you’ll get it cheap. You’ll really only get what you pay for. Thanks for listening and hope we make a difference.”

Blackpool

Blackpool

Michael told LancsLive that business had been “more than busy, manic” this season, “which isn’t how we do things anyway.”

Michael said that there are plenty of Blackpool hotels and B&B’s that “lower their prices” mid-week in order to “cram the people in to try and get the place full” but by the time the weekend comes around, prices rise. He said: “It’s just all about money.”

Michael and Paul own a “high quality” B&B which they describe as “offering the very best of luxury accommodation”. They have four rooms and award winning levels of service and facilities.

They have consistently high reviews on TripAdvisor, and have five stars from VisitEngland as well as a Gold-standard award.

On other hotels and B&B’s that have caused Mr Benton MP to promote the VisitBlackpool accreditation scheme, Michael said for other hoteliers: “It’s nothing to do with the standard of the place, how you might have a nice holiday, how you might have a lovely experience – none of that is taken into consideration.

“It’s all about money, cram as many in as you can then cram them back out again to get the next lot in.”

FourRooms, he says, do things “totally” differently.

Michael recalled a guest who continued to stay elsewhere due to the company they had in regulars at the accommodation “so they loved it” despite it being “dated.”

But since their accommodation had been taken over, “they were left with that shell of the building with no atmosphere at all.”

Michael said: “Then they came to us and said they wouldn’t stop anywhere else now. They’d always come to us.”

People continue to stay at these places “because of the people” but he believes fellow hoteliers care mostly about money.

For change, Michael believes that a licensing scheme should be compulsory.

He drew on the food standards license for comparison. He said: “You don’t pay for a food standards licence, you have no choice. It’s compulsory. With normal landlords, there’s a rule in place that you have to have properties that are clean and tidy, they have to be habitable.

“There is nothing like that for bed and breakfasts, hotels, nothing.”

The hallway of the Norbreck Castle Hotel in Blackpool

The hallway of the Norbreck Castle Hotel in Blackpool (Image: LancsLive)

Michael described price competition between independent accommodations as “a race to the bottom” with cheap prices lowering rates and causing poor standards of accommodation.

He said: “How the hell can you provide a good room with a bed, breakfast, towels, water, electric everything, for just £15.

“They want something dirt cheap and they get something that is dirty and cheap. They then complain about it, but the people offering it, there’s no way they can repair anything. The room stays like that ready for the next one to come in, you’re on a downwards spiral right from the start and nobody will do anything about it.”

A compulsory licensing scheme would ensure that accommodation in Blackpool is held at the same trading standard across the board.

Michael said: “There needs to be something in place that means before you can trade, the room you are letting needs to be clean, without a speck of mould anywhere, and if there is there needs to be a plan in place to see you are doing something about it. It needs to be kept on top of.”

Consistency of these inspections would be key to keeping Blackpool’s accommodation at a good trading standard. But Michael believes the change needs to come from the Government.

He said: “It needs to come from Government itself, they could use the landlord rules in exactly the same way as they are letting rooms as a landlord is.

“If there was something like that in place, it would then push out a lot of the rubbish that is in Blackpool and other places as well.

“It is right across the board, but Blackpool needs to stop being the dumping ground for the rest of the country.”

Blackpool seafront’s 10 features that have been made Grade II listed

LancsLive - Latest news, sport, business and more from Lancashire

‘We welcome these latest listings from Historic England which underlines the significance of Blackpool’s heritage in the national context’

Middle Walk Colonnade, in Blackpool

Middle Walk Colonnade, in Blackpool

Ten features on Blackpool seafront have been listed at Grade II.

The decision was made by Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) today (August 27) on the advice of Historic England.

Eight promenade shelters and the Middle and Lower Walk Colonnades are now Grade II listed; meaning they are of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them.

The Middle and Lower Walk Colonnades are reinforced-concrete structures that run for around one kilometre along Blackpool’s sea front.

They were designed by the Borough Surveyor’s chief architectural assistant John Charles Robinson, who later became the Borough Architect.

Following Blackpool’s growth as an important leisure destination in the second half of the 19th century, the early 20th century saw further improvement and extension of the town’s three-level promenades.

The Lower Walk colonnade was built in 1923 as a link between the upper and lower levels, and a gateway to the middle level.

From 1923 to 1925, the Middle Walk colonnade was built as a strengthening structure and a way of vertically stacking the upper walk over the middle walk. This allowed the tram tracks to be moved to free up road space for cars.

Seaside resorts began as a relaxing place for the wealthy few to promenade and look out to sea, as well as recover from illness.

Later, destinations like Blackpool were the place for working class people to holiday and unwind.

Promenade shelter, on Queen's Promenade, in Blackpool
Promenade shelter, on Queen’s Promenade, in Blackpool

The seafront is lined with promenade shelters – most of which have stood for more than 100 years as civic features intended to enhance the street scene.

Eight shelters are already listed at Grade II and now another eight shelters have been listed.

Most of the shelters were made between 1903 and 1904 by renowned iron-founders Walter MacFarlane and Co (MacFarlanes), of Glasgow and the Lion Foundry Company, of Kirkintilloch.

They were commissioned by Blackpool Corporation, some especially for the ‘new promenade’ at South Shore.

They stand as a symbol of the archetypal British seaside town, visited by so many holiday-goers since the 1800s.

Alan Cavill, Director of Communications and Regeneration at Blackpool Council, said: “We welcome these latest listings from Historic England which underlines the significance of Blackpool’s heritage in the national context.

“Despite being a resort with a long history of change and development, the council recognises that preserving our heritage is important for local communities and forms a significant aspect of the resort’s tourism offer.”

Drivers warned of diversions and delays as road is closed north of Blackpool

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Motorists are being warned of delays north of Blackpool as a road is to be closed to re-route a water main.

 

Skippool Road at its junction with Skippool roundabout will be shut from 7am Monday, September 13, for six weeks, to divert the large water pipe.

And United Utilities has been working at Skippool Road, to the north of Ashley Hall Mews, to replace a lead water connection.

At the same time, Cadent Gas is currently working on Breck Road from Skippool roundabout towards the Wyre Council offices.

Highways England has published these  maps showing the diversions due to the road closure at SkippoolHighways England has published these maps showing the diversions due to the road closure at Skippool

As part of the ongoing work to try to reduce traffic choke points along the A585, Amounderness Way (eastbound) and Mains Lane (eastbound) will be reduced to one lane to facilitate new drainage installation and road surface testing until September 3.

Lodge Lane will see temporary lights at the entrance to Singleton Hall/Barnfield Manor to allow utility works there to take place until September 5.

Mains Lane and Garstang Road East will bot have narrow lanes to allow utility work to take place until September 5.

Highways England is to hold some public information exhibitions, in its engagement van at:

More on the diversionsMore on the diversions

Morrisons Supermarket, Amounderness Way,Thornton-Cleveleys FY5 3TS

Wednesday 1 September 2pm to 8pm

Wednesday 8 September 2pm to 8pm

Lidl Supermarket, Clark St, Poulton Industrial Estate, Poulton-Le-Fylde, FY6 8JW

Thursday 2 September 10am to 4pm

Thursday 9 September 10am to 4pm

A spokesman said: “The water main was constructed around 50 years ago and provides the main water supply to Fleetwood, Thornton and Cleveleys. We need to divert the water main away from the proposed new bypass.

“This will ensure any future maintenance to the water main can take place safely, without disrupting motorists.

“With the excavation being 2m deep, 5m wide and 7m long, there isnt enough room for motorists to pass the work area safely. Motorists wanting to access the area of Thornton will be diverted along A585 Amounderness Way and the B5412 (Victoria Road East). Please leave extra time for your journey, especially during peak hours.”