Fleetwood MP Cat Smith praises plans for town’s new urban park

Home | Blackpool GazetteFleetwood MP Cat Smith is backing new plans to create an urban park in Fleetwood, which went to consultation today.

The plans, designed by Landscape Projects, outline a new “Custom House Square” on the area of Custom House Lane car park, which overlooks Fleetwood Market in Victoria Street.

Wyre Council will run a public consultation until June 6, and residents are invited to give their feedback on the designs.

It was hoped that the space would “bring a breath of fresh air to the area,” the council said, with new lighting, seating, plus additional street trees and planting.

Fleetwood MP Cat Smith.Fleetwood MP Cat Smith.

Extra room to hold occasional small events is also part of the plans, and they look to keep existing trees in place, along with the same number of accessible car parking spaces.

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Plans unveiled for urban park near Fleetwood Market and Museum

Fleetwood MP Cat Smith welcomed the plans, which she hoped would improve mental wellbeing for people who live in the town.

“Green areas also provide us with social spaces where we can meet our friends to enjoy a natter.

“They also provide the opportunity for us to plant more trees which in turn helps support local wildlife.

“Urban green spaces improve our air quality, reduce the potential for flooding and they make our towns more attractive to visit.”

Councillor for Fleetwood’s Pharos ward Colette Fairbanks also applauded the proposed scheme.

She added: “Any investment in Fleetwood is always welcome, it can only be a good thing.”


£2m funding boost to improve opportunities for Blackpool pupils

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Blackpool is to get nearly £2.1m of additional funding towards raising educational outcomes for youngsters in the town.

The resort is one of 12 Opportunity Areas across the country to share £18m of government cash being ploughed into the programme which is being extended into a fifth year.

It brings the full amount Blackpool has received over five years to £10.4m.

Priorities in Blackpool include improving exam results, supporting vulnerable families to cut down on truancy and better career advice for pupils.

Funding will go towards improving educationFunding will go towards improving education

Frank Norris, chairman of the Blackpool Education and Improvement Board, said: “The welcome extension of a further year of Opportunity Area support and funding will help provide additional stimulus to deliver our recently published 10-year Education Vision and Strategy for the town.

“We have created a step-change in improving the educational outcomes and life chances for Blackpool’s young people and this additional year will enable us to securely embed the progress gained so far.”

Schemes underway in Blackpool as the funding enters its fifth year include a mentoring programme for children aged 11 to 19 who are disadvantaged, vulnerable or at risk of falling out of education.

The project is run by Blackpool Football Club. which also works with Fleetwood Town Football Club to include even more children.

The Blackpool Opportunity Area is also twinned with Lancashire to provide enhanced careers support for young people most at risk of not finding a job or going into further training or education when they leave school.

Dr Michele Lawty-Jones, director of the Lancashire Skills and Employment Hub, said collaberation had gone on between school, colleges and employers.

She added: “This has become even more vital, as the pandemic has impacted on young people’s ambitions and their perceptions of the job market. ”

Last year the council agreed a 10-year education strategy put together by the Blackpool School Improvement Board (now Blackpool Education Improvement Board) working in partnership with the Blackpool Opportunity Area Board.

Its aims include improving school readiness among five-year-olds, and extending specialist provision in mainstream schools so more children with complex needs can be taught closer to home.

It is also hoped to identify children considered at risk of exclusion at an earlier stage in order to provide the support they need ‘before they reach the point of crisis.’


Love-hate marriage of two St Annes pensioners

Home | Blackpool Gazette

A bizarre love-hate relationship between a married couple in their 80s was revealed in court.

Anthony Baxter, 81, appeared before magistrates to admit contacting his 84-year-old wife despite a court order banning him from doing so.

But the court was told Brenda Baxter refused to leave her estranged hubby alone – with his lawyer branding the debacle “a strange round of the Generation Game”.

She bombarded him with messages and even sent a parcel containing an electric blanket, face masks, chocolates, and a brochure for a house in Wales – alongside divorce papers – to his new home in Central Drive, Calow, Chesterfield, Blackpool Magistrates’ Court was told.

The couple previously shared a home in Dorset Road, St Annes

The couple previously shared a home in Dorset Road, St Annes

She sent him letters about replacing grass at her £330,000 detached bungalow in Dorset Road, St Annes, and saying she hoped to rekindle their relationship, magistrates heard.

Kathryn Jamieson-Sinclair, for Mr Baxter, who was banned from contacting his wife after attacking her, said: “She comes across as naive and ill-informed but I have pages and pages of WhatsApp messages she sent my client.

“She presents as a frail person but in some of the messages she is totally disparaging about solicitors and the police and says she is carrying his heart, making declarations of love and planning for the future.”

Mrs Baxter told the court: “I have been in hospital five times because of him. I am terrified of him. He is unstable and I don’t know what he is going to do next.”

Asked why she sent him a card with a kiss, she said: “Because it was his birthday. I know I should not have done it but I can’t help it.”

She also admitted sending him a magazine clipping with the words, ‘I carry your heart with me’.

“I loved my husband dearly but all I got in return was abuse and attacks. He killed it,” she added. “He used to stand over me at night in the dark in total silence.”

Mr Baxter, previously convicted of assaulting his wife of 14 years, was given another restraining order and a 12-week suspended jail term.

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Fleetwood Museum reopens with impressive new exhibits

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

There are some intriguing new displays on show at Fleetwood Museum which reopened yesterday after months of closure.


Zara Robinson played a key role in one of the new exhibits at Fleetwood Museum

Zara Robinson played a key role in one of the new exhibits at Fleetwood Museum

The facility, on Queens Terrace, has enlarged and updated its exhibition on Fisherman’s Friends, given extra poignancy by the death earlier this year of Doreen Lofthouse, who helped turn the lozenge firm into a global brand.

Another display focuses on Fleetwood women, not only those who are well known but ordinary women who have done some remarkable things for the community.

And unusually, this display can continue to grow as more local women are suggested as possible subjects for the display.

“Fleetwood has a really fascinating history and our displays are aimed at highlighting that.”

Another unusual feature about the musuem is that every single council tax payer in Fleetwood contributes to it.

Thanks to an arrangement with Fleetwood Town Council, a small extra precept on residents’ council tax bills is enough to deiver £66,000 a year, without which the facility would struggle to stay open.

Ben said: “We raise small amounts through enty fees and our shop and cafe but they would not cover our running costs.

“We are grateful to the residents and that gives us the commitment to offer the best displays we can for the town, as well as visitors.”

“We have Covid-19 secure systems in place to ensure a safe visit and environment – this includes wearing of face masks, and groups no larger then six.”

Additionally there some new displays in the museum’s deep sea gallery which include material from the recently scrapped Jacinta vessel.

Part of the museum houses two historic Fleetwood fishing vessels, Harriet and Judy, and there is a new display about Harriet, as well as an incredible film that brings to life both of these vessels.

But the biggest new exhibition for 2021 is called ‘This Lass Can: Stories of Fleetwood Women’ – and explores the stories of Fleetwood women past and present.

From the rich and famous, like pioneering boxer Jane Couch, to many unsung heroines in the community, we celebrate our wonderful women.

Zara Robinson, Collections and Interpretation Assistant at the museum, undertook much of the research for the exhibition and said: “We also explore how life for women has changed in the town over the years, in areas such as school, work and leisure time.

“We were bowled over by the amount of people who got in touch with stories, and also to nominate someone to go in the our wonderful women section of the display.

“We still want people to get in touch – if you want to nominate a friend, relative or co-worker, someone who has made an important but behind the scenes contribution to our community, then please get in touch with the museum or fill out a form when you visit the exhibition”.

Fleetwood Museum is open from now until November 27.

‘He was beyond loved’: Jordan Banks’ mum remembers the boy who made the world a better place to be

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“He is irreplaceable, a one off. And we just hope that this was his destiny. He had done all he could here and was needed elsewhere. We won’t stop doing what he had been doing all his life.”

Jordan Banks with his characteristic 'cheeky grin'
Jordan Banks with his characteristic ‘cheeky grin’

The mum of nine-year-old Jordan Banks who was tragically killed on Tuesday (May 11) by a lightning strike whilst at football training in Blackpool has spoken out about her kind-hearted son.

Danielle Begg, 38, has had to deal with every parent’s worst nightmare since the tragic events unfolded a week ago on South Shore playing fields.

An empathetic and caring child, Jordan was well-known in the community for his determination to raise money for Blackpool charity Counselling in the Community on behalf of his uncle who lost his life due to mental health issues.

The young Liverpool fan regularly went the extra mile, or four, to complete a 30-mile run in memory of his Uncle Reece who took his own life in 2018.

Jordan Banks was killed in Blackpool last week after he was reportedly struck by lightning.

Jordan Banks was killed in Blackpool last week after he was reportedly struck by lightning. (Image: Lancs Live)

This determination got him noticed by one of his LFC heroes vice-captain James Milner who told him to never give up, that he’ll never walk alone and sent him some football shirts for him to keep and also to raise money for his cause.

Since the tragedy occurred, Jordan’s organ’s have been donated to help save the lives of three other children.

Danielle told LancsLive: “Jordan was selfless, he wanted to help everyone. Whether that was a friend at school, a charity, a homeless person.

“He couldn’t understand why the world would ever be cruel and wanted everyone to be happy. Only a few days earlier I had been raising money for Brian House children’s hospice, and had told Jordan about the work they did.

“Little did we know we would be one of their families. He was a joy, full of life. Cheeky and fun-loving.

“Everything was an adventure and we were part of it. Proud doesn’t come close to what we feel for everything he’s done and continues to do.

“He had empathy and could sense people’s feelings. What ever “it” is he had it. I think whoever met him instantly liked him you couldn’t not.”

Jordan Banks and his dad, Matt, in their Cobra Kai t-shirts

Jordan Banks and his dad, Matt, in their Cobra Kai t-shirts (Image: Matt Banks)

Since Jordan was named on Wednesday (May 12) the tragedy has affected all those who heard about it across the nation.

In his home town of Blackpool, hundreds of flowers and tributes have been placed at Common Edge playing fields and a winner’s medal from an 11-year-old boy on a rival team left as a stark reminder of the lives he touched.

Hundreds came out in a vehicle convoy on Sunday (May 16) united in grief at such a tragic loss of a life.

Sir Kenny Dalglish, James Milner and Robbie Fowler were among Jordan’s LFC heroes to pay tribute to him along with stars of his favourite TV show Cobra Kai.

The reds wore Jordan Banks, number 7, shirts ahead of their clash with Manchester United on Thursday (May 13).

Nine football emojis continue to be shared on social media in honour of how much Jordan loved football.

Danielle has said that every tribute, big and small, hasn’t gone unnoticed.

She added: “The tributes have been overwhelming. We have taken comfort in the kindness of our friends and family but also the strangers who never got the pleasure to meet Jordan.

“He would have loved seeing the Liverpool players with his name on, the Cobra Kai tweets and the sports cars with his name on too. But it’s also the little things, handmade items, cards, gifts for the kids that mean so much.

“We’ve had post without our address on and just saying Jordan and it’s arrived. It means so much and even though we can’t thank everyone individually we really appreciate it. He was beyond loved.”

Nine-year-old Jordan Banks dressed as one of his favourite Liverpool players , Mo Salah

Nine-year-old Jordan Banks dressed as one of his favourite Liverpool players , Mo Salah (Image: Danielle Begg)

Due to the circumstances of Jordan’s death, his family have been thrust into the public spotlight in such a short space of time. Danielle admits that this has been difficult to deal with at times.

The media attention the tragedy attracted has meant that some coverage has been challenging for the family to see and hear.

“We understand that what happened to Jord is extraordinary,” she added. “We understand the press have to report these things but we did feel it all came very early.

“We hadn’t even been home and we had phone calls and messages asking for our thoughts. It seemed a cruel way to go about things. “We wanted to do it our way and tell the world about ‘our Jordan’ .

“We knew he would hate the photo they used too. You will struggle to find a photo of Jordan not smiling or with a cheeky face, but they did.

“The photo was actually of him after one of his runs, tired and upset with himself. We wanted to spread the message of love which Jordan would have. No negatives, just his beautiful face beaming and the joy he gave everyone.”

The family will continue to grieve privately however remain focused on spreading Jordan’s message of kindness and empathy to others.

Jordan's dad praised his son's kindness and said the little boy has donated his organs

Jordan’s dad praised his son’s kindness and said the little boy has donated his organs (Image: Matt Banks)

Danielle added: “Everyday is a struggle, as a family we are doing all we can to keep going for Jordan and carry on his legacy. His sisters and brother give us strength.

“Nobody should have to loose a child, we take comfort in that his organs were donated and he would have helped others yet again.

“He is irreplaceable, a one off. And we just hope that this was his destiny. He had done all he could here and was needed elsewhere.

“We won’t stop doing what he had been doing all his life. And hope that others stop and look at their own lives, kids, and be a bit more Jordan. Take those risks, dance, sing, live every moment.

“Go on family days out, be kind and help others. Life is too precious to waste. Like Jordan, it’s a gift.”


Blackpool paedophile convinced teen to send graphic images on Facebook – and then cried about it to police

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Richard Smith was already subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order and started crying when police visited his house

Preston Crown Court
Preston Crown Court

A Blackpool paedophile groomed two young girls and persuaded one to take part in video calls in which he engaged in sex acts.

Richard Smith contacted two girls, aged 13 and 15, randomly on Facebook while he was living in the seaside town.

At Preston Crown Court today (May 19) prosecutor Richard Haworth said: “On examination of his phone police found he had been communicating with two females; one aged 13 from North Yorkshire and one aged 15 from West Yorkshire.

“On April 22 in 2018 the 13-year-old was interviewed and said she was contacted at random through Facebook by the defendant nine months previously.

“He told her his age and she told him his. On the video interview she gives the appearance of being very young and obviously 13 or younger.

“She said they communicated for a number of weeks via video calls, text messages and on Facebook.

The second victim, a 15-year-old girl, declined to cooperate with the police investigation. Smith had also been communicating with a 16-year-old girl but no charges were brought in relation to that as she was over the age of consent.

Smith has two cautions on his record for inciting a female child to engage in penetrative sexual activity and failing to comply with the notification requirements of his Sexual Harm Prevention Order.

Defence barrister Thomas Sherrington said that since the offence Smith has had a son who he hopes to have contact with.

“He accepted, when the police went round, that there was something on his phone,” Mr Sherrington said.

“he has self-referred to an agency to help with his drinking issues.

“He has had a child with a partner and is hoping to take a great deal of responsibility.

“Having that child has given him the wake-up call as to his previous behaviour.”

The judge, Beverley Lunt, said it was clear Smith, who now lives in York House, Bradford, had ‘more issues than just alcohol’ and warned him the police would be monitoring him ‘extremely closely’.

Smith, who pleaded guilty to attempting to incite a female under 16 to engage in sexual activity, was given an 18-month jail sentence suspended for two years.

He must also complete 30 Rehabilitation Activity Requirement days and a sex offenders programme. The judge also imposed a 10-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order prohibiting him from having any unsupervised contact with girls under 16.


Blackpool drug dealer tells judge getting caught was ‘best thing that’s ever happened’

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Griffin, who has ADHD, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply Class A drugs and driving while over the legal limit for cocaine


A general view of Blackpool from above
A general view of Blackpool from above (Image: Getty)

A Blackpool drug dealer told a court that getting caught by police was ‘the best thing that’s ever happened to me’.

Max Griffin was stopped by police in the early hours of the morning in Birkside Way on October 9 in 2019.

A drugs wipe revealed the 22-year-old was under the influence of cocaine and officers found a number of bags of white powder and two mobile phones which indicated he had been selling drugs.

One text message read: “Hi mate can you sort half ounce of (ketamine)?”

Preston Crown Court yesterday (May 17) heard a search of Griffin’s bedroom at his parent’s home in Peel Road was carried out.

Police found a total of 20.76g of cocaine with a street value of £2,760 and a quantity of ketamine worth £50. A number of ‘tick lists’, used to record outstanding drug debts, were also found.

Defence barrister Philip Holden said Griffin is ‘not from a world that is used to the grittiness of the streets’.

“He was provided with these items, told to go out and sell them and he did it because he was petrified because he needed to pay off his drug debt.

“He says getting caught was the best thing that has ever happened to him.

“He took out a payday loan of a few thousand pounds to get these people away from him. He now pays his dad back.

“In normal circumstances the public gallery would be packed with people in support of him.

“He made the biggest mistake of his life.”

Griffin, who has ADHD, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply Class A drugs and driving while over the legal limit for cocaine.

The judge, Beverley Lunt, told Griffin he had come ‘as close as is possible’ to being sent to prison for being involved in the ‘evil trade’ of drug dealing.

“Nineteen months ago you made the decision, as a grown man with a brain, and knowing what you were doing, to deal drugs,” she said.

“Your reason being because you yourself had been stupid enough to get involved with and addicted to Class A drugs and had built up a debt and to pay off the debt you were prevailed upon and agreed to deal drugs yourself.

“When you were arrested driving under the influence they found a very substantial amount of Class A drugs, you had scales, presses and equipment to bag it up and mix it. You were drug dealing.

“There is no question but that you must have been under some kind of direction and you were engaged to a degree by pressure of knowing you owe money to others who are far more seriously involved than you were.

“You were extraordinarily naive and immature and you have come as close to going to prison as it’s possible to come.

“You have escaped prison by the skin of your teeth.”

Griffin was given a two-year jail sentence suspended for two years. He must also complete 200 hours of unpaid work and was disqualified from driving for 12 months.

Blackpool mum denies killing her daughter with Down’s Syndrome

Debbie Leitch was found dead in August 2019, with a post-mortem giving cause of death as severe emaciation and neglect with extensive scabies skin infection

Deborah LeitchDeborah Leitch

A Blackpool mum has denied killing her 24-year-old daughter with Down’s Syndrome after she was found starved to death and infected with scabies.

Elaine Clarke, 49, appeared at Preston Crown Court today (May 19) where she entered a not guilty plea to the unlawful killing of Debbie Leitch in Blackpool.

Ms Clarke had earlier been charged with gross negligence manslaughter.

A trial date of January 31, 2022 was fixed with an estimated length of up to four weeks.

A pre-trial review will take place later this year on November 19.

The Honorary Recorder of Preston, Judge Robert Altham, extended unconditional bail for Clarke, of Garden Terrace, Blackpool.

Bail was also extended for Bruce, of Windsor Crescent, Rothwell, Leeds.

A statement issued on behalf of Ms Leitch’s family previously described her as a ‘wonderful girl’ who was ‘always happy, and always friendly’.

Blackpool bride and groom-to-be cheated disable people to splash out on wedding

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“Letters (I have read) write of a mistake or a moment of madness. There was no mistake by you. There was no moment of madness.”

A generic view from a wedding

A generic view from a wedding (Image: Getty)

Joanne Stephenson, 51, and Stephen Taylor, 47, have been jailed for three years each after admitting fraud from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) where they worked for more than 20 years.

Between April and September 2019 the couple from Blackpool, diverted funds intended for seriously ill customers to Stephenson’s personal bank account.

Preston Crown Court heard romance blossomed between Stephenson, an administrative officer, and Taylor, an executive officer, after they spoke at a Christmas party in December 2017.

They moved in together and planned to tie the knot in January 2020.

In April 2019, Stephenson was signed off work with stress but she returned in July to forge signatures and documents to facilitate the fraud, the court heard.

Within a month their wedding had been paid for, along with a honeymoon and a holiday to Bulgaria.

When Taylor, the more senior employee, learned of her deception, he asked her to stop but “turned a blind eye” as he was also benefiting from the scam.

They were arrested in December 2019 following an investigation and pleaded guilty to fraud by employee.

“Letters (I have read) write of a mistake or a moment of madness. There was no mistake by you. There was no moment of madness.

“There was a persistent course of gross and blatant dishonesty to line your pockets and give you a lifestyle you could not afford and you did it at the expense of not the taxpayer, but at the expense of the vulnerable people who were claimants for disability living allowance – those whose lives you knew.”

Stephenson later told a probation officer she was frustrated that the caravan they had bought had been seized as they were unable to rent it out and it had depreciated in value.

Blackpool ‘manhunt’ set to launch with cash prizes for tracking down escapees

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“There’s rules to keep us as escapees safe too such as what classes as a capture – throwing us into the back of a van and driving off is not a capture that’s kidnapping!”

Follow xraymarklive! on Twitch, Twitter and YouTube for updates Blackpool Hunted
Follow xraymarklive! on Twitch, Twitter and YouTube for updates on Blackpool Hunted (Image: xraymarklive!)

Anticipation is building for a new event coming to Blackpool soon where participants hunt down and capture three escapees.

The date for Blackpool Hunted will be announced very soon, in line with coronavirus restrictions.

The idea is three members of the xraymarklive! Twitch channel will be dropped at random locations across the town and as of 8:30am on the given date, the public are invited to hunt them down.

They will then have until midnight to capture them with the winners receiving £100 for each member caught.

The team will be streaming everything live for fun and hunters will submit photos and videos to the tech centre.

Escapees will keep moving a minimum of 500 yards an hour and will check in with clues with hunters required to check in every two hours.

Clues, videos, audio, and pictures will be posted to the xraymarklive! Twitch channel, Twitter and also the Blackpool Hunted Facebook page.

The event costs nothing to join and the only requirement is that every entry must join the YouTube, Facebook or Twitch accounts.

You must also be registered on the Blackpool Hunted event’s Facebook page when it is active.

Escapee and co-organiser Mark, whom the Twitch channel is named after, said: “It’s just about staying safe, having fun and respecting each other. As the idea has developed we’ve had to come up with more rules and regulations to keep us and everyone involved safe.

“Some things may sound obvious but we need to address them in case there’s a few people that go a bit mad!

“For example there’s areas where we don’t want people to go such as the Piers or the sea! There’s rules to keep us as escapees safe too such as what classes as a capture – throwing us into the back of a van and driving off is not a capture that’s kidnapping!

“We’re building these up as we go and trying to address everything so these will all be clear by the time it’s ready to go ahead.

“So far we have 16 rules on the Facebook group”

The idea for Blackpool Hunted is incredibly new and only came about on Friday evening (May 14).

Mark, along with fellow organisers Neil and Ben, are all avid gamers and had been discussing ideas of fun things to stream for a while and created a Twitch channel last year during lockdown.

Neil and Ben both live in Blackpool, and although Mark lives in Liverpool his work building is close to Blackpool airport.

Its camera is pointed at the aircraft coming in and Mark would often notice the plane spotters that would arrive.

One night he noticed flashes in the sky which many people said was lightning or flares coming from a gas rig out at sea.

A joke was made about it being aliens and they decided to go out on to the beach at 11pm to investigate and livestream it.

They didn’t discover anything however it was a lot of fun enjoyed by lots of Twitch viewers and they decided to think about fun activities like ghost hunting.

All three had applied for the Channel 4 show ‘Hunted’ pre-pandemic however it got cancelled temporarily due to the Coronavirus.

It was on Friday night that they decided to come up with their own manhunt based in Blackpool and it grew from there.

Mark said: “Since we created the Facebook page the interest has just been overwhelming. People are already trying to search for clues and trying to work out where we’ll be.

“It’s amazing the fact that an idea we had on Friday night is already getting this big. We’ve all got really good jobs outside the Twitch channel. I’m director of a medical company, Ben works for me and Neil works in software development.

“We all love paintballing and activities like that so it’s a good opportunity for us to get outside, get some fresh air and exercise.

“We’re not really big drinkers but we’re all big gamers so it came out by us just getting together and having a laugh basically.

“Now there’s people adding me on LinkedIn such as one who’s a fish seller from Fleetwood, who is completely outside my line of work, but it’s because people are looking for clues. People have been trying to find out what car I drive and everything!

“Given the interest it’s gotten so far, if it goes well we will consider taking this to other cities and towns too.”