Britannia breaks silence over Blackpool hotels in head office visit

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

LancsLive visited Britannia Hotels’ head office in Manchester to ask why they have failed to comment about customer complaints

 

HQ: Halecroft in Altrincham
HQ: Halecroft in Altrincham (Image: Amy Fenton)

Bosses at Britannia Hotels have explained why they have failed to respond to requests for comment about customer complaints and concerns about hundreds of asylum seekers being housed in their hotels.

Over the last few months a number of reports have been published by LancsLive regarding a number of hotels owned by the group.

Britannia Hotels owns the Norbreck Castle in Blackpool which has come under repeated fire for its cleanliness from customers. One claimed to have found blood on the walls while just this week another revealed she had been waiting for a year for compensation after finding curry spilled in her hotel room.

 

The Norbreck Castle in Blackpool
The Norbreck Castle in Blackpool (Image: James Maloney)

Last month hundreds of asylum seekers moved into the Metropole on Blackpool’s Promenade despite concerns being raised by Blackpool Council and the police and fire service.

Council leader Lynn Williams said it was “wholly inappropriate” for vulnerable people to be housed in a high profile tourist location while Blackpool MPs Scott Benton and Paul Maynard both see the move as damaging to Blackpool.

Britannia Hotels also owns Pontins in Southport which has been the subject of a number of customer complaints and negative reviews relating to hygiene and cleanliness. One mum who visited in August claimed the resort amounted to a “dystopian world of hell”.

LancsLive has consistently approached Britannia Hotels for comment when reporting on its hotels but the Manchester-based company has repeatedly refused to respond.

We visited the head office of Britannia Hotels in Hale Road, Altrincham, to find out why.

Britannia Metropole Hotel in Blackpool
Britannia Metropole Hotel in Blackpool

Britannia Hotels is based in a Grade II* property known as Halecroft which was built in 1890. The property is set back from the road and shielded by a number of large trees.

When we entered the property a member of staff came to speak to us. We explained who we were and why we were there and we pointed out that Britannia Hotels often don’t even state that they do not wish to comment.

“We have sent some comments out to the media,” they said. “We have a lot of hotels and we get a lot of good press too.”

We then highlighted that we have rarely, if ever, received any comment from Britannia Hotels.

“If we say we won’t be commenting then reporters sometimes twist things and say we declined to comment,” the manager replied.

“We always reply to our customers when they contact us.”

The employee also said that it was not always their decision whether to reply to request for comment.

We then left full contact details and requested they be passed on to the directors of the company.

 

 

Blackpool Metropole hotel facing major issues with food hygiene and safety

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The Metropole Hotel’s restaurant received a rating of ‘1’ – Major Improvement Necessary – because they failed to ensure the food preparation areas were kept clean

 

Britannia Metropole Hotel in Blackpool
Britannia Metropole Hotel in Blackpool (Image: Photo by James Maloney/LancsLive)

A hygiene improvement notice has been served to a prominent seafront hotel in Blackpool which is now temporarily housing asylum seekers.

The Metropole Hotel on Princess Parade has been accommodating asylum seekers since last month (September), yet an inspection carried out on 26th August concluded that it needed to make a major improvement in its food hygiene practices.

Blackpool Council operates the National Food Hygiene Rating Scheme which helps consumers make informed decisions about where they eat and buy their food.

 

Establishments receive ratings from ‘0’ where urgent improvement is required to ‘5’ which means the food hygiene standards are very good.

The Metropole Hotel’s restaurant received ‘1’ – Major Improvement Necessary because they failed to ensure the food preparation and service areas were kept clean.

In the report, inspectors noted dirt in many areas of the kitchen and restaurant, including a meat slicer which was found to have ‘meat residue’ on it, despite inspectors being under the impression it had been cleaned.

Also listed in the report was dirt on a fridge, a freezer, a walk in freezer, the kitchen radio, the soap dispenser and the bonzer can opener.

Metropole Hotel, Blackpool
The hotel has received a rating of ‘1’ Major Improvement Necessary (Image: LancsLive)

Food debris in the cutlery drawers, on the stairs and accumulated on a unused trolley downstairs was noted.

There was also dirt on the doors leading from the kitchen to the restaurant which is used for staff meals, leading into the restaurant, at the side of the kitchen.

There was also dirt found on the outside of the water urns, crates in the hot drinks area, on the floor of downstairs, underside of a hand towel dispenser and on taps to a handwash basin.

The report also described a significant pooling of water on the floor in the pot wash area and the additional restaurant being used for staff meals had not been cleaned down after use.

Regulations require the hotel to examine food items and identify those which contain allergens and provide accurate information and food labels if requested.

At the time of the visit, there was no allergen information for any food in the restaurant.

The report stated: “[Food information regulations] require you to examine all your food items and identify those that contain allergens. This should be written downYou must give consumers accurate information and provide proof such as food labels if requested. You also need to put a sign up in your premises which informs people that they can ask staff for information about allergens in the food. At the time of visit there was no allergen information available for any food served in the restaurant.”

Several health and safety issues were also identified such as taps in the ladies toilets needed tightening and securing and the third floor window next to a storeroom had a crack in the glass, which needed to be replaced.

The front of a gaming machine had been taken off and not replaced by the barrier which failed to prevent tampering or risk of injury.

The measures the hotel now need to comply with are set out extensively in the report and most involve cleaning and disinfecting the identified areas.

The Metropole has played host to Afghan asylum seekers since late September, despite protestations from MPs and Blackpool Council.

The Grand Metropole Hotel on Sunday night (September 26)
The hotel is currently being used to house Afghan asylum seekers (Image: Bpl Bible/LancsLive)

Earlier in September, the council paused proceedings by issuing a notice to Britannia Hotels, which owns the Metropole.

In a statement at the time, council leader Coun Lynn Williams, said: “We have served notice on Britannia Hotels advising that if they close the hotel and use it for the purpose of housing asylum-seekers they will need planning permission for a change of use of the building.”

However, despite lengthy discussions with the Home Office and Serco, the company in charge of housing asylum seekers, the plans were later put into action.

Scott Benton, MP for Blackpool South, also expressed his ‘disappointment’ over the move, calling it a ‘ridiculous decision’.

“I’m extremely disappointed that this placement of asylum seekers is going ahead. Placing a large number of people in a building which is not fit for purpose, at a time when public services in the resort are already under pressure, is a ridiculous decision.

“I’ve made my strong feelings on this issue clear to both government ministers and the council and I will continue to do so. Whilst many towns and cities across England already have, or have had, a placement of asylum seekers, so in this respect Blackpool is not unique, the use of this sub standard accommodation; the hotel’s location in our central holiday area; and the impact upon our local public services when they are already under pressure are all strong reasons why I don’t think this placement is acceptable.”

LancsLive has contacted the Home Office and Serco for comment.

 

 

Blackpool visit sees man ‘left with rash all over his body’ after one-night hotel stay

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He’s received medical help but the scars remain a week later

The Westbourne House Hotel on Vance Road, Blackpool.
The Westbourne House Hotel on Vance Road, Blackpool.

A man says he was left with rash marks ‘all over’ his body – including both of his hands – after a stay at a hotel in Blackpool.

Chris Burdon, 38, stayed for one night at the Westbourne House Hotel on October 5. He said he had gone to view the Blackpool Illuminations for the evening, before returning home to Newcastle the following day.

As he left the hotel and began his journey home, Chris said he noticed a rash ‘all over’ his hands and body that began to ‘itch’ and ‘swell’.

Chris claimed that the red marks were ‘bites’ though the Westbourne House Hotel categorically denied that its rooms were infested with bed bugs, telling LancsLive that they have “a bed bug report to prove the rooms have no infestation”.

Chris checked-in to Westbourne House on October 5 for one night on a solo-travel to see the Blackpool Illuminations. He told LancsLive that the hotel ‘seemed alright’ so he simply checked in, visited the illuminations, returned back to the hotel and went to bed.

His stay on Vance Road cost £22.50 for the night, with breakfast included.

Chris Burdon said he noticed bite marks 'all over' his hands and body that began to 'itch' and 'swell' after he left the Westbourne House Hotel.
Chris Burdon said he noticed bite marks ‘all over’ his hands and body that began to ‘itch’ and ‘swell’ after he left the Westbourne House Hotel.

Chris said: “When I woke up in the morning, I started noticing all these bites, especially when I left they really started coming out once I left the hotel.”

Chris had enjoyed his stay at the Westbourne House, even sitting down to eat his breakfast before noticing the redness on his arms. He has experienced swelling and itchiness too.

Chris’ rash became ‘painful’ and ‘itchy’ so he visited hospital where he was given the appropriate medication and cream to stop the swelling.

Since receiving medical care, Chris hopes to ‘warn’ people of his experience at the hotel.

Chris Burdon has shared photographs of the bite marks a week after they began to 'swell'.
Chris Burdon has shared photographs of the bite marks a week after they began to ‘swell’.

He said: “I actually check the beds every time I go and stay at a hotel and there wasn’t any evidence (of bed bugs) so obviously they must have all been crawling up the left side of the bed and against the wall.

“I checked other people’s feedback after and somebody else had reported room two for the same thing.”

Over a week later, the scars from the red rash are still visible on Chris’ hands.

Chris hopes to return to Blackpool to see the championship fireworks and added: “I won’t be staying at that hotel.”

Blackpool Council confirmed it has also received no complaints regarding bed bugs at the Westbourne House Hotel, with a spokesperson adding: “If we do receive any complaints about a business we would look into it.”

 

 

Blackpool fire rips through family home leaving half the house in ruins

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“It’s just horrible that the fact that Christmas is around the corner and they’ve just lost their home.”

 

The fire that devastated the upstairs of a property on Scorton Avenue, Blackpool
The fire that devastated the upstairs of a property on Scorton Avenue, Blackpool (Image: Go Fund Me)

A fundraiser has been set up to help a Blackpool family after a fire ripped through the top half of their home.

On Tuesday (October 14) a fire broke out that is believed to have been sparked by an electrical fault within a spotlight.

The flames were spotted by neighbours who called the fire brigade who managed to put out the flames before it reached the bottom floor.

The top level of the property has been completely devastated, including the roof.

Mum, Rebecca Hercus, dad Paul Wilson and their four children Esme, three; Ella, nine; Jay, 14; and Charlie, 16, have now had to leave their home and precious items which they will never get back.

The fire that broke out on Tuesday (October 12) has completely gutted the upstairs of the house
The fire that broke out on Tuesday (October 12) has completely gutted the upstairs of the house (Image: Linda Binns)

Family friend, 34-year-old, Linda Binns, who is currently fostering, has set up a fundraiser page to try and help.

She told LancsLive: “Rebecca and Paul were at work at the time but luckily a neighbour the fire was seen by a neighbour who called the fire brigade.

“It’s just horrible that the fact that Christmas is around the corner and they’ve just lost their home. Rebecca is such a good person and is always helping people.

Lots of the family's items were destroyed in the fire
Lots of the family’s items were destroyed in the fire (Image: Linda Binns)

“She’s a carer at Annacliffe Care Home and she’s always taking the residents out.

“I just set up the page as something I could do to help and if anyone can help in anyway it would be much appreciated. Clothes, bedding, furniture – anything will help.”

The family’s landlord is trying to relocate the family however they won’t be able to return to their home any time soon.

  • To donate to Linda’s fundraiser, please visit the GoFundMe link here

 

The hub will be known as Elliot’s Place in memory of 24-year-old Elliot Taylor – and is looking for volunteers

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The hub will be known as Elliot’s Place in memory of 24-year-old Elliot Taylor – and is looking for volunteers

 

The new building for Elliot's Place was lifted in in two part's over charity Empowerment's existing building this week
The new building for Elliot’s Place was lifted in in two part’s over charity Empowerment’s existing building this week (Image: Empowerment charity)

A brand new mental health space designed to help young men will be opening in Blackpool soon – in memory of a 24-year-old local man who sadly passed away.

The much needed building has recently been craned into the Empowerment Sanctuary garden at Bispham Road week which will offer a supportive space.

Currently, they are asking for volunteers who might be able to offer their skills and services.

Although not open to facilitate groups just yet, the space is now there for anyone who feels like they need immediate help.

The landmark moment comes after innovative Blackpool-based charity Empowerment and volunteers made many efforts to raise £10,000 to create the space in its Sanctuary Garden.

The charity states on its website that it is dedicated to serving marginalised communities in Blackpool and the Fylde Coast and is passionate about getting people’s voices heard.

The charity wishes to play its part in fighting against the stigma that surrounds men and their mental health.

Elliot Taylor's death has inspired the creation of Elliot's Place.
Elliot Taylor’s death has inspired the creation of Elliot’s Place

The hub will be known as Elliot’s Place in memory of 24-year-old Elliot Taylor.

After living with severe anxiety, the young man who lived locally sadly took his own life after having nowhere to turn to for immediate help.

Councillor Jo Farrell, Blackpool Council Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health, said: “Elliot’s Place is an amazing initiative and is a testament to Elliot’s family and friends.

“It will be a valuable and safe space for any young men in our community struggling with their mental health. We know men in particular are more likely to take their own lives.

“Any initiative that promotes peer support and less stigma around mental health is an asset to Blackpool.”

The site of Elliot's Place in Blackpool.
The site of Elliot’s Place in Blackpool.

Several volunteers and organisations have helped with the project including B&Q which donated £5,000 through the B&Q Foundation community fund in collaboration with Neighbourly.

Friends and family of Elliot Embarked on the mammoth Coast to Coast Hike to help with fundraising along with others who completed the three peaks challenge back in June.

Working with the family of Elliot Taylor, the space that was an unloved area of the Empowerment Garden was able to be transformed, beginning with a generous donation from Kevin Hughes and his local firm Town and Country Management Solutions.

A sign has just been added to let people know where they are located.

The sign for Elliot's Place went up at the site at the end of last month
The sign for Elliot’s Place went up at the site at the end of last month (Image: Empowerment Charity)

Blackpool – Empowering Social Support (BESS) Service and Community Engagement Manager Linzi Cason told LancsLive: “We want people to know that although we can’t have groups here just yet we are here if anyone needs immediate help.

“Inside we have a small room for meetings, a small kitchen and comfy seating. As this is a space for young men, we want to get their input as to what should be in there and what they would like to see.

“We’re also looking for activities facilitators and peer mentors which we call ‘Elliot’s mates.’ There are plenty of people out their who have their own stories who may perhaps want to help others.

“Although this is a hub we want to also bring the young men out into the community with different activities.

“The space needs more development so if anyone can come forward and help, no matter what their businesses or services, we’d very much appreciate it.

“We recently had an electrician who offered their services and we suggested that perhaps he speaks to some of the young lads who perhaps may want to be electricians.

“We’ve had another gentleman who has recently retired and his hobby is bench making so he offered us a bench.

“Anything anyone can help with, we’ll be very grateful.”

Empowerment is aiming to keep everyone updated as to how the project is going in the next few weeks.

 

 

Paedophile hunters catch ‘lonely’ electrician who wanted to be Blackpool girl’s ‘big brother’ and teach her how to kiss

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A member of the Fleetwood Enforcers paedophile hunter group created a fake profile and spoke to Gregory Horrobin online

 

Gregory Horrobin
Gregory Horrobin

A man who offered to teach what he believed to be a 14-year-old girl from Blackpool how to kiss in a sickening online conversation was snared by a paedophile hunter group.

Gregory Horrobin told her he would be her “big brother”, teach her how to perform a sex act on him and also asked the ‘girl’ to touch herself to keep him happy, Preston Crown Court heard.

The 39-year-old was instead chatting to a woman from the Fleetwood Enforcers paedophile hunter group who was pretending to be a child as a part of the organisation which hunts men who want to sexually exploit children.

After sending a number of sexual messages and asking the ‘girl’ not to tell her mum, Horrobin arranged to meet up with her at his home in Stoneygate Lane, Appley Bridge.

Instead of a 14-year-old girl, members of the paedophile hunter group arrived at his house ready to broadcast their confrontation with him online.

However, Horrobin had “seen sense” and backed out of the plan and was not there when he arrived.

The hunters passed on the details of the conversations to the police and Horrobin was soon arrested and charged with attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child and attempting to incite a child to engage in sexual activity.

Prosecuting, Emma Kehoe told Preston Crown Court that a member of the Fleetwood Enforcers paedophile hunter group, created a fake profile under another name on the Tagged social media site in May 2020.

The profile was set up purporting to be a teenager from Blackpool and received a message from Horrobin, whose profile gave his age and location.

Ms Kehoe said: “That initial message that he sent was ‘how’s it going and there wasn’t a response’.

“There wasn’t a response and then another message saying ‘Hi, would you like to chat, I think I’ve spoken to you before’.

“She said she doubts it as she’d only just joined.

“She made it categorically clear that she’s only 14 and from Blackpool and he said her age wasn’t a problem.”

The conversation was initially non-sexual, with Horrobin asking what school year she was in and telling her about his work before asking for her number to chat on What’sApp instead.

Ms Kehoe said: “The conversation carried on innocently, or as innocently as any between the defendant and a 14-year-old girl could be, but he then began to ask her to send selfies and sending selfies of himself and voice notes.

“No response was received from the ‘girl’ for a two-week period in June before resuming when Horrobin again messaged her on June 22.

“The conversation started to move to be sexual, he said he will be her big brother, he will teach her about the birds and bees, he will teach her how to kiss.”

Gregory Horrobin
Gregory Horrobin

Horrobin’s messages escalated to asking her to ‘touch herself to keep him interested’ and when the response said she did not know what this meant, he proceeded to explain in detail.

He continued to say he would teach her how to perform a sex act on him and that he would perform one on her if they met up as well as offering to buy her underwear to wear that day.

The pair arranged to meet at his home, at which point the hunters organised to meet up with another group and attend his house but he was not present when they arrived on July 3.

In a police interview on the same day, Horrobin gave no comment but then pleaded guilty to attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child and attempting to incite a child to engage in sexual activity at a hearing at Preston Crown Court earlier this year.

Ms Kehoe said that while he has previous convictions for battery, he has no history of offences similar to this. Defending, Tom Watson said Horrobin was ashamed and disgusted by his actions.

He said the defendant had “seen sense” and backed out of the meeting, which explained why he wasn’t home when the groups turned up at his house.

Mr Watson said that Horrobin worked as an electrical engineer, lived a lonely life and had struggled since the deaths of his mother and grandmother in recent years.

He said that six supporting statements had been submitted by those that knew him and described the behaviour as out of character.

He continued: “The defendant struggles to explain his behaviour but he has not attempted to sidestep this offence. He feels fully accepts that he’s responsible, he has not attempted to minimise or excuse his behaviour.”

Mr Watson said that Horrobin actively wanted to gain understanding about what led him to this behaviour and would be better served by being rehabilitated outside of prison.

Preston Crown Court
Preston Crown Court (Image: James Maloney/LancsLive)

Sentencing, Recorder Geoffrey Lowe said the offences were so serious that they could only be dealt with by a custodial sentence. He also noted Horrobin’s “level of remorse, acceptance of responsibility and willingness to work to understand the motivation for his behaviour.”

Recorder Lowe said: “Dealing with an offence of your type, society needs to be protected. Prison is often regarded as the best place to do that.”

But he continued to say that he believed society could still be protected with Horrobin out of prison due to his willingness to work with probation services to avoid repeat offending.

He issued a two-year sentence suspended for two years, ordered Horrobin to complete 40 days off rehabilitation activity days and 180 hours of unpaid work, and to complete a sex offenders programme known as ‘Horizon’.

Horrobin was also made subject of a sexual harm prevention order lasting 10 years.

 

 

‘The Queen’ arrives in style at Madame Tussauds in Blackpool – in pictures

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The new and improved waxwork version of Her Majesty is seated and accompanied by one of her beloved pet corgi dogs.

 

The waxwork Queen arrives at her destination
The waxwork Queen arrives at her destination (Image: James Maloney/LancsLive)

‘The Queen’ has undergone a touch up and is now back in place at Madam Tussauds in Blackpool, after first arriving at the attraction on the promenade in 2012.

The new and improved waxwork version of Her Majesty is seated on an ornate bench and accompanied by one of her beloved pet corgi dogs.

She arrived on a horse-drawn carriage accompanied by Royal Livery guards, to a red carpet reception, complete with a rendition of the National Anthem by the Royal Yorkshire Military Band.

Queen Elizabeth II is joined by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge who are standing nearby, with all three royals ready for a picture or selfie.

The Queen was just two when her figure was first immortalised in Madame Tussauds in London in 1928. Since then, 23 waxworks of the monarch have been created.

Blackpool’s Madame Tussauds welcomes ‘The Queen’ to a right royal fanfare

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The head monarch arrived on a horse-drawn carriage as the Royal Yorkshire Military Band played the National Anthem

 

The Queen arrives in Blackpool ahead of taking her place on an ornate bench bench with one of her beloved corgis at Madam Tussauds
Towering over us: The Queen arrives in Blackpool ahead of taking her place on an ornate bench bench with one of her beloved corgis at Madam Tussauds (Image: LancsLive/James Maloney)

‘The Queen’ has arrived at Blackpool’s Madame Tussauds in regal style, naturally.

The head monarch travelled down the Promenade from the Comedy Caret outside the Blackpool Tower on a horse-drawn carriage, flanked by Royal Livery guards.

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Onlookers were forced to double-take as she passed by, with Queen Elizabeth II’s waxwork replica remarkably similar to the real thing.

Dressed in a baby pink ensemble, The Queen accompanied her outfit with her signature matching pearl earrings and necklace and natural make-up.

As she approached the visitor attraction on the promenade, a rousing rendition of the National Anthem by the Royal Yorkshire Military Band was played.

Inside the venue, the touched-up waxwork version of Her Majesty was then seated on an ornate bench and accompanied by one of her beloved pet corgi dogs, who is cheekily propping his leg.

Queen Elizabeth II is joined by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge who are standing nearby, with all three royals ready for a picture or selfie with you.

Stuart Jarman, general manager at Madame Tussauds Blackpool, said: “We are thrilled to have the brand new figure of the Queen with us – she is an extremely popular attraction here and one that visitors, young and old, always want to see during their visit.

The Queen turned heads when her waxwork look-alike was given the red carpet treatment upon its return by horse-draw carriage to Madame Tussauds in Blackpool, Lancashire.

‘The Queen’ arrives in style at Madame Tussauds in Blackpool – in pictures

“We have never had a character make such a dramatic entrance but if such an extravaganza was to happen for anyone, of course it had to be for her Majesty”.

The original Queen waxwork was first installed in Blackpool in 2012 to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee, but it has now been touched up to better reflect the real-life head of the royal family.

The Queen was just two when her figure was first immortalised in Madame Tussauds in London in 1928. Since then, 23 waxworks of the monarch have been created.

A second portrait, which saw her seated on a Shetland pony, was sculpted by John Theodore Tussaud (Madame Tussaud’s great-grandson) in 1930. Madame Tussauds held sittings with Princess Elizabeth herself from 1928 right up until 2001.

The Queen takes a ride on her horse-drawn carriage to her home at Madam Tussauds in Blackpool
The Queen takes a ride on her horse-drawn carriage to her home at Madam Tussauds in Blackpool (Image: James Maloney/Lancs Live)

Did you know?

It takes a team of 25 artists to work on one wax figure, spending a total of 800 hours collectively. This includes: 350 hours to sculpt the figure, 187 hours to insert a head of hair and 30 hours to make a set of teeth.

The Queen is one of 2,000 wax figures on display around the world, with roughly 150kg of clay used to sculpt each figure equating to 23 stone, the average weight of a tiger.

To book tickets to see The Queen and the many other waxworks ta Madame Tussauds, click here.