A mum in Thornton says one of her children and two pals could have been killed after a huge tree fell down at the entrance to a community green space just yards from where they were standing.
Emma Young, 30, of Usk Avenue near Stanah, says her seven year old son and his friends, aged eight and 11, were only able to get out of the way because they heard a noise and saw it toppling.
The incident follows calls by residents for the green space, which has a public footpath and is often used by people on the housing estate, to be more regularly maintained and for the overgrown hedges to be cut back.
Emma, a mum-of-two who works as a postwoman, said: “It was frightening because if that thing had struck them on the head they wouldn’t have stood a chance.
Residents at Harlech Grove are unhappy about the lack of maintenance of the green space around their homes
“I wrote to Wyre Council and Lancashire Council to raise concerns about this last August because I could see that the trees were unstable.”
Other residents are unhappy too, including Chris Hallam of Harlech Grove, who said: “These huge hedges are now too top heavy for the base and could easily crash onto my house. I even withheld my council tax in protest, it’s not acceptable.”
The green space was originally owned by developer David McNeil Homes but in 2008 the company, which has since folded, made negotiations for the land to be adopted by The Greenbelt Company, which takes over and maintains undevelopable land on behalf of developers. The land has since been sold to another party, understood to be a Fylde coast resident and businessman.
A Wyre spokesman said: “The land does not belong to the council but we are looking into these concerns.”
What a difference a year makes – 12 months ago Blackpool was on the brink of entering tier 3 Covid restrictions with its hospitality industry shut down on the eve of the busy half-term holiday.
But the resort has bounced back this summer as visitors have returned to the resort in numbers reminiscent of its glory days.
Council figures show footfall on the seafront and Promenade was more than 60 per cent ahead of pre-pandemic levels in July and August this year.
Mobile phone data shows nearly 11 million people visited the Prom during those months, compared to 6.6 million in 2019.
Busy Blackpool beach
Although there are no official figures again this year for visitor numbers, hoteliers group StayBlackpool is also reporting strong performance among its members.
Blackpool Council’s head of tourism Philip Welsh told a meeting of the tourism, economy and communities scrutiny committee: “Feedback is that it has been a really strong recovery through the summer months.
“Some of the numbers on the Promenade are more reminiscent of 20 years ago and there are strong signs that is continuing into September, despite a blip due to the fuel crisis.”
Footfall has also increased in the town centre during July and August – up 26 per cent from 5.5 million in 2019 (pre-pandemic) to nearly 7 million this summer.
The Promenade has attracted millions of visitors
It is up 48 per cent compared to last year’s figure of 4.6 million.
A report to the committee said: “Whilst we have no formal research on visitor numbers due to our traditional household research being suspended during pandemic restrictions, key indicators such as car parking, inbound rail, and mobile phone monitoring data indicate that Blackpool’s tourism industry
has enjoyed a remarkably strong recovery to date.
“Businesses across most tourism and hospitality sectors in the resort are reporting exceptional results compared to 2019 (the last full year of tourism activity pre-pandemic) and strong bookings over the remainder of this year.
“The reinstatement of large-scale events such as World Fireworks has attracted very large numbers of people to the Promenade, generating footfall on a scale that we have not seen for many years.”
The Illuminations have been extended until January 3 in order to extend Blackpool’s tourism season even further, while investment has been made in a stronger Christmas offer than usual.
This includes an indoor festive market at the Winter Gardens and a Christmas By The Sea village on the Tower Festival Headland, with a synthetic skating rink, magic forest, snowfalls, and themed light projection shows.
The entertainment offer has also been ramped up with the Friends Festive exhibition celebrating the TV show at the Winter Gardens from November 5 to 19, along with traditional shows and pantomimes.
Mr Welsh said: “We hope to have really good things happening in the last three months of the year and build foundations for next year.
“Next year we will have the challenge of the return of European travel. We don’t want to see this year as a one-season wonder, we want to build on this year.”
Mr Welsh added feedback from representatives of the holiday accommodation sector on the town’s Covid Recovery Group had been positive.
He said: “A lot of those businesses have taken the leap of faith with us and are staying open until the end of the year, and forward bookings for next year appear to be very good.
“When people have been coming here, they have been going out and spending money in shops, bars and restaurants.”
Mr Welsh said it was hoped next year would see another strong tourism performance as many of the events and conferences cancelled this year will be back in place.
This includes Blackpool’s annual Air Show which will return next year over the weekend of August 13 and 14 after being cancelled for the past two years due to Covid, and which attracts up to 100, 000 visitors.
The World Fireworks Championships has been moved from Friday night to Saturday night this year to encourage people to arrive in town earlier and boost trade for businesses across the resort.
Other indicators which reflect Blackpool’s recovery include use of car parks which for June and July was up by more than 14,000 compared to 2019, although there was a small dip in August due to events such as the air show being cancelled.
Inbound rail travel was down slightly, by 3.4 per cent between April and August compared to 2019, but saw a jump of 40 per cent in June.
Ian White, a director of hoteliers group StayBlackpool, said members had reported “extremely positive” performance since lockdown ended.
He said: “Feedback from StayBlackpool members is extremely impressive and we are aware that some members are having to slow down a touch to avoid breaking through the VAT threshold.
“Early concerns about last minute cancellations where people had double booked a foreign holiday and a Blackpool holiday never happened as the traffic light system worked to support the staycation.
“StayBlackpool is looking forward to 2022 as the town welcomes back a full schedule of events.
“Not forgetting our big reveal of an online booking platform allowing the real time search and booking facilities to match the big online travel agents, though our offer will give members commission free or ultra low charge bookings.
“2022 will also be extremely positive as the town sees more work starting and progressing on the many projects around the town.
“There will be concerns that as foreign travel opens up again in 2022, demand may suffer.
“However we have confidence that StayBlackpool is doing all the right things at the right time for our members and the visitors staying with these trusted accommodation providers.”
There’s be a Santa’s grotto and Bavarian-style Christmas markets at the Winter Gardens
Family event Winter Gardens Wonderland is set to sleigh ride into Blackpool for the festive season.
The wintry treat will have a Santa’s grotto and magical live entertainment, while visitors can browse the wooden chalets at the Bavarian-style Christmas markets.
The festivities will take place indoors and outdoors from November 26 to January 2.
The grotto, which will also have live reindeer, is already open for bookings, with each child requiring their own time slot.
Each visit includes a meeting Father Christmas, a gift and free photograph and frame with the man himself as part of the £15 entry fee.
To add to the winter fun in the seaside town Tower Headland will be home to a free ice skating rink, where you’ll also find simulated snowfalls, cosy log cabins, a magical forest, festive light projection shows and special Santa tram rides in the shadow of the magnificent Blackpool Tower.
“Renowned for its unique location, the Blackpool Winter Gardens is the perfect venue for a traditional Bavarian-style Christmas Market,” event organisers say.
“Complete with wooden chalets and a bustling atmosphere, Indoor & outdoor traders, prepare to be amazed as we present a fun filled event for the whole family this festive period. Featuring incredible live entertainment, amazing food and a magical Santa’s Grotto, Winter Gardens Wonderland is a MUST this festive period.”
Bosses at The New Penny of Poulton said a £200,000 makeover has gone down a treat with customers.
Tom and Stephen Jones standing in front of their revamped New Penny.
The ice cream parlour and café, in Tithebarn Street, has been in need of a revamp for some time, boss Stephen Jones said, with workmen put to work earlier this year.
He said: “The building took 13 weeks to complete.”
And his son Tom Jones, who helps run the popular eatery, added: “The public really likes it. Everybody I have asked said it feels like night and day.
A look into the new interior
“Sometimes when I close my eyes I feel like I’m in Italy.”
The New Penny, which like many venues furloughed its staff – with not all returning – during the height of the pandemic, is soon to celebrate its 40th year after opening in November 1982.
Tom said chiefs are looking into a number of ideas of how to mark the milestone.
“It is quite the achievement for a third-generation business,” he said. “We have had the same landlords and the same foundations. Continuity is quite good in that sense.
Some of the many flavours on offer at the New Penny
“But it is going to be something special and we are hoping to do something to celebrate.”
The New Penny, which has an average rating of 4.0 out of five on the review site TripAdvisor based on the thoughts of 146 customers, gave away its stock to locals after Covid restrictions forced its door shut last year.
Talks with the landlord began during lockdown, with builders due on site in January this year.
They “were busy”, Stephen said, with work eventually getting underway in March ahead of an official reopening in June.
Designers from The Artistry House scrapped the dark wooden aesthetic in favour of a lighter, more open space, with a middle wall knocked down and the back doors replaced by a sliding window door.
A South Shore restaurant owner who discovered his passion for Indian cuisine at the age of 12 bagged best chef awards at two different national curry competitions.
Mohammed Iftekher Hussain
Mohammed Iftekher Hussain, 47, owner of the Baby Kingfisher Indian restaurant on Highfield Road, was awarded the top spot in both the Asian Curry Awards in Manchester and the National Curry Association competition at the House of Lords in London this month.
He rose above the competition with his chicken pakora and onion bhajis following by shahi masala and jalfrezi dishes.
“It was a lot of pressure. It was the first time in a few years I have done something like this and the last time I did I was there as a helper,” he said. “We were up against some real giants there, so I was over the moon. Some of the restaurants there were from as far afield as Northern Ireland and London, and of course Bradford, which is well known as the curry capital of Britain.”
Iftekher, who started cooking 35 years ago, won ‘Chef of the Year’ at the Asian Curry Awards at the Mercure Manchester Piccadilly Hotel on August 31 one week after presenting his dishes to a panel of judges.
In another competition on September 15, he won the National Curry Association’s ‘Chef of the Year’ award at a grand ceremony at the House of Lords in London.
He said: “I have literally grown up cooking. I’ve worked with some great chefs over the years. I’ve worked in some odd places, and some prestigious places. Going back 20 years I worked for the Shimla group, which operates in London, Birmingham, Coventry, Edingburgh, Glasgow and Leeds. Other places I have worked just alone, myself in the kitchen.
“Working in Blackpool is almost like working in a village atmosphere. Everybody knows everybody. We’re very familiar with our customers, which can be a double-edged sword at times. If you do something right, everybody knows about it – if you do something wrong, everybody knows about it. It’s a very tight-knit community.”
To celebrate his success at the two awards ceremonies, Iftekher is now planning a special event at his restaurant, to be attended by local politicians who missed out on a taste of his award-winning food at the House of Lords.
He said: “We are only a small restaurant, so we entered the competition as the underdogs, going up against some big groups. To manage to win Chef of the Year – I’m absolutely delighted.”
The decision to place hundreds of asylum seekers in a Blackpool hotel has gone ahead, ignoring concerns made by the council and resort MPs.
It is believed the first asylum seekers moved into the Metropole Hotel on the Promenade overnight following weeks of discussions and disagreements between the Home Office, the council and the hotel’s owner Britannia Hotels.
It is understood that 141 asylum seekers, believed to be mainly women and girls, have already been placed in the hotel with more to arrive.
The asylum seekers arrived just hours before the council was due in court to apply for an injunction banning them from being housed at the Metropole, The Gazette understands.
Asylum seekers have moved into the Metropole Hotel on the Promenade
Now they’re in there, though, town hall lawyers face a much tougher task.
It follows on from the leader of Blackpool Council, Coun Lynn Williams, advising that the decision to go ahead with the placement was being blocked.
She 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.”
Blackpool South MP Scott Benton said he hopes the council can challenge the decision.
He said: “I’m extremely disappointed that this placement of asylum seekers has occurred. 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 at all.
“I would strongly urge the Council to do everything they can to challenge this placement and to examine whether it is permissible on planning grounds.
“My understanding is that 141 asylum seekers – mainly women and girls – have been placed into the Metropole so far and we are expecting this number to increase.
“I will be working with all of our local public service providers to try and minimise the impact of this settlement to local residents.”
Blackpool Council has been approached for comment on the decision.
Both the Home Office and Britannia Hotels have also been contacted for comment.