Life in the Blackpool neighbourhood that's about to be wiped from the face of the earth

Model shop owner Roger Whitman
Model shop owner Roger Whitman -Credit:Manchester Evening News

Nestled in the heart of Blackpool town centre lies a neighbourhood like many others in the seaside resort. Some of its inhabitants have been there for generations.

The gardens are well kept. A few businesses, including a jeweller and a Caribbean supermarket, are nestled among the terraced houses.

But unlike other similar streets in Blackpool, there is an increasing number of boarded-up buildings. In a once bustling area filled with booming businesses, hotels and occupied homes, a deadline approaches.

It is about to be wiped from the face of the earth.


That's because Blackpool Council has detailed plans for the neighbourhood to become a brand new £65m "multiversity" campus, after plans were given the go-ahead. The planning committee from the council unanimously approved an application for the demolition of the area, which includes 59 homes, and the construction of three buildings on the site.

It will be known as University Centre Blackpool (UCB) with Blackpool and the Fylde College using the buildings, collaborating with Lancaster University. Although this sounds good on paper and will benefit many in the long-run, right now the plans are displacing people from their homes.

The proposed site lies between Cookson Street, Milbourne Street, George Street and Grosvenor Street, where many people live, work and have invested significant sums of money.

Resident George Whyte, who has lived on George Street for 50 years, doesn't believe the plans will go ahead in the area. He says there are other, viable options for the campus to be built rather than "tearing down people’s homes."

Local resident George Whyte who lives on George Street
Local resident George Whyte who lives on George Street -Credit:Manchester Evening News

George told LancsLive: "The alternative option for the council is they have three brownfield sites. One at the railway station, one at the new business centre they're modernising and where the ABC Syndicate nightclub used to be.

"All of those are suitable sites and require zero houses to be destroyed, one possible barber shop to be destroyed and flats above, or six or seven houses. All minor affects on the community."

George says he submitted his opposition to the plans, not wanting to be displaced from the home he's lived in for five decades. He says the neighbourhood is a real mix of people, with owner-occupiers, privately-rented flats, Airbnbs and businesses.

Talking a walk around the block, buildings clearly once-occupied by B&Bs and guesthouses, welcoming people in to the heart of Blackpool, now lay bare and empty. On Charles Street, a couple of businesses, including The Edinburgh and Sun Haven Guest House still have their signage up, but the occupiers have long gone.

Across the way, residents live in a property, once used as Sandford Guest House a few decades ago. That was until the current occupier, Shane, moved in to the home in the 1980s.

Now however, it looks like he'll have to move out of the house he's called home for almost 40 years. Talking to his wife Diana, who lives in Kent herself, she said Shane has been left in a difficult situation.

"This is an absolute tip, but my point is that they want the ground it's on," Diana told LancsLive. "They don't care what sort of state it's in.

"We're doing it up, gradually, but we're not spending any more money on it now."

"There's just no housing"

Residents and shops owners show their concerns for the proposed new planned Multiversity
Residents and shops owners show their concerns for the proposed new planned Multiversity -Credit:Manchester Evening News

For those living in the neighbourhood, the council have offered compensation to buy their homes in order for the plans to go ahead. However, most say what they've been offered doesn't go far enough.

Dianne says her husband was offered £70,000 to move out of the property, but he's not looking to accept. She added: "No! What can you buy for £70,000? I mean he's 80 and I think it's a terrible thing to put on somebody when they're that age."

Looking on property websites, homes on Milbourne Street have been purchased for £120,000 - a significant sum as the property market booms.

Over on Cookson Street lies a number of businesses, which LancsLive understands was once a 'bustling' and 'vibrant' area, which now, has been left in disrepute. Working in one of the two remaining businesses, the Premier shop, is a resident of George Street who is concerned for the future for herself and three children.

Adayna Olson says she's "absolutely gutted" by the plans, having lived in her home for nearly nine years. She added: "Trying to find somewhere else is absolutely difficult, there's just no housing."

The resident says she's been told there will be compensation given to people living in the area, but details haven't been given at this stage. Her main concern though, is how her children will react to the news.

"I've got one daughter who suffers severely with anxiety anyway," Adayna continued. "She barely comes out of her bedroom, let alone out of the house.

"I don't know what impact it's going to have on her. It's just a massive inconvenience."

The neighbourhood is set to be demolished
The neighbourhood is set to be demolished -Credit:Manchester Evening News

When Cookson Street was thriving, one business called the street home for over 60 years - Claytons Jewellers. Owning the property and flats above, the shop had been successful in its location for 61 years, until a letter was sent through the post last year.

This told the occupiers about the plans for the campus and sadly, businesses would have to find a new home. Claytons did and now operate from Topping Street, but it's been far from an easy ride.

LancsLive spoke with Andrew Clayton at the new location, as he runs the Blackpool shop, whilst his brother runs the one in St Annes. Andrew said: "We've gone from being an owner to a tenant, which is one of the worst things."

He added: "It actually is two units, but it's compact as it is. Certainly this area, I could have done with more space in my workshop and we've got a lack of office space as well, so there's no private office space at all."

As a third-generation business, Andrew says he isn't sure how the new location is going to fair as they've only been open for seven weeks. He added: "The downside to moving in to a property that wasn't a jeweller, the re-fit has been quite major.

"It was bare bones. Everything's been replaced because we had to have special glass, the shutters, alarm, around the back and everything. Also we've got a workshop so we had to do all of that."

Model shop owner Roger Whitman
Model shop owner Roger Whitman -Credit:Manchester Evening News

Another business that moved from Cookson Street was Tower Models, a model shop that now calls Devonshire Road its new home. Having established itself as a long-running business in the area, Tower Models was in the proposed campus section of town for 44 years before it had to find a new base elsewhere.

Running the shop is Roger Whittam, who says his new property is four times more expensive than what he was offered for his older premises despite being the same size. He said: "You can tell over the years he had been run down and down.

"I mean, the fact it was effectively allowed to become a red light district, the whole area and it was just allowed which of course started to effect the values of the properties. Then when it came to the compulsory purchases, the money they were offering you was an awful lot lower, because the area had been run down for a number of years."

Roger says he's lost money in the move, but does agree the project needs to be done, just perhaps in a different way. He said: "The trouble is, this is something that has affected the people that are there and the houses that are there.

"You get sleepless nights and this started nearly two years ago, so you can't sleep at night with worry about if whether your business has a future." Despite the stress of finding a new premises, Roger says his business is fairing well and has been able to benefit from a new, modernised version of his shop.

'The area is the only suitable space'

The plans are for a brand new £65m multiversity campus
The plans are for a brand new £65m multiversity campus -Credit:Manchester Evening News

Alan Cavill, Director of Communications and Regeneration at Blackpool Council said: "We fully understand the impact on people living in the properties in the Multiversity area, as we are buying their homes. We continue to support any residents who have to move as a result, and nobody will be asked to move out without reasonable warning and support to find somewhere else suitable to live.

"We have also provided an advice service independent of the team negotiating to buy the properties and they are available to be contacted by any residents affected who have questions regarding the sale or support in finding a new home. The area is the only suitable space for the Multiversity in Blackpool, given the transport connections with the train, tram and bus.

"It is also the only location which has been granted funding for the Multiversity. Extensive consultation has taken place on the project, with 86% of respondents positive or very positive about the scheme when surveyed in 2021."