[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 January 2007, 13:55 GMT
Blackpool: 'It's like someone has died'
By Dan Parkinson
BBC News, Blackpool

Shock gave way to anger in Blackpool's town hall after news arrived that the town had lost its bid to build Britain's first super-casino.

Officials and dignitaries had gathered at the historic building, overlooked by the town's famous tower, in a plush-carpeted conference room for what many expected to be a celebration.

Artist's impression of the proposed Conference Leisure Centre, Blackpool
The proposed leisure centre that will remain just an artist's impression
Conversations fell silent as the time of the announcement drew near.

The first sign that things had not gone well came when a grim-faced councillor emerged from a side door waving both hands in vigorous thumbs down gestures.

Council press officers exchanged worried glances as reporters surrounded the councillor, Mary Smith.

"It says it on the internet," she said. "Manchester has got it, I just can't believe it."

Council staff looked increasingly stunned when a senior official confirmed the news moments later.

This was not the announcement those at Blackpool Council had anticipated.

Falling visitor numbers

Many had been privately optimistic that they had done enough to sway the casino advisory panel and bring about a much-needed change in the town's fortunes.

It had been hoped a super-casino would attract new people to the once thriving resort, which has seen visitor numbers slump by seven million in the past 15 years to an annual figure of 10 million.

Blackpool Tower
Blackpool: in much need of living, breathing visitors
"It's like someone very important has just died here," said John Barnett, chairman of the Blackpool Business Leaders' Group after news of the decision had sunk in.

"I just can't believe this is the correct decision. I know people in Manchester and even they wanted the casino to come here. We will not let this be the end of it. If it takes it, we will march to Downing Street and tell them this is not what the people want."

Behind him, Steve Weaver of the ReBlackpool regeneration body, which had helped put the casino bid together, put his arm around an ashen-faced official and said: "I'm sorry."

Council leader Roy Fisher said: "I'm very surprised and disappointed not only for me and the council but the people of Blackpool.

"We believe we have got the best case. We believe we have still got the best case.

"We will press parliament to increase the number of super-casinos as we believe there should be more and one should be here."

Out on the seafront, outside the North Pier, camera crews had descended on Doug Garrett, ReBlackpool's Chief Executive.

Disappointment

In front of the pier's Merry England bar, Mr Garrett struggled to contain his disappointment. "Blackpool is in great need of regeneration. We are suffering decline," he said.

"Blackpool was and is the best place for this. When they drew up the shortlist last year, Manchester was in last place.

"We need to look at what suddenly turned it around for Manchester."

Those working in the town accepted the decision with a resigned shrug.

The only seafront shop open amid the fading placards and boarded buildings was novelty shop Scottie's Got It. Outside the store, which has stock ranging from sticks of rock to fancy dress, was an orange neon sign with a handwritten advertisement - "We sell fags".

"In the past three years business has really dropped," manager Christine Emery said.

"Lots of the other shops like us have closed down and I think the owner only keeps us open for the staff.

"It isn't getting any better. You get a few people coming from the hotels, but the truth is you just don't get people coming to Blackpool any more like they used to."


RELATED BBC LINKS



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific