Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Oh, I Do Like To Be Beside The...

Once more unto the beach

Drum rolls may not have accompanied the opening of Blackpool’s latest ‘exciting’ new development, but one certainly hopes the stupendous event was met with an array of rolled eyes.

Talk about shifting sands, but the English seaside resort, famed for its Eiffelesque tower, its seafront entertainment, and, well, its beach has opened its latest must-have attraction for resort junkies – a brand new, er... beach.

Surely Blackpool already has a beach? Well, yes, but the apparatchiks heading up the urban regeneration company ReBlackpool, one of a plethora of quangos tasked with spending money ‘revitalising’ and ‘regenerating’ Britain’s towns and cities, clearly thought that nature’s sandy offering just wasn’t good enough.

The problem was tides. That dastardly natural phenomenon meant that Blackpool beach was inundated by the sea twice – twice! – a day. Something had to be done. Now, ReBlackpool must have done its homework, or at least heard about old King Canute, so they didn’t try that little number. If the sea can’t be kept at bay, then let’s take the beach from the sea.

So, the organisation spent £45,000 to create an artificial beach, 180 metres long, on St Chads headland. They shifted 5,000 tonnes of local sand from nature’s beach to the man-made imitation, so the existing sand can’t have been that bad.

Here’s how the organisation’s chief executive, Doug Garrett, enthused about the cloned beach: “This new beach will offer a unique opportunity to residents and visitors to enjoy the thrills and spills of beach volleyball, football and basketball regardless of whether the tide is in or out. We lose the beach twice every day because of the tides – but this beach on the prom will put an end to that and allow people to play sports or relax in the sand as and when they want to.”

Hurrah for human ingenuity, then, not to mention the largesse of quangocrats with a blank government chequebook to underwrite another meaningless gimmick – what would poor old Joe Public do without them!

So much for PR-newspeak, but surely one of the essentials of the beach resort experience are the tides? In any case, wouldn’t the money have been better spent on boosting the attractions and entertainment on the seafront; the traditional way of enjoying a resort while the tide is in? Perhaps such a question reveals just why this grizzled old hack isn’t a regeneration apparatchik with a small fortune to spend.

Still, at least the local feline population will be pleased with the new toilet facilities, then again perhaps not. The bill for the beach includes two machines intended to clean the sand on a daily basis. ReBlackpool has clearly thought of everything.

For those of a certain generation, they might recall Neil Kinnock’s unfortunate sandy fall from dignity when he stumbled on a beach in front of the nation’s TV news cameras. That was when he was the leader of the Labour Party back in the 1980s. One wonders if it was why ReBlackpool invited Glenys Kinnock to open the beach on the 9 July.

The Europe Minister was perhaps considered more likely to maintain her footing than her husband as she cut the ribbon.

Blackpool’s beach mk II is billed as a 24-hour-a-day attraction, and will be kept open for six weeks. The beach will be dismantled on the 17 August to make way for the beach volleyball CEV European Championship Tour and the English Masters tournament, which is being held on the promenade from 10-13 September.

When the sandy beach finally shuffles away, however, it might only be a temporary absence; the regeneration company says it will be assessing the beach to test the feasibility of rebuilding it on a permanent basis in the future. So, there is more to beach mkII than “fun, games and relaxation” – but also a serious measure to study the effects of “wind and traffic movements on the sand”. ReBlackpool also want to study how “the public interact with and use the beach”. So, they’re building sandcastles, then?

Quite why they couldn’t use nature’s offering to study how people “interact” with the sand is another matter. Oh yes, blast – those damnable tides might wash the clipboards away. Life is such a beach.


Category: NEWS



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