Residents, businesses and visitors have their say on whether Morecambe needs a pier
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From the Eden Project, the Winter Gardens restoration, new hotel plans, the future of the old Frontierland theme park site, changes at The Platform music venue or the area’s role in TV drama The Bay, the town produces plenty of talking-points.
Thirty years have passed since Morecambe’s last seaside pier was demolished, prompting memories of the town’s two former piers but also ideas about Morecambe’s future development – and comparisons with other seaside towns.
Morecambe has The Pier Bookshop and The Pier pub. But no longer any piers. Does it need a new pier? Or do people think other attractions are more important?
Local people, visitors and businesses have given their thoughts to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
‘Watching The Bay on TV brought us to Morecambe’
Visiting Morecambe and the Isle of Man this week were Eric Foggitt and wife Tineke. They live in Brussels where Eric is a Church of Scotland minister. The Church of Scotland has activities in countries across the world. In the past, the couple have lived in Scotland, Eric’s home country, and southern England including the Isle of Wight.
Eric said: “Watching The Bay on TV brought us to Morecambe. We saw the scenery in the programme and wanted to see it for real. I think quite a lot of tourism is influenced by TV.
“A pier in Morecambe wouldn’t have made a difference to our decision to visit but I know a pier would be a big attraction for others. Things like piers can be a magnet for people but it was Morecambe Bay’s natural scenery which attracted us.
“I’m not sure how a new pier would be paid for now? In the past, councils had money to spend, to look after towns and invest but councils have very little money these days. British seaside towns have tremendous potential but they don’t get invested in. Places like Southend or Brighton may do well, but they are close to London.
“We now live abroad so we compare Britain with other places. We love Britain in many ways but the towns and infrastructure here need investment.
“In Belgium and the Netherlands, you pay higher taxes but the towns and transport are tremendous. The seaside towns are immensely popular. There are extra trains running to them at weekends – eight every hour – and the coastal towns are all linked with cycle paths.
“Those towns face the North Sea and the weather is colder than Morecambe or Blackpool. They don’t all have beaches but they’ve got proper facilities and investment.
“British politics seems obsessed with cutting taxes. It has been like that since Margaret Thatcher but you need taxes to pay for good towns and transport.”
Tineke said: “At the seaside town of Scheveningen near The Hague there is a huge modern pier and promenade. People enjoy it. If the pier closes for any reason, people are unhappy. The pier has everything including a funfair and big wheel.
“We thought Morecambe Bay looked beautiful, and it is. I have been swimming in the sea here and it was very nice. We’ve also had fish and chips in Morecambe, which was nice too. We also like going to pubs in Britain. People are friendly and there’s a nice atmosphere.
“We are staying in the Morecambe Hotel. It is lovely. There are retro photos on the wall, showing Morecambe in the past – in the early 1900s, in the 1950s and ’60s. There were swimming pools and a pier back then. It was a beautiful town. Now, there are still nice parts but there are also empty shops, which is sad. And amusement arcades look horrible. Morecambe doesn’t need more of them.
“One of the nicest things about Morecambe is simply walking along the promenade. It’s been sunny and people are here enjoying coffee and ice cream. That’s lovely.”
‘There’s not enough for children’
Ian Mawson, aged 70, used to work as a ride operator at Morecambe’s former Frontierland theme park. The former Wild West themed attraction closed over 20 years ago and has been subject of a regeneration debate which continues.
Lancaster City Council is currently considering setting up a Frontierland project board to look at options for the future and has sought expressions of interest from potential regeneration business partners.
Ian said: “I remember the old piers. They used to film TV’s Poirot in the area. There was a bad storm in 1977, which was the former Queen’s Silver Jubilee year, and one of the piers was badly damaged. Part of it was cut away.
“I don’t think a new pier would make a great difference to Morecambe. I like the fresh air and the lovely promenade. And people here are mostly friendly.
“But I think Morecambe needs some investment. They’ve done nice work on the promenade but there’s not enough for children. I worked at Frontierland for a long time and I think a fairground would be good. There is currently a funfair which goes on land where the Eden Project will be built so maybe another fun fair site is needed? Something for children and families.”
Ian has spent most of his life in Morecambe but was born in Bradford, which has historic links to Morecambe through the growth of railways in the 19th and 20th centuries. Morecambe and Bradford, along with other Yorkshire districts, are still linked by the rail route which was once part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway company (LMS). Morecambe’s 1930s Midland Hotel is named after the LMS.
Mum Jamie Capstick, who lives in the Morecambe area, was with young children nodding off to sleep in a pram.
She said: “I come to Morecambe quite often and generally like it. The parks and promenade are nice. I always walk along the front but a pier would definitely bring more tourists. You see old photos of Morecambe in the past with piers and pools and it looked really nice. Today, I think more things for children would be good.”
‘We come for the views’
Glynn and Christine Tattersal from the Leigh area visit Morecambe regularly and have a static caravan.
Glynn said : “We’ve had a caravan since 2010. We come for the views and the bay, We walk along the promenade. We went cycling from Bare through Morecambe to Heysham. That’s a nine mile route. It’s lovely. We’re going to Heysham later today to have a look around. This whole area is great. There are events and festivals.
“Morecambe is much better than Blackpool, which is dirty. Morecambe just needs a bit of an upgrade but the Eden Project will make a big difference.
“The pubs and cafes here are nice – although The Queen’s Hotel is currently empty. We like The Crown bistro and Eric’s Cafe. Johnny’s Bar is also good and there’s plenty of live music too.”
Christine said: “Morecambe promenade is nice. The Midland Hotel is lovely. The Winter Gardens is beautiful. There are all sorts of events and festivals here. A kite festival. We’re really looking forward to the Eden Project. People will definitely come for that,
“In the past, we probably visited Morecambe when the old pier was still here but I don’t really remember it. I do remember the old Polo mint tower and fun park. I think a few amusement arcades are fine. Kids love them. Morecambe isn’t overrun with amusements arcades. There are just enough.
“Morecambe is also a great location for visiting the Lake District and Lancaster. If you want more shops, you can go to Lancaster. We have pensioner bus passes now. We can go all over the place – Grasmere, Keswick. It’s great.
“Our children are adults now but they still like Morecambe And our grandchildren, who are 18 and 19, have come here too.”
‘Landmarks do attract people’
Clock Tower Cafe worker Lauren Cannar said: “I think we could do with a pier at this end. Quite a lot of customers say they remember Morecambe from 20 or 30 years ago and say it’s gone downhill a bit.
“I would like to see more things for kids. I have four children and there’s not a lot of things for kids in Morecambe without spending a small fortune. There is Jump Rush trampoline park and bowling but Frontierland and the Bubbles pool have gone.
“Landmark buildings do attract people. The Clock Tower is an example. It’s telling the time again but that took a while to fix. The council is trying to put more effort in, I think, with things like the Eden Project. I also think there is a growing demand for bikes and e-scooter hire along Morecambe Bay.”
‘A new pier would cost millions’
dent business owner and also plays a key role with Morecambe Business Improvement District. This is a scheme which sees town centre businesses pay an extra local tax, a levy, which is used for improvements.
Tony moved to Morecambe in 1961 with his family from Scotland. He was a young boy aged three at the time.
Regarding piers, he said: “One of the old Morecambe piers was damaged in 1977 and the other went in the early 1990s. It would be nice to have a new pier but it’s not financially viable. It would cost millions.
“The council couldn’t pay for it. It would have to be a private enterprise with the money recouped over a long time.
“The Eden Project will be great and will help Morecambe develop a year round tourist industry. We need more independent shops and businesses. Those would draw more people. We don’t want national chains. We want local independents who create jobs and add character to places. I’d also like to see the Morecambe illuminations come back.”
Tony’s Pier Bookshop is located in what was once a cafe and fish and chip shop opened by his father in the 1960s, when his family moved from Scotland to Morecambe.
Tony said: “My dad had intended to buy a business in Blackpool but couldn’t read the map! He made a mistake and came to Morecambe but he bought a business premises in Morecambe, and opened a cafe and fish and chip shop. It was called the Ramblers Cafe, named after a previous cafe he ran at Burnbank, near Hamilton in Scotland.
“In the 1960s, the Ramblers was open until 2am. Days and nights were busy. Another cafe nearby, Smith’s Cafe, was open 24 hours a day. In those days, Morecambe businesses made enough money in the spring and summer holiday season to close over the winter months.”
Morecambe piers history
Morecambe once had two piers – the Central Pier and the West End Pier.
In many seaside towns, piers became popular attractions as railway travel and tourism grew in the Victorian era onwards.
But piers had to pay their way. Visitors often had to pay an admission fee to access the pier, entertainment, cafes and other facilities. Piers were typically profit-driven commercial operations rather than publicly-owned swimming pools, baths and parks developed by councils for public health benefits.
In the past, piers were typically built using iron and wooden materials. This left them at risk to stormy seas and fires, which impacted Morecambe’s piers too.
According to the National Piers Society, Morecambe Central Pier opened in 1869 and was enlarged in the 1870s for steamer boats. Later a pavilion was added but then destroyed by a fire. A new pavilion and ballroom was added in the 1930s. Other attractions included roller skating and a cafe.
But the Central Pier was closed in 1986 after decking collapsed at the sea end. Then a fire damaged an amusement arcade at the town end. Owners were told to upgrade or demolish the pier. In 1991, another fire destroyed the ballroom and full demolition came in 1992.
Morecambe’s West End Pier opened in 1896, according to Lancaster Civic Society.
It too suffered from storms over time including 1903 and 1907, and its pavilion suffered a fire in 1917. More damage was caused by a storm in 1927. Then in 1977, the late Queen’s Silver Jubilee year, it was badly hit by storms and then demolished in 1978.