MORECAMBE DOESN'T NEED ANY MORE ATTRACTIONS. IT'S GOT A FANTASTIC ATTRACTION AND IT'S CALLED MORECAMBE BAY
Morecambe Bay, for those of you who haven't visited it, is one of the most beautiful coastal bays in the country.
You can look out to sea and, amazingly, see the peaks of the Lake District on the far side of the bay. The town of Morecambe should be known for its beauty, its Art Deco hotel and its Victorian heritage but, unfortunately, it is run-down, sad and infamous for the failure of Mr Blobby and the deaths of the Chinese cockle-pickers.
What is Morecambe's future, and can architecture make a difference?
We believe so, and Urban Splash is trying to reinvent it.
Like many seaside towns, Morecambe has declined since its Edwardian heyday. It has been wounded by both the disappearance of the textile and coal-mining industries, where its traditional visitors still worked up until the 1970s and '80s, and the growth of cheap package holidays abroad.
Ironically, Morecambe's decline was delayed because of the massive Heysham Power Station building project, which gave a temporary boost to the local bed and breakfasts.
However, this boost was short lived and, I guess, most families didn't particularly appreciate a load of hairyarsed builders joining them for their family holiday breakfast.
So when the power station was finished, the town was a sad, deserted and run-down resort. Initially, the reaction was to build attractions such as Frontier Land and a Mr Blobby Theme Park. Perhaps unsurprisingly, both of these failed and they, along with the defunct, decaying Midland Hotel, were symbolic of the town's decline.
In my opinion, Morecambe doesn't need any more attractions. It has got a fantastic attraction and it's called Morecambe Bay. What it needs are facilities, good restaurants, good hotels and good places for people to live and stay so they can explore the bay and the nearby Lake District.
In the same way as Brighton reinvented itself, from a cheap holiday destination to a mixed cultural destination and a much more cosmopolitan upmarket feel, so we believe Morecambe can - and must - reinvent itself. But where do you start?
The answer is relatively easy: the Midland Hotel, an iconic building, a beautiful Art Deco hotel designed by Oliver Hill in 1932. When it was built, it was symbolic of the hope and optimism of the age. The clients used the best architects and contemporary artists like Gill and Ravilious to create a reason to visit Morecambe.
The hotel's subsequent decline, closure and decay are symbolic of the town's deterioration.
Urban Splash has started restoration work on the building and it will open in a couple of years time as a great independent hotel.
It might be a start but it's not enough by itself. We are also working with the city council to masterplan a fantastic coastside 5ha site immediately adjacent to the hotel. We are running an architectural competition with the RIBA to find architects with sensitive and imaginative designs who can reinvent Morecambe as a 21st-century destination seaside town.
In the same way that the Midland Hotel attracted the likes of Coco Chanel, world leaders and celebrities in the 1940s, I hope that Urban Splash, working perhaps with someone who is reading this, will be able to produce an inspiring masterplan to make Morecambe a place to visit again in the 21st century.