Monday, July 07, 2008

Hope for the best

Barely a month since the Midland Hotel at Morecambe opened for business, the sniping has started. I knew it would, Lancaster and Morecambe people can be very cynical. Some of the criticism is fair. Urban Splash are new to hotels and the fine ambition of hiring young kids with no experience has been haphazard. Plenty have been sacked, apparently. Including four bar lads who took customer service to a new level after the RIBA event in June, much to the annoyance of the husband of one randy female guest.

I'm here at the Midland for the official relaunch, almost 75 years since the original launch in July 1933. It's been a lovely night, with tales of daring do and bravery - and excellent service from the team at the hotel as well. I was lucky enough to be sat with Jon Falkingham from Urban Splash, Geraldine Smith, the Labour MP for Morecambe and David Taylor - a man who knows a thing or two about urban renewal as the chairman of Hull Citybuild and a big hitter in these parts too.

Our table was missing two guests; Councillor Evelyn Archer and her husband, who didn't show. She's quoted in the Morecambe Visitor as being against plans for the next phase of the development of Morecambe's central promenade, despite two years of consultation and an open competition. She's reported as supporting comments by Wayne Hemingway, who's plans failed in a blind competition, and who described the plans as like "selling the crown jewels". I think the tragedy here is that the outcry is all too late and aimed in the wrong direction. Where were they when someone decided to turn the train station into a pub and stop the track 400 yards further back, or when the Morrisons and Burger King (now boarded up) became the main attractions? Morecambe prom has a retail parade where Hitchens is the most upmarket shop. There is no view obscured by the plans for "a bit of resi" in the vacant plot that is now on central promenade. The plans may need a lot more public sector backing, but it would be investment, not subsidy and everyone in Morecambe should support it.

Urban Splash don't want to have to do everything in Morecambe. I, for one, reiterated my ambition to open Mick's Grill, purveyors of quality Lancashire Nosh. And I, like everyone else at the party tonight, equally look forward to supporting Hemingway's own hotel project.

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