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Annual figures for Platform and Visitor Information Centres released

The Platform in Morecambe

Annual figures for the under-threat Platform venue and axed Visitor Information Centres have been released.

Performances and events at the Platform in Morecambe were seen by a total of 22,000 people in 2022/23, excluding festivals.

There were 79 shows, 105 community events, five conferences and 11 shows for private hirers at the Marine Road venue, which was threatened with closure until a reprieve earlier this year.

Owners Lancaster City Council have now said they will continue to operate the Platform until at least April 2024, after previously saying it would close at the end of the 2023 season due to budget cuts.

The U-turn came after a backlash from the public at plans to find an alternative use for the arts and concert venue.

The city council has been talking to interested parties who might want to take on the running of the Platform, which costs them £150,000 a year to run.

The attendance figures were released as part of the annual report by Councillor Sandra Thornberry, cabinet member for arts, culture, leisure and wellbeing.

Her report also said that Lancaster and Morecambe Visitor Information Centres (VICs) had more than 55,000 visitor enquiries and an estimated gross income of £185,000 in 2022/23.

"Eighty tourism and local businesses have been supported and event organisers have been able to work with the VICs to boost publicity and attendance," said the report.

"Facebook pages for Lancaster VIC reach nearly 105,000 and for Morecambe VIC it is over 144,000."

Lancaster City Council has said it will close both centres at the end of the 2023 season.

The VICs cost the council around £250,000 a year to run and so the council will move towards promoting tourism online.

There will still be access to tourist information at other council buildings such as Morecambe Town Hall and Salt Ayre.

The city council has also been talking to other organisations about them running a Visitor Information service.

In her report, Councillor Thornberry said: "In February there were budget cuts to some of our arts and cultural council services and venues.

"This was a very difficult decision, necessitated by government cutbacks, and has been hard for many to accept. I hope that the impact of the cuts will not be long-term and that alternative solutions are applied soon."

Councillor Thornberry's report also listed other events and festivals supported by the council in 2022/23.

These included:

Light Up Lancaster which pulled more than 55,700 people to the city in November 2022 and includes the annual Fireworks Spectacular (below), generated close to £924,000 for the economy. Eighty seven per cent of people who replied to a survey said the event made them feel proud of Lancaster.

Morecambe Baylight which pulled more than 20,000 visitors in February 2023.

Vintage by the Sea which drew more than 45,000 visitors in September 2022 and generated £1.5m for the economy.

More Music’s Catch the Wind Kite Festival which attracted 22,000 visitors in July 2022.

Other events supported by the council included brass bands in Happy Mount Park, Highest Point Festival, Lancaster Grand Prix Cycle Race, Litfest and Pride in Lancaster and Morecambe.

The report also said that admissions at the city council-owned Salt Ayre Leisure Centre since April 2022 were more than 930,000 with more than 3,700 members and 18 primary schools attending weekly for swimming lessons.

A further annual report by Councillor Tricia Heath, cabinet member for economic recovery, quoted STEAM tourism figures for 2021 which showed that visitor numbers to the local area had steadily recovered after the Covid pandemic.

Visits were back up to 4.96m as compared to 2.55m in 2020, and a total of £363m was generated within the local economy in 2021 as compared to £192m in 2020. 

The nearly 5m visitors to the Lancaster district in 2021 equated to 10 per cent of all tourism visits to Lancashire, and the visitor economy supported 3209 full time equivalent jobs.

Related Story: INTERVIEWS: Full breakdown of "painful" Lancaster City Council budget plans revealed - Beyond Radio

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