Council leader hits out over "bankrupt" seaside coverage

Scarborough South Bay
Scarborough South Bay

The leader of Scarborough Borough Council has hit out at coverage in the national press and media this week, which claims that coastal resorts in the UK are in decline.

The coverage, which refers to a personal bankruptcy hotspot list featuring seaside towns, including Scarborough alongside other familiar resorts such as Torquay, Blackpool and Great Yarmouth, was triggered following a study by accountancy firm, Moore Stephens.

Under the headline "Broke by the Sea" the Mirror ran a picture of Scarborough and stated people were avoiding seaside towns in order to go to big cities.

Moore Stephens spokesman Jeremy Willmont said: "Bankruptcy in the more rundown of the British seaside towns has become an epidemic.

"As seaside tourism declines, there is less chance for these areas to reinvent their image as exciting, vibrant places for business to thrive.

"High levels of debt show the underlying fragility of those economies and the low levels of accumulated wealth in these towns."

However, these reports drew the ire of Cllr Derek Bastiman.

In response, he said: "I am furious about the portrayal of the Yorkshire coast in the coverage about personal bankruptcies, which has taken a narrow study in isolation, and from it, made outrageous assumptions about our area’s economy, without actually researching the real position, which is far from in decline.

“Research has shown an increase in the number of visitor nights and total visitor value in the Borough of Scarborough during the last few years, with latest figures showing an increase in the visitor economy of 4%, which is estimated to be worth over £524m to the local economy. There has also been an increase in the number of tourism related jobs, which have risen by 4% to 17,356. Scarborough has also been named by Visit England as the second most visited destination outside of London for domestic overnight visitors.

“This increase has gone hand in hand with substantial investment in the borough over the last decade, including multi-million pound investments in the Scarborough Spa entertainment and conference venue, Rotunda Museum, harbour and seafront area and Scarborough Open Air Theatre, the largest of its kind in Europe, which attracts some of the music industry’s biggest names and is now managed by global entertainment company, Live Nation.

“A major public-private sector partnership has led to a phased redevelopment of the town’s north bay, including luxury holiday apartments and a new £14 million state of the art waterpark, Alpamare Scarborough, which opened its doors in 2016. The next development to be delivered as part of this partnership is a seven screen multiplex cinema, incorporating high-end food and retail businesses, 24 luxury flats and a multi-storey car park. A future phase will see the creation of a forest holiday village.

“While the public sector has led on the pace and type of change in the area, confidence in the private sector is strong, with major investment in accommodation, retail, attractions, restaurants and cafes. A year round festival and events programme to attract more visitors to the Yorkshire coast is now well established, including events such as the Tour de Yorkshire, Armed Forces Day, Jazz and Cricket festivals and the hugely popular Goth and Steam Punk festivals. The local hospitality association has also confirmed that its members are reporting an increase in bookings and very positive advance bookings.

“As part of the Government’s Coastal Communities initiative, Scarborough has been successful in attracting funding to develop a plan to improve the appearance and quality of the environment that links the town centre with the seafront. The local authority is also developing a new strategy for how to improve the town centre in the late afternoon and early evening, which will include recommendations on how to work with local businesses to encourage them to extend their opening hours, with the aim of providing a more vibrant town centre experience for visitors and local residents.

“The council’s commitment to the continued growth of the visitor economy is highlighted in the Visitor Economy Strategy 2014 to 2024, which outlines our vision and priorities for the future. We work strongly with partners, Visit England and Welcome to Yorkshire, to target new domestic and international visitors. A recent example of this is our commitment to the successful England Growth Fund project, ‘England’s Coast’, which is being led by the National Coastal Tourism Academy.

“Alongside tourism regeneration, vast improvements to the town’s educational and corporate sectors are being made, with the expansion of Scarborough Business Park and the very recent opening of two new educational establishments; Coventry University Scarborough and Scarborough University Technical College. A new leisure village including an Olympic legacy pool and a brand new community football ground, opened in June next door to the two campuses, giving a total investment of around £50 million in that one part of Scarborough alone.

“North of Scarborough, near Whitby, private sector investment from Sirius Minerals in its York Potash Project will see the start of the development of a mine this year to extract valuable polyhalite for supply to the global fertilizer industry. The polyhalite deposit in the project area is believed to be the largest high-grade known resource of polyhalite to be found anywhere in the world. Thousands of jobs will be created in mine construction and production. At full production the project is expected to make an annual contribution of £2.3 billion to GDP.

“To the south of Scarborough town centre, the biggest housing development to take place in North Yorkshire in decades, Middle Deepdale, is under construction, which when all phases are complete, will represent a total investment of £250 million and will deliver 1400 quality homes, a new school, link roads and community facilities.

“Personal bankruptcy can happen for a wide range of reasons and is not necessarily indicative of the state of the local economy. All the points I have raised point to tourism really thriving on the Yorkshire coast and strong growth in other sectors, all of which contribute to a robust and continually growing economy. The Yorkshire coast is as far removed from ‘in decline’ as you can possible get and I wish authors of isolated studies would do further research to find out the true picture, before publishing their inaccurate assumptions, which adversely affect all those working so hard to make an area prosperous and successful.”