Resort turns to maritime history in bid to woo waves of tourists

A BLUEPRINT to boost tourism has been drawn up to promote a Yorkshire seaside resort's maritime history and its links to an 18th century American war hero.

The strategy has been launched for Filey in the hope of bringing more jobs and enterprise to the coastal town, especially during the quieter winter months.

The action plan has been established by a town working group in the hope of raising the resort's profile and attracting more visitors.

The proposals include creating a discovery centre to focus on Filey's maritime history, especially John Paul Jones who is known as the "father of the US Navy", along with the town's traditional coble boat fishing industry.

Capt Jones' ship, the Bonhomme Richard, was lost after a fierce battle at Flamborough Head in 1779 in which hundreds died.

He was the United States' first well-known naval fighter in the American War of Independence, and his actions in British waters earned him an international reputation which persists to this day.

During the battle with HMS Serapis at Flamborough Head, he is said to have uttered the legendary reply to a taunt about surrender from the British captain: "I have not yet begun to fight."

Many believe his vessel lies within Filey Bay, although a series of attempts to locate it have proved fruitless.

The working group is hoping to improve access to Filey's panoramic seafront through the use of a shuttle bus service, road train or cliff lift. It is also hoped that a town centre manager will be appointed.

The working group's chairwoman, Coun Aileen Newbury, who is a former town mayor, said: "We are holding our heads up.

"Filey had a good season last year despite the recession, and we are confident of another this year."

The strategy is aiming to promote the surrounding countryside and coast and a range of outdoor activities including walking, bird watching, fishing, sailing and surfing.

There have already been a series of improvements in Filey during the past five years, including the demolition of an old gas showroom in the town centre as well as a revamp of shops.

There are now more independent retailers in the town with several new businesses, but sport and leisure remain a priority to boost tourism.

Employment opportunities in the town and the surrounding area remain limited, according to the report by the working group.

However, it is hoped that more jobs and enterprise will be attracted through the already vital tourism industry, which is seen as key to Filey's future. On average, skill levels of the population in Filey are lower than in the rest of district covered by Scarborough Borough Council, and almost 40 per cent of residents have no qualifications.

One of the attractions which is due to be staged this year will be a celebration of the centenary of Filey Flatt Cliffs Flying School, where aircraft pioneer Robert Blackburn learned to fly.

A model of his Mercury aircraft and a plaque from the Royal Aeronautical Society will be provided for the celebrations, and his two grand-daughters have been invited to attend a special ceremony.

Coun Newbury said the action plan would be regularly updated and that it would play a key part in helping to boost Filey's economy in the coming years.

The town has been one of Yorkshire's most popular seaside resorts since the Victorian era. However, concerns have been raised that Filey, along with many other British seaside towns, needs to compete effectively with foreign tourist destinations.

The population of Filey was just 505 in 1801 and the town's real expansion began in the 1830s when the development of the new town began.

The arrival of the railways in the 1840s meant Filey began to grow as a holiday resort and attracted many of the gentry who were keen to holiday on the coast.