Some residents of the East Coast town of Filey say it’s time to fight for a better deal. Sheena Hastings reports.
EVEN on a summer’s day from hell, with wild wind blustering and rain lashing relentlessly from billowing grey clouds, Filey has charm.
In one direction the white facade of The Crescent stands proudly above small hotels and B&Bs, gleaming through the bleakness. Among many famous visitors of yesteryear, the composer Frederick Delius spent several family holidays staying in the grand apartments there. Over there is the pitch and putt course and pretty municipal gardens with old-fashioned children’s amusements like swings and roundabouts.
In the other direction, a bracing walk along the golden beach beyond the lifeboat house and arcade, is Filey Brigg – an uncompromising spit of rocky cliffs and fantastic rock pools that juts out into the sea and at low tide provides hours of amusement and interest.
In between are well-maintained Edwardian villas and more recently built neat cottages. A small scattering of boats hints at the town’s past as a busy fishing village, but the overall feel is of a quaint seaside town – a well-ordered and tidy place.
Different in character from bustling Scarborough, Bridlington or the quietude of Sandsend, Filey is attractive and open in its aspect. On a warm day, when the magnificent stretch of beach comes into its own, it is glorious.
Sadly, today the ice-cream hut hasn’t opened, only a couple of dog walkers have braved the elements on the windy promenade, and a tiny smattering of holidaymakers amuse themselves with slot machines. The striped deckchairs are neatly stacked, and it’s difficult to imagine where the guests from those guest houses have hidden themselves.
Taking a short walk uphill to the middle of town, the question is still unanswered. A couple of hikers are heading to the train station (Filey is at one end of the Cleveland Way that starts at Helmsley, and is also at the end of the Wolds Way), but the car park at Tesco is full.
In the main streets the gift shops and many cafes and takeaways of Filey are quiet. The principal thoroughfares are dinkily small and easy to navigate thanks to parking restrictions, and this lack of traffic adds to the feeling of a place suspended in the 1940s or 50s. Apart from the multi-purpose Evron Centre, there’s little in the way of architectural statements in Filey, and none of the man-made attractions larger seaside resorts regard as necessary. Filey’s attractions are, for the most part, natural ones.
Recently a group of people from the town got together and called themselves Fight 4 Filey. They are not out to wage war on Scarborough, but they do want more for their town. F4F believe too much investment has, in recent times, been focused on their bigger neighbour and too little directed towards Filey and other smaller coastal towns and villages.
Peter Bradney, a Filey man born and bred, who works at a nursing home run by his family, says the town has been short-changed in terms of investment in facilities since the local reorganisation of 1974. He and others now call Filey the “poor relation” to Scarborough, with its many large attractions such as the Spa Complex and Sea Life Centre.
Comparing Filey’s few facilities to the likes of the Open Air Theatre and Rotunda Museum in Scarborough, Bradney says Filey has fallen further and further behind its neighbour.
“Filey is constantly subsidising Scarborough’s improvement schemes. Council spending in Filey is £16 per head compared to £95 in Scarborough.”
Scarborough Council, which is struggling to make spending cuts of almost £4.5m over two years, says it is spending £140,000 on capital projects in Filey compared to £827,000 in Scarborough in this financial year, but investment in the larger town’s facilities have brought benefits to the whole area.
The council’s strategic director Hilary Jones says Filey receives adequate support and the town is by no means considered to be a poor relation. He added that the council would be “more than happy” to listen to ideas from Fight 4 Filey about how investment in the town could be targeted.
So what to people in Filey want?
Former Filey councillor David Murton, 68, a member of F4F and the agent for Northern Rail looking after the town’s station, he’d like to see a return to the days before 1974, when the town set and controlled its own budget. “We don’t see ourselves as being in opposition to Filey Council or Scarborough Borough Council, but I’ve seen a lot of changes in Filey including the fact that fewer people come here to stay for a whole holiday. Instead we get day trippers.
“We lost Butlin’s, which was a big blow to employment in the town and to how much was spent in the town by holidaymakers, but we still have Primrose Valley a few miles away and a couple of other camps nearby plus caravan sites. Places like Primrose Valley have their own leisure facilities so many people stay on site. Down in the town we have little for young people to do all year round or for holidaymakers to do on a wet day. That means they get on the train or bus to go to Scarborough.
“Since 1974 we’ve come to be seen as a suburb of Scarborough, but we don’t benefit from the big spending that’s gone on there.”
Peter Bradney points out that Filey has one swimming pool, in a high school on the edge of town, and no bowling alley or leisure centre. “Tourists might not mind getting on the bus or train to go and use facilities in Scarborough, but we need attractions in Filey to keep them here spending their money. We’ve been promised sports facilities but they’ve never materialised.
“We don’t have good enough transport links with Scarborough in the evening to go to the cinema, theatre or restaurants because buses and trains stop early. There are a lot of problems to address before people in our town feel their wishes are taken seriously. In fact we’re never asked what we want.”
Meanwhile, other locals are not slow to air their views. “People who live in the centre of town don’t have residents’ parking permits, and many are aggrieved that they can’t park close to their homes,” said one woman working in a grocery shop. “We’ve got a big old disused police station right in the centre that could be knocked down. If visitors can’t park easily, either, they’ll just drive on. Of course we feel like poor relations – if you miss a parcel delivery you have to go into Scarborough to collect it.”
One taxi driver said: “There’s nothing for young people to do here, not even a good swimming pool. Holidaymakers stay and use the facilities on their camps rather than spending money in town, apart from going to the pubs.”
A middle-aged woman said she couldn’t understand why planning permission was being given to “more and more takeaways and cafes, when what we need is a greater variety of shops. A lot of what we’ve got is food or second-hand shops.” Another woman added: “The town needs to be dragged into the 21st century, doesn’t it.”
One man who is from Filey and works there but lives in Scarborough said it was because “there’s nothing in Filey for children to do, not even a soft play area for toddlers.” He added: “There are signs on many areas of grass saying ‘no ball games’. Not much fun, is it?”
Peter Bradney says that, despite the difficult economic climate, it’s time for serious discussions with the council and local MP how Filey can be given more to prevent it from falling further and further behind. “We’re very keen to hear from anyone with ideas about what they want for Filey, using our Facebook page www.facebook.com/fight4filey”.