Coastal erosion and what Yorkshire resorts expect of our politicians at this election – GP Taylor

IN this election, the Yorkshire coast appears to be a million miles away from the minds of the political parties in Westminster. Our unique coastal needs are nothing but a footnote in their thinking.

Seaside towns and villages have substantially different needs from those near or in major conurbations. In Whitby, there are major problems to do with transport. The roads out of the town are from the last century.

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I still cannot believe there is no dual carriageway to Scarborough from York. When you eventually get to the coast, there is hardly anywhere to park for free and it is as if those in power seek to make parking more and more difficult. Coastal towns have all the same problems as the inner cities and social deprivation is a big issue.

What will political parties do for coastal towns like Whitby? Photo: Marisa Cashill

Our needs for good housing, jobs and hospital care are even greater than those of the cities. Our distinct geographical location makes it difficult for people to commute to find work. Coastal towns do not have the land on which to build new houses and hospitals seem to be always under the threat of closure.

All that seems to be on offer from the political parties for those of us who live a few miles from the A1 is the usual stuff about farming and fishing. Don’t politicians realise the fishing industry has been virtually killed off and only a few of us are farmers?

Issues facing coastal towns like Whitby extend beyond broadband access, argues GP Taylor.

Even in my lifetime, I can remember when harbours up and down the coast were filled with fishing vessels. Now there are just a handful. Preserving fish stocks has often meant that British fishermen had to scrap their boats whilst their continental counterparts plundered our sea.

It really is about time that London-based politicians woke up and realised that people in the North living in fishing and farming communities want more than the promise of superfast broadband.

I cannot understand why no one in politics ever mentions the poor farmers and homeowners whose fields and houses are at threat from the advancing waves. Why don’t political parties offer to help these people in their manifestos?

Coastal erosion is a major problem. In some places, up to seven metres of land is being lost each year. Yet Professor Edmund Penning-Rowsell, of Middlesex University’s Flood Hazard Research Centre, says that building and replacing sea defences is often “a very, very poor investment”.

Will Brexit lead to a revival of the country's fishing industry?

He said: “I don’t accept that we should spend millions of pounds to protect a few houses when the people who moved into them knew they might be at risk from the sea.”

Those words do not sit well with a pensioner whose house is about to fall into the sea and she will lose her whole lifetime’s work.

It seems outrageous that people who lose their homes are never fully compensated or protected. Surely, rock wall protection for the coastline would be the first step in helping keep farmland and houses?

Are not the people of Skipsea worth protecting from the waves? Britain truly is a shrinking isle. Now is time something is done about it. It is incumbent on the next Government to step in and help people who live on the coast.

We want more than the usual offerings about helping local communities. The coast needs more cash, better transport and has to be taken seriously. Some coastal towns don’t have an A&E department. If you are unlucky enough to fall ill in Whitby you will find yourself on a 19-mile journey across the moors to either Scarborough or Middlesbrough to get treatment. That’s a matter of life or death if you are having a heart attack.

Talking to local people, I get the feeling that many are totally fed up with politicians. More than one person has said to me that they felt that politicians were all the same – just a bunch of liars in it for themselves. Most people I know want to just get Brexit done. They feel let down by politicians who have connived and schemed to get a second referendum.

It is interesting to meet diehard Labour voters who feel they cannot vote for Jeremy Corbyn, even though he did, in fairness, visit Whitby at the weekend
and enjoy some of our famous fish and chips.

One man told me he had voted Labour all his life and felt sick at the prospect of giving his mark for the Tories, but couldn’t vote for a party that didn’t like Jewish people.

On the coast, that is where the battle lines will be drawn. It is a simple choice between two political forces. This is not an election for voting for those aspirational parties such as the Greens or the Lib Dems. We are in a time of decision between two ideologies.

The future of our county is held in the balance. With the ever growing prospect of another hung parliament and a second referendum, we are in the hands of metropolitan marginal seats, whose voters give little or no concern about what life is like on the Yorkshire coast.

GP Taylor is an author and broadcaster. He lives in Whitby.