It seems the local residents of Whitby don’t love me for investing in property here - Christa Ackroyd
The children are slathered in sun cream and wearing those all in one protective suits we never had when we were little but keep them safe from the scorching sun. They are oh so busy hunting for fossils and jumping in and out of the sea to keep cool while the dog stays in the shade under a towel.
We have a picnic full of goodies ready for lunch when the little ones find time in their hectic schedule to pause for food and no matter how hard we try it will be sand sandwiches again today, but who cares.
As my mum would say long before the ugly phrase staycation was invented, who needs to go abroad when the sun is shining in Yorkshire.
Let’s be honest what a week we have picked to bring our grandchildren to the East coast. We brought our children to the very same spot when they were little but never forgot to bring coats and jumpers just in case, after the time we arrived with just shorts and t-shirts to find a sea fret which didn’t lift for a week.
I am also laughing to myself at the myriad of photographs my dad took of us here with ice cream all over our faces and in my case wearing the kind of bubble swimsuits that ended up around our knees when we got them wet . Happy days and happy memories.
Now it would seem I am one of the bad guys. More than twenty years ago we bought an apartment off plan as part of my pension which being self employed I didn’t have. As my husband would say, if we don’t you will spend it and we will have nothing left for our old age. And he was right. It took two years to build and is now let at least forty weeks of the year. We have to book our own breaks so popular it is just down the river with a view of the abbey. And how Whitby has changed since then.
When I was little it was just another run down seaside town as package holidays abroad took off. Thirty years ago it looked tired and unloved in comparison to its heyday in the Victorian age when the train line brought wealth, prosperity and visitors from the South to spend summer by the sea.
It wasn’t just Bram Stoker who was inspired to write his Dracula novel here. Charles Dickens used the audience in the White Horse and Griffin to try out his latest works and Lewis Carroll wrote the poem Jabberwoky for Alice Through the Looking Glass on the very same beach under the Abbey we enjoyed last night as the temperatures cooled.
I have always loved Whitby. Now it would seem local residents don’t love me for investing here.
The recent survey which requested a ban on holiday and second homes, which are very different things, has made me doubt the wisdom of my investment even though in the last twenty years hundreds of people have been drawn here to stay in my apartment and have loved it.
They have dined at the plethora of really good restaurants which have sprung up, eaten the best fish and chips in the world and spent their money in the hundreds of local independent shops which now serve the town.
Indeed walking around this week I saw only three that were empty which is a far cry from the story in many other towns and cities in Yorkshire. The place was packed, though not as busy as last year as people head for the guaranteed sun which we were lucky enough to have enjoyed without the hassle of the airport.
But here is the rub, having spoken to many locals this week. I totally accept that the rental and purchase prices of the vast majority of the properties anywhere near the town are out of reach of first time buyers. But isn’t that the case in many of our more towns and cities? It is according to a Sky TV survey this week which suggests it’s a nationwide problem and a serious one.
But holidaymakers are vital to Whitby. They have fed the vast improvements in a town which, let's be honest, was more than a little faded even in my day as industry here died. Now visitors can sit in fabulous wine bars, dine on the best local seafood and as we’ve been lucky enough to have experienced this week, take a boat trip out to sea where dolphins frolicked in the ocean much to the delight of our grandchildren, But voting to stop any more holiday homes or even worse as has been suggested doubling the council rates on those that exist is not only dangerous it, I would suggest, sends a message to visitors who love the town and those yet to discover it, that we don’t want them here.
When I bought my apartment all those years ago it was thirty thousand pounds more than the affordable house block next door which was the first to be built. Scarborough Council which oversees Whitby have also recently given planning permission for run down offices in their town to be turned into holiday lets.
Why couldn’t they have been turned into affordable housing for local people and why can’t every new development not take place until at least some cheaper accommodation is built for the townsfolk with a covenant that they always remain as residential.
But please do not penalise those of us who took a great leap of faith and put out money in a place which now beats Brighton as the best seaside town in England.
Without investment over the last twenty years, without decent places to stay, none of that would have happened. Yes houses would have been cheaper but the jobs would have been fewer. So let us not throw the baby out with the sea water.
We are after all in this together. And I will never be ashamed that I put my money where my heart is in a place which we have enjoyed as children, with our children and this week with our grandchildren.