Jayne Dowle: Seaside resorts are jewel in Yorkshire’s crown and must be allowed to move forward

An artist's impression of the new-look Scarborough seafront.
An artist's impression of the new-look Scarborough seafront.

THERE is no doubt that our seaside towns are the jewel in Yorkshire’s crown. They attract hundreds of thousands of regional, national and international visitors every year, and help to make Yorkshire tourism a major economic force.

It’s good news then that multi-million plans are afoot to bring much-needed regeneration to two of our brightest diamonds – Scarborough and Bridlington.

In Scarborough, the site of the former Futurist theatre has stood forlorn and neglected for far too long while pizzerias and trendy coffee bars have sprung up. First-time visitors unfamiliar with our historic seaside resort must wonder why such a hole can be left unfilled in the iconic harbourside scene.

The never seen before photos of Scarborough through the ages

Now, under initial plans submitted to the local council, we hear that Flamingo Land Coast could be landing, a glittering four-storey building with space for attractions, education facilities, restaurants and children’s play areas. A further building adjacent to the main area will house a ‘winter garden’ and a viewing area.

Wait, there’s more. There’s also a rollercoaster with a cliff-hanger tower, which will stand 60 metres tall. The august Victorian edifice of the Grand Hotel behind must be quaking in its genteel boots. At first sight, this proposal looks like something more suited to Las Vegas than the chilly North Sea coast.

Unsurprisingly, a public consultation is to be held. Feedback and suggestions will then be used to “help shape the full planning application” before it is submitted to the council.

Bridlington’s plans are less controversial; the area between Garrison Square and the leisure centre could be revamped, with landscaping, improved seating and public art. Still, there will be plenty of people ready to object.

This is the thing with the great British seaside. As a nation, we seem to suffer from a kind of collective nostalgia that can often stand in the way of progress. And if ever a seaside resort prompted this kind of rose-tinted view, it is Scarborough.

I’m totally guilty. Scarborough is the scene of some of my happiest childhood memories. We stayed for years in a tiny guest-house overlooking the cricket ground, chivvied by a landlady who cooked her fried breakfast in enough lard to float the Coronia. That’s the pleasure boat in Scarborough harbour so venerable it assisted in the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk in 1940.

Days were spent in a rented beach chalet on the North Bay, feasting on soup and pie and peas cooked in the Baby Belling. Evenings were enjoyed in the Corner Café, which felt like the height of spangled glamour in the 1970s.

No one was more gutted than me when it was demolished to make way for the sea-view apartments which now stand in its place. I wasn’t the only one to see its demise as the passing of an era.

Now the whole redevelopment of the North Bay has lifted the area and brought out the best in traditional elements such as Peasholm Park, where the mock battleships still fight it out throughout the summer months.

I hope that those in charge of consultation and progress of this new South Bay development can bear such balance in mind. Personally, I’m of an age now where the glorious view from the South Cliff Italian gardens over the Spa Theatre holds far more appeal than the promise of a rollercoaster, but I’m not sure my teenage daughter would agree.

It’s funny, but most of us go about our business every day without paying much attention to the buildings which surround us. Drop a proposed new edifice into a familiar and well-loved scene however, and suddenly everyone is an expert.

What we have to see – and what we must trust the planners, architects and consultants to also recognise – is the bigger picture. These plans for Scarborough are still essentially at a draft stage; there is plenty of scope for comments and observations to be made.

Of equal importance is the future of Scarborough as a tourist destination overall. Presumably this new attraction would bring in higher numbers of visitors, many of whom would rely on the congested A64 road to get there.

There has never been a better time then for the Government to give proper consideration to improving this vital artery. Improvements have been fudged and delayed; it’s time that public funds met the expectations of private enterprise. I hope too that access to Scarborough itself, and increased parking and public transport provision, will be considered.

On balance, it is good that our Yorkshire resorts are committed to moving forwards. And it’s very pleasing that regionally-based private enterprise is willing to invest in the potential on its own doorstep.

After all, things could be worse. Too many once-proud seaside towns around the British coastline have literally crumbled into the sea. In Yorkshire, at least people do care.