Bridlington - the popular seaside resort now ranked as 'one of the most deprived places in Britain'

The East Riding seaside resort of Bridlington is probably best known as a favourite destination for day trippers chasing the summer sun.

But while its promenade, arcades, bars and beaches have put it on the tourist map, it also holds the title of one of the East Riding’s most deprived wards.

The Office of National Statistics’ (ONS) Index of Multiple Deprivation shows Bridlington South ward, covering much of the town, scores lower than East Riding and English averages on several measures.

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Around half of its residents own their own homes compared to roughly three quarters in the East Riding and almost two thirds in England.

Bridlington is now one of the most deprived wards in Britain

Data on employment, crime, health and education also paints a picture of a place dogged by hardship amid the decline of coastal towns as holiday destinations and shipping and fishing hubs.

A ward councillor and locals said the deprivation that “grinds” people down breeds a whole host of other problems.

Streets that once put up holidaymakers have seen property values plummet and they and family homes have been repurposed into cheap flats to try and keep them viable.

But crisis for some can be opportunity for others, as drug gangs take advantage of absentee landlords looking the other way to set up shop for local drug enterprises.

Councillor Andy Walker is the ward member for Bridlington South on East Riding Council (Image: LDRS)

Coun Andy Walker, himself born in Bridlington, told LDRS “bad guys” stood at the end of a decades long process of decline which has created the conditions that allows criminals to flourish.

But the Yorkshire party’s Bridlington South ward member and others are working to help locals take control of their lives to push back against the steady march of social and economic forces.

‘Steep drop’ in the ward which ‘is everything to us’

Coun Walker said Bridlington South was not only one of the most deprived parts of the East Riding but was also among the 10 per cent worst off in the county.

Lee Middleton with his grandson Riley in Bridlington Skatepark, with ramps covered in graffiti

He added the fact it was as true in 2021 as it had been in the 1990’s meant “we’re not doing the right thing” to correct a decline decades in the making.

Coun Walker said:“Bridlington South is everything to us councillors. But the most worrying statistic is that it’s featured among the worst 10 per cent of wards for deprivation in the country.

“The East Riding has fabulous areas elsewhere, it has large conservation areas, streets with detached homes. Bridlington South has some of that too. Bridlington’s biggest problem is that it’s a coastal community. It only has half the hinterland of a town inland.

“I was born in Bridlington but I’ve been away from the town over the years, but people who’ve been here the whole time tell me that what they’ve watched is a gradual decline. For me having being away and come back it’s seemed more like a steep drop.

Osman Nasar is a Bridlington-based community activist

“There used to be engineering companies here that were top class. They exported all over the world. They were huge employers in the town, but they were out-competed and so the industry went away.

“Some businesses got taken over by asset strippers and you’d have situations where the number of employees fell from the hundreds to the tens. It takes a great deal to replace that many jobs.

“That sort of devastation has hit people in Bridlington and in other coastal towns really, really hard. It’s not universal and it’s not across the whole town, but the population as a whole is still on the wrong side of the deprivation graphs.

“And that shows in things like health outcomes, crime and other areas, it grinds the community down.”

Coun Walker said mounting hardships had reached the point where they now haunted residents from cradle to grave.

He said: “There’s a feeling of being in the wilderness, like with Bridlington Hospital where the loss of services has got to the point where they’ll be no more Brid Kids because there’s no maternity unit there any more, people can’t even be born here.

“Then people are having to travel to Hull or York for treatment for other conditions, that means getting taxis or public transport if they don’t drive or know someone who does, that costs them more money, it affects people right across the board.

“We feel the distance between us and County Hall in Beverley, just like the distance between Yorkshire and Westminster.

“I’m known to knock East Riding Council but in fairness they do a much better job than others do, but the problem is too many residents here don’t believe they work for them anymore.

“You can’t help but read the feedback people give you when you’re out knocking on doors and campaigning, there’s a lack of trust there.

“The schools aren’t the issue and we’ve got a thriving East Riding College campus here that’s well staffed and got modern facilities. But the problem is we can’t really grow our own here, if you have aspirations and want to train up for a profession you’ve got to go to somewhere like Hull.”

Drugs gangs ‘taking over’ homes

Tennyson Avenue was once lined with bed and breakfasts angling for a slice of Bridlington’s formerly buoyant tourist trade.

But the tourists have since left for warmer, typically more Mediterranean climes, and they took their money and much of the lifeblood of the town’s economy with them.

Residents said their flight had made the street and others nearby fertile ground for drugs gangs and other criminals to thrive.

And they added that often left them picking up the pieces as they try to get through their own lives while crime runs rampant close to home.

Kolby Clarkson-Guile, who lives in Tennyson Avenue, said: “I’ve been here for about four years. I don’t spend much time in the street itself. It’s notorious for drugs. I just try and look after myself, but if I could I’d probably move.

“I’ve also been dealing with mental health issues for about seven years now. I’m from Bridlington originally and I moved to Hornsea for a bit, but when I came back it was hard to find any kind of job.

“I started a college course but eventually I was told I’d have to go to Leeds just to do the practical work for it. Bridlington could be a really nice place, it’s by the sea and has the beach, but there’s not a lot of opportunities going here.”

Chris, retired and living in Tennyson Avenue, said: “When I first moved here in the 1970s it was a tourist area. You had a lot of bed and breakfasts here. But then a lot of people started holidaying abroad, and everything changed.

“People who owned homes in the road turned them into flats, and a lot of people from places like Hull were encouraged to come here for the cheap living costs. Now they’re mostly rented to people and families on low incomes.”

One resident living nearby, who asked not to be named, said: “We hear about things going on in this area, drug dealing and things like that. It’s a shame because some of the houses are really beautiful around here, but they’re just rented out to anyone for the money.

“Education’s alright here but at the moment they’re building a lot of new houses and the problem is they’re aren’t enough doctors and nurses as it is. You struggle to get a dentist even. I’ve had to go private.”

Coun Walker said crime had only “dragged the community down” with it.

The councillor said: “We’ve been speaking to the police about problems we’ve been having on some streets with drugs, particularly with drugs gangs taking over rental properties.

“You get situations where you have a vulnerable person in there then the bad guys come in one day and say: ‘we’re taking over now’.

“It’ll be a case of them still being able to live there but they’re told they can’t go in a certain room any more. They have no chance against these people, often they won’t have visitors so there’s nothing they can do about it.

“You can tell which ones have been taken over because often they’ll have windows or even an exit boarded up which makes it more dangerous for people trapped in there.

“The people taking them over drag so much of the community down with them and so many of the properties are run by absentee landlords who have no idea what’s going on.

“It’s the people who are the longest way down who are often the prime targets. And the bad guys want to keep them down so they can carry on having a market for their drugs.

“We as a community have to try and understand what’s going on and find some way to address it.

“We’re trying to find all sorts of ways we can counter it within the law, but it takes time and the police are doing their best so I take my hat off to them.”

‘I wouldn’t let my grandson come here alone’

In Bridlington Skate Park, Lee Middleton watches on as his grandson Riley rides on half pipes covered in graffiti.

The 47-year-old, who lost his job during the coronavirus pandemic, said it was not a place he would want his grandson visiting after dark.

The spectre of crime is only made clearer by the sight of a Humberside Police pod standing in the distance as if on constant guard duty.

Mr Middleton said: “You get a lot of people on the streets around here, stuff like that. You get a lot of older kids hanging around in here, especially after dark. I wouldn’t let me grandson come here by himself.

“There’s a couple of cameras and sometimes you see police officers here, but other than that there’s no security at all.

“I moved here about seven years ago with my partner. There wasn’t much work and I can imagine if you don’t know anyone I can be a bit isolating.

“Coronavirus shut the whole place down for so long. It just stopped everything. I got laid off from work and it’s been hard finding anything ever since.

“I think a lot of the businesses were scared by the pandemic and some that were open before have closed down now.”

'We have enough fish and chip shops’

Bridlington South is a ward beset by problems, some unique to the area but others only too typical of a coastal town in the north of England.

But locals who have to live with them day to day are constantly in search of ways to make life better and turn the tide on decades of decline.

Osman Nasar, a local community activist, has lived in Bridlington since 2000.

He said he was now focusing his efforts on trying to bring residents with disparate interests together to work towards the common cause of improving Bridlington.

Mr Nasar said: “The problem we have in the town is that we’ve got a lot of older people who have the time to help out and try and change things. They come and they bring expertise with them, but the problem is passing that down to the next generation.

“And for younger people with some of them having to work two jobs, they don’t have the time. With the economic pressures comes anxiety and stress which combines and fuels the issues with drugs and substance abuse.

“We need people here working all year round. We have enough fish and chip shops as it is. I don’t think it would be fair for us to try and just be another town after the pandemic.

“I’m trying to focus on building empowerment groups on the back of the work I’ve done with Black Lives Matter. I want to try and get people from that and groups like Reclaim the Streets and Pride working together.”

The activist said even something as small as replacing graffiti with art by and for locals offered a glimpse into what he had in mind.

He said of one underpass near Bridlington Skate Park: “People are scared to go down this tunnel at night. Some of us wanted to try and get some funding to paint a mural on the wall.”

Coun Walker said that as Bridlington emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, deprivation needed to be treated at its root, not just by dealing with its symptoms.

He said: “Coastal towns tend to feel the winds of change more sharply. In the future we’ll need to bring something to the table.

“We thought plans for a marina would be that. It’s a shame because in the end they said they couldn’t make the economics of it work even though there’s a market there.

“But with the lack of health services, training opportunities and crime it all becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, if people feel things won’t return to Bridlington then there’s a chance they won’t.

“That’s preyed on politically as well and has been before. I remember when I was young and I was with my mum and we saw a National Front demonstration in town.

“It was the only time I ever heard my mum swear when she said: ‘we fought a war against you b******s’.

“We were delighted when we were elected and we took over the UKIP offices because there wasn’t anyone from that party left in Bridlington any more.

“People deserve something better and it’s so simple to do things better, if Bridlington wasn’t as deprived the market for things like Class A drugs wouldn’t be there.

“Times are changing, but it’s so important to realise that not all residents are affected equally by that.”