Sunshine – and clouds – on horizon for Yorkshire coastal towns

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COASTAL communities in Yorkshire are facing mounting pressure to capitalise on a wave of unprecedented economic opportunities while preserving the hugely lucrative multi-billion-pound tourism industry.

A flood of new industries, from potash mining to wind energy, has brought major investments and with each one, say local leaders, comes a huge vote of confidence.

Scarborough South Bay and Castle. PIC: Gerard Binks

Scarborough South Bay and Castle. PIC: Gerard Binks

But ahead of what could be a legacy summer, they add, there are questions to be asked over what could stand in the way of future growth at a time of such viable prospects.

Travel fears over Yorkshire coast’s tourist boom

The region’s profile has “never been more prominent”, Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Sir Gary Verity has stressed. But with opportunities for growth, he added, come questions over what can be done to facilitate it.

Capacity could be an issue, said Mr Verity, and with major acts like Britney Spears and Lionel Richie appearing at Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre, there is a clear need for more hotels.

Congestion is a major factor as roads become busier, yet no set timetables for change have materialised despite 30 years of campaigns. And there is a major question over recruitment with Brexit on the horizon, in an industry so reliant on staff from Europe.

“It’s a sector that employs a quarter of a million people across the county,” he said.

“If there was a factory, or another sector, that employed a quarter of a million people, we would cherish it and shout about it – it would be massive.

“Clearly, more people will be holidaying at home. Staycation, what was once a buzzword, is now the norm.

“There are opportunities with Brexit, but these are questions that need answering.”

The profile of Yorkshire’s coast has been steadily rising in recent years, and the visitor spend has increased four per cent every year for the past four years.

Visit Britain’s official figures show more people are visiting Yorkshire than ever before, with more holiday visits to Scarborough than anywhere else in the country except London.

The area’s 1.3m holidays a year are more than double that of York, and three times that of Harrogate or Brighton, bringing £303m in visitor spend.

Tourism as a whole, figures released in a report last month, now bring £8bn to Yorkshire’s economy, a 14 per cent rise since 2011.

“Scarborough is bucking the trend of seaside resorts across the country,” said Scarborough and Whitby MP Robert Goodwill.

“There aren’t many with new hotels being built, or that can boast the footfall that Scarborough has had. We are in a really good place.

“There’s a lot of investment – a signal of a vote of confidence in the region.”

Having campaigned for the A64 to be dualled, he said he will continue to push for any upcoming works to be stretched as close to the coast as possible.

There is a “compelling” economic case for transport infrastructure improvements, adds Malton and Thirsk MP Kevin Hollinrake, backed by the campaigning A64 Partnership.

Improved access would increase tourism and facilitating growth for business such as the potash development, housing growth in Scarborough and Malton and the expansion of major employers such as McCain Foods and Severfield.

“Last and certainly not least,” Mr Hollinrake said, “it would put an end to the long queues and traffic jams which cause such frustration for so many and which serve only to put people off enjoying all the benefits of that part of North Yorkshire and all the way to the coast.”

Does our transport infrastructure require major improvements?

Yorkshire’s coast is set to see huge economic growth in the coming years with major investments planned from potash mining to wind farms.

Sirius Minerals’ £10bn potash mine, at Sneaton near Whitby, has been described as a “project of national importance” and signals one of the biggest private investments in the North of England, creating 1,000 new jobs.

Further investments have been made at McCain Foods in Scarborough, while more than 10,000 new homes are planned as the borough grows.

And when it comes to wind energy, a 430-square-mile project at Dogger Bank is set to see one of the world’s biggest offshore wind farms, with up to 400 turbines sited 80 miles off the Yorkshire coastline. It is expected to cost at least £6bn and could supply 2.5 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs, supporting an estimated 900 jobs in the region.