'˜We sort it out for ourselves... no one is going to help us'

DESPITE AN outcry and petitions signed by thousands of people, Hornsea's minor injuries unit closed on April 3 for the last time.

But it is hoped a new first aid centre run by volunteers will be up and running for the May Bank Holiday – and the start of the influx of holidaymakers, which sees the town’s population treble in the summer.

St Nicholas Church has paid for a mobile unit and a pharmaceutical firm in Hull is supplying first-aid equipment.

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Mayor Anne Padgett, who scoffed at the idea of trying to drive along 17 miles of tortuous coastal roads to get a minor injury treated in Withernsea, said: “If everything goes to plan, and we get everything in place, we should start by the end of the month.

Hornsea fisherman Mark Coleman. Picture Tony Johnson.

“Everybody in the town wants to help,” Coun Padgett added. “They realise what a vital thing it is.”

SURROUNDED by tangled lobster pots, wrecked by one of the worst storms he has seen, the skipper of the coble Carol-Ann Mark Colman is surveying the damage.

Hornsea’s fleet of 10 boats is counting the cost of the aftermath of the Beast from the East. The furious easterly winds combined with big tides and plummeting temperatures threw out millions of dead and dying sea creatures on to the beaches of Yorkshire’s coastline.

As well as hurling a five-tonne marker buoy on to the beach, the storm caused tens of thousands of pounds of damage to pots as they broke free, got entangled, chafed ropes and tore off their “doors”.

Hornsea fisherman Mark Coleman. Picture Tony Johnson.

“It was distressing seeing the berried lobsters lying on the beach dead,” says Mr Colman.

Away from the seashore, however, thoughts are focussed more on fixing the damage being done to the town’s remaining services. Hornsea’s minor injuries unit closed on April 3 and its last two banks, NatWest and Lloyds, on main shopping street Newbegin, will shut within a week of each other in June.

For many of the town’s older residents – some of whom cannot drive – it is bleak situation. The nearest NatWest will be in Beverley, 13 miles away, while the nearest Lloyds is in Hull, 14 miles away, and a long trip by bus.

A steady stream of customers coming into the greengrocers on Newbegin agree with its owner Paul Brown that the turn of events is “appalling” and “disgusting”.

Lloyds plans to introduce a mobile bank van service, while the local Post Office will have basic banking services. But as the woman who does the banking for the museum opposite points out, it will not be the same.

“Lloyds does deferred banking – you can give them a great bag of coins and they will count it out, but they don’t at the Post Office. You will have to stand there till they count it with people tutting and stamping their feet.”

Retired teacher Gillian Dann, who came into Hornsea to shop from Leven, says it is a “very short-sighted, backwards step” and part of the relentless chipping away of the social structure which is provided by an old-fashioned High Street.

“I’ve been to Tesco, but I always come here because of the social side as much as anything else,” she says.

Just around the corner at the not-for-profit Kelpies Wholefood shop, however, talk is far from despair. People there remind visitors that when East Riding Council wanted to close Hornsea Floral Hall, citing £100,000-a-year losses, locals rallied round and it is now thriving.

Paul Hanson, a founder of Home Grown Hornsea, an organisation aimed at making the town more sustainable and self-reliant, said: “In a way, all these closures I see as an opportunity. It is clear small towns are not going to get things done for us. If we want something, we have to sort it out for ourselves.”

The town is now rallying around to set up a first aid post, run by a retired nurse and manned by volunteers, in a mobile unit outside Tesco. Meanwhile, Mr Hanson is working on plans for a credit union, a non-profit-making co-operative whose members can borrow from pooled deposits at low interest rates.

“The only downside is that the credit union doesn’t have the same capacity as banks,” Mr Hanson added.

East Riding Council wants to close the library and customer service centre on Newbegin, and the resource centre on Railway Street, and move them into a newly revamped Leisure Centre on the seafront. Some locals feel that more empty buildings on Newbegin – already hit by the banks shutting – will be another blow to footfall.

But Mr Hanson believes this too could present another opportunity – with the library, or resource centre, becoming a new community centre and home for the credit union.

And mayor Anne Padgett, who is having a coffee at the Floral Hall’s cafe, is similarly upbeat.

She said: “We have to fight back – we have absolutely no choice. What I like about the credit union is that it is run by volunteers. They care about the community. If you don’t do it yourself you are not going to get anywhere. The big organisations couldn’t care less.”