Is the Sleeping Beauty awake after 10 years?

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Ten years ago and a new millennium had not long since dawned, prompting a fresh start for Scarborough.

The public were invited on board for one of the largest consultation exercises to improve the town, with the results bringing international acclaim.

A decade on from the publication of ‘Kissing Sleeping Beauty’, a report aimed at transforming our seaside town, we take a look at how the visions of 2003 have materialised in Scarborough.

In the autumn of 2001 the now defunct regional development agency Yorkshire Forward had launched its Urban Renaissance Programme in order to support the social and economic regeneration of the major towns and cities, focusing on the need to improve the physical, natural and spatial environments.

From Yorkshire Forward’s international Renaissance Panel of consultants, John Thompson & Partners and West 8 were appointed to work with Scarborough Council and the people of the town to create an integrated vision for its future and an action plan for its delivery.

Following a lead-in period of research and talking to people across the community, preliminary briefings and technical audits, the Vision building phase of the process culminated in a large scale community planning weekend, held at the Spa between April 26 and 30 2002, which was attended by more than a thousand people.

Every aspect of the town was explored and a consensus created as to how, and in what form, the town should throw off its faded image and move confidently into the future.

The Town Team was set up to move the renaissance forward, and once all the ideas were collated the Kissing Sleeping Beauty report was published.

In it Tom Pindar, the then chairman of the Town Team, said: “Some towns exist because of coal or wool or steel. Scarborough is there as a jewel in a perfect natural setting with beautiful coast and country.

“Confidence, determination and vision experience low patches. Scarborough has had one for many years until the realisation that modern business can skip the miles, that people value quality and that there is so much going for the place that it should renew, develop and grow.

“While the early visible initiative will be in public space, all the while, scheming and planning are in train for housing, cultural, commercial, traffic and all the other facets of the jewel we are polishing and resetting that will be the 21st century’s leading coastal town.”

The report homed in on a number of areas of improvement, referring to a “string of pearls” running from the Holbeck slip to the Sealife Centre.

There was also a focus on improving street spaces, and creating more public squares.

Through the process Nick Taylor was appointed as Renaissance Manager for the town.

Reflecting on the successes of the regeneration, Mr Taylor said: “A huge part of it was to get the town feeling better about itself and being upmarket.

“People will always say we are not upmarket, we have too many charity shops, but every high street has that.

“The idea was to raise the quality of the investment that people made in their businesses. Instead of going cheap and cheerful thinking ‘it’s only Scarborough’ they should say ‘no, let’s offer a bit more’.

“A good example of that is Antons. and Waterfront Cafe. Before that people didn’t sit outside on the seafront. And you wouldn’t have wanted to. There was a big galvanised fence where Ask is now.

“We really do have a great coffee culture now, not just on the seafront, but in town too. Before that we only had traditional cafes, now we have a very European flavour of sitting outside throughout the day.

“There were major improvements at the harbour in terms of public space, with more footpath space. We have also seen refurbishments at the Spa and the Rotunda which have really smartened up that area.

“We needed to change the atmosphere in the town and change perceptions so people like Premier Inn would see it as worth investing in the town.

“We had a high value finish when we did the harbour area and the Rotunda. We had to set a precedent around the town for private sector businesses to reflect when they invested.

“It was all about raising quality. It wasn’t about getting rid of fish and chip shops and candy floss, it was about saying let’s have really good fish and chip shops and candy floss.”

The Renaissance project spread across a range of groups who got on board to do their bit to improve the town’s offering. The arts and culture group set up Coastival, the town’s business community created the Ambassadors, and the refurbishment of the Cinder Track was also part of the project.

Scarborough’s transformation didn’t go unnoticed. In 2008 the town was named Best Town in Britain, before going on the following year to be named The Most Enterprising Town in Europe.

Through the Renaissance Scarborough also won the Academy of Urbanism Award and a public participation award.

While the Renaissance has enjoyed many successes there are still many aspects of the Kissing Sleeping Beauty document that are yet to be fulfilled. With public funding at an all-time low Mr Taylor said progress has slowed down, but is still going ahead. He said: “The next long term project is to improve the street scene in the town centre. The Town Team is still looking at improving Station Square, and the area behind Sandside, ‘the second waterfront’, is still very much in mind for regeneration.”