I’ll try to speak for what I know of the town, from growing up there, leaving to go to university, coming back and then leaving the country, and returning as a resident/visitor.
My approach to ‘Speaking up for Scarborough’ therefore, will be to list what I perceive to be the positives, followed by the negatives.
History. Perhaps overlooked by the majority of visitors, the town’s history is fabulous, from the obvious Scarborough Castle, maritime history, the old town to the less well-known physical history of the coast, the geology and fossilised remains, to relatively new discoveries of Bronze Age settlements – there is a lot to offer.
Architecture. Scarborough and its surrounding villages have some phenomenal examples of historical architecture, the Spa, the Grand Hotel, the Esplanade – for those interested in history, Scarborough has it all.
Location. The fact that residents and visitors alike can take advantage of living in a mid-sized urban area, with the sea to the east and a massive National Park to the north and west, the location of the town is something to be capitalised upon – the range of sporting and leisurely pursuits that can be taken advantage of is wide ranging.
Shopping. The town has definitely seen shops come and go, and, avoiding the abundance of pound shops that have taken over (see negatives), there are plenty of boutique shops that cater to specific groups of people, Scarborough will never have the shopping range of York, Leeds or Newcastle, as they are cities versus seaside towns. Specialist shops that have weathered the test of time like Secret Spot surf shop, Richardsons bicycle shop, even Proudfoots supermarkets, all add to the town in their own way, and should be applauded for it.
Steven Joseph Theatre and Open Air Theatre. Alan Ayckbourn’s presence in the town is a great draw for theatre lovers, the fact that people can visit the Stephen Joseph and see a play that wouldn’t be out of place in the West End of London is something that should be capitalised upon, likewise the new development of the Open Air Theatre has proven to be a draw for musical acts of all sizes, the trick is to keep the well-known acts playing, yet providing a diverse selection which appeals to people of all ages and backgrounds.
Restaurants. Scarborough and its surrounds has always had some great restaurants, I have great memories of Boddy’s tea shop, Bonnets, Tricolo’s on Eastborough and the Lanterna on Queen Street, to the newer restaurants like Jeremy’s on Victoria Park Avenue, Ask on the Foreshore, or one of the great pubs that surround the town like the Anvil at Sawdon.
Pubs, Bars, Nightclubs. Something that Scarborough seems to have an abundance of is a wide variety of nightlife, for a seaside destination resort there are plenty of bars and nightclubs that cater to people from all walks of life. I grew up going to the pubs in Scalby, going out in ‘town’ heading to places like the Lord Rosebery at the top of Westborough, Klosters on York Place, before heading to one of the nightclubs, many of which have changed names so many times now that I’ve got no way to be able to name them. In terms of pubs and bars, much like any town, there are going to be memorable places and not so memorable ones, Scarborough and its villages have plenty of great places to grab a drink.
Scarborough has plenty of positives, but it also has more negatives which is perhaps why we’re in the situation that we’re in now. The majority of this due to things mostly outside of our control, the economy tanking had a massive impact on the town, businesses down-sized, organisations that had been around for many years closed their doors for the final time, shops boarded up their windows and left an already hard-up population without an income. Another factor affecting Scarborough has been the changing dynamic of the seaside resort – as trips to the Mediterranean/further afar have become cheaper, the British seaside resort has succumbed to the inevitable, the majority* of people who visit seaside resorts for their summer holidays are people who can’t afford to go overseas, this means an influx of folks who are looking for a cheap visit, cheap hotels, cheap dinners, cheap drinks – all of which Scarborough does a pretty good job of catering to. As the town’s resort dynamic has changed, so has the type of person who has either chosen, or who has been forced to live here, generally* of low to no income, living off government hand-outs, which in turn leads to drink and drug issues or vice-versa. With low-income residents comes retailers targeting produce/products to that demographic which in turn pushes out the specialist stores which cater to others, pubs and bars lower the cost of drinks which attracts people who indulge in all-day drink binges, which often times leads to drugs, anti-social behaviour, crime – which further drags the town and its surrounds down.
*I don’t have any data to substantiate this.
Transportation links. Scarborough’s location is both an advantage plus a significant disadvantage, the A171 to the north, the A170 to the west, the A165 to the south, and the A64 to the south-west are all significant roads but they don’t do a great job of getting traffic to the town without traffic jams, relentless road works. In particular the A64 funnelling traffic from the A1(M) and the M62 goes from a dual carriage way to single lane traffic for the majority of the drive to and from Scarborough, what better way to dissuade visitors than a long drive to get to their break. Trains do an okay job but as most people want to drive around the town, without a rental car agency near the train station, there are very few options for visitors arriving for a holiday by rail.
Drugs. I remember the first time I learned about drugs, when a teacher at my high school told us that Scarborough was a major stop along the coast for drugs brought in from the ports of Newcastle and/or Hull, travelling up and down the coast. Anybody taking a look at the newspaper in the past 10 years will have realised that North Marine Road is a hub for those looking for a quick fix, or to crash in one of the ‘hotels’ in the area and sleep off their high. Drugs are an issue in my current city of Salt Lake City, police can arrest dealers and users, throw them in jail for the night but so long as supply meets demand there is always going to be a problem. The problem needs to be handled at a much deeper level, clean up the areas where drugs are prevalent, eradicate the dealers from higher up the chain, provide support (health, education,work) to addicts, and close down the bedsits.
Alcohol abuse/alcohol-related anti-social behaviour. Similar to the drug problem, alcohol addiction and associated anti-social behaviour needs to be solved at the root of the problem, levy heavy fines on problem bars/pubs or simply close them down; identify hotspots in the town and modify licensing of bars in those areas to mitigate the problem. Would people still drink as much if they had jobs to go to? Probably not (aside from the hardcore addicts), so, focus on providing jobs which pulls people away from the bars, then provide better health education on the dangers of alcohol abuse to go after the binge drinkers.
There is no short-term solution to this that I can see, however there are ways that we can get there slowly, increase the incentives for newer hotels that are more along the lines of the ‘boutique’ hotel as mentioned in the original article, update existing hotels to cater less to groups of young/old folks coming for a short cheap break, and focus on providing access to the Stephen Joseph and the Open Air Theatre; promoting the proximity to the North York Moors and the outdoor activities available, and access to the other similarly great towns and villages in the immediate area. Advertise the town in national publications to families, from all social demographics, advertise in the broadsheet newspapers to appeal to people who don’t descend on the town via tour bus for a cheap weekend on the tiles, rather an educated visit to an area of outstanding beauty, whilst mixing in culture and great cuisine. Provide tax breaks to businesses wanting to come to the town, provide a wide range of incentives to encourage these businesses to settle in the region providing much needed jobs in both the existing tourism industry but also in the (once) burgeoning commercial sector.
Scarborough is a beautiful place, as one of the first seaside resorts in the UK, we have a rich history, we have masses of potential but there is no quick fix. The council needs to focus on what matters, clean up the town, ensure that the majority of residents are gainfully employed, bring Scarborough back to being the place that people want to bring their kids up in, reduce crime, reduce anti-social behaviour by diminishing drug and alcohol abuse. Improve the support structure for those that are in need of it, certify that healthcare services are up to par, provide easy access to further education and employment support. In short, it’s an up-hill battle, there’s a hell of a lot of potential but not without some hard work!
Salt Lake City