What does the future hold for Scarborough town centre?

Newborough, Scarborough.
Newborough, Scarborough.

With the Argos demolition and high street regeneration there is plenty going on in Scarborough Town Centre. And if everything goes to plan, in just a few years time our town is bound to look a lot different.

Although Scarborough Borough Council’s Town Centre strategy took a bad hit - the town failed to be selected among those due to receive government funding - last week’s announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave everyone hope.

The former Argos site.

The former Argos site.

Ploughing more cash into the Future High Street Fund, which now amounts to £1 billion, will allow an extra 50 towns, including Scarborough, to take money from the pot.

Cllr Liz Colling, Portfolio Holder for Economy, Communities & Commercial, said: “We’d done quite a lot of work and we put a huge value on the public consultation we did but it’s a competitive process so clearly other applications were deemed to be better.

“Now we’ve got a second chance and a bit of time. The draft plan should go to the government department in January and they will give us feedback and help us make it better.”

However, at this moment in time, the funding received from Westminster (up to £150,000) will not go towards the council’s regeneration plans but rather towards putting together a business case outlining what the plans actually are.

Once that’s submitted, Scarborough Council will take a bold step and apply for the maximum they can get.

“The size of the prize is up to £10 million and we’re going to go for it. There’s so much that needs addressing that we want to get as much as we can from this opportunity.”

The money will be used to turn Scarborough into the best performing coastal town in the UK by 2025. Plans include making the town centre fit for the 21st century by building smart infrastructure, promoting events and crucially, turning empty units into accommodation. It’s on this last point that the Argos demolition comes in.

Plans to knock down the former Argos block were revealed last month taking everyone by surprise.

The council explained how the building would make way for town centre accommodation for students, doctors and nurses, strengthening the partnership with CU Scarborough and York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and a new town square opposite the Market Hall.

Although leaked documents showed that doing so would almost double the council’s debt (the authority would have to borrow £22 million) Cllr Colling argued that the project is a “win-win” and demonstrates the council’s “commitment” to Scarborough.

“At the consultation we did last December people were asking ‘what are you going to do about the Argos site?’. It’s been partly empty for quite a long time, it blocks access to the seafront from the town, it hides the Market so when the university said that they wanted some student accommodation, that was a great opportunity to do something with it.”

Cllr Colling has also revealed that the council has good chances of securing funding of about £3 million from York and North Yorkshire LEP and a £2 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. These would be used to contribute towards the new town square and the Eastborough regeneration.

Meanwhile plans are also being drawn up to rejuvenate the town’s harbour and the area around the station.

“There’s a lot of work to do but we’ve got to get our ducks in a row and work on that business case for the Future High Street Fund.

“It will all come together towards the next year or so, so it’s a busy time for us all and hopefully we’ll make a really big difference to the town centre in Scarborough, from the station right to the harbour.”