Let’s start with the good bits - all the hard working local business people who care enough about their customers to push at each and every opportunity for decent facilities and things to do, not just for visitors to the town - more than 50 years has gone by since I came back here, so we can probably dump the quaint, standalone term “visitors” and recognise our tourists as what they are, a vital part of our lives - but for the people who live here too and at their own expense. Scarborough features regularly on TV, in the mainstream press, in the movies and in advertising for Amazon’s Kindle; another advert shows our brightly coloured North Bay chalets, a Turner painting of the castle turned up on Antiques Roadshow - and so it goes on, always welcome, always free.
North Bay looks good - sparked up no end by investment in the luxury flats, The Waterfront bar and Ron Ford’s Oasis restaurant re-development, the Skate Park (nearly in the right place at last). For me, thumbs down for getting rid of Atlantis without providing a proper pool elsewhere, for the ongoing lack of development in Peasholm Park - a missed opportunity still - and the unfenced danger that lurks in the shape of an almighty drop for the unwary onto the rocks near Sea Life Centre. Don’t mention Open Air Theatre’s almighty losses, what you get for opening eight nights a year.
A friend highlighted the mysterious disappearance of Kissing Sleeping Beauty, the urban regeneration plan launched in a blaze a decade ago and sunk with only a couple of nifty benches and street lighting, some too-porous paving and a host of camper vans taking up the available parking day and night to show for it. Gone the way of my friend, Malcolm Stephenson’s North Bay leisure park vision - still awaiting any real development, gone the way of the cinema so far-sightedly proposed by the enterprising Shaw family, squashed by bureaucracy and a short-sighted planning department and gone the way of our sports village - an ideal place for a proper pool but not to be, it seems.
The town centre’s as full of boarded up shops as any other town in the country - it’s unwelcoming, filled with beer-swilling smokers dropping their fast-food onto the pedestrian precinct, its paving cracked by delivery wagons, a losing battle lost because no-one so far has spotted the obvious answer; ban drinking and smoking outdoors and in pub doorways. You can’t blame the vulnerable people, out of work because there’s not enough to go round. There’s a long-standing tradition throughout the country of not helping people who can’t help themselves, because that takes too much effort and I’d probably be rude and abusive too, knowing no-one cared.
It’s no use banging on about widening the A64 - it’s not going to happen. It’s no good wasting energy trying to keep the mouldy old Futurist open because it would be better flogged off for expensive apartments, posh shops and something new (but not tacky, please God, not that). Sell it for as much as you can but only when you give us a firm promise to use the money to build a decent venue for mainstream entertainment - comedy, music, ballet and touring shows, because, Scarborough Borough Council, we don’t trust you.
Since the County Council took over looking after our roads, pavements and grass verges, the town looks tatty while the money saved goes to keep too many staff in paper-shuffling jobs at Northallerton. Try as the staff at Manor Road may, they’re thwarted by a lack of cash that’s almost criminal. Our traffic wardens patrol easy-pickings areas, scaring off unwitting tourists, neglecting the roadside cars for sale and the residents who’ve discovered extra parking ready made on the grass outside their homes. Goodness knows what their insurance companies would say if there was an accident caused by them entering a stream of traffic, straight off the kerb.
Scarborough’s national bad publicity has most recently come from appalling, tragic crime - not perpetrated by people who blur the fiction of violent video games with real life but by young and old alike, sons and daughters of people who didn’t have the motivation to learn to be decent and who in turn are unlikely to pass this on to their own descendants. So we need a bigger sense of civic pride, something to believe in for the greater good - not just the latest campaign to kill off the wildlife that’s been here long before we arrived.
I’d like a council to run the town that doesn’t just carry out consultations, box-ticking exercises it hopes we’ll forget about that pay for staff who could be better used elsewhere but which we can’t afford. There’s enough highly-paid brain power in St Nicholas Street to get the ball rolling, moderated as they all should be by our elected councillors, mostly sensible on a good day. Times are tough for all of us, but where there’s a will...well, you know how that one goes.
We have Seafest, Coastival, the Stephen Joseph Theatre, enterprising shop and cafe owners, brilliant musicians, an under-used park and ride system, young people with few affordable diversions, a traffic system that’s never been sorted out despite millions of pounds of cash for digital bus stop displays and traffic lights that don’t let the traffic flow freely - lots of pluses but lots of work to do to counteract the negatives. What would help? Transparency in our local government - straight, honest talking, not fudging the issues. A brave Chief Executive who doesn’t just bank his salary but who gets out and shouts up for the town, fights central government for every penny. It’ll do for a start.
Mat Watkinson, former BBC journalist, record shop manager, DJ and voice artist, resident since 1960.