Sunday, 1 September 2013

I Like a Challenge

I do like a challenge and this week I have accepted three. The first two can be seen on YouTube. They were a ukulele tutorial, Sunny Afternoon by The Kinks and a ukulele solo Smile by Charlie Chaplin. Now I have a third challenge which is to give my views on the decline of the seaside resort, in particular the decline of Morecambe, and how regeneration should take place. This is the hardest challenge as there are so many things that could be done.

Seaside resorts have been hit hard for many reasons and there was a rapid decline in the '70s partly caused by cheap flights abroad. Everyone in Morecambe knows this and they also know that prices subsequently fell for all the hotels, bed and breakfasts and all surrounding properties. All you have to do in Morecambe is to look at the grandeur of the buildings to see how they have declined. The Victorian terraces are often huge and families are now small. If you owned a bed and breakfast in the seventies, you were left with a building that wouldn't sell. It is easy to see why they became flats.

These flats are comparatively cheap so where would you rather live, if your budget is limited? In an industrial town or in a seaside town? It is unfortunate that poverty attracts poverty and all governments know that something has to be done, and some do it better than others but at least all parties recognise the problem even if they contributed to it be encouraging the use of these flats by the unemployed from other areas. It is easy to see the attraction of Morecambe. It is easy to see how this was seen as a convenient answer to filling those flats.

In the report,Turning the Tide the Centre for Social Justice looks at this problem and also mentions how seaside accommodation was advertised in prisons. There is no doubt that many unemployed people have jumped at the chance to move from industrial towns (or even from prisons). With more unemployed there was naturally more competition for the remaining jobs and this can't be good if you are in the market for a job. So it can be said that government made the economic position of seaside towns worse rather than better.

Governments also need to look at economic regeneration. They could do worse than look at Bill Bryson's suggestions in his Notes From A Small Island. 'With a little priming and a thoughtful long-term plan, I am sure you could attract the sort of people who would want to open bookshops, little restaurants, antique shops, galleries, maybe even tapas bars and the odd boutique hotel. Well, why not?' He also suggests that a division of the Inland Revenue or some other bureaucracy could move to Morecambe "to give it a bit of year-round life".

There is good news for Morecambe in particular there is the news that in the 2010 statistics from the ONC it has managed to stay out of the list of the fifteen most deprived seaside towns in England. We can also be thankful that Morecambe has stopped trying to compete with Blackpool even if we have to live with the remains of Frontierland, the funfair that was owned by the Thompson family who also own Blackpool's Pleasure Beach.

Again, according to Bill Bryson, 'Morecambe Bay 'is easily one of the most beautiful in the world, with unforgettable views across to the green and blue Lakeland hills: Scafell, Coniston Old Man, the Langdale Pikes'. Nobody calls us Bradford-by-the-sea anymore but the view of the Bay hasn't changed and there are plenty of signs of regeneration. The refurbished Midland hotel is a good start, but there were hopes that it would lead to a regeneration of the area around it, and those hopes are far from realised. This is illustrated in a 2011 video from the Guardian.

The answer is to have vision. The first step is to have the infrastructure in place. Turning the Tide highlights some of the problems and says there is a clear case for more investment in transport and infrastructure in coastal areas. This is especially true for Morecambe, where these things have been held back for so long. The M6 Link road, in particular, is the missing link which has held back all the previous efforts. With that in place maybe the regeneration of Morecambe will be possible.

Change the world

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