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North-South bias blamed as £60m marina is sunk
By Paul Stokes
(Filed: 11/08/2003)

The Government has been accused of fuelling a North-South divide by blocking proposals to turn a traditional seaside resort into an upmarket yachting haven.

On the recommendation of his inspector who conducted a public inquiry, Alastair Darling, the Transport Secretary, has rejected a £60 million scheme to create a 500-berth marina at Bridlington. The development would also have included a hotel and leisure and conference facilities.

East Riding of Yorkshire council, which headed a partnership promoting the project, said 650 full-time jobs would have been generated and an extra £6 million would have gone into the local economy as a result of an extra 100,000 visitors to the town.

The rundown fishing port would have been given new life but Mr Darling ruled that the economic benefit would have been outweighed by the loss of an important stretch of beach and two listed piers. This would have been "seriously damaging to the natural heritage of Bridlington".

Philip Wright, commodore of the Royal Yorkshire Yacht Club, said: "I find it hard to believe that a scheme with so many benefits to so many people can be discounted for the sake of a small section of wet sand when we have miles of golden sands in Bridlington.

"The decision smacks of a North-South divide. It is easy for someone sitting behind a desk in London to decide that planning issues are more important than jobs. The lack of jobs is a real worry for young and old alike. Without the marina the future for Bridlington is one of slow decline."

The inquiry concluded that the size of the reclaimed area would take years to develop and would be speculative without an identified developer in place.

Hoteliers, guest house owners, traders and the Royal Yorkshire Yacht Club backed the plan which was opposed by the Commissioners of Bridlington Piers and Harbours, the civic protection group, and environmentalists.

Chris Wright, the harbourmaster, who was born and bred in the town, is delighted at the outcome of the debate which has raged in Bridlington for two decades.

He said: "We have been running the harbour since 1697 and honestly believe we can make a better job of it than the council.

"This is not like the south coast where you can sail from port to port and cross over to the Channel Islands or France. It is ideal for yacht racing in the bay but it is not very good for cruising because there is nowhere else to go.

"There is no evidence of any demand and wealthy boat owners from Yorkshire will probably head to the south coast anyway with the ease of motorway access these days.

"I don't agree that Bridlington is in decline. There are 37 commercial fishing boats which land more shellfish than any other British port and we have 127 private craft ranging from fishing boats to yachts, speedboats and pleasure boats.

"The place is heaving with holidaymakers. Only yachties would have benefited from this scheme and the general public would have not been allowed near the complex.

"Most of the residents were concerned about how much the marina plan would have affected their council tax and believed the scheme could have ended up being a white elephant."

The East Riding of Yorkshire council was pinning its hope on the marina as a way of stimulating Bridlington's economy.

Steve Parnaby, leader of the council which has no one political party in control, said: "Unless we can think of something sharpish, Bridlington has been consigned to a slow death."

Brian Jefferies, joint chairman of the council's economic development scrutiny committee, described the Government's announcement as "absolutely disastrous".

He said: "The town needs to go upmarket. The shops are not of the highest quality and the whole place needs a lift.

"Away from the seafront some parts of Bridlington are among the most economically deprived in Britain and about £25 million is handed out in benefits every year to people in the town.

"The marina scheme is dead in the water. At first we were just stunned, now we are getting angry. Whitehall has effectively decided that Bridlington will not be regenerated." David Tonks, president of Bridlington Hotel and Guest House Association, also considered the decision a "bitter blow" for the town.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion but when that opinion leads to the sinking of Bridlington's big hope for the future they can't have much to be proud of," he said.
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