Desperate plea to revive 'forgotten' seaside town Withernsea
PEOPLE living in a "forgotten" seaside town have made a desperate plea for greater investment to revive its ailing fortunes.
Withernsea is currently regarded as one of the most deprived towns in the East Riding, with above average levels of unemployment and poor housing.
Now, East Riding Council is set to spearhead efforts to upgrade rundown streets in the five hotspot areas of the town with a £1m loan scheme.
Under the project, homeowners and landlords will be offered low-cost loans to improve their properties.
The hope is to provide improved housing at the same time as creating much-needed jobs in the construction sector.
However, while welcoming the announcement, residents claim much more needs to be done if Withernsea is to break free from its current "cycle of decline".
Gerry King, 68, who runs Sandwich Express in the town's Seaside Road, said: "Withernsea is like a war zone on a bad day.
"Entertainment is limited and there is nothing really to come to the town for.
"First, the train station went but we still managed to attract visitors.
"It was when the main market went that the town really started to deteriorate.
"The town is struggling because of a lack of investment."
Michelle Bradfield, 29, human resources officer at the Southern Holderness Resource Centre, said: "Withernsea is one of the forgotten areas. It is really important it has this investment and future investments.
"The town needs improvements. It is an area of high unemployment. It also needs a clean-up."
Jack Whittaker, 75, a former town councillor in Withernsea, said: "There has been neglect from East Riding Council for several years, which has led to a decrease in visitor numbers."
Potential improvements expected to be funded through the new loans scheme include replacement windows and doors, new guttering and fascia boards, replacement boundary fencing and gates, new front garden paving works and repairs to flat roofs and front dormers.
Treatment of rising damp is also expected to be covered in the initiative.
Council officials admit the new home improvement loans will be less attractive than the non- repayable grants offered to homeowners in Goole in recent years under that town's regeneration programme.
But they say the continuing squeeze on council funding and the end of match funding from now- abolished organisations such as regional development agency Yorkshire Forward have left their hands tied.
With the £1m funding coming from the council's capital budget, they hope the loans scheme will ensure the money being made available for Withernsea goes much further.
Councillor Symon Fraser, the East Riding's portfolio holder for housing, said: "This is the right move for Withernsea.
"I accept there might be a few concerns about the likely take-up of these loans but it is absolutely right to try to do this. By issuing loans we will also be able to recycle any money we get back for future schemes.
"We have to make sure we work on this to get a good buy-in from the residents. Once we do that I am sure it will be successful."
Cllr Fraser said the key to improving rundown areas of the town was monitoring the effectiveness.
"It is all about implementation and how we deliver things on the ground," he said.
"However, I very much welcome this and I am sure the local community in Withernsea will see it as a step in the right direction."
Steve Button, the council's director policy, said the home loans initiative aimed to build on previous work identifying regeneration priorities in the town.
He said: "Withernsea has long been recognised by the council and by the local community as a town in need of regeneration.
"Although it remains a popular visitor destination during the summer months, it is increasingly unable to compete with other seaside towns and visitor destinations resulting in a cycle of decline."
Mr Button said the recent Withernsea Renaissance Plan jointly produced between the council and the Withernsea and South East Holderness Regeneration Partnership had identified poor housing as a major issue in the town.