While big chains such as McDonalds, Woolworths and Marks and Spencer have all fallen off Bridlington’s busiest high street, amusements arcades such as Shaws Premier Amusements have remained stalwart. But for how much longer?
With a beautiful harbour, two sandy beaches and several stately FECs, Bridlington has always been one of the most popular resorts alongYorkshire’s coastline – but businesses are warning its stature is waning.
Indeed, the lobster capital of the Europe has been hamstrung by successive councils over the years, and this season it is extensive work on the roads that is causing a downturn on the harbour’s high street.
“Hopefully it will enhance the road but it is taking too long,” explained Tyler Shaw, operator of Shaws Premier Amusements. “It’s not fair on people who have businesses, there’s been a decline in the country since about 2008 I would say,but things like this do nothing to help. We are right round the corner, on the shopping street where Woolworths was, McDonalds, Marks and Spencers – which has just closed – and there’s lots of shop units that are boarded up. Because of the road works people have not been coming down,and not only that,there’s not enough to come down to. The council seem to be doing everything they can to make it uninviting,and the only people surviving are coffee shops,eateries and amusement arcades.”
Shaw added that one of Bridlington’s biggest attractions is its beaches, both to the north and south, explaining that it has been “the outskirts that have allowed the town to survive” since the road works began, with visitors being“put off from the town centre” – where Shaws Premier Amusements has been an FEC since 1932.
“We have stayed on this seafront through the highs and the lows,” said Shaw. “Next to us there’s a bar,and then opposite there’s a fish and chip shop and a cafe. I’ve known the owners for years, and we joke about how we are the only ones left. We persevere and carry on, but it’s hard work, so much so that I’ve had to diversify into other industries. I don’t think any of us are content with how the town is at all, they should really be doing things that are very basic to try and get a community feel back again. I used to go to a lot of the council meetings, and for so long I put a lot of time and energy into it, but I didn’t see much change. I really think that councils are not living it, it’s not a reality for them.A couple of business people onboard would be a good thing, but councils can be very stuck in their ways and it can be hard to get through.”
Shaw isn’t asking for much, just a more inviting town that plays on its strengths, with better planning so that construction work is mainly done throughout winter. She has seen some enhancements over the years,but other than a successful leisure centre, the improvements have normally been made at a cost to businesses, rather than to support them.
“It’s neglected the businesses so badly, it almost feels like we should pull together and say to them ‘unless things start changing, why should we pay our business rates?’”, concluded Shaw. “They expect to get the business rates,but it is very difficult for someone in a business when they’ve got so much square footage it becomes very expensive to make it all fit and pay all the bills. It is through a lot of their doing that the town centre is not thriving as much as it should be.For all of what we do to make it fit, buying new equipment, business rates,staff overheads, general maintenance – there doesn’t always seem to be enough days out of the year to make you feel satisfied, because it’s only on those exceptionally sunny days when you get the footfall.”
Thankfully, Shaw will have received those exceptionally sunny days the past couple of weeks,but it’s certainly not a good sign when the British weather becomes more reliable than the local council.