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Scarborough seeks a 20-year vision to capitalise on its maritime links

Scarborough Harbour . Fishing boats moored after a working day out a sea. pic Richard Ponter 180518a
Scarborough Harbour . Fishing boats moored after a working day out a sea. pic Richard Ponter 180518a

First documented in the days of King Henry III, Scarborough’s harbour has become synonymous with the image of a traditional seaside town.

Now, amidst the uncertainty of Brexit and its impact on a maritime industry, a 20-year vision for its future is being drawn up to see how the town can capitalise on this famous image.

Scarborough Harbour . Fishing boats moored after a working day out a sea. pic Richard Ponter 180518h

Scarborough Harbour . Fishing boats moored after a working day out a sea. pic Richard Ponter 180518h

“Scarborough is a harbour town,” said Coun Mark Vesey, member of Scarborough Council’s harbour task group. “All the history is there, locked in those walls. We once had one of the largest ship-building yards in the country. We built ships that went all over the world, taking convicts to Australia. That all went in the age of steam. This is about a long-term vision about development for the future.”

The taskforce was set up by Scarborough Council in September, to draw up a plan around projects, investment and direction. Public meetings are to be held in coming days, with fishermen, professors, specialists in fisheries, conservation, and maritime industries.

The harbour currently houses around 35 fishing vessels, and is visited by 300 more, a report to be considered on Wednesday reveals. It provides 150 jobs in the town. And while it’s difficult to quantify the benefits it brings to the area’s wider economy, the report recognises that a visible fishing industry adds to the town’s appeal as a major tourist destination.

The group, drawing up an action plan, is looking at ideas around investments which could secure its future as a working harbour – relatively rare in a modern tourist town – and to improve its surroundings for future income generation.

“We know facilities need investment,” said Coun Vesey. “The harbour is hundreds of years old.”

As well as potential investment in facilities, the task force is looking at ways funding can be generated from the harbour. There’s a waiting list for berths going into years, Coun Vesey said, and there are considerations as to whether this could be expanded. The West Pier, parking in summer, is “empty space” is winter, he said, and there were options around making more of this space. There could be crab stalls, or cafes, he adds.

“There’s a lot to look at, to try and balance it all,” he said. “Scarborough harbour is quite unique in the world of fishermen, as a working harbour with tourists visiting as well. We want to keep that heritage, to keep the tourism, and to make money so that it can pay its way in the future. It’s a big challenge.”

Scarborough harbour is a working harbour and must remain as such, fishermen have urged, despite its appeal as a tourism destination.

Fred Normandale, a vessel owner and now retired fisherman, whose father and both grandfathers fished here before him, has commented on the reports as to how it could be developed.

“The harbour is a Scarborough centre for vessels - it’s for fishermen,” the 69-year-old said. “The harbour is the focal point. The harbour was built for a reason, and that was for a maritime purpose.”

The first records of a fishing fleet were are in 1225, when Henry lll gifted 40 oaks from his woods to use in the harbour.

In 1914, the lighthouse was seriously damaged during the bombardment of Scarborough by German cruisers and the tower had to be dismantled. It was rebuilt in 1931.

“It’s been there a long time,” said Mr Normandale.

“The old boys always say, we owe it to the next generation to leave this harbour, if not in as good a condition, then a better one than that which we inherited it.

“We like that line - that’s gone down through the generations. Fishing is not a job, it’s a way of life.”

Scarborough Harbour’s fishing task group is to meet on Wednesday to update on its latest progress.

A range of experts are to join the discussion panel, and among the topics to be discussed are the projections for the UK fishing industry, emerging sectors, and potential changes to the UK’s policy and funding following Brexit and the impact on industry.