Yorkshire's 'forgotten seaside town' tourists always miss off the map

Withernsea locals Peter Ashworth and Kieran Hill
-Credit: (Image: Samuel Port)

A 'dying seaside town' needs more tourists, say worried locals who've admitted their home has become 'run down'.

While the likes of Scarborough, Whitby and Bridlington have become staple locations in the summer calendar, Withernsea on the East Yorkshire coast, often gets forgotten about. Despite the fact it has all the traditional trappings of a holiday destination, including a sandy shoreline, idyllic views, arcades, ice-cream parlours and fish and chip shops.

Locals have mixed opinions over whether being forgotten is a blessing or a curse. The ‘time-warped’ town presents an idyllic home for pensioners, happy to bask in the sun with fewer distractions even if it is a little 'run down'. While there are concerns about the growing sense of inertia with independent businesses having to close due to lack of footfall.

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Half of the homes in Withernsea East and Patrington area are among the most impoverished throughout the UK, according to the English indices of deprivation. The town is densely populated with 5,766 living within the 1.2-mile area. East Riding Council says it has launched 'a number of projects to regenerate the town and support its local businesses'.

Withernsea beach facing the North Sea
Withernsea beach facing the North Sea -Credit:Samuel Port

Peter Ashworth’s family moved to Withernsea from a “rough council estate” in Bradford for “a better life” but he says the area has gone downhill since then. The 28-year-old says while it’s more peaceful, he worries about the creeping sense of apathy in the town with little to do. He says the high street has a high turnover with independents forced to close due to lack of footfall.

Peter said: “We get fancy little shops which open which last only a few months and they’re gone. There doesn’t seem to be enough traction to keep businesses open that aren’t already well established.

“It feels a bit more like a dying seaside town, as opposed to…we used to holiday here before we moved here, it was always bustling, busy with things going on for families but that’s rarely the case, nowadays.”

Withernsea general views
Withernsea general views -Credit:Samuel Port

Pensioners Richard and Sharron Mennell moved to Withernsea from West Yorkshire 21 years ago and are content with their lives in the seaside town – but have said there’s a nagging sense the town has been forgotten about.

Sharron said: “A lot of people don’t know Withernsea exists. I think they’ve heard of Bridlington, Scarborough and Hornsea but not Withernsea. It seems to jump from Hornsea right to the other side of the estuary. For people from Yorkshire it’s the ideal place to come, you come straight up the M62 and you’re here.”

Richard added: “It’s a little bit run down. It’s full of nice people. To me, you couldn’t have anywhere better to come to. It’s relaxing and feels about fifty years behind the times.”

East Riding Tory councillor and café owner Paul Whitehead has argued the town is 'thriving'. He also likes the fact the town has less 'hustle and bustle'.

Withernsea pensioner Richard Mennell
Withernsea pensioner Richard Mennell -Credit:Samuel Port

Paul said: “Dying? No, it’s thriving! Absolutely thriving. The house prices are still relatively low compared to the UK average and yet significantly increases in the next couple of years.

“The good indicators are the businesses which are established are doing well. There’s one development where 200 houses are being built and there’s a £600,000 investment being put into the Promenade. It’s a traditional seaside town which is friendly, quiet, clean and safe with the best fresh air. Just somewhere to get away from the hustle and bustle.”

Helena Moss, regeneration and funding group manager for East Riding Council said: “Withernsea is an extremely important area in the East Riding and the council has led and introduced a number of projects to regenerate the town and support its local businesses.”

Withernsea general views
Withernsea general views -Credit:Samuel Port

The council says it has plans to transform Withernsea seafront and has carried out consultations with residents to find out what they'd like to see as part of the plans. The multi-million-pound sea defence scheme, South Withernsea Coastal Defence Scheme, was completed in 2020, and carried out by the council.

The local authority added 24 high street businesses and has successfully applied for Love your High Street Funding to support improvements to shop frontages, property refurbishments totalling over £100,000. And the first Withernsea on Wheels weekend organised by Shores centre in partnership with ERYC, Yorkshire Coast BID, Withernsea Town Council saw 3,000 visitors to Withernsea on May 28 and 29 in 2022. It added that 20 community projects have been funded specifically for Withernsea totalling over £64,000 between June 2021 and March 2024

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