Plan for £65m marina raises a storm in a port

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The Independent Online

With unemployment at around twice the nationalaverage and tourist numbers having fallen considerably in the last 10 years, the Humberside resort of Bridlington has been in need of a lifeboat for some time and yesterdayappeared to have found one.

With unemployment at around twice the nationalaverage and tourist numbers having fallen considerably in the last 10 years, the Humberside resort of Bridlington has been in need of a lifeboat for some time and yesterdayappeared to have found one.

The town announced that after 30 years of trying it is to follow the penchant for expensive marinas which has been the unexpected salvation of towns as remote as Doncaster, Bognor, Hartlepool and Stranraer.

Bridlington's £65m masterplan is arguably the town's most important development since the railway built from Hull in 1846 first opened the place up to Victorian holidaymakers and it ought to have been a cause for celebration as it came out of wraps at the town's Victorian Spa Royal Halls.

It was nothing of the sort. The marina has already been a source of such local rancour that its proponents were forced to use its announcement as the launch of an expensive defence campaign for which 36,000 glossy brochures have been issued and an Olympic sailing champion employed.

The most emotive of many objections to the marina, with its luxury flats, retail and leisure developments, 500 berths and posh yacht club, is its incorporation of the town's old harbour. It means a flotilla of 125 retired miners, mill workers and others who spent retirement nest-eggs on £200-a-year moorings on the "Brid" harbour mudflats will face a five-fold increase in berthing fees to help offset the new marina's running costs.

"There is no way I will be able to afford it," said 69-year-old Jim Stephenson, speaking for many old men like him. "Nor will others like me: chaps still working who come over every weekend in their little boats and do a bit of fishing in the bay."

From coast to coast, other marinas have been weathering similar storms. In Ramsay, on the Isle of Man, plans for a potential £200m marina are meeting opposition. Hartlepool is planning similar treatment for its Victoria Dock but council officers have already warned that traditional harbour users are part of the town's "unique, core value and must not be marginalised".

Bridlington - which attracted two and a half million visitors a year in the days when Yorkshire miners made an annual pilgrimage - is not architecturally unprogressive. An impressive marine chalet development within the south foreshore development was nominated as one of the 50 Buildings of the Year by the Royal Institute of British Architects earlier this year.

But the marina somehow signals the end for a way of life. Bridlington's Piers and Harbour Commissioners (BPHC) organisation, which has run the port for 307 years, making its money from 127 private craft and 37 commercial fishing vessels which tie up, is to be wound up under parliamentary orders and replaced by a new harbour and marina authority which will be charged with producing a business plan for the new marina.

It would make no business sense for marina and harbour to co-exist in competition, says the Yorkshire Marina Partnership, a business and council consortium which is masterminding the new development.

BPHC senses property developers supplanting seafaring traditions of a port which has survived against considerable odds, establishing a burgeoning shellfishing industry.

"Warehouses and workshops will go," said BPHC collector of dues, Maggie Hyland. "And no written guarantee has been given that the west end of the harbour will not be in-filled, with the loss of mud berths for weekend small boat users. In the new penthouses and smart hotels, they are not going to want a working harbour smelling of fish bait."

The 150-strong Bridlington Preservation Society also argues that delicately managed tidal patterns will be affected, causing the erosion for which the coast is notorious. Objectors, who have made Save Bridlington Harbour car stickers common locally, are seeking Grade One listed status to preserve the harbour. They want a marina built out of the way, on the north of the harbour instead. All YMP's counter-arguments are robust. Its consulting engineer, Posford Duvivier, has disproved erosion fears and insist a marina where the objectors want it would cause worse tidal effects. Bridlington simply cannot thrive without a marina bringing more jobs, tourists and land values, they say.

First blood, however, has already gone to the old guard. The marina's chairman, David Dowson, a local businessman, was summarily booked by a car park attendant when he parked on Piers and Harbour Commissioners land without his parking pass before addressing the marina launch event.

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