Scarborough is reported to be the second most popular ‘staycation’ destination in the UK for Brits, averaging near 1.4 million visiting the town every year. For me, Scarborough has always been a gleaming emblem of summer holidays - sweeping sandy beaches, rugged castle ruins, hours spent at Scarborough arcades, boats trips out to the North sea and fish and chips galore. However, for others it has become a symbol of yet another UK coastal town which has been left behind.

Like many of the UK’s northern coastal towns, Scarborough prevailed as a popular destination for holidaymakers for the majority of the 1900s. It was not until the advances in aviation which meant flying abroad became affordable for the average Brit, which drew away tourists from the likes of Scarborough and Blackpool to sunnier settings abroad. Before long, multiple-week-long breaks have turned into long weekends and day trips to the detriment of many of these coastal towns.

Due to the rise in budget airlines and the related decline in visitors to the UK’s own coastal regions - which had become reliant on the tourism industry for income - has meant that, despite several good schools in Scarborough, young skilled workers are leaving the area to find better paid work elsewhere. Many residents are finding it harder to maintain a standard of living whilst suffering from a lack of adequately paid jobs and seasonal unemployment from November to April in the ‘off-season’ of the tourism industry. In 2018, average weekly earnings in Scarborough lay at £398 which is significantly below England’s average of £451. Scarborough is the most disadvantaged district in North Yorkshire and has 75% of the county’s most deprived areas. There are ten wards where more than 1 in 3 children grow up in poverty.

Although much of Scarborough’s younger demographic leave the town in search of better opportunities, Scarborough has found its population has not declined in magnitude as cheap housing in the area draws people in, which stood at around 30% less than the UK average last year. Despite this the demographic of Scarborough is ageing. By 2025, there will be 3,300 further residents over 65 years of age, an 11% increase from 2018, but a 4% decrease in the working-age population. This will lead to increased health and social care needs with fewer people available to work in health and care roles.

Material deprivation has had a consequential impact on population health, with inequality in outcomes becoming apparent. Prolonged alcohol and substance misuse and associated diseases are an issue in the area. Circulatory diseases are the largest contributor to the gap in life expectancy between the most and least deprived areas within the borough. This combination of social and environmental factors has seen the percentage of individuals reporting depression or anxiety in Scarborough as significantly higher at 16% when compared to the national average of 14%.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the consequential increase in Brits taking ‘staycations’ within the UK, coastal towns have reaped the benefits of the influx of visitors. Although Scarborough has enjoyed a temporary boost, innovation and redevelopment must continue if it is to engage a new generation of tourists and solve the complex social, political and economic challenges facing the area.

Development crucially needs to be achievable and economical, whilst preserving Scarborough’s individuality. Early in 2019, work on a masterplan for regenerating Scarborough harbour began to find a way for both the fishing industry and the tourist industry not just to co-exist but to profit from each other and benefit the wider community. The tide may be turning for the better.