Zoomtown-on-Sea? The lure of a new life on the coast

1 week ago 7

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News

image copyrightBBC/Ceri Oakes

It was 3 successful the greeting erstwhile Sam Lancaster recovered her family's caller Yorkshire location by the sea.

"I don't adjacent cognize what brought Scarborough into my head. I conscionable googled it," she says.

It was house-love astatine archetypal sight. But determination was different cardinal portion of information. Her hubby Craig had been told by his firm, Vodafone, that helium could enactment - indefinitely - from home. Meetings with colleagues would instrumentality spot virtually successful future. Sam and Craig abruptly realised that they and their 2 daughters could unrecorded anyplace - including the seaside.

The Lancasters accidental they had "outgrown" their location successful Thatcham, Berkshire, not acold from Craig's bureau successful Newbury. No longer constrained by the geography of a regular commute, they started looking for amended worth houses successful different parts of the country. Now, they're unpacking boxes successful a big, rambling location connected the North Yorkshire coast, with the oversea a bluish skyline retired the backmost window.

And successful this week's picture-postcard sunshine, they person been swimming successful the oversea astir days.

In a bid of peculiar reports BBC News has been looking astatine the challenges and opportunities successful seaside towns specified arsenic Scarborough.

"It's a no-brainer. It feels truthful right," says 41-year-old Sam, convinced her family's migration 230 miles north, arsenic the gull flies, is going to beryllium portion of a bigger trend. "If you tin enactment from home, wherefore wouldn't you move?" she says, swatting distant immoderate doubts.

Craig, whose IT occupation supports web operations, says a travel to Screwfix turned into a quality trek. "We saw seals swimming successful the oversea and puffins. You wouldn't spot that successful Thatcham."

"Just look retired the window. There are beauteous walks, radical person been welcoming, the girls tin spell down to the beach," says Sam. She's successful a mover's honeymoon wherever everything inactive feels similar a holiday, adjacent though she says immoderate of the locals are much apt to "slag disconnected the town".

Some of their aged friends besides thought they were brainsick for uprooting. Sam says they softly asked her whether she thought it was a rash decision.

But determination was different portion of rocket substance for this beingness change.

The awfulness of the pandemic made her deliberation determination was nary constituent successful hesitating. She had "gone off" their aged area. Here was a accidental to reinvent their lives. "I would ne'er person done this without the pandemic," she says. She worked arsenic a teaching adjunct earlier and mightiness instrumentality to that later. But thing was going to clasp her back.

It volition mean caller schools for Sophie aged 15, and Olivia, eight, and making caller friends for parents and children. But they look unfazed and assured astir a caller start.

"Life is truthful short," says Sam.

The Lancasters could beryllium portion of a changing tide. The large beaches and widescreen skies person ever made seaside towns seductive, but they tin beryllium dilatory to reach. Coastal transport tin person much dodgy links than a brainsick play course. Will distant moving marque the seashore a applicable option? Will radical commencement moving to Zoomtown-on-Sea? And could this revitalise fading seaside towns?

Figures up to June 2021 from the Rightmove spot web showed a 115% summation successful enquiries astir moving from cities to a seaside town, compared with earlier the pandemic.

image copyrightBBC/Ceri Oakes

These are radical viewing properties and getting information, not completing sales. But Tim Bannister, manager of spot data, says: "It's a truly beardown indicator, a model into what's happening."

There has besides been a displacement from astir metropolis dwellers looking to move. Before the pandemic they were looking for properties successful the aforesaid city. Now, astir are looking elsewhere. It's an out-of-city inclination that applies to London, Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester. The emergence of hybrid moving is simply a large factor, according to property agents.

"People are reassessing their lives," says Phil Fletcher, of CPH property agents successful Scarborough. He besides wants the municipality to reassess its narration with seagulls, which person conscionable caused a leak successful his ceiling.

He says radical who person had pugnacious experiences successful the pandemic are present making large choices astir their relationships, their jobs and wherever they live.

"People are sitting up and thinking: 'Live for the day.'"

Coastal towns, similar oversea views, are ever changing. Where his property bureau present stands was the tract of the Theatre Royal, erstwhile Scarborough was an amusement capital. The thought of distant workers moving to cheaper, characterful Victorian houses successful Scarborough is not future-gazing for him: "I tin spot it already happening."

But seaside towns tin person a Jekyll and Hyde character.

On a sunny time Scarborough looks irresistible. Families are extracurricular ice-cream coloured chalets, 1 with a placard saying: "Be Nice oregon Go Home." Boats are moving trips to spot dolphins disconnected the coast. Holidaymakers are shielding their chips from dive-bombing seagulls.

It's not conscionable the memorial plaques connected seafront benches that beryllium however overmuch radical emotion to beryllium and look astatine the sea.

Environmental scientist Michelle Tester-Jones, astatine the University of Exeter, is portion of a probe task which has recovered "consistent grounds that spending clip adjacent 'blue spaces' seems to beryllium bully for well-being", including helping with "anxiety and debased mood".

But instrumentality a abbreviated locomotion from Scarborough's seafront and determination are boarded up shops connected the High Street, similar teeth missing successful a smile. The Christmas bargain store is inactive promising presents successful July. A nutrient slope postulation constituent stands successful the locked-up entranceway to Debenhams. The municipality has immense earthy quality and handsome aged buildings, but deprivation - successful income, wellness and acquisition - runs done Scarborough similar a instrumentality of rock. It's a low-income system with galore jobs relying connected summertime tourism. Male beingness expectancy has been going into reverse.

"It's a municipality of 2 cities - of bizarre contrasts," says Andrew Clay, manager of Scarborough Museums Trust.

image copyrightBBC/Ceri Oakes

"We person wealthiness and palmy businesses," with a bequest of large architecture and spectacular views, helium says. "But immoderate of the areas present are immoderate of the UK's astir depressed - successful presumption of societal deprivation, intoxicant abuse, cause abuse, hard-to-reach communities. There's an contented with aspiration successful the town," helium says.

This premix of airy and shadiness has ever been there, perhaps. Mr Clay is speaking successful a wood-panelled country successful what was erstwhile the location of the aristocratic Sitwell family. Edward VII stayed a mates of doors down, erstwhile Scarborough was a royal playground. Until helium caught typhoid.

The instrumentality volition crook again, and Scarborough volition find caller ways to entreaty to a wider and wealthier scope of people, says Mr Clay. That's if it upgrades its facilities, similar getting a multiplex cinema and making amended usage of its taste heritage.

"It's a municipality that's ever reinvented itself," helium says.

Seaside towns tin beryllium similar those distorting mirrors successful funfairs. Posters of Scarborough from the 1920s and 1930s amusement glamorous couples successful sleek cars and velocity boats, with the bays and sandy beaches looking similar the southbound of France. What you spot depends connected your perspective.

image copyrightGetty Images

Liz Colling, Scarborough's councillor successful complaint of inclusive growth, wants the town's adjacent reinvention to beryllium astir revitalising the section economy, including encouraging much integer jobs. It's a "very realistic ambition" which is already opening to happen, she says. "I person a nephew who has conscionable started a occupation remotely. He would ne'er person applied earlier due to the fact that it's based successful London," says Cllr Colling, adding that her lad is besides moving remotely.

"Historically our younger radical person near municipality to prosecute acquisition and jobs. But this is simply a motion that you tin inactive enactment present and person a truly bully career," she says.

image captionLiz Colling says distant moving could halt young radical having to permission to look for jobs

Local integer selling firm, Digital Zest, has had a roar clip during the lockdown, with truthful overmuch going online. Managing manager Paul Taylor expects much radical to travel and enactment remotely, due to the fact that of the prime of beingness and being capable to spell consecutive from table to beach. But adjacent the integer satellite needs to question - and helium wants improvements to roadworthy and transport connections.

Scarborough, 1 of the "left-behind towns", is getting much than £20m "levelling-up" funding. But it raises the question of what specified labels mean, due to the fact that the municipality has small of the graffiti, grime oregon street-begging successful a "richer" spot specified arsenic London.

The existent quality is successful the jobs marketplace - and it's wherefore the accomplishment of Zoom workers is significant. It's a municipality with precise fewer nonrecreational jobs. It has fractional the mean for the Yorkshire and Humber region, and beneath a 3rd of a edifice specified arsenic Brighton. For civilian work jobs, Scarborough has lone a 5th of the nationalist average.

It besides struggles to pull radical to enactment successful specified nonrecreational jobs - for lawsuit the municipality has been blighted with problems successful recruiting NHS dentists. Parents person had to take their children to different towns to find a dentist.

Timo Hannay, a information expert who has researched the struggles of coastal communities and who advises policymakers, says Scarborough has galore of the problems emblematic of seaside towns - but to a somewhat greater degree. We'll support being fascinated by these towns, helium says, due to the fact that the seaside carries specified a beardown consciousness of Britain's changing individuality - some successful its "self-assurance and self-doubt".

What tin get overlooked astir Zoom-working is the semipermanent alteration for distant workers themselves.

image copyrightBBC/Ceri Oakes

image captionCraig and Sam Lancaster

Craig Lancaster is 52. He could walk the remainder of his moving beingness unsocial astatine location with his aggregate machine screens. "I bash miss the interaction, that's the 1 happening work-wise. I don't deliberation it's arsenic personable arsenic being successful the bureau face-to-face," helium says. No-one other astatine location volition privation to obsess astir bureau politics, determination are nary workmates to conscionable implicit coffee.

But for Craig, the positives of a amended work-life equilibrium outweigh immoderate drawbacks.

"Work is changing. Productivity has gone up with radical moving from home. Businesses person realised that trusting their employees means they're redeeming money, they're not having to wage for buildings."

Seaside towns person often been defined by what they utilized to be. In Scarborough you tin astir perceive the ghosts of aged comedians and ideate the large summertime crowds filling immense Victorian hotels, which person present go cliff faces for nesting seagulls.

Maybe those gulls are going to look a aboriginal of silicon chips, arsenic good arsenic the brackish and vinegar variety.

image copyrightCeri Oakes

Photography by Ceri Oakes

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