Beside the Seaside
PEOPLE of all ages have their special memories of living in or visiting a place by the sea ... bathing and paddling at the beach, playing in the sand, rock- pooling, throwing sticks for the dog, ice- cream, chips, watching boats come and go at the harbour. The popularity of the West Coast’s seaside resorts dwindled since the advent of affordable package holidays abroad, and the decline of some traditional industries has had a significant impact on the prospects of residents.
The news that the British Hospitality Association recommends a seaside tsar to help turn declining towns into coastal powerhouses sounds like an exercise in the management of failure. Someone would be appointed at considerable public expense to tell communities what they already know.
There is an expectation that the public sector will come to the rescue, but central and local government can only do so much. Their responsibilities include public services and creating and maintaining conditions to attract investment.
Argyll and Bute Council’s CHORD programme was introduced to do just that: assist with regeneration and economic development in Campbeltown, Helensburgh, Oban, Rothesay and Dunoon. With a budget allocation of more than £ 30 million, the initiative has already seen significant improvements in town centres and waterfronts, including conservation sites, traffic management, public spaces, important buildings and maritime infrastructure.
Last year the Highland Council adopted town centre action plans for Fort William, Nairn and Tain. This is non- statutory planning guidance that will be treated as a material consideration in the planning process in an endeavour to deliver long- term community growth. Similar strategic efforts are already advanced or planned all around Scotland’s coast. Redevelopment and the creation of new facilities will present attractive places, but vibrancy will come from a varied suite of things to see and do, and business communities have a responsibility to respond to market changes and to reinvest in property, personnel and technology.
Places that are busy and interesting are attractive for residents and visitors, and the richer the experience the better for all. We need an essential mix of independent retail; restaurants, cafes and bars serving different local specialities all day is becoming a minimum consumer expectation.
Destination- led innovations can provide low- cost solutions that immediately improve townscape appeal. Empty shop units have been transformed into temporary gallery or performance spaces; other empty buildings have been painted or vinyl- wrapped to give the impression that they are used and cared for. Plans that are developed in collaboration with local community and business interests have the best prospects of success and will necessarily include environmental considerations, effective land use, mobility, accessibility and connectivity.
There is no technical reason that all of this cannot be achieved. Imagine your town with high employment, a busy and interesting high street and a profitable trading environment. Imagine being able to park within easy reach of the main facilities, as well as a fully integrated public transport network. Imagine your without litter.
How can anyone complain about having nothing to do? We have cinemas and swimming pools, sports halls, tennis courts and bowling greens. We have waterfronts and esplanades, promenades and ferry terminals, and emerging maritime quarters that will become hubs of leisure and recreation activity. We are embracing café culture and fostering an appreciation of outdoor street scenes and nighttime economies. There is a collective will for these changes to happen across the West Highlands and Islands, and our children and grandchildren will benefit from them. Taking local responsibility for shaping the future of our coastal settlements is an opportunity not to be missed, but we all have a part to play and must not expect unlimited public subsidy.
The public, local authorities, community councils and business operators can and must work together for mutual benefit. Short- term, piece - meal projects rarely deliver any kind of lasting effect – the recovery and sustainable growth of our seaside towns is about civic pride, and that cannot be imported in the form of a tsar.
Fiddler David Boag, piper Alasdair Fraser and guitarist Michael Simpson of Feis Rois prepare to launch the Crossings Festival – a series of performances organised by various artists on board Caledonian MacBrayne ferries throughout the Highlands and Islands.
The smallest steam launch in the fleet. Everything hand-made by John Finlay, Oban.
The Ladies Lifeboat Guild had their sales table out on Sunday at Inveraray.
This bus of yesteryear took people from Ardrishaig to Tarbert and back.