30 May 2024

Stop knocking our town!

by Rebecca Hannant

Claims in national newspapers that Withernsea is a severely deprived “ghost town” are wide of the mark, according to residents.

Recent articles in the Sun and the Mirror claimed that some parents in Withernsea could not afford shoes for their children, and said that two in three of the town’s population had signed up to the Shores Community Pantry, which offers discounts on essential food items. It was also claimed that families in the town are turning to loan sharks to help ease the pressure of their low incomes.

The articles also commented on the facilities within the town, quoting some residents and shopkeepers who complained about the “lack of services in the area, empty streets, and boarded- up shops”.

Jayne Nendick, CEO of Shores, which runs the town’s community centre and food bank, acknowledged that people were still in need and struggling with the pressures of bills, soaring food prices and the cost of energy, rents and mortgages. However, she pointed out that the quoted figure of 900 memberships on Shores’ books came from families across the whole of the South East Holderness catchment area.

She told the Gazette: “Withernsea is in the top 10 per cent of deprived towns across the UK. Individuals are struggling more than ever before. I wish it wasn’t so. However, there are many towns like us.

“Yet, I have never encountered anyone with kids with no shoes. Instead, we have encountered people who don’t have the essential white goods.

“One of the things that is amazing about the town is the compassion of people helping people. I am proud to be part of a community that demonstrates that.”

Darryl Baker, of Withernsea, was among among numerous residents who contacted the Gazette about the national newspaper articles, which he said were “fallacious”.

He said: “Both national newspapers laid the claim that there were loan sharks coasting around vulnerable families. Both papers had to admit that they couldn’t find any credible evidence of that claim either by exposing a loan shark or speaking to a victim.

“I am not claiming or suggesting that there are people in Withernsea having to navigate a difficult economic situation – there are, just like in other parts of the country. Does Withernsea really have higher levels of multiple deprivation than neighbourhoods in Grimsby, Scunthorpe and Hull?

“It must be understood and acknowledged that there are families finding it difficult to make ends meet and are having to make serious decisions on how to spend their money. However, it cannot be right to claim that over 65 per cent of people in Withernsea are dependent on Shores Pantry to feed themselves and their families. In my opinion that is a fallacious claim. I don’t doubt that there are some people who rely on Shores Pantry, but two out of three people in the town. That seems to be stretching things a little too far.

“It is a well-known fact that the best way to eradicate poverty is through work – any job is better than no job. There are thousands of jobs being created in the Humber estuary for the first time in many decades. There is no reason why people living in Withernsea couldn’t benefit from those jobs that are being created. Even now there are many people living in the town who work in Hull, it is only a half hour drive or an hour’s bus journey to Hull Paragon.”

However, Jayne added that employment was not a simple fix within the area due to the cost of travelling and the commitment needed to pursue the jobs. She also suggested that the jobs available would be competitive and need a high standard of qualifications. She added that a lot of people within Withernsea and the surrounding areas lacked certain skills, and the window of employment would be very narrow for those who have children in school.

Mrs A Pedersen, of Withernsea, also wrote to the Gazette in response to the national newspaper articles. She said: “In regards to the comments that Withernsea is a ghost town – we have been into town this weekend and the car parks at Aldi and the Memorial Gardens were full. The cafes were doing excellent business and the promenade and the beach were full of visitors.

“It appears some residents like to grumble that the town is empty in the winter (just like any other seaside town) and grumble just as much in the summer that the town is too busy and noisy because of the free entertainment and holiday makers. In regard to the empty shops, the percentage of these compared to the same pro rata in Hornsea is much smaller.”

Darryl added: “While acknowledging things are undoubtedly tough for some people, there are a lot of positive things about Withernsea that the community should be justifiably proud about. We have Ofsted Good-rated primary and high schools. Gleeson Construction has confidence in the town, which is why it is going to build 199 new houses – this will provide much-needed good-quality housing for local people and those who would like to have the advantages of living by the sea even if working elsewhere.

“Walking down Seaside Road, many of the shops have had a considerable amount of money spent on them to improve them, and gradually that part of town is improving.

Mrs Pedersen added: “Come on, Withernsea residents – show the positive, friendly side of the town rather than knocking it down all the time.”