Urban - rural linkages: the case of Scarborough Borough

Urban-rural linkages contribute to integrating rural and urban areas into a more functional territory. These linkages aim at improving access to public services within functional areas, as well as increasing the residential and economic attractiveness of the rural areas, among others. Furthermore, urban-rural linkages enhance the complementarities that exist between urban and rural areas and inspire a more balanced territorial development. The ESPON project, URRUC, provided some interesting case studies on the importance of these linkages. In this article, we explore the case study of Scarborough Borough, in the UK.

Scarborough Borough

The Borough of Scarborough district is a popular coastal tourist resort of North Yorkshire county in England. The majority of the population resides in Scarborough town, with smaller towns Whitby to the North and Filey to the South. Of an estimated population of 108,400 residents, some 61,000 reside in the town centre. The rest is spread across the larger towns and villages as well as more isolated areas, mainly close the North York Moors National Park, that is embedded in the county. Transport linkages in the town are satisfactory: regular bus service is connecting key employment locations and residential areas. Rail also connects the area to York, Middlesbrough, and Hull.

But Scarborough does not have a motorway connecting it to areas outside of the Borough. Instead, its major routes are ‘A’ roads which are single carriageway and often rural. This shortage adds to a sense of isolation, but it is particularly problematic during the peak summer months for tourism. Congestion and journey times increase substantially during this period which has implications for residents and businesses.

Another challenge for Scarborough is the connections within the Borough itself. In recent years, reductions in bus services have negatively impacted people in rural areas. Some villages have seen their bus service cut entirely, whilst others have faced reduced services.

This reduces connectivity between outlying rural areas and the town centre. As the majority of key services, such as healthcare, education and employment, are located in the town centre, owning a passenger car becomes the only viable method of travel. However, as the rural areas have higher living costs, some residents are unable to afford a vehicle. As such, they have to take employment in low-paid sectors such as agriculture, causing in-work poverty.

There is also a sense of isolation, which deters people from living in Scarborough. Consequently, Scarborough has a somewhat ‘isolated’ talent pool with skills shortages in key areas. This situation, in turn, impacts businesses who see Scarborough as an unattractive location to base their operations.

URRUC mapped the main challenges -as illustrated below- to rate them in terms of priority and complexity and made a number of recommendations.

 Scarborough. Synthesis of operational, specific and general recommendations Source: Authors’ own elaboration

Based on this rating, the project proposed key recommendations For Scarborough, which are seen as being a ‘high priority’. The introduction of a shuttle bus service, that could be extremely beneficial in areas where existing public transport solutions are not economically viable, would improve accessibility between rural and urban areas. In addition, improvements to the A64, a longstanding desire held by key transport stakeholders in Scarborough, would improve accessibility and support the local tourist industry. URRUC provided critical evidence of the need to further emphasize on tourism as a strategic industry, which needs to be factored into decisions surrounding transport investment. To finance these improvements besides the national contribution that is essential a devolved taxation system, giving local authorities revenue-generating powers could be adopted. Such powers can enable the implementation of a ‘visitor tax’ in tourist hotspots. Finally, planning procedures need to be more streamlined with local actors ensured a voice in these processes, whilst Scarborough’s work in supporting business and education needs to continue.

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Article edited by Nikos Lampropoulos, Project Expert Press and Media Activities