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Thursday, 23 August, 2001, 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK
Private cash to transform surfers' beach
Some surfers fear they could be forced out by crowds
The tide could be turning for Britain's beach resorts as the country's surf capital looks towards privatisation to revamp its image and facilities.

Management of North Cornwall's Fistral Beach is to be handed over to the private sector for a 1.8m revamp in an effort to attract more people to the seaside.

Some local surfers fear they will be forced elsewhere by crowded beaches.

But the tourist industry agrees that the traditional British beach holiday needs a makeover if it is to compete with cheap air travel to better equipped destinations abroad.

We need to drag Fistral out of the 1950s bucket and spade time-warp

John Weller, Restormel Council

The mile-long Fistral Beach in Newquay is acknowledged as the centre of the British surfing scene and attracts world-class events because of the quality of the surf.

But it has also attracted criticism because of the quality of the facilities it has to offer.

Open to all

Restormel Borough Council leader John Weller said the local authority did not have the funds to invest properly in the region's beaches.

"We need to drag Fistral out of the 1950s bucket and spade time-warp and tap into the huge potential of a new wave of beach users," he said.

Children at beach
The council wants to attract more tourists

"We don't have the expertise needed to run the type of vibrant shops and restaurants which would attract more visitors to the beach and to the town of Newquay."

Mr Weller insists that the beach and the sea will still be fully open to all members of the public without charge.

The council's head of tourism, Paul Wright, told BBC News Online the beach would be handed over to developer Britannic Industries on a 125-year lease, to be reviewed every five years.

The council, which has put forward 350,000 toward the scheme, is waiting for confirmation of 500,000 European funding to support it. Remaining funds will be provided by the private sector.

New facilities, including a restaurant, surf contest judging area, shops and facilities for lifeguard and surfing organisations could be completed by next summer.

"It is public private partnership building much better facilities than we have at present, hopefully attracting more events to the area," said Mr Wright.

Surfers' fears

He added that the example of other privately-managed beaches, such as Watergate Bay further along the coast, were marvellous.

But some surfers have expressed concerns about the project.

Chris Thornton, from Croyde in Devon, said: "Of course it's high time something was done to improve things on the beach.

"But if it goes too far down the commercialisation route then the surf will get overcrowded and the real sportsmen will start going elsewhere".

See also:

30 May 00 | Sci/Tech
UK beaches in better shape
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