Page last updated at 16:41 GMT, Monday, 19 October 2009 17:41 UK

The resort braving a cold climate

By Paul Burnell
BBC Radio 4

The Met Office's prediction of a "barbecue summer" was music to the ears of businesses in Morecambe as they tried to fight off the effects of the credit crunch.

Tracey Bartosiak
Tracey Bartosiak's business was badly hit by the weather

With the promise of good weather and more people holidaying at home, there were hopes that the resort might enjoy a renaissance inspired by flagship regeneration projects like the restoration of the Midland Hotel.

But as the summer drew to a close, these hopes receded like the Irish Sea tide for businesses such as Tracey Bartosiak's trendy seafront cafe Chill.

"It's been very, very hard honestly speaking," she told the BBC.

"The weather has had a huge impact, it has not been a good summer."

Tracey, who opened the cafe four years ago, has seen her business shrink as the visitors stayed away.

"We were open until 10pm and people were queuing out the door, and that was without a reputation, but four years down the line, our hours are 10 til 4pm - that is a huge drop.

"We haven't had one late night opening in the summer. I had 20 on my staff - I'm down to three now."

Risky business

She added: "Hopefully we will be here next summer, but hand on heart, I do not know. I take each day as it comes."

Midland Hotel
The regeneration of Morecambe may take 20 odd years
Andrew Dobson
Lancaster City Council

For Paula and Dave Ross Clasper, proud owners of the Wimslow Guest House on the seafront, full houses were the exception in the "barbecue summer".

They just about broke even but said: "There is no pattern at the moment - people have been terrified into staying at home."

Added Dave: "We are not out of the woods. Trade wise it has been quiet, but we're still here and we're still trading."

In its heyday, Morecambe was a hugely popular seaside resort. Its massive swimming stadium would play host to spectacles such as the Miss Great Britain contest.

But the decades that followed saw the tourists chose sunnier climes abroad instead.

As in many resorts, the guest houses were soon catering for a different type of visitor - social security claimants and a transient population that has been credited by some with a rise in crime and drug use.

Soon some of the areas of Morecambe were ranked as the most deprived in Britain.

By the end of the 1990s, Morecambe had been dubbed "the most depressed town in Britain", after figures showed it had the highest levels of anti-depressants being prescribed per head.

Resort rebirth?

But in recent years, it has had a face lift thanks to around £70m of regeneration money which has poured in from the public purse.

Morecambe seafront
More than 70m has been spent on Morecambe

One of the few business which bucked the downturn was the art deco seafront landmark, The Midland Hotel. It reopened in 2008 after an £11m renovation in a blaze of publicity which hailed Morecambe's rebirth.

General Manager Matt Redhead said the hotel had a good summer adding: "We are successful, even if the town doesn't grow, we are still doing very well".

Elsewhere, according to Andrew Dobson of Lancaster City Council, the economic downturn has had an inevitable effect.

And with the well of public money drying up and spending cuts on the agenda, he acknowledged that the revitalisation of Morecambe may well be a long haul:

"We are maintaining momentum at a slower rate... the regeneration of Morecambe may take 20 odd years."

Morecambe: chill winds on the bay is on BBC Radio 4 on Monday, 19 October at 2000 BST. You can also listen via the BBC iPlayer after broadcast.

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