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How 'coast of dreams' turned sour

10 July 09 11:28 GMT

By Jonathan Morris
BBC News Plymouth

Newquay is renowned as a hard-core partying resort but now there are calls for a boycott after the deaths of two teenagers in cliff falls. Has the town's image been tarnished permanently?

School is out and Newquay is the 'in place' for thousands of youngsters wanting to party after the rigours of GCSEs. More than 3,000 are expected in the Cornish resort over the next three weeks.

There are plenty of reasons to love Newquay, dubbed the 'coast of dreams', particularly if you are young and looking for fun and sun after the stress of exams.

Clubs and bars line the main drag where thousands of pleasure seekers throng.

And when the night-life gets too much, there are 11 beaches including Fistral, home to one of the country's best surf breaks.

But the joy for some has been matched by a tarnishing of Newquay's image after the deaths of two teenagers and the serious injury of another in the past two weeks.

The parents of one of the victims, Paddy Higgins, believe not enough has been done to ensure youngsters' safety and they are backing a Facebook page called Boycott Newquay Holidays for Teenagers.

Among the improvements being called for is more fencing along the town's cliffs, particularly since some of its clubs and bars are located close to cliff edges.

However many in Newquay maintain that safety measures in place before the latest accidents are sufficient.

A rival Facebook page has also been created called Don't Boycott Newquay.

Youth patrols

All shops are banned from selling alcohol to under 25s without ID and there are numerous dispersal orders on the beaches. And then there is Exodus.

Exodus 09 is supported by Cornwall County Council, Newquay Town Council and the police, and involves a two-week schedule of under-18 alcohol-free evenings at nightclubs.

During the project, eight youth workers patrol at night to offer a helping hand.

Buses are on hand to shuttle party goers to and from campsites.

Yet the adverse publicity has caused huge concern for the tourist trade on which Newquay relies.

Insp Dave Meredith, of Newquay police, said Newquay was safe for youngsters if they followed basic rules such as sticking together in groups.

He said: "It is a family resort. But it is also a young person's resort and people must understand that we are in the middle of a recession and the nightclubs are out to do business.

"They are private enterprises and there must be a balance between the business interests and the public interests."

Campsite owner Mike Finnegan said the steps Newquay was taking should be a blueprint for other resorts.

He said: "At the end of the day youngsters will go where they want to go.

"Accidents will happen and we would prefer people to concentrate on the positive initiatives to make it safer."

The money that tourists bring in has long made it a love-hate relationship in Newquay.

The town's tourism boom began about 1847 when Great Western Railway opened a station.

Peter Hicks, chairman of Newquay Old Cornwall Society, said: "A lot of local people accepted it.

"They did not like the idea of hotels on common land because fishermen used to dry their nets there and they were recreational areas.

"But eventually they accepted it. So Newquay had its problems in those days, but they weren't teenagers."

Now cheap flights, the rise of the surfing culture and a cutting edge nightlife has changed Newquay's image.

Holly Gunner, 18, said: "My parents were pretty fine with (me coming here) because otherwise we were going to a foreign destination.

"It's better than going somewhere like Faliraki or Ibiza. They would be more concerned about that because Newquay is a six-hour drive away whereas you have to go by plane to Ibiza."

The visitors often get called 'emmets' by the locals, a derogatory term for tourists.

But behind the bravado there is a knowledge that Newquay needs the visitors.

Bernard White, who has lived in Newquay for 50 years, said: "Newquay has had to move with the times, but it has gone just a little bit too far.

"But without the visitors you've got nothing."

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