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We need to learn to cherish the treasures we have at home

WILL ALSOP COLUMN

Skegness, Margate, Weston-super-Mare, Brighton, Blackpool, Great Yarmouth, Clacton, Herne Bay, Bournemouth, Torquay, Cromer, Morecambe, Newquay, Walton-on-the-Naze, Scarborough, Lyme Regis, Poole, Littlehampton, Whitby, Bognor Regis, Ventnor, Mablethorpe and Viareggio.With the exception of the last, these places have changed dramatically as they chase a diminishing number of tourists who have defected to the Costa Brava.

In Viareggio, which I have known for 15 years, nothing has changed.Things are a little down at heel and they have a more reliable climate to obscure the slight tattiness, but the place is still a favourite with the Italians, slightly diluted by a few tourists.They enjoy a lazy morning, a light lunch, a short sleep, a period on the beach, a good shower, and early evening cocktails followed by supper and, for some, dancing and cavorting until bedtime.

It is served by a well-connected train station which makes this place ideal for day trips to other parts of Tuscany.

You will not find lovers of fast food here, or bingo halls or slot machine arcades.There is a casino for those of that persuasion.

Many of the hotels contain furniture and decor from the 1950s which was the town's period of great expansion. It is now old enough to be considered quaint, and the whole place is coming back into fashion.

By comparison, in many UK resorts there is no notion of how a day might be spent.What is the ambience required for the perfect breakfast? A white tablecloth, a view, flexible hours serving the early riser as well as the late-night reveller.Gardens are important, as is a feeling that the place is your own.So often, the British resort hotel is run for the convenience of proprietors who encourage residents to leave after breakfast (9.30am), and not return until early evening, when a meal of survival is offered, with a bar that closes at 11pm to encourage an early night. It does not provide the atmosphere which allows people to enjoy doing nothing.

For the past 40 years, it has been assumed that the wealthy or, more accurately, those with a little extra cash, go abroad.Local resorts tend to cater for bargain-basement tourists, but my experience of holidays in Britain is that they have not been cheap.

Much of the coastline around the UK is extremely beautiful, but we need the back-up to enjoy it.Our weather can be difficult, but many of these places are just as enjoyable in the rain, or indeed mid-winter, if there is a place of retreat and warmth and relaxation.

It is time that the talent of the architect and urban designer was released on these places.

It would require money as well as imagination but, if successful, would benefit the economy.

Money spent in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean would stay in the UK, with the coastline offering tourist opportunities beyond London and Edinburgh.

I propose that three resorts be selected for a strategic and architecturally detailed regeneration plan.Regeneration does not apply only to inner cities.Many of the places listed at the start of this piece are in dire straits.CABE should initiate this debate.

Government agencies should contribute, not least the Department for Environment, Food and Rural affairs, to make sure that ex-farmers and fishermen offer their expertise, as well as the regional development agencies.

I would love to see a renaissance of the resort through good modern hotels run by enlightened individuals (no chains please! ).

The beauty of the coastline is marred by lack of imagination.We must do it. . . NOW!

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