Newquay is a cold, nasty place, but has the only good surfing waves in England.
Building bonanza for Cornwall's capital of surf
· Improved transport links make Newquay a hotspot · Well-to-do young invest in apartments and lifestyle
Steven Morris - The Guardian - Saturday January 5 2008
There are two sounds associated with the Cornish resort of Newquay at the moment - the crashing of surf and the clang and clatter of heavy machinery.
While developers in other parts of the UK are gloomily wondering what 2008 holds, their counterparts in the country's surf capital are enjoying boom times. The ever-increasing popularity of surfing, coupled with much-improved transport links to north Cornwall, have created a race to build new and ever more swish apartments.
Chintzy hotels are being turned into trendy apart-hotels - flats with hotel services - while tired guest houses are being converted into studio flats, or surf-pods, as the developers call them.
Two penthouse apartments have just sold for more than £1m, amid rumours that David Beckham was thinking of investing.
All this in a town which until recently had a reputation of a tatty, kiss-me-quick sort of place and is still a favourite haunt of drink-sodden stag parties.
Such is the speed of developments that no one seems sure just how many new homes are being built. But the best guess seems to be that some 1,400 properties are either under construction or going through the planning process.
Stuart Brereton, land director for the south-west with the Acorn Property Group, said young, well-to-do people were keen to invest not just in mortar and bricks but in the surf lifestyle, which generates £42m a year for Cornwall's economy.
[£42m a year - about 3.5 billion pesos - might be a bit much for Siargao to handle, but about a tenth of that might make the island a very rich place indeed - the politicians and foreign investors would take most of it, but some would filter down to the people, and they are the ones who matter]
"It's all about the sea, the surf, the buzz of surfing. A few years ago Newquay seemed a long way from London. Now there are good links to the airport and the roads are much better too."
Acorn has a cluster of developments close to Fistral beach, one of Europe's best for surfing. From its glass and aluminium sales zone overlooking the beach, it has already sold half of the 52 apartments in its Zinc complex, though they will not be ready for more than a year. Ten of the 14 properties in its Pearl development are sold, including £2m-plus penthouses.
The boom is giving established hotels a helping hand. Will Hatfield, owner of the Carnmarth, said that three years ago his customers were almost all pensioners who arrived on a coach. Now he sells his rooms mainly to professionals aged 25-45 at double the rate. "The modern-day surfer isn't a hippy in a VW van," he said. "He's a doctor, a surgeon, a solicitor, a banker. He's flying down into the airport at the weekend or flying down the A30 in his BMW."
The boom is great news for builders. "It's never been like this," said Peter Anstey, who is working on the Ocean Gate development. "There's loads of work for us." But Anstey, who was born and bred in Cornwall, also sees a downside. "Newquay is getting a makeover but the problem is very few Newquay people can afford it."
...very few Newquay people can afford it.".
That's true of GL too, if local people get cut out of the profitable developments by foreigners who set up their own exclusive enclaves.
(see: Patricks On The Beach for a perfect example of a greedy foreigner who even puts up barbed wire fences to keep the people of Siargao out of his 'exclusive' resort. Follow his link http://www.mojf.org/ to see what his real scam is).
Of course, General Luna people cannot even think about buying some of the new buildings put up by foreigners. But neither can the people of Newquay. They are both restricted to their own old ways of life, but they'll manage.
If a foreigner pours a million pesos into his new luxury house, a Siargeño can build something just as good (and probably better for his lifestyle) for just P100,000. Or, not quite as good, but still very adequate, for P10,000.
Access to Newquay has turned the place around - all it had, until recently, was fishing and a few waves. Now it has good road access from London and other parts of the UK, so you no longer have to spend two days getting there.
Fishing and a few waves is all that General Luna has.
But access to Siargao and GL is extremely difficult
Minimum time from Cebu, the nearest international airport is 24 hours, including one overnight boat trip, a six-hour wait in Surigao City, and a 3-4 hour trip to Siargao. If you mis-time it, it can take a day longer. Don't forget, also, that the visitor may have already been travelling, by air, for 6-18 hours.
If the Island's politicians had any brains at all the very first thing they could do to help tourism along would be to organise the boat schedules.
Why do all the boats leave at about the same time?
(6am from Siargao, 12 noon from Surigao City to Siargao? No alternatives).
Does whoever gives them the license to run have no control at all over their schedules?
(Or is it, as most island residents think, a conspiracy to concentrate all the work of coastguards, customs, pilots, etc into as short a time as possible so they can rest for the remaining day?)
The boat services treat people like cattle. Why are they allowed to do so?
Then, when visitors arrive in General Luna, they face a horrendous road trip to Cloud 9. It's only about 4km but it can take a good hour of bumpy road travel. In the wet season, the road is almost impassable due to flooding.
This is the most important road for General Luna's prosperity, but it has been entirely neglected.
Our bright new mayor could have saved half the money he spent on fireworks to celebrate his inauguration and for 'his people' at Christmas (that was a total waste of money, because he destroyed the Boulevard where 'his people' could have sat and enjoyed the show).
Perhaps P20000 ($500) could have been spent just on dumping loads of coral rock and sand to fill the potholes between General Luna and Cloud 9I've driven over most of the island's roads, and although some of them can be said to be bad, this stretch is definitely the worst.
The ever-increasing popularity of surfing, coupled with much-improved transport links have brought prosperity to Newquay, that cold, chilly place in England
but, here in GL, a tropical island paradise, our politicians don't seem to have given any real thought about how their town could make some real money from surfing, and no thought whatever about what they could do to help.
I like fireworks, very much, but I'd prefer to do without them and have a decent road.