Eastbourne’s anger over age story

Young family on the Downs
Young family on the Downs

Furious Eastbourne residents have hit out at a national newspaper story claiming the town’s population has an average age of 70.

The Daily Mail’s story was actually based on statistics specifically from the Meads area of town. In fact, the average age in Eastbourne is just 43 – and half the population are under the age of 45.

The number of under-45s has increased by 10.2 per cent in the last 10 years – more than twice the average increase for England and Wales.

The town has long fought against its perception as ‘God’s waiting room’ in the national press and has a thriving calendar of youth-oriented activities, including Eastbourne Extreme.

Rather than the photo of some elderly residents sunning themselves on the pier – on Worthing pier, unfortunately – that the Mail used, this photo of a young family enjoying a picnic on the Downs is actually more representative of Eastbourne today.

One 78-year-old resident felt so incensed by the piece that she wrote to the Daily Mail.

In the letter Shirley Webster wrote, “Your column does a great injustice to the many young families, and young people, who live in the other, approximately, 16 other districts of Eastbourne; (all areas as large as, or in some cases, even larger than the Meads.)

“Also to our town council who do a wonderful job of keeping the growing town of Eastbourne alive and vibrant.

“Of course you see lots of elderly on the seafront, Monday – Friday; but most usually arrive on coaches from other towns.

“The younger folk are working in town behind, as well as on the seafront.

“So why do you pick on our town to bring out that old chestnut ‘God’s Waiting Room?’

Sheikh Abid Gulzar called the piece ‘highly obnoxious’, while Councillor Carolyn Heaps, tourism and leisure cabinet member for Eastbourne Borough Council, also commented on the story saying had the research been taken from the whole of the town the results would differ slightly.

She said, “The Daily Mail conducted research in the affluent west end of town which houses a lot of our retired residents who love our sunny climate, in contrast to the modernity of the Sovereign Harbour and town centre which appeals to the younger generation and families.

“From the Census taken in 2011, it shows that the average age of the Eastbourne population is 43 and that over half the population are under the age of 45 and this has increased by 10.2 per cent in the last 10 years, more than twice the average increase for England and Wales of 4 per cent.”