It is very sad to read about the levels of bankruptcy and deprivation in the Weymouth area (Echo online, October 29) but I am afraid it is not entirely a surprise.

Ever since the 1980s and 1990s the local economy has drifted away from high-value employment and a fairly balanced economy, to one which has become overly reliant upon low skill, low wage, seasonal tourism. How anyone can think that an area can thrive when beach-related activities is the main offering for employment opportunities is not living in the real world.

There is no doubt that the departure of the Royal Navy and the associated research facilities and industries was the biggest blow to the area, and even now, over 20 years later, the effects are still being felt.

But the Royal Navy's departure was the proverbial bad 'icing on the cake' because even prior to this event there were serious signs that the economy needed to diversify and change direction; Devenish Brewery had closed, the ferry port was struggling, harbour cargo traffic was declining significantly, long-term engineering businesses were closing its doors, Winfrith nuclear research facilities were winding down.

It was obvious that a radical rethink of the local economy was required, but what happened? Seasonal tourism became king and it has been quite simply a disaster to put all the eggs into this particular basket. The beach has become both a blessing and a hindrance. Some people simply cannot think beyond it.

In the meantime other seaside places saw that the writing was on the wall for mass seaside holidays and moved into new areas e.g. finance, the digital economy, high-tech science and engineering. But the single most crucial thing the more forward thinking places did, in my opinion, was to set up a university in their town or city e.g. Brighton, Bournemouth. In this way the young, ambitious and aspirational could realise their ambitions in their home area, but also it attracted clever, open-minded people into the area, bringing their business and commerce ideas with them. And there is no doubt that potential business wishing to set up in an area or region will always be attracted to a high skill, highly educated, local demographic. Do we have enough of this in Weymouth? I think not.

There is room for optimism though in the Weymouth area and developments like Osprey Quay, Link Park and Portland Port shows what can be done when people with foresight and vision take a lead. However in my opinion the single most important development that can help the Weymouth area to grow and prosper is the founding of a university; or at least a higher education institution similar to the much missed South Dorset Technical College.

There are of course other factors to consider when discussing problems and solutions relating to Weymouth, but an area with over 70,000 inhabitants deserves so much better than it is currently getting. Yet more 'bucket and spade' is not the answer.

Jeremy Bull

Khartoum Road,