Many seaside towns and coastal communities are in desperate need of improvements to transport, housing and broadband. Better access to further and higher education for young people in seaside towns is needed too. These are key conclusions of a report by the House of Lords Select Committee on Regenerating Seaside Towns, The Future of Seaside Towns, published last week.
The main findings and conclusions from the report include:
o The challenges of peripherality in coastal areas can be overcome by improving digital connectivity. The Government should promote initiatives to support digital connectivity in coastal communities specifically. It should engage with local authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and businesses in remote coastal communities to understand how better digital connectivity, such as high-speed broadband, can be delivered.
o Limited access to education, particularly to FE and HE institutions, is severely curtailing opportunities and denting aspirations for young people in some coastal areas. The Government needs to facilitate partnership working between the FE and HE sectors, and local business and industry, in coastal and other isolated areas.
o Poor-quality housing is a significant problem for many seaside towns. The Committee recommends a package of measures for housing to help tackle perverse financial incentives to offer poor accommodation, ease the pressures on inspection and enforcement regimes, and to support more regeneration of existing housing.
o Inadequate transport connectivity is holding back many coastal communities. The Government should prioritise improvements to the coastal transport network when it takes decisions on planning and investment. This should be informed by a detailed review of the coastal transport network.
o Many seaside towns feel left behind by national strategies aimed at increasing economic growth and productivity. Local Industrial Strategies present a key opportunity for renewed focus on addressing the skills gaps, low-wage economies and aspiration challenges faced by many coastal communities. As LEPs develop these strategies, the Committee recommends that they are given a specific requirement to consider the needs of deprived seaside towns and communities.
o The UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which is set to replace EU funding after Brexit, is an important opportunity to help support coastal business development, and to tackle deprivation in coastal communities. The Government must be clear about how coastal areas will benefit from the Fund. The Fund should prioritise solutions for areas where there has been persistent deprivation, including disadvantaged coastal communities.
o The Coastal Communities Fund is viewed as too small scale to support sustainable regeneration. The Government should review the Fund’s effectiveness. If it is making a positive impact, then it should continue with it and increase the Fund’s resources.
o The Committee strongly supports the Grimsby town deal, involving a strategic approach between national and local government, and LEPS. The Committee recommends that the Government should secure town deals with other coastal towns. Given that issues relating to housing and deprivation in Blackpool are well-recognised as being some of the most significant in the country, the Committee recommends a town deal is secured with Blackpool first.
o A variant of Enterprise Zones designated specifically for coastal areas could offer seaside towns a package of placed-based interventions. This could support long term, sustainable change. The Committee recommends that new Enterprise Zones be created in coastal locations, and that the support offered should be tailored to meet the specific needs of seaside towns, and
o Some towns have boosted regeneration by cultivating their local creative industries. The Committee supports this arts-led regeneration and wishes to see other towns diversifying their economies and enhancing their local cultural assets in this way.
For further information and background on the report, follow this link to the Parliament UK website.