Once they were magnets for tens of millions of sun and fun seekers. But a report by Britain’s House of Lords said many of the country’s seaside towns and coastal communities are in desperate need of improvements to transport, housing and broadband.
Many seaside towns feel left behind by national strategies aimed at increasing economic growth and productivity, the report said.
Better access to further and higher education for young people in seaside towns is also needed too, concluded a report by the House of Lords Select Committee on Regenerating Seaside Towns.
It highlighted as the most significant in the country, housing and deprivation in Blackpool, once Britain’s most popular seaside resort. The report said it should be the first to be tackled using a government-backed town deal.
Famed for Blackpool Tower, donkey rides on the beach and “kiss me quick” hats, Blackpool on the northern coast of England attracted 17 million visitors a year in its heyday.
Committee Chairman Lord Bassam of Brighton said: “For too long, seaside towns have been neglected. They suffer from issues rooted in the decline of their core industries, most notably domestic tourism, but also in fishing, shipbuilding and port activity, and from their location at the ‘end of the line’. The potential impact of Brexit on these towns, particularly the hospitality sector, also remains an open question.”
Bassam said a single solution to the economic and social challenges facing seaside towns doesn’t exist.
“What is needed is a package of strategic initiatives and interventions where national and local government work together to address issues such as transport, housing, post-school education and high-speed broadband,” he added.
He said resort towns such as Brighton and Bournemouth have shown that “the seaside” can successfully reinvent itself.
The committee, he added, is confident that if its recommendations are pursued, seaside towns can once again become prosperous and desirable places to live in and visit.
The challenges of peripherality in coastal areas can be overcome by improving digital connectivity, such as high-speed broadband being delivered.
Poor-quality housing is a significant problem for many seaside towns, with the committee recommending a package of measures for housing to help tackle perverse financial incentives to offer poor accommodation, and to support more regeneration of existing housing.
Inadequate transport connectivity is holding back many coastal communities, said the committee, suggesting the government should prioritise improvements to the coastal transport network.
The report also called for government action to ensure 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. The committee said it wants local strategies to have a specific requirement to consider the needs of deprived seaside towns and communities.
It added that 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.