A Seaside Tsar should be appointed to help Britain’s forgotten seaside towns fight back from decades of decay according to new research which paints a grim picture of the problems facing many coastal communities.
The report, commissioned by the British Hospitality Association (BHA), says that people living in seaside towns are more likely to be poorly educated, unemployed, unemployable, lacking in ambition, claiming benefits and living in multiple occupation housing.
A separate survey, conducted by the owners of Butlin’s and the BHA, found that more than half of the British public have not visited the British seaside in the past three years, and 65% believe that the British seaside is run down and in need of investment.
Nine out of the 10 most deprived neighbourhoods in England are seaside communities, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government 2015 Index of Multiple Deprivation.
The collapse of shipbuilding and fishing, the decline of the traditional annual holiday by the seaside, growing drug use, and cutbacks in budgets affecting maintenance of public places, street cleaning, tourism promotion and the providing of education have all contributed to the situation, says the report.
The British Hospitality Association report, Creating Coastal Powerhouses, says that businesses in seaside towns are more likely to fail – especially if they provide accommodation – and calls on the Government to create Coastal Enterprise Zones to encourage businesses to move to and invest in the coast.
The hospitality and tourism industry employs 4.5m people or 14% of the UK workforce. The association, which represents more than 40,000 businesses in the sector, cites the successful regeneration of Folkestone in Kent and along the Jurassic Coast in Dorset and east Devon as examples of how the British seaside can recover
It has produced a seven point action plan to breathe new life into seaside towns which calls on the Government to:
- Appoint a Seaside Tsar to coordinate a coherent response across all departments and spending – very much like Lord Heseltine’s work in Liverpool in the 1980s.
- Establish Coastal Action Groups, to develop a co-ordinated response and investment strategy to target the specific social and economic challenges that seaside towns face.
- Create a progressive tax environment, including a reduction in Tourism VAT, to encourage coastal businesses to invest in themselves.
- Create Coastal Enterprise Zones to incentivise investment and encourage businesses to move to the coast and create jobs.
- Invest in critical infrastructure and improve broadband, rail and road connections, and protect against the threat of rising sea levels.
- Improve education and training provision for young people and adults to ensure that they have the skills for a variety of sectors.
- Support Local Authorities to tackle social issues and housing problems which reduce their attraction as visitor destination
Ufi Ibrahim, Chief Executive of the BHA said:
“The British public want to enjoy the British Seaside, and those living in coastal communities want a thriving economy. We look forward to working with a Seaside Tsar to unlock the potential of the UK’s 6,000 kilometre coastline.
“Our members, who invest in and operate hospitality and tourism businesses recognise the problems facing many coastal communities but we also know there are fantastic opportunities to boost these places and help revive the Great British Seaside holiday.
“250 million visits are already made to the UK’s coast each year, generating £17 billion to the economy. But we know there is a lot more to do – and that can only happen with a concerted effort by a committed government and the private sector. Together we can turn the tide and bring a smile back to the seaside.”
Dermot King, Managing Director of Butlin’s said:
“We strongly urge the appointment of a Seaside Tsar. There is an urgent need for a new approach to regenerating our coastal communities where there are high levels of deprivation and unemployment and poor education and housing.
“As major investors in the hospitality and tourism sector we will play our part but a national initiative across all government departments is required to coordinate action and tackle these important social and economic issues.”