Seaside tsar should be appointed to help coast’s ‘forgotten towns’ – says hospitality report

The curve of Eastbourne seafront, taken from the Holywell end by Jamie Wheatley
The curve of Eastbourne seafront, taken from the Holywell end by Jamie Wheatley

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 and released today (Monday, July 11), 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 per cent 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.

In the South-East, 116,000 people are employed in the hospitality and tourism industry which contributes £400 million to the region’s economy.

The 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.

The BHA has produced a seven point action plan to breathe new life into seaside towns which calls on the Government to:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Create a progressive tax environment, including a reduction in Tourism VAT, to encourage coastal businesses to invest in themselves.

4. Create Coastal Enterprise Zones to incentivise investment and encourage businesses to move to the coast and create jobs.

5. Invest in critical infrastructure and improve broadband, rail and road connections, and protect against the threat of rising sea levels.

6. Improve education and training provision for young people and adults to ensure that they have the skills for a variety of sectors.

7. Support Local Authorities to tackle social issues and housing problems which reduce their attraction as visitor destination

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