Select Committee on Communities and Local Government Committee Second Report

1  Introduction

National policy context

1. No settlement in England is more than 70 miles from the coast.[1] The Indices of Multiple Deprivation (see figure 1) show that many coastal areas suffer from high levels of deprivation, and that this is not a phenomenon limited to inner-city areas. Many coastal towns also face specific environmental challenges arising from coastal erosion and climate change.

2. Our task in this inquiry has been to examine current Government policy affecting English coastal towns. There is no specific national strategy or policy framework for coastal towns or coastal communities. Coastal towns are affected by a range of policies administered by many Government departments.

3. The Government has stated that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) "leads on coastal policy".[2] That, apparently, is a reference to DEFRA's responsibilities for flood and coastal erosion risk in England.[3] DEFRA also has departmental responsibility for implementing the Government's policy on the spatial planning system for the sea and coast. The Government intends, through the introduction of a Marine Bill, to rationalise the spatial planning system, as currently there are a number of different policies and decision-making structures for coastal areas. [4]

4. In its evidence, the Government also outlined a range of policies and legislation within the remit of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) that affect coastal towns (though not specific to coastal towns). These included:

  • neighbourhood renewal;
  • the Housing Act 2004, and
  • the Local Enterprise Growth Initiative.[5]

5. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has lead responsibility for tourism and heritage; areas significant to many coastal towns, particularly in traditional seaside resorts where tourism is the dominant industry.

6. Other central Government departments with policy remits relevant to coastal towns include:

  • the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI), which has lead policy responsibility for the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs); these in turn are responsible for economic development and regeneration within their regions, including for coastal towns;
  • the Department of Health (DoH), in relation to the demographic profile of many coastal towns;
  • the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), in relation to skills and attainment levels, and
  • the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), with its responsibilities for the benefit system.


7. We published our terms of reference and issued a call for evidence in December 2005. We received 66 memoranda and held five oral evidence sessions between June and October 2006. We thank all those who contributed to our inquiry by providing evidence or more informally during our visits to the coastal towns of Exmouth, Whitstable, Margate and Hastings. We are particularly grateful to our two specialist advisers for this inquiry, Helen Hayes, Joint Managing Director at a specialist urban regeneration and planning consultancy, Urban Practitioners, and Professor Fred Robinson of Durham University.

8. Throughout our report the term 'coastal towns' refers to English coastal towns, unless otherwise stated. There is no standard definition of English coastal towns for either policy-makers or practitioners: within the evidence we received, different bodies, including Government departments, use a variety of definitions.[6] The implications of this are discussed in paragraph 104. Our inquiry has sought to consider coastal towns in the broadest sense, including both small and large scale urban settlements on the coast. The adoption of a limited definition at the start of our inquiry could have risked excluding relevant evidence. We have, however, deliberately excluded consideration of the Government's ports policy as this has recently been examined by the House of Commons Transport Committee in its inquiry - The Ports Industry in England and Wales.[7]

Figure 1: England - Average Score District Level

Summary of the Indices of Multiple Deprivation 2004

Data Source: House of Commons Library, February 2007

1   Ev 22, Coastal Town: Written Evidence, HC 1023-II of Session 2005-06 (hereafter HC 1023-II) Back

2   Ev 167, HC 1023-II Back

3   See Flood and Coastal Risk Management Back

4   Ev 168, HC 1023-II Back

5   Ev 169, HC 1023-II Back

6   Ev 166, HC 1023-II Back

7   Transport Committee, Second Report of Session 2006-07, The Ports Industry in England and Wales, HC 61-I Back

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