The future of seaside towns Contents

Chapter 6: Support for regeneration—funding and delivery

263.Despite the range of challenges faced by coastal areas, seaside towns should be celebrated and recognised as places that can provide good quality environments for residents and tourists alike. Where some seaside towns have implemented successful regeneration strategies (where there has been a positive impact on the economic and social health of the area as a result of a regeneration intervention), there is no uniform approach that will work everywhere. However, within the regeneration success stories we heard, a clear set of themes emerged around the most effective approaches to regeneration, which included: the need for strong leadership and the ability to secure productive partnerships between local authorities, businesses, entrepreneurs and local services; setting a clear vision for regeneration of the area, that should be grounded in an area’s unique assets and context; securing local ‘buy-in’ and the support of residents; and securing investment to enable long-term planning and sustainable change.

264.In this chapter we examine the support that has been available for struggling towns seeking to undertake regeneration projects, including by way of funding streams and local delivery structures. It will highlight the challenges that coastal areas told us pose the greatest barriers to delivering regeneration and identify what further interventions are needed to ensure a greater proportion of seaside towns can make the best of their local talent, leadership and assets to secure a brighter future for their areas.

Successful regeneration

265.Coastal areas face a range of regeneration challenges. Although many of these challenges may be common to other non-coastal areas, seaside towns are often labouring with additional limitations due to peripherality and poor connectivity. The evidence did, however, expose a set of approaches that have contributed to successful regeneration in coastal areas.


266.Above all, effective leadership emerged as the critical component of successful regeneration, specifically, leadership that enables the creation and delivery of a clear vision for regeneration, and that brings together productive partnerships, whether that be between local authorities and investors, or through meaningful engagement with the local community. Over the course of our inquiry, and particularly in the six seaside towns we visited, we saw examples of projects that had delivered positive change in local areas, where strong leadership had come from a range of sources. These included: local authorities, but also local entrepreneurs (as in the case of Daniel Davies in New Brighton), business leaders (such as the manager at Butlins, Skegness that we met), charitable organisations (as in the case of Folkestone and the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust), and public services, such as the NHS or the police force (as we saw in Newquay in the Newquay Safe initiative).

267.East Devon District Council was able to provide an encouraging set of examples, highlighting the creation of “regeneration boards” to provide leadership:

“East Devon has pursued an ambitious regeneration strategy for its seaside towns and communities. Low productivity levels across the district has meant that the key focus is economic regeneration. To this end, we have pursued a policy of creating the economic conditions for investment using our land assets to support new investment and development examples of this are the Seaton Jurassic project, the rebuilding of the Mamhead Slipway in Exmouth, continued enhancement and development of the Seaton Wetlands Visitor Centre and the continued investment in countryside, parks, beaches, play spaces and excellent public realm. This has been the result of the establishment of and support of Regeneration Boards providing clear vision, leadership and support to regeneration.”224

268.We were told repeatedly that having a clear narrative and vision was a vital component of any plans for regeneration. In the context of coastal towns, we heard that it was particularly important for this to be linked to the character and essence of the place. Mark Latham, Regeneration Director at Urban Splash, stated:

“You need a big idea and a very convincing way of talking about it, telling it and promoting it. That is the core. It has to be rooted in reality. It cannot be a stickon, ersatz thing; it must be linked to the genius loci of the place.”225

269.The importance of the involvement of the community, working in partnership towards a shared vision for regeneration, was also emphasised. Tendring District Council told us that:

“Local people, communities and businesses will play a key role in the regeneration of seaside towns. They are best placed to understand the issues and have the pride and shared vision to achieve something positive for their area. This Council is heavily engaged with local people, communities and businesses, but with more financial support from government this engagement could be more effective and more successful.”226

270.Another consistent theme to emerge was the assertion that successful regeneration projects were based around effective partnership working, particularly between the public sector and private investors. Several successful public/private partnerships were highlighted, for example, Dreamland in Margate, and examples of broader partnership working between organisations such as local services, businesses and residents were also identified, as illustrated by the Newquay Safe initiative, a partnership of over 20 agencies, set up in 200 to tackle issues around the area’s night time economy. The partnership aims to help tackle crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour and includes Cornwall Council, Newquay Town Council, local health services, Coastguard, Devon and Cornwall Police, Visit Cornwall and Newquay Regeneration Forum.227

271.Entrepreneurship, we were told, often played an integral role in the regeneration of an area. This raised questions around how entrepreneurship should best be encouraged and supported, particularly by the public sector. Barriers to partnership working between the public and private sectors were highlighted, and it was suggested that challenges common to seaside towns and communities often deterred private investors. It was clear that coastal authorities sometimes struggled to attract private investors and developers due to existing deprivation, poor transport links or the risks posed by coastal flooding.

272.The National Housing Federation told us that: “We have seen examples of successful partnerships between councils, housing associations and Homes England to unlock regeneration schemes but these depend heavily on local circumstances and priorities, and are likely to be even more economically challenging in many coastal areas.”228

273.North Somerset Council stated that for tackling many of the issues facing seaside towns: “it is essential to have strong partnerships in place, not just across agencies and statutory bodies but including private businesses and the community and voluntary sector” and that local authorities should act as the “glue”, but that “due to lack of resources and staff time, this sort of vital work is becoming increasingly more difficult for councils.”22

274.A key issue appeared to be that private investors were often reluctant to engage in regeneration projects at the initial stages. In fact, a number of areas told us that there needed to be greater recognition of the time that regeneration projects can take and that investors will not always make quick returns on investments. Wayne Hemingway, Co-Founder of Hemingway Design, argued that the burden for getting regeneration projects underway, and for any early failings, often fell to the public sector initially as the private sector was often “so fearful”. Mr Hemingway suggested, with reference to the Dreamland project in Margate, that the private sector only “come in when the ground has been ploughed.”230

Box 15: Principles for partnership and regeneration

A note by Lord Mawson

Ten guiding principles for partnership work and regeneration:

(1)People and relationships matter, so nurture them

(2)Start small and grow things in context

(3)Create a sense of ownership

(4)Believe it’s possible

(5)Learn by doing: encourage innovation and risk taking

(6)Build high quality environments

(7)Pay attention to the detail

(8)Blur the boundaries between the public and private sectors, involve everyone

(9)Encourage people to acquire new skills—build confidence and foster agency

(10)Prepare for a long journey—and enjoy it

275.Local authorities play a central role in regeneration efforts. Council representatives we met on our visit to Skegness told us that they perceived the role of local authorities in regard to regeneration as ‘enablers’, facilitating partnerships between the private sector and other partners. Several local authorities suggested that reduced resources were having an adverse impact on the ability of coastal local authorities to undertake regeneration projects. West Sussex County Council stated that:

“…ongoing cuts to local authority budgets by Government and increasing demand for social care services means that local authorities will have less resource to allocate to coastal economic development.”231

276.South Tyneside Council emphasised that cuts to local authority budgets had had an impact on the resources available for tourism in its area:

“South Tyneside has been hit very hard by Government Local Authority allocation cuts. The Council now has 54% less to spend than in 2010. Funding has been reduced from £11m in 2010 to a projected £124m in the coming year. Since 2010 the Council has become leaner and more efficient, making £156m of efficiency savings and has shrunk its workforce. The tourism marketing budget for example has reduced by 40%, yet the Council is still performing highly in many key areas.”232

277.Additionally, some coastal local authorities told us that despite a national focus on driving productivity and local growth, on which the Government has put renewed focus through the Industrial Strategy, coastal areas felt that they did not received adequate support for economic development. This criticism focused principally on the role of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).

Local Enterprise Partnerships

278.LEPs are tasked with playing a central role in determining local economic priorities and undertaking activities to drive economic growth and job creation, improve infrastructure and raise workforce skills within the local area. They, therefore, should have a significant role to play in the regeneration of seaside towns. MHCLG recognised this point, stating that:

“It is important to also recognise the role of coastal Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in supporting the regeneration of coastal and seaside towns. Around half of all LEPs include coastal or estuarine areas. Local Growth Deals are providing coastal LEPs with funding to promote economic growth and job creation in their coastal communities. And some coastal LEPs, such as the South East LEP, have their own Coastal Networks to help prioritise investment in coastal locations.”233

279.In some areas, however, concerns were raised that LEPs have failed to take sufficient consideration of the needs of coastal communities. A commonly held view was that coastal areas lost out to larger urban areas on national funding provided for local economic growth. The Coastal Communities Alliance explained that:

“On a national scale, bidding opportunities for economic growth (such as Growth Deals administered through LEPs) tend to be targeted towards large scale interventions and therefore inappropriate for smaller seaside towns which cannot demonstrate the level of economic return in direct competition with larger urban areas.”234

280.LEPs are focused on delivering the Government’s drive to increase productivity, but some areas suggested that there was a danger that approaches to local economic development that were driven by a focus on productivity, could ignore the interplay of challenges in socially and economically fragile places.

281.Bridport Local Area Partnership told us that:

“The experience of the Bridport area is that it has been almost impossible to engage properly with the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership. The LEP focuses on strategic projects in larger urban areas or larger development sites and does not appear willing to invest in the needs of smaller coastal communities. As LEPs are now the main source of public regeneration funding, this is immensely frustrating.”235

282.We heard similar claims around the tendency for LEPs to concentrate funding on areas that were seen as lower-risk than struggling seaside towns. Nicola Radford, Lead Officer of the Coastal Communities Alliance, stated that, although her area had been successful in attracting some funding through their local LEP: “It is trickier to justify getting money through the single local growth fund for coastal areas, because it is about market failure and high-risk investment. To put that sort of money into coastal areas is a higher risk than just putting it into an industrial or urban area…”236

283.The New Economics Foundation echoed this point by highlighting that communities sometimes struggled to attract higher level buy-in, in the form of investment or support, for:

“ . . . plans to develop activities which would deliver a set of economic, social and environmental outcomes which simply do not align with the standard measures of economic success which still shape how LEPs, local authorities, city region growth deal areas, etc. are encouraged to approach and evidence economic development.”

284.Jonathan Sharrock, Chief Executive of the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership, pointed to the autonomy of LEPs, stating that the “Government created us to take a locally led approach to the challenges in the regional economy; there are 38 LEPs and 38 boards, and they have all taken a different perspective on what that means.” He acknowledged that “some LEPs have focused money a lot more on bigger projects” but went on to suggest that “an area with a coastline would always be very conscious of the challenges that that coastline would bring.”237

285.The Minister, Jake Berry MP, acknowledged that:

“The performance of LEPs across the country has been a bit mixed. They started under the coalition in 2010. There was a Chairman Mao approach of letting 1,000 flowers bloom, and in some cases they failed to blossom. That is why one of the first things I did when I came into government, when I had the privilege of being appointed, was to start a LEP review, a granular look at local enterprise partnerships to see where they performed well or badly.”238

286.The roles LEPs will play in developing Local Industrial Strategies, and in administering the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, were also emphasised. Local Industrial Strategies are being developed by LEPs with the aim of “promoting the coordination of local economic policy and national funding streams”.23 The Government’s Local Industrial Strategies Policy Prospectus states that: “Local Industrial Strategies will be long-term, based on clear evidence and aligned to the national Industrial Strategy. They should set out clearly defined priorities for how cities, towns and rural areas will maximise their contribution to UK productivity.”240

287.Jonathan Sharrock from the Coast to Capital LEP outlined the stages for agreement of the Local Industrial Strategies, asserting that: “The strategy has to go through the Treasury and MHCLG and be agreed by government analysts, because it is all about the analytics. Once we have agreed on a local industrial strategy, we will be able to talk about the projects that help to deliver it. That is the basis on which we are working.” He also confirmed that “the region is a coherent economic area, so we will have a single strategy.”241

288.Several areas identified the development of Local Industrial Strategies as a key opportunity for ensuring that the needs of coastal areas are better reflected in local plans to drive economic development. The National Housing Federation stated that:

“ . . .inclusive economies and growth must be at the heart of Local Industrial Strategies if they are to deliver for those people and communities that have been left behind for too long. This means that the community and local anchor institutions should have a proactive role in the development of the Local Industrial Strategy, and key inclusive growth metrics, such as the percentage of residents earning above the Living Wage, should be included as measures of success.”242

289.Chichester District Council proposed that:

“Mechanisms should be put in place to ensure that LEPs and other vehicles address the needs and take advantage of the opportunities presented by their coastal plains. The planned Government statements on ‘the role & responsibilities of LEPs’ and ‘Local Industrial Strategies’ should include a specific reference to the need to consider other areas within LEPs.”243

290.It was also argued that coastal LEPs might benefit from greater collaboration with other coastal LEPs around the country. Jonathan Sharrock from the Coast to Capital LEP said:

“There is a LEP network, so we know our colleagues in other parts of the country. In reality, because our two LEPs244 are very close to each other, we collaborate. I agree that the lessons we are learning could, I am sure, be applied in Lincolnshire, the north-west or another part of the country. Because those places are further away, and we do not necessarily know our colleagues as well, it is a challenge; we try our hardest to collaborate, but it happens more naturally at local level.”245

291.There is widespread concern that LEPs, in their focus on job creation and economic improvement, tend to favour reinforcing and building on known successes rather than tackling more problematic and marginalised areas, such as seaside towns. Through this risk-adverse approach, LEPs have failed to deliver their core objective—to promote local economic growth—wherever that might be.

292.The requirement on LEPs to develop Local Industrial Strategies is weighted towards driving up productivity and local economic growth. Although we are concerned that this may risk isolating coastal areas which suffer from higher levels of social and economic deprivation still further, we regard Local Industrial Strategies as presenting an opportunity for renewed focus on addressing the skills gaps, low wage economies and aspiration challenges faced by many coastal communities.

293.As Local Industrial Strategies are developed, greater emphasis must be placed on ensuring that the priorities of coastal communities are properly addressed. We recommend that LEPs are given a specific requirement to have regard to the needs of deprived seaside towns and communities, and for supporting regeneration and redevelopment in these areas.

294.We recommend that action is taken to facilitate greater collaboration between LEPs that cover coastal areas through the creation of a formalised network of coastal LEPs.

Government funding

UK Shared Prosperity Fund

295.Plans to replace the funds local areas currently received from the European Union, by the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), were announced in 2017. Although the exact details of the Fund will be dependent on the outcome of Brexit negotiations, in 2016 the Government guaranteed funding for UK organisations in receipt of EU funds where projects were agreed before the day the UK leaves the EU. In 2018, the Government announced an extension to this guarantee, stating that it would underwrite the UK’s allocation for structural and investment fund projects under this EU Budget period to 2020 in the event of no-deal.246 The Government has also signalled that it is intended for LEPs to have a role in administering the UKSPF.247

296.Several submissions outlined priorities for the UKSPF. Priorities included: that the overall funding is not reduced; that the purpose of the CCF is not lost in the delivery framework; that funding decisions should be delegated to local areas; that the Fund takes full account of the importance of the tourism industry alongside other key sectors; and that the UKSPF should recognise the distinct nature of coastal communities.

297.Steve Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay, echoed some of these calls, telling us that:

“I want a dedicated pot of money for Cornwall, not a competitive process where Cornwall has to bid into a national pot. We want dedicated funds for Cornwall as we had in the European programme. It has to be less bureaucratic and more flexible than the European programme has been. There is no point in replacing one bureaucracy with another. It needs to be focused on the real issues that Cornwall faces. It needs to be focused on outcomes rather than inputs.”248

298.The Minister, Jake Berry MP, confirmed that the Government would be consulting on the UKSPF in the near future.24

299.The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is viewed as a key opportunity to help support coastal business development, particularly in sectors that are often fundamental to seaside towns, such as tourism and retail, and to tackle deprivation in coastal communities.

300.As soon as is reasonably practicable, the Government must provide a clear indication of how coastal areas will benefit from the UKSPF.

301.If LEPs are given the responsibility for administering the UKSPF, they should have a greater role in facilitating coastal regeneration. This must involve dedicated engagement with coastal local authorities to support the development of place-based plans for regeneration, founded on agreement about local challenges.

302.If LEPs are given the responsibility for administering the UKSPF, it will be imperative that they are adequately and appropriately resourced for the task.

Coastal Communities Fund

303.In 2012 the Coalition Government launched the Coastal Communities Fund (CCF). The CCF is administered by the Big Lottery Fund, and provides grants which were intended to deliver sustainable economic growth and jobs in coastal areas.

304.The CCF seeks to address common challenges that are defined as: over dependence on seasonal, low-paid jobs in a small range of industries; declining and ageing populations; housing stock challenges; poor transport connectivity; and a range of physical and environmental challenges. Since 2012, the CCF has awarded grants to 25 projects across the UK, totalling over £174 million.250 The most recent round of funding was announced in September 2017—the fifth round of funding—with £40 million made available to applicants for spend from April 201 to March 2021.251

305.MHCLG highlighted a number of projects in coastal areas that had received support from the CCF. These included the unleashing growth in Furness project, awarded to Furness Enterprise Limited in Round one of the CCF, which aimed to “drive sustainable economic growth within the coastal community by creating an innovation network for product development to enable new markets to be opened”252 and included the provision of support to new businesses. MHCLG stated that this had directly, and indirectly, led to the creation of 617 new jobs.253

306.There was broad support for the role of the CCF as the only significant fund targeted at the specific typology of seaside towns,254 and some acknowledgment that the Fund did recognise the need and unique nature of coastal communities. Several areas highlighted the ways in which the Fund had been used to support improvements to infrastructure and the quality of the public realm.

307.There were, however, a number of concerns expressed about the CCF, including: criticism of the way in which the bidding process operated, a perception that it favoured larger communities’ improvement; that the Fund was short-term in nature and therefore did not necessarily support more holistic and sustainable approaches to regeneration; that the levels of funding set aside for the CCF have been reduced by the Government; and that there has been insufficient evaluation of the scheme to assess the way in which public funds have been used.

308.Several areas expressed frustrations around the bidding process for the CCF. Suffolk Coastal and Waverney District Council suggested the CCF was “oversubscribed” and “highly competitive.”255 The Coastal Communities Alliance highlighted that there was “140 coastal community teams, plus local authorities, all bidding in that competitive process.”256

309.There was also a feeling expressed that the process disadvantaged smaller communities. Nicola Radford, Lead Officer at the Coastal Communities Alliance, stated that: “Some very small groups and coastal community teams are bidding and putting in a lot of effort at that stage, but are not successful, whereas strategic partnerships that have some level of input and resource to help form more strategic bids are getting the money.” This view was echoed by other areas, such as Chideok Parish Council, who stated that it did not apply to the CCF as it viewed it as “an oversubscribed funding pot that would prioritise larger spends from bigger communities.”257

310.A key concern expressed was that CCF funding was too small scale to support sustainable regeneration. Fears were raised that the time taken to secure funding from the CCF, and the emphasis upon demonstrating quick returns on investment, meant that the Fund was not always suitable to support projects aimed a sustainable regeneration, which typically required a longer-term approach.

311.The Coastal Communities Alliance told us that targeted investments for coastal communities, such as the CCF, “tend to be small scale” which can “restrict the ability of local partners to develop more strategic investments towards visitor infrastructure and related areas (such as transport and the natural environments) that would more positively influence national productivity.” A similar argument was proposed by The National Coastal Tourism Academy:

“The short term nature of the funding also makes it difficult to have a more holistic and sustainable approach to regeneration and growth. There are now examples of early Coastal Community Fund projects which were delivering valued services and activities, but are no longer being supported due to a lack of ongoing funding.”258

312.When the CCF was launched in 2012, it was announced that it would be financed by the Government through the allocation of funding equivalent to 50% of the revenues from the Crown Estate’s marine activities. We were told that this has since been reduced to 33%.25 We heard from Dr David Tudor, Marine Infrastructure Portfolio Manager at the Crown Estate, that it has no role in allocation of its revenue to the CCF and that this was a decision taken entirely by HM Treasury.

313.Questions were also raised about the extent to which the CCF had been evaluated to assess its impact. From the evidence provided by MHCLG and by the Minister, Jake Berry MP, it was clear that it has been evaluated to highlight the collective achievements of the Fund. The Minister told us that:

“Projects approved over the first three-year funding round were forecast to deliver more than 18,000 UK jobs and generate £363 million in new visitor spend. Up to 2016, our annual reporting showed that 500 new businesses had been started, and 7,000 jobs had been created. Analysis of that 2016 progress report has shown that, for every pound invested, £8 has been created in economic growth in our coastal communities.” 260

314.The Minister did, however, acknowledge that more detailed analysis was required in order to understand better the value for money that was being delivered by the CCF:

“I have asked my department to strengthen the monitoring of projects and do retrospective reviews of the projects that we are going to fund to try to capture what goes right and what goes wrong, and learn lessons for the future.”261

315.This commitment from the Government to strengthen monitoring and conduct retrospective reviews of projects is to be warmly welcomed. The success of a project should be defined by whether an intervention will have a lasting and substantive impact on the economic health and social wellbeing of the area. These assessments should be published routinely.

316.If, following evaluation, the CCF is found to have supported sustained economic and social improvements for seaside towns, we recommend that the Government continues to provide a dedicated source of funding for coastal communities, beyond the completion of the latest round, due to conclude in 2021. On the basis that the CCF is proven as an effective source of financial support for struggling seaside towns, we recommend restoring the ratio of Crown Estates revenue allocated to the CCF back to its original 50% rather than the 33% it has been reduced to. In the future, consideration should be given to increasing this proportion further.

Supporting the regeneration of seaside towns

317.Coastal communities are not, of course, identical, and so economic and social development will look different for each seaside town. Although some common themes emerged around the need for effective leadership and a clear vision, we do not wish to prescribe the approach that coastal areas should take to regeneration. There were, however, a consistent set of calls made by the people who live and work in seaside towns around how the government could better support the drive, ambition and vision of the local organisations who are determined to change their areas for the better.

318.Coastal local authorities are often the driving force behind regeneration in seaside towns, but they often struggle to attract the outside investment and support their areas need. The current model driving coastal regeneration from central government is short-term, and areas are therefore limited in their ability to deliver real lasting change. When seeking support for regeneration, coastal towns often suffer from: “viability issues” and “ensuring the coastal voice is heard is challenging”.262

319.Areas told us that there should be greater support for local regeneration from central government—not in the form of top-down interventions but from ensuring that the structures that have been put in place to drive economic development across the regions benefit coastal areas. Snettisham Parish Council, for example, stated that: “We do not need Whitehall advising us. There is sufficient intent to achieve things locally, with help – this should be in the form of funding which is easy to apply for and which can then be controlled and directed locally.”263

320.Although the existence of a dedicated fund for coastal communities was welcomed, the overarching concern was that the support available for regeneration in coastal areas was characterised, and limited, by short-termism, with central government funding too piecemeal to support long-term, sustainable change. East Linsey District Council was one of several areas that raised this argument:

“In our experience, other targeted investments for coastal communities tend to be small scale (e.g. LEADER, Coastal Community Teams, Coastal Revival Fund, Big Lottery) supporting delivery of community-led projects. This can restrict the ability of local partners to develop more strategic investments towards infrastructure and related areas that would more positively influence national productivity.”264

321.Beyond 2021, the CCF should be focused on projects that aim to encourage sustainable place-based approaches to regeneration. The distribution of the fund must recognise that regeneration projects require a long-term approach. The Fund must be focused on contributing towards long-term change in communities and helping with effective planning and partnership stimulation. It should, in particular, focus on smaller communities.

322.The UKSPF should seek to reinforce interventions from the LEPs and from the CCF. The development of the UKSPF should be used as an opportunity to evaluate where the areas of greatest need lie. A genuine and extensive consultation with neglected seaside towns should take place to ascertain the most effective distribution of the Fund. The Fund should prioritise long-term place-based solutions for areas where there has been persistent deprivation, including disadvantaged coastal communities.

Box 16: Case study—Blackpool Pride of Place Partnership (PoP)

A note by Baroness Valentine

What is it?

Blackpool PoP champions Blackpool as a can-do town with a vision. A group of leaders from business, the public and third sector has come together to detail an Agenda for Action and work together to effect it. The PoP is not a government sponsored organisation, nor does it have project funding. The initiative was sponsored by Business in the Community who commit senior personnel, while all parties other than the third sector, contribute to core costs.

Why does it work?

It seeks to identify what’s really important and how to influence it. It identifies only a few priorities each year, taking an innovative approach to a problem or tackling a big issue through its convening power. The Board has all the senior local influencers on it who can deliver their own organisations’ commitment and funding. This is no committee talking shop. Its business culture seeks valuable outcomes from time-poor people coming together with a passion to see the town thrive.

Getting the right people matters

This cannot work without local and national leadership and vision. The chair is a Blackpool alumna and successful in her own right. The leadership of the local council (which is a unitary) is prepared to be brave and work differently. The PoP chief executive combines experience in eliciting real business support with effectiveness in the public sector.

What does PoP want from the Government?

Blackpool’s tourism product will be reinvigorated by a new conference centre, new hotels and an attractive promenade. However, behind the front, there is chronic deprivation as a result of people from around Britain being drawn to Blackpool’s low-quality inner zone. We need a town deal with the Government to continue working to improve the area, so that one of the worst concentrations of deprivation in England is no longer a part of its most famous seaside resort.

Coastal communities policy and national initiatives

323.We heard repeated calls for more recognition of the specific needs of coastal areas. The argument was rehearsed that, although many of the issues facing seaside towns and communities were also shared by other inland areas, there were certain problems which were more specific to coastal areas. Generic issues around deprivation (housing, benefits, population transience, low levels of education attainment, poor health outcomes etc) were in some areas combining with seaside-specific issues (for example, being at the ‘end of the line’, the ongoing decline of traditional seaside tourism, and the impact of climate change). This combination of factors was rendering the challenges for seaside towns particularly intractable.

324.Given the common set of challenges experienced by many seaside towns, which cut across a number of policy areas, there were calls for better co-ordination of coastal policy across government departments. Officials were asked about how coastal communities’ policy was co-ordinated both within MHCLG and across Whitehall. Ben Pledger, Deputy Director in the Cities and Local Growth Unit at MHCLG, responded:

“First, on the responsibility for policy, I am from the Cities and Local Growth Unit, which is a joint directorate between MHCLG and BEIS, and we are responsible for coastal regeneration policy. That jointness is the first thing to mention; we report jointly to two departments, because we understand that part of our overall remit is to support places. There is something about belonging to MHCLG and understanding communities, but also about belonging to BEIS and understanding industries and sectors.”265

325.The Minister, Jake Berry MP, acknowledged that there could be a more joined-up approach at an official level, stating that:

“…historically, there was a cross-Whitehall, official-level meeting with nominated people from departments at a senior level in the Civil Service to talk about the cross-governmental challenge to coastal communities, and that has fallen away. Without seeking to prejudge any of your recommendations, if the Committee was minded to suggest that that should happen again, to ensure that at an official level government is joined up to tackle all the challenges and opportunities faced by coastal communities around England, I am sure my department would look at it favourably.”266

326.We recommend that the Government takes a more strategic approach to the co-ordination of coastal communities’ policy at official-level across different government departments. Reinstating the cross-Whitehall official level meeting to discuss coastal communities would be a first step in achieving this.

327.Although a significant proportion of seaside towns and communities are struggling with a range of social and economic challenges, we were made aware of examples of seaside towns that had successfully regenerated and revitalised their local economies. It was clear that while there were lessons to be learnt from success stories, there was limited evidence of how this best practice might be shared. East Lindsey District Council asserted that there was a “fundamental need to update and improve the evidence base in order to support coastal populations and economies to realise their potential.”267

328.The question as to whether there has been sufficient research conducted to provide robust analysis of the economic and social health and vitality of seaside towns was also raised. It was argued that existing datasets sometimes masked the problems in specific areas due to how data was categorised. North Somerset Council, for example, highlighted that:

“It can be difficult to source appropriate data for a specific town because many data and statistics are based on and collected as geographies such as local authority, ward and parliamentary constituency and not at a town level. This makes it difficult to disaggregate into specific towns. Some data is captured within small geographical areas within wards, (super output areas and lower super output areas), but it can be time consuming extracting relevant information. An analysis of a relatively prosperous areas such as North Somerset using data collected at district level, masks the areas of significant deprivation with Weston-Super-Mare.”268

329.Similarly, Great Yarmouth Borough Council stated that:

“There remains, however, a gap in our collective understanding of the mechanisms by which disadvantage – expressed in terms of economic and social health – are conferred upon the geographic margins of the UK – and ‘ends of the line’, such as seaside towns.”26

330.Notwithstanding the uniqueness of regeneration projects, which will inevitably vary according to the locale, we recommend that the Government identifies, collates and disseminates examples of best practice in regeneration projects. Consideration must be given as to whether data might be harnessed in such a way as to help local authorities understand their areas better.

331.It was put to us that national strategies, such as the Industrial Strategy, may fail to meet the distinct set of challenges found in seaside towns, with some advocating that a dedicated strategy for coastal communities should be developed. Lincolnshire County Council stated:

“Proper consideration must be given to all critical issues facing coastal communities and coastal businesses. Government should produce a comprehensive, cross government and cross organisation strategy for coastal areas. This way coastal businesses and communities will be seen to be given due consideration and ensure that wider strategic policy, such as that set out in the Industrial Strategy (and ensuing Local Industrial Strategies) properly reflect the issues and identify specific measures to build on the wide coastal opportunities. A Coastal Strategy is urgently required and warrants a separate consultation exercise.”270

332.Other witnesses suggested that coastal areas could benefit from measures already within the framework of existing government policy. Blackpool Council highlighted the example of the Grimsby Town Deal, which has been approved for funding by the Government. Stage 1 of the Town Deal was announced in July 2018 and it is described as marking “the beginning of a stronger relationship between central government and local partners to support the regeneration of Greater Grimsby”. The deal will provide:

333.Blackpool Council labelled the Grimsby Town Deal as a “pioneering approach”.272 Dorset County Council suggested that: “Individual Coastal Town Deals would be an appropriate start which consider the structural issues that only the public sector/Government can address such as infrastructure, health and education.”273

334.The Minster, Jake Berry MP, suggested that the town deal approach could be applied to coastal towns, stating that:

“We should continue to look to expand the idea of a town deal, which was in our industrial strategy. There was a commitment to pilot it in Grimsby, and I think it lends itself to coastal towns. In truth, it feels as if there has been very little in public policy for as long as I have followed it, for 15 or 20 years, that seeks in a direct way to address the challenges of our towns rather than our major cities. There is even less that seeks to address the challenges of our coastal towns. The Grimsby town deal, supported by government funding, but largely supported by local funding, is an opportunity to look at how we can do things differently. It lends itself very well to coastal towns. I shall watch with interest how the pilot deal is implemented.”274

335.The Minister also indicated that a town deal had been discussed in relation to Blackpool. He explained that:

“I am excited to note that the Secretary of State for Business recently met my colleague Paul Maynard to talk about how we can advance a town deal for Blackpool. If we can commit to it, it would be a good way to expand town deals to see how they work for other coastal towns.”275

336.In March 201, the Government launched the £1.6 billion Stronger Towns Fund. The Government has stated that this will be targeted at “ . . . places that have not shared in the proceeds of growth in the same way as more prosperous parts of the country.”276 The Government stated that:

“A total of £1 billion will be allocated using a needs-based formula. More than half this share (£583 million) will go to towns across the North with a further £322 million allocated to communities in the Midlands. Communities will be able to draw up job-boosting plans for their town, with the support and advice of their Local Enterprise Partnerships.”

“Another £600 million will be available through a bidding process to communities in any part of the country.”277

337.The Stronger Towns Fund is in early stages of development. We welcome the focus on boosting investment, jobs and living standards in towns across the country. However, we are clear that any additional support from central government for towns must focus on those areas with the highest levels of deprivation, including struggling seaside towns, and that LEPs must work to ensure that the available funds are directed at improving economic activity in those areas. We also note comments made by the chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Campbell Robb, who urged the Government to set out its plans for the UKSPF, stating that:

“The Stronger Towns Fund must not mean dipping into the Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF), a manifesto commitment made to towns and cities using money repatriated from the EU. A consultation on the fund is long overdue and has left towns and cities facing uncertainty as the Brexit withdrawal process saps Whitehall attention.

“If the Government is serious about transforming towns, it needs to set out its plans for the SPF now and bring serious money to the table - not just a small pot to fix short-term problems.”278

338.We endorse the Minister’s view that special focus should be given to Blackpool, given that issues relating to housing and deprivation in Blackpool are well-recognised as being some of the most significant in the country. Support for struggling seaside towns, such as Blackpool, should involve a strategic approach between national and local government, and LEPS, to address the intractable economic and social challenges that are causing persistent disadvantage in these areas. By solving the problems in Blackpool, the Government could identify a set of tools which enable them to tackle the problem in other seaside towns—if you can solve it there you can solve it anywhere.

339.The Government should secure town deals for Blackpool and other deprived seaside towns. We strongly support this approach with determined action between government and local government to tackle the root causes of deprivation in seaside towns disparate, limited funding will not address the generational challenges that are so entrenched in these areas.

340.A number of areas also advocated the introduction of additional Enterprise Zones, which are already in operation across the country, for coastal areas. Enterprise Zones are designated areas across England that provide tax breaks and Government support. Businesses that locate in an Enterprise Zone can access a number of benefits:



Box 17: Enterprise Zones

A note by Lord Smith of Hindhead

The evidence we received during our work revealed that seaside towns faced three particular areas of challenge; the economy (jobs), infrastructure and education. Some would say that these could apply to most towns that face challenging economic and social issues but whilst there is no simple or single solution to regeneration of seaside towns, since they vary quite significantly in terms of their challenges and therefore require a certain degree of bespoke assistance, there is no doubt all three areas would probably apply to each seaside town to a greater or lesser degree.

During one of our evidence sessions, the economist, Fernanda Balata, from the New Economics Foundation, said: “I certainly agree that infrastructure is a key challenge for coastal communities for all the reasons just highlighted. However, it is not about one priority. It has been acknowledged that it is about a common and persistent set of issues relating to social and economic deprivation on the coast. Therefore, a solution would be a range of policies in areas that we need to focus on.

On one hand, the challenges faced by these communities are not unique to the coast. Better policy-making that benefits wider communities in the country would also benefit coastal communities, in areas such as housing, education, health and so on. On the other hand, what makes coastal communities different is their unique asset: the coastal and marine environment that surrounds them. That creates particular challenges. Normally, when I go to communities on the coast, they tell me that they live in a 180-degree context. If policies could acknowledge this one priority for coastal areas—the challenges and opportunities presented by the coastal and marine environment—it would go a long way to creating better policy-making and support for coastal communities.

Cutting through some of the negative statistics which the Committee heard, and avoiding the frustration which I personally felt by the somewhat casual responses received from questions as to how public funds were being deployed, one positive aspect of assistance which had made a difference was the establishment of Enterprise Zones as part of the Government’s wider Industrial Strategy to support businesses and enable local economic growth.

Seaside towns which had been successful in bidding for Enterprise Zone classification had seen benefits. I would propose that the Government give consideration to establishing specific Seaside Town Enterprise Zones, or ‘Seaside Zones’, which, like other Enterprise Zones, would give clear financial benefits from day one, but ‘Seaside Zones’ could be rather more specific in terms of benefits to, for example, the hospitality industry, which is the largest employer in the seaside economy, as well as focusing on infrastructure and broadband to help develop business growth.

I would also propose that the way in which Enterprise Zones are currently awarded is looked at again. The bidding process by its very nature tends to give an advantage to those towns which have a plan and a certain amount of leadership rather than perhaps those towns which are in most need of a Zone’s benefits.

341.The Minister, Jake Berry MP, acknowledged that there had been some successes relating to enterprise zones in coastal areas, but suggested that overall, the performance had been varied:

“The Government have no current plans for new enterprise zones. The lessons I have learned from enterprise zones is that their performance is very mixed and tends to be linked to the performance of the LEP. The great urgency of implementing the LEP review is to ensure that we lift performance for LEPs.

I do not think at this stage that enterprise zones have anything new to add to the conversation around coastal towns, although there are some successful enterprise zones; in Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland and Falmouth in Cornwall they have been delivered well by the LEPs. As part of the sector deal, there is some consideration of tourism action zones, and the Government are looking at developing that.”280

342.We were, however, provided with a number of examples where coastal areas had benefited from being designated as an enterprise zone. Ben Pledger from MHCLG, stated that:

“…there are 16 coastal enterprise zones, with some incredible success stories, such as the Siemens factory in Harwich, which is producing the blades for offshore wind; the one in Plymouth, which is helping to regenerate the seafront area there; and Newquay Airport.”281

MHCLG also told us that, as of 2016, Enterprise Zones across the country “…have attracted 877 businesses, £3.5 billion of private sector investment and 38,33 jobs.”282

343.The Local Government Association Coastal Special Interest Group highlighted an example in Lowestoft, explaining that:

“Enterprise Zones are being established around the country which provide incentives to investors and can be tailored to the needs of that town. A successful example of supporting investment is the construction of ORBIS offshore energy innovation centre in Lowestoft which is a publicly managed workspace for businesses and support to offshore energy companies. Since its creation Orbis Energy has secured billions of pounds of investment and 800 new jobs in the East. Many businesses have benefited from the company and it has acted as a spring board for many.”283

344.Torbay Development Agency (TDA) outlined how this type of approach might work for seaside towns. It made a case for the creation of “Coastal action zones”, which would offer:

The TDA also suggested that: “In addition to the above ‘standard’ characteristics of the following might also be included:

Priority access to the Local Full Fibre Network Fund, providing vouchers for businesses to access full fibre; and

A residential component in order to bring life (and purchasing power) back into the town centre.”284

345.Wyre Borough Council also supported the idea of a “Coastal Enterprise Zone”, which it suggested could include “ . . . fiscal benefits attached to employing local people, using local suppliers and expanding the business in the local area.”285

346.A variant of Enterprise Zones designated specifically for coastal areas could offer seaside towns a package of placed-based interventions, including financial and practical benefits for business location, that could support long term, sustainable change. Elements of the standard Enterprise Zones could be adapted to meet the distinct challenges faced by coastal areas, including peripherality, poor connectivity and difficulty in attracting private investment and businesses to their areas.

347.We recommend that the Government, in consultation with coastal local authorities and LEPs, reviews the current Enterprise Zone scheme to build a distinct package of measures aimed at supporting struggling seaside towns in promoting local economic activity.

348.We recommend that new Enterprise Zones be created in coastal locations. The support offered should be tailored to meet the specific needs of seaside towns, including (but not limited to): tax relief on capital investment in property and the public realm; investment in digital infrastructure; and fiscal incentives to attract business investment.

224 Written evidence from East Devon District Council (RST0038)

225 Q 148 (Mark Latham)

226 Written evidence from Tendring District Council (RST0110)

227 Cornwall Council, ‘Newquay Safe’: [accessed 25 March 201]

228 Written evidence from the National Housing Federation (RST0054)

22 Written evidence from North Somerset Council (RST010)

230 Q 145 (Wayne Hemingway, Co-Founder, Hemingway Design)

231 Written evidence from West Sussex County Council (RST0114)

232 Written evidence from South Tyneside Council (RST0033)

233 Written evidence from MHCLG (RST007)

234 Written evidence from the Coastal Communities Alliance (RST002)

235 Written evidence from the Bridport Local Area Partnership (RST0074)

236 Q 15 (Nicola Radford)

237 Q 168 (Jonathan Sharrock)

238 Q 178 (Jake Berry MP)

23 Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, ‘Local Industrial Strategies to drive growth across the country’ (3 December 2018): [accessed 13 February 201]

240 HM Government, Local Industrial Strategies Policy Prospectus, October 2018, p 4: [accessed 28 February 201]

241 Q 172 (Jonathan Sharrock)

242 Written evidence from the National Housing Federation (RST0054)

243 Written evidence from Chichester District Council (RST0044)

244 The two LEPs that Mr Sharrock refers to were Coast to Capital LEP and South East LEP.

245 Q 170 (Jonathan Sharrock).

246 HC Deb, 24 July 2018, HCWS27

247 Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Strengthened Local Enterprise Partnerships (July 2018) p 10: [accessed 25 March 201]

248 Q 85 (Steve Double MP) 

249 Q 180 (Jake Berry MP)

250 Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, ‘£40 million fund to transform UK’s coastal communities opens for applications’ (26 February 2018): [accessed 25 March201]

251 Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, ‘Coastal Communities’: [accessed 25 March 201)

252 Written evidence from MHCLG (RST0122)

253 Written evidence from MHCLG (RST0122)

254 In 2015, the Government announced a separate £3million Coastal Revival Fund, which was aimed at reviving at-risk coastal heritage and hard-to-tackle buildings, facilities and amusements such as piers, lidos and proms. Sectors: Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Press Release, Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, New coastal revival fund and community teams to bring jobs and businesses to seaside towns (27 February 2015): [accessed 25 March 201]

255 Written evidence from Suffolk Coastal and Waverney District Council (RST002)

256 Q 14 (Nicola Radford)

257 Written evidence from Chideok Parish Council (RST0023)

258 Written evidence from The National Coastal Tourism Academy (RST0080)

259 Q 1 (Dr David Tudor)

260 Q 182 (Jake Berry MP)

261 Q 182 (Jake Berry MP)

262 Written evidence from Thanet District Council (RST0046)

263 Written evidence from Snettisham Parish Council (RST0003)

264 Written evidence from East Lindsey District Council (RST006)

265 Q 2 (Ben Pledger)

266 Q 175 (Jake Berry MP)

267 Written evidence from East Lindsey Council (RST006)

268 Written evidence from North Somerset Council (RST010)

26 Written evidence from Great Yarmouth Borough Council (RST0064)

270 Written evidence from Lincolnshire County Council (RST0028)

271 Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, ‘Government announces landmark Town Deal for Greater Grimsby’ (5 July 2018): [accessed 25 March 201]

272 Written evidence from Blackpool Council (RST0081)

273 Written evidence from Dorset County Council (RST0072)

274 Q 187 (Jake Berry MP)

275 Q 187 (Jake Berry MP)

276 Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, ‘£1.6 billion Stronger Towns Fund’ (4 March 201: [accessed 4 March 201]

277 Ibid.

278 Joseph Rowntree Foundation, ‘Many place remain locked out of prosperity—JRF responds to Stronger Towns Fund’ (4 March 201): [accessed 6 March 201]

27 HM Government, ‘Looking for a place to grow your business?’ (201): [accessed 28 February 201]

280 Q 187 (Jake Berry MP)

281 Q (Ben Pledger)

282 Written evidence from MHCLG (RST007)

283 Written evidence from the Local Government Association Coastal Special Interest Group (RST00)

284 Written evidence from the Torbay Development Agency (RST0060)

285 Written evidence from Wyre Borough Council (RST0083)

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