The future of seaside towns Contents

Summary of conclusions and recommendations

Chapter 2: Background and approach

1.It is not clear to us whether the acceptance of the recommendation—the need for further research into the challenges facing coastal communities, including the disproportionately high levels of people claiming sickness and disability benefits in coastal towns compared to the national average—has been delivered by the Government. We therefore invite the Government to update us on the status of its response to this recommendation. (Paragraph 37)

Chapter 3: The economy of seaside towns

2.It is vital for the future prosperity of smaller seaside resorts that they have the opportunity to benefit from national tourism campaigns, and from nationally provided research and support, to help to develop their tourism products. (Paragraph 54)

3.We consider that the restoration and enhancement of the public realm and of cultural heritage assets through capital investment is of paramount importance in supporting the wider economy in seaside towns, and recommend that the Government takes this into account as part of their ongoing review of local authority resources. (Paragraph 60)

4.At the time of publication, negotiations were continuing between the Government and industry on the proposed Tourism Sector Deal. We consider the Tourism Sector Deal to be an important opportunity to help support the regeneration of seaside towns and communities. (Paragraph 68)

5.Coastal communities have told us that boosting the local tourism economy in their areas relies on solving a range of complex and often interconnected issues. For example, a dilapidated public realm, and the social challenges often association with deprivation, will not only deter visitors, but will also limit the chances of securing the investment needed to support and develop tourist activity and encourage businesses such as hotels and restaurants to base their activity in that area. Designated tourism zones could offer a package of support for these areas, and provide the kind of comprehensive approach that seaside towns need to revitalise their local visitor economies. (Paragraph 69)

6.We recommend that, in taking forward the Tourism Sector Deal, the Government ensures that any such Sector Deal gives full account to the important role played by seaside towns in the tourism industry. We recommend that any initial designation of Tourism Action Zones must include seaside towns. (Paragraph 70)

7.We support progress made so far by tourist organisations in outlining what Tourism Action Zones should focus upon, and we recommend that Tourism Action Zones must include: prioritisation of infrastructure provision, both transport and digital; access to support and research to help develop tourism products; and support for local businesses to develop the digital skills they require to reach new markets and remain competitive. (Paragraph 71)

8.Seaside towns need to be able to invest in the buildings and assets that make them unique. We recommend that Tourism Action Zones should include greater freedoms for local authorities to access capital funds for projects aimed at improving the public realm and other cultural and heritage assets. (Paragraph 72)

9.We recommend that the Government undertakes further research into the potential impact of cutting VAT on tourism-related activities. (Paragraph 88)

10.The creative industries have a clear role in supporting seaside towns to diversify their economies and enhance their local cultural assets. Capital investment must be made in the context of its impact on the place generally and be monitored and evaluated accordingly. It is vital that evaluation processes for grant funding for heritage and arts projects address issues relating to place-based approaches to regeneration, so as to ensure that public funds are used prudently, and that best practice can be understood and shared. (Paragraph 101)

11.Commercial ports play an important role in supporting the coastal economy. We believe that port operators, such as Associated British Ports, have the potential to help to drive regeneration in seaside towns. We therefore recommend that current planning restrictions which limit the potential for changes of use on port sites are amended to remove the barriers which prevent the productive development of land. (Paragraph 106)

12.For some areas, promoting or reinvigorating tourism has been overstated as a solution to local economic challenges. Additional support is needed to recognise, promote and support diversification where a sole reliance on tourism is no longer a viable option. (Paragraph 112)

13.Inadequate transport connectivity is holding back many coastal communities and hindering the realisation of their economic potential. Emphasis should be accorded to isolated coastal communities which are at ‘the end of the line’. (Paragraph 123)

14.We recommend that the Department for Transport, informed by the advice of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, prioritises improvements to the coastal transport network when it takes decisions on planning and investment. This should be informed by a detailed review of the coastal transport network which includes an assessment of where the greatest socio-economic benefits can be realised through improvements to transport connectivity. (Paragraph 124)

15.Improved digital connectivity presents a significant opportunity to overcome the challenges of peripherality in coastal areas, and would help existing businesses, encourage new businesses, and enable people to work more flexibly from home without the need to commute. Assistance in delivering ultra-fast broadband in seaside towns should be the highest priority for the Government if the regeneration of these areas is to be achieved. (Paragraph 129)

16.We recommend that the Government should promote initiatives to support digital connectivity in coastal communities specifically, and undertake a full programme of engagement with local authorities, LEPs and businesses in remote coastal communities to help to understand better the challenges to improved digital connectivity in coastal areas. The provision of high-quality broadband and mobile connectivity in coastal locations should be considered a priority, and an effective infrastructure investment in areas where the physical transport infrastructure is limited. (Paragraph 130)

Chapter 4: Education and skills: stimulating an entrepreneurial culture

17.We agree with this concern over future arrangements and recommend that the Government sets out its plans for evaluation of the impact of the Opportunity Area programme and accordingly brings forward proposals setting out how the programme will evolve after 2020, in relation to the long-term needs of seaside towns. (Paragraph 142)

18.Limited access to education, in particular to FE and HE institutions, is severely curtailing opportunities and denting aspirations for young people in some coastal areas. (Paragraph 147)

19.We agree with Professor Fribbance’s assertion above that there is never going to be “a bricks-and-mortar offering” of higher education in every coastal town. Greater scope for flexible access both to further and higher education, such as online, part-time and distance learning, must therefore be part of the solution, and we recommend that the Government produces ambitious proposals for how it can best support and encourage flexible access as part of its review of Post-18 Education and Funding. (Paragraph 148)

20.We recommend that the Government enables the facilitation of partnership working between the FE and HE sectors, and local business and industry, in coastal and other isolated areas. The Careers and Enterprise Company and Founders4Schools are examples of best practice in this area. This best practice should be disseminated, and consideration given to launching a coastal-specific initiative, locally administered, aimed at encouraging and nurturing partnerships between schools, further education and higher education providers, and employers, in order to create a ‘talent pipeline’ able to serve local industries. (Paragraph 152)

21.The cost of post-16 transport is an impediment to accessing educational opportunities in certain coastal areas. We recommend that the Government funds relevant local authorities to provide full public transport costs for post-16 students in coastal communities. (Paragraph 154)

22.We recommend that the Government undertakes a bespoke review to examine what can be done, including consideration of a major marketing campaign, to attract teachers to seaside towns and communities and to incentivise healthy levels of retention. (Paragraph 156)

23.We recommend that the Government launches a targeted investment and improvement programme for both primary and secondary schools in coastal communities. (Paragraph 158)

24.We acknowledge this concern and recommend that the Government reviews as a matter of urgency how well the apprenticeship scheme functions in areas, and sectors, with high levels of seasonal employment, including the provision of flexible and general education and training programmes, and introduces appropriate adjustments to the scheme. (Paragraph 161)

25.It is vital to recognise that for young people in seasonal employment, the periods when they are not in employment should be seen as an opportunity for training and the development of skills to expand their employment prospects. For example, if a person works for six months of the year in seasonal employment, it seems reasonable to us that their employer should fund a month and a half’s training (the same ratio of work to off-the-job training as applies to an apprenticeship) and paid holiday. That leaves a period of time unaccounted for, which might usefully be filled with training or off-season work. (Paragraph 165)

26.Enhancing the status and potential of pursuing a career in the hospitality industry is important to the regeneration of many seaside towns. The outcome of the negotiations over the Tourism Sector Deal will, we agree, be of critical importance, and the Government must make efforts to promote and champion the hospitality industry. Its status and attractiveness must be dramatically bolstered. (Paragraph 169)

27.The economies of many seaside towns are suffering from skills shortages. We recommend that the Government urgently examines the causes of the skills shortages in coastal towns. In doing so, the Government should encourage and support local skills strategies to enable successful and sustainable partnerships to flourish between industry, local educational institutions and the third sector. (Paragraph 170)

Chapter 5: Housing, wellbeing and the built environment

28.A sustained, long-term effort is required to address the impact of transience on coastal areas. We recommend that the Department for Work and Pensions works with MHCLG to assess the scale and impact of population transience in and out of coastal areas, and examine the extent to which this is a result of non-coastal local authorities placing vulnerable adults and children into these areas. Such an assessment should be cross-referenced with the Government’s updated research into the challenges facing coastal communities, including the disproportionately high levels of people claiming sickness and disability benefits in coastal towns, referred to in paragraph 48. (Paragraph 187)

29.We recommend that funding for the receiving coastal local authorities should reflect the financial impact of providing adequate services to support the needs of vulnerable people. (Paragraph 188)

30.Perverse financial incentives to offer poor accommodation, financial pressures on inspection and enforcement regimes, and the sheer scale of the problems associated with housing, mean that many coastal areas are making only very limited headway relative to the size of the problems they are experiencing. (Paragraph 216)

31.We recommend that the Government determines whether local authorities require additional powers to address the problems arising in areas with especially large numbers of HMOs. This determination should include the introduction of measures that enable local authorities to safeguard resources necessary for the enforcement of housing standards. (Paragraph 217)

32.We recommend that the Government implements changes to the system for the calculation of local housing allowance rates in areas with high densities of HMOs, to ensure it more accurately reflect local market rents. (Paragraph 218)

33.We recommend that the Government considers how existing funding for housing, such as the Homes England fund, might be used to support place-making as well as the creation of new homes. (Paragraph 219)

34.We recommend the introduction of stronger incentives for private landlords to improve the quality and design of their properties. This might include tax relief for making improvements to properties. (Paragraph 220)

35.We recommend that the Government pilots the introduction of Housing Action Zones, which might comprise of the proposed recommendations outlined above, and be delivered as a comprehensive package of measures to support housing regeneration in coastal areas. (Paragraph 221)

36.It is vital that the Government recognises that there is frequently an additional cost of delivering health services in coastal areas, due to higher proportions of older people, the impact of population transience, the prevalence of poor mental health and geographical isolation. Again, seaside towns are disadvantaged; Government policy, where it pertains to decisions on priorities for investment, with particular regard to national funding formulae, must recognise this. (Paragraph 242)

37.We welcome the approach in the NHS Long-Term Plan and hope that it helps to address—through a multi-agency partnership approach—the root causes of poor health outcomes in coastal communities. (Paragraph 243)

38.We recommend that DEFRA reviews and revises the approach taken to coastal flood risk investment decisions in order to give greater account to the protection of non-residential properties and assets, including business and public infrastructure. (Paragraph 255)

39.A wide range of benefits may be provided by investment in coastal protection, and we highlight the positive impact that such schemes can have upon the public realm and the visitor economy. (Paragraph 261)

40.We recommend that development and planning processes for future coastal protection schemes should include an appraisal of how designs might benefit the wider economy and the public realm. (Paragraph 262)

Chapter 6: Support for regeneration—funding and delivery

41.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. (Paragraph 291)

42.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. (Paragraph 292)

43.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. (Paragraph 293)

44.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. (Paragraph 294)

45.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. (Paragraph 299)

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

47.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. (Paragraph 301)

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

49.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. (Paragraph 315)

50.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. (Paragraph 316)

51.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. (Paragraph 321)

52.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. (Paragraph 322)

53.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. (Paragraph 326)

54.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. (Paragraph 330)

55.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. (Paragraph 338)

56.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. (Paragraph 339)

57.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. (Paragraph 346)

58.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. (Paragraph 347)

59.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. (Paragraph 348)

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