Seaside towns must be inspired to regain their pioneering spirit after years of neglect, peers urge political leaders

A scene at Withernsea on the Yorkshire coast. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
A scene at Withernsea on the Yorkshire coast. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Seaside towns must be “inspired to regain their pioneering spirit” after years of neglect and evolve to meet the challenges facing them in the years ahead, a committee of peers today urged political leaders.

A package of measures drawn up at local and national level is needed, said the Lords Select Committee on Regenerating Seaside Towns, with many coastal communities “in desperate need of improvements to transport, housing and broadband”.

The report, which highlighted how Yorkshire seaside towns such as Hornsea and Whitby are being held back by a lack of transport infrastructure, cited the southern resorts of Brighton and Bournemouth as examples of how ‘the seaside’ can reinvent itself.

Committee chairman Lord Bassam of Brighton said seaside towns could “once again become prosperous and desirable places to live in and visit” but had been neglected for too long.

He said: “They suffer from issues rooted in the decline of their core industries, most notably domestic tourism, but also in fishing, shipbuilding and port activity, and from their location at the ‘end of the line’. The potential impact of Brexit on these towns, particularly the hospitality sector, also remains an open question.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “The Government is determined to ensure our economy works for everyone and every place.

“We are on track to invest £200 million in the Great British Coast by 2020 and recently announced a £36 million package of support to projects in coastal communities through our Coastal Communities Fund and Coastal Revival Fund. We have also made a commitment to support towns to harness their unique strengths to grow and prosper through the £1.6 billion Stronger Towns Fund.

“We recognise the challenges facing our seaside towns and will carefully consider the committee’s recommendations to build on the significant steps we have already taken to help coastal communities thrive.”

The Yorkshire Post says: Business district could bring benefits for region’s coastal communities

Education

Limited access to education, particularly for children who have left school, is "severely curtailing opportunities and denting aspirations" for young people in some coastal areas, peers have warned.

In a report released today, the Lords Select Committee on Regenerating Seaside Towns called on the Government to promote closer working between the further education and higher education sectors, local business and industry, in coastal and other isolated areas."

In the Future of Seaside Towns report, the peers urged the Government to prioritise improvements to the coastal transport network - blaming poor connectivity for some of the problems faced by many coastal areas.

They said poor links are "severely hindering" opportunities to bring about improvements to tourism or for attracting inward investment.

The report also called on ministers to promote initiatives to support digital connectivity - such as high-speed broadband - in coastal communities, saying doing so would provide an opportunity to "overcome the challenges of peripherality in coastal areas".

The peers also called for ministers to set out how coastal areas will benefit from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which will replace EU funding after Brexit, and to increase resources for the Coastal Communities Fund.

The report said: "Many seaside towns are facing considerable challenges across all levels of the education and skills system.

"Such challenges, we were told repeatedly, were affecting educational outcomes, and thereby disadvantaging young people and acting as a barrier to growth.

"Many witnesses emphasised the limited accessibility to educational institutions for young people in seaside towns."

Scarborough and Whitby MP Robert Goodwill said some of the points in the report were "spot on" as some of local schools "are not delivering the education that some children elsewhere in North Yorkshire receive".

He added: "We have a couple of schools that are not delivering and that is a real priority.

"But in other areas Scarborough is bucking the trend. For example we have seen investment in the tourism industry. We’ve got the open air theatre hosting acts like Kylie Minogue and Britney Spears."

Janet Jefferson, President of the Scarborough Chamber of Trade and Commerce and an independent borough and country councillor, welcomed the report and said: "It shows there is a light at the end of the tunnel for these resorts."

She added: "There is so much potential but it is getting it all together with the connectivity."

She said improvements were already underway on transport, with trains every half an hour to York promised by the end of 2019 and better links to London.

But she added: "One of the things we are still looking for is the dualling of most of the A64 [between York and the coast]. This is something that has been ongoing for years."

Peers on the select committee came to Yorkshire in December as part of a visit hosted by Scarborough council.

Liz Philpot, East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s growth programmes and policy manager, said this gave them “a more thorough understanding of the challenges, but also the opportunities which, if developed in the right way, offer huge potential for future economic growth”.

She said the launch of the Government’s Stronger Towns Fund and the development of local industrial strategies are “well timed to help these opportunities to be realised”.