Seaside towns and communities have continued to see a lack of progress in tackling entrenched problems to enable these areas to flourish.
The Government’s Levelling up agenda, which aspires to target areas in the most need, is welcome but more needs to be done to target seaside towns and communities which are yet to receive the support they need. The responsibility for seaside towns and communities ought to be allocated to a Levelling Up Ministerial portfolio. This will give these areas the recognition they need and add a necessary voice in discussions on levelling up.
The Government needs to work with the Local Government Association, coastal interest groups, the private sector, the third sector and other stakeholders to develop a coastal communities strategy in order to demonstrate clear mechanisms to successfully address the long-standing disparities faced by seaside towns and communities.
The draft strategy, covering issues such as transport and digital connectivity, education, and health and wellbeing, should be put to the House of Commons Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee to ensure effective scrutiny of the strategy ahead of implementation. This work should be started as a matter of urgency to ensure that disparities do not become further entrenched.
Initiatives such as the Levelling Up Partnerships are to be commended and are positive steps towards place-based solutions, however the Government needs to ensure that lessons learned and best practice is shared to benefit other areas that face similar challenges.
These are some of the key findings and recommendations of a new report from the House of Lords Liaison Committee that follows up the 2019 report by the Select Committee on Regenerating Seaside Towns and Communities.
Lord Bassam of Brighton, former Chair of the Select Committee on Regenerating Seaside Towns and Communities, said:
“Four years on from our original report we have seen little progress in seaside towns and communities and their endemic problems continue to persist.
“The Government’s Levelling up agenda wasn’t really a ‘thing’ when we carried out our inquiry, but the aspiration to target areas in the most need aligns with many of the conclusions and recommendations in our 2019 report to support seaside towns and communities.
“What these communities need now is urgent action to address the combination of deeply entrenched issues they face. This demands a long-term strategy from the Government. Not a succession of short-term initiatives. It must find a way to provide the support needed for effective regeneration and to address systemic challenges.”
The committee’s other findings and recommendations include:
- While the Government has recognised the complexity of the current funding landscapes and the pitfalls involved in the bidding systems in place, the Government’s funding review must establish a clearer and more effectively targeted system. The review needs to acknowledge and address the need for long-term funding to address deep-rooted challenges faced in these areas and create sustainable change in seaside towns and communities.
- The Committee welcomes steps to grant greater powers to local areas to enable greater place-based decision making. It remains essential that coastal towns and communities are not lost amongst the challenges and competing concerns that local authorities face, so future deals and local authority arrangements should reflect the needs of seaside towns and communities in their remit and appropriate geographical area.
- The Committee reiterates the 2019 recommendation that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities should work with the Department for Transport to ensure that areas of most need are properly prioritised for planning and investment. The current approach is clearly not effective, and innovative solutions are needed to provide transport networks that work for coastal areas
- The Government must keep the Education Investment Areas and Priority Education Investment Areas selected under review to assess whether these are effectively targeting the areas of greatest need.