Seaside Tsar to help towns fight back

A Seaside Tsar should be appointed to help Britain’s forgotten seaside towns fight back from decades of decay according to new research which paints a grim picture of the problems facing many coastal communities.

The report, commissioned by the British Hospitality Association, says that people living in seaside towns are more likely to be poorly educated, unemployed, unemployable, lacking in ambition, claiming benefits and living in multiple occupation housing.

A separate survey, conducted by the owners of Butlin’s and the BHA, found that more than half of the British public have not visited the British seaside in the past three years, and 65% believe that the British seaside is run down and in need of investment.

In Scotland, 245,717 people are employed in the hospitality and tourism industry which contributes £137 million to Scotland’s economy.

Angus MacNeil MP said: “Scotland’s coastlines appeals to a wide variety of tourists offering activities such as walking, wildlife watching, sailing, cycling and sightseeing.”

“With nearly half of Scotland’s population living within 5km of the seaside, the coast is a fundamental part of both the Scottish economy and our livelihood. I welcome the BHA’s report and urge the Government to do all it can to support investment in one of this country’s greatest assets.”

The BHA report says that the collapse of shipbuilding and fishing, the decline of the traditional annual holiday by the seaside, growing drug use, and cutbacks in budgets affecting maintenance of public places, street cleaning and tourism promotion have all contributed to the situation.

The BHA has produced a seven point action plan to breathe new life into seaside towns which calls on the Government to:

1. Appoint a Seaside Tsar to coordinate a coherent response across all departments and spending - very much like Lord Heseltine’s work in Liverpool in the 1980s.

2. Establish Coastal Action Groups, to develop a co-ordinated response and investment strategy to target the specific social and economic challenges that seaside towns face.

3. Create a progressive tax environment, including a reduction in Tourism VAT, to encourage coastal businesses to invest in themselves.

4. Create Coastal Enterprise Zones to incentivise investment and encourage businesses to move to the coast and create jobs.

5. Invest in critical infrastructure and improve broadband, rail and road connections, and protect against the threat of rising sea levels.

6. Improve education and training provision for young people and adults to ensure that they have the skills for a variety of sectors.

7. Support Local Authorities to tackle social issues and housing problems which reduce their attraction as visitor destination

Ufi Ibrahim, Chief Executive of the BHA said: “We look forward to the appointment of a Seaside Tsar. Our members, who invest in and operate hospitality and tourism businesses recognise the problems facing many coastal communities but we also know there are fantastic opportunities to boost these places and help revive the Great British Seaside holiday.

“250 million visits are already made to the UK’s coast each year, generating £17 billion to the economy. But we know there is a lot more to do – and that can only happen with a concerted effort by a committed government and the private sector. Together we can turn the tide and bring a smile back to the seaside.”