With the House of Lords, Labour, the Bank of England, UKHospitality, BALPPA and Bacta all renewing focus on coastal communities, now is the time to band together and back the Great British seaside.
Recently, it has become clear that a renewed focus is turning towards coastal communities and their economies.
This fresh attention comes not only from Bacta, BALPPA and UKHospitality, many of whose members do business on the coast, but also from the Bank of England, the opposition party in government, and most recently,the House of Lords.
However, many previous calls to action have gone unanswered. In 2016, the British Hospitality Association (now UKHospitality) called for a Seaside Tsar to coordinate a coherent response to the issues facing coastal communities across all government departments.Their report on Creating Coastal Power- house asked for a reduction in TourismVAT,the creation of Coastal Enterprise Zones, and an investment in infrastructure,training and digital frameworks. Two years later, none of these projects have begun.
In 2012, the ‘lighter later’ campaign, backed by BALPPA and many others in the industry,found its way all the way to parliament.If passed, the policy would have brought a shift in average sunset time year round from 6.35pm to 7.30pm, giving an average gain of 55 minutes of “accessible”evening daylight every day of the year. It was also pipped to add £3bn to the UK’s tourism industry – but instead, it was filibustered by a handful of noisy MPs.
Indeed,perhaps the most promising sign of any impetus for coastal reform has been the quietest. Andy Haldane, the Bank of England’s chief economist, toured seaside towns earlier in the year, remarking on the urgent need to revitalise coastal economies and restore the iconic reputation of Britain’s seaside. Perhaps it was even his influence that led to the creation of the recent House of Lords Select Committee on Regenerating Seaside Towns and Communities – the latest initiative for improving seaside towns.
And it’s a project the previous exponents for improving seaside towns must get fully behind.The committee must be informed of the importance of FECs to seaside economies, and while they acknowledge parking and transport is an issue,the committee must be urged to find a real solution. Another examination of seaside issues isn’t enough – the industry needs to work together, and put their combined weight behind coastal change.