Bacta chief executive John White has gone before the House of Lords’ seaside regeneration committee and called for co-ordinated public and private investment in the appearance of Britain’s coastal towns.
“Aesthetics are often overlooked as one of the key barriers,” he said to peers in Westminster last week. “We go to seaside towns and sometimes the litter hasn’t been picked up, and the investment on the roundabout and the road into town hasn’t been maintained. It can leave a very poor impression on the visitor and dissuade them from coming back.”
White also stressed the importance of improving parking close to coastal amusements and attractions, saying it was one “affordable” but “crucial” way of “making the town and the resort work.”
“The [amusements] offer is very good and sound,” he observed. “People clearly enjoy it and they come back…29 per cent of the population visited a seaside arcade in the last 12 months.”
But White’s position was not universally accepted, at least not by Weymouth community group leader Jason West who countered that the trade association chief’s amusement-focused view was overly “simplistic” – and argued the case for greater diversification of the coastal economy.
“It’s well documented that Weymouth is a deprived area and much like places like Blackpool and Lowestoft it is suffering due to the demise of the British holiday,” he said. “This is 2018 – not Victorian times. No one denies that traditional British resorts have always had arcades, piers, proms, funfairs – that’s our heritage but we can’t see the wood for the trees if we keep ploughing the same furrow.”
True, many would agree, notably the current All-Party Lords Select Committee which is looking into seaside regeneration and is likely to strongly reinforce this specific point.
However, contrary to the Weymouth view, there has been a significant rise in staycations and day trips to seaside resorts in recent years, confirming the argument that Britain’s coastal towns are doing their utmost to reinvent themselves, or re-market themselves at least. Which positions the Bacta argument on fairly strong ground; that, plus what the Weymouth argument seems to ignore,the damage being done by poor quality transport links to the seaside, the paucity of parking facilities for visitors, and the burdensome rate levels applied to local businesses.
Not in accord on all matters, what does unite the Bacta and Weymouth community group is the desperate need for sustainable regeneration projects at Britain’s seaside resorts.