MPs warn of seaside decline

Seaside towns are locked in a downward spiral of decline and deprivation, a damning report by MPs warned yesterday.Once the glory of the English coastline, many communities are characterised by physical isolation, high levels of poverty and poor housing, the Commons Communities and Local Government Committee report said.

Seaside towns are locked in a downward spiral of decline and deprivation, a damning report by MPs warned yesterday.

Once the glory of the English coastline, many communities are characterised by physical isolation, high levels of poverty and poor housing, the Commons Communities and Local Government Committee report said.

Second home owners, coastal erosion, flooding and a vicious circle of low aspiration and poor academic achievement all contributed to the worsening problem, the committee found.

The report continued that such areas often suffered from a “skewed demographic profile” as young people left to find jobs elsewhere while second home owners and retirement couples put health and social services under pressure.

“The government has neglected the needs of coastal towns for too long. A greater understanding and appreciation is needed of the challenges faced in coastal towns,” the committee said.

Clive Stockton, deputy leader of North Norfolk District Council and portfolio holder for coastal issues, said erosion was causing economic as well as physical blight while officials refused to promise future shoreline management.

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Hilary Nelson, the council's cabinet member for tourism, who contributed her expertise to the report, said part of the problem was that deprivation lay hidden in sparsely populated areas and despite millions of pounds of European money going to regenerate coastal towns not enough was being done for more rural communities.

“Problems in places like Yarmouth and Blackpool tend to blanket those in small villages which then get overlooked. I'm glad this report has highlighted the issue.”

And Barry Stone, deputy leader of Yarmouth borough council and cabinet member for economy, said that the issue was historical, laying in the decline of tourism and the seasonal nature of employment and the economy as well as the fact that when a town fell into decline it became a self-perpetuating problem.

Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk, said: “The image for some coastal towns from the outside is that of a pleasant place to live which is true but governments then assume they are without problems.”

However Wendy Mawer, Waveney District Council's portfolio holder for regeneration, said that while she recognised the problems faced by places like Lowestoft, much was being done to help them “corkscrew back up again”.

The MPs report said that in many towns, the high numbers of young people with “low educational levels and low aspirations” were comparable to those in inner cities and they were in need of the same sort of help.

“Housing in many coastal towns appears to be characterised by a dual economy, with high house prices, often fuelled by inward migration and second homes, alongside a large, low-quality private rented sector,” the report said.