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Solving the riddle of the sands Regenerating Englands seaside towns


									                           Solving the riddle of the sands:
                           Regenerating England’s
                           seaside towns
                           Received (in revised form): 31st March, 2009

                           Benedict Rickey
                           is a consultant with Shared Intelligence with experience as a researcher in the voluntary and private sectors. A published
                           author with a background in ethnographic research, he is particularly interested in multiple deprivation, social exclusion and
                           urban renewal.

                           John Houghton
                           is a principal consultant with Shared Intelligence and a writer and adviser on neighbourhoods, cities and social exclusion.

                           Abstract Many seaside towns are caught in a cycle of decline, stemming from the
                           historic fall in demand for traditional ‘bucket and spade’ holidays. Economic stagnation,
                           physical disinvestment and social problems feed into and reinforce each other in
                           complex ways. Regenerating seaside towns is made all the more difficult by their
                           relative remoteness and distance from the big cities. Political and academic interest in
                           the subject means that there is now a greater awareness of the problem, but this only
                           highlights the limits of knowledge of ‘what works’. This paper outlines a framework for
                           seaside regeneration that has diversification of the economic base of seaside towns at
                           its core. There are grounds for cautious optimism, but re-making seaside towns as
                           vibrant and sustainable communities is still a huge and long-term challenge: one made
                           all the more complex by the recession.

                           Keywords: Seaside, tourism, decline, deprivation, regeneration, policy

                           INTRODUCTION                                                        economy in places such as Margate in
                           Over the past forty years, some of                                  South East England and Blackpool in the
                           England’s most famous seaside towns                                 North West. Physical decay, housing
                           have become caught in a cycle of                                    market imbalances and concentrations of
                           decline. A new, more focused and                                    deprived and vulnerable households have
                           ambitious approach is needed to                                     followed in the wake of weak economic
                           regenerate and re-fit them for the                                   growth.
                           economic opportunities and                                             In places where the holiday season
Benedict Rickey            environmental challenges of the future.                             once generated jobs, revenue and a sense
Shared Intelligence,
1 Fitzroy Square, London      The decline of the traditional ‘bucket                           of place and purpose, one now finds
W1T 5HE, UK                and spade’ tourism industry, in the face                            severe social problems. A recent
Tel: 44 (0)20 7756 7600    of competition from low-cost foreign                                benchmarking study of England’s 37
fax: 44 (0)20 77567601
e-mail: Benedict.Rickey@
                           package holidays, fundamentally                                     largest seaside towns found that their     undermined the viability of the local                               populations are older, earn significantly

46        Journal of Urban Regeneration and Renewal                       Vol. 3, 1, 46–55   Henry Stewart Publications 1752–9646 (2009)
                                                                          Regenerating England’s seaside towns

        less and are more likely to be on some                          In framing this argument, we draw on
        form of out-of-work benefit than the rest                     the detailed work which we did to
        of the country.1                                             develop a long-term regeneration strategy
           After years of being on the margins                       for Margate, on behalf of the Margate
        of the national policy agenda, there is                      Renewal Partnership and Thanet District
        now a growing appreciation of the                            Council, with support from Kent County
        problems facing seaside towns, with                          Council and the Department for
        parliamentary committees, departmental                       Communities and Local Government
        working groups and practitioner                              (CLG). The paper also draws on
        networks all looking for new ideas.                          subsequent discussions with a range of
        The policy blind-spot is starting to be                      practitioners from seaside towns across
        addressed.                                                   England and Wales.
           Little is known, however, about what
        works in terms of regenerating seaside
        towns. Regeneration policy and practice                      CYCLE OF DECLINE
        have tended to focus on inner-city                           Many seaside towns have become
        deprivation, but the location of many                        trapped in a complex and self-reinforcing
        seaside towns makes it more difficult for                     cycle of decline, stemming from the
        them to tap into the drivers of growth                       relatively sudden collapse in demand for
        — such as access to housing and retail                       traditional ‘bucket and spade’ holidays. In
        markets, high-value land banks and                           our work in Margate, we traced how the
        proximity to growth points — which are                       shrinkage of the tourist trade from the
        used to catalyse urban regeneration.                         1960s fuelled increases in unemployment,
           Regeneration practitioners working to                     falls in house prices and related
        revive struggling seaside towns are left                     imbalances in the housing market and,
        with a set of complex questions. What                        over time, community instability and
        can seaside towns do to fit themselves                        deep pockets of deprivation.
        better to new and emerging markets                               Mass domestic tourism was the
        and growth sectors? How can they                             lifeblood of seaside towns such as
        shake off the legacy of disinvestment                        Margate in the South East, Southport
        and decay and update their ‘offer’ to                        and Blackpool in the North West, and
        potential visitors, residents and investors?                 Skegness in the East Midlands from the
        How can they drive regeneration during                       late Victorian period. By the middle of
        a recession and at a time of limited                         the last century, a broad swathe of the
        credit?                                                      population, including a significant
           This paper attempts to sketch out an                      proportion of working class families,
        answer to those questions. First, it                         could afford a summer holiday. Seaside
        describes how many seaside towns fell                        towns expanded and adapted to meet
        into a cycle of decline from the 1960s                       this seemingly ever-growing demand.
        onwards, using Margate as an illustration.                   The expansion was halted and then
        It then provides a snapshot of current                       reversed by the increasing affordability
        conditions and highlights the growing                        of low-cost foreign package holidays,
        policy debate around deprivation and                         which meant the same working class
        regeneration in seaside towns. Finally, it                   families could fly or take a coach to
        argues that more comprehensive and                           Spain and France.
        holistic regeneration solutions are needed                       The impact of this change on Margate
        to support seaside towns to generate a                       was profound. The local services,
        new economic purpose.                                        facilities and skills which had evolved to

Henry Stewart Publications 1752–9646 (2009) Vol. 3, 1, 46–55   Journal of Urban Regeneration and Renewal      47
Rickey and Houghton

                   serve the tourism market, and which had             Without the income from holidaymakers,
                   anchored the local economy, were less               piers, promenades and lidos are costly to
                   and less in demand. The holidaymakers               maintain and difficult to convert to meet
                   for whom Margate had shaped itself to               alternative purposes.
                   cater were no longer coming in the same                In parallel to the increase in
                   numbers; the town was losing its                    unemployment and poverty among
                   economic purpose.                                   long-standing communities in Margate, it
                      The local workforce, and young                   quickly became a destination for
                   people entering the labour market in                vulnerable and transient households,
                   particular, were less and less able to rely         including care leavers, people with
                   on the hospitality and catering trade for           substance abuse problems and
                   jobs. Although many of these jobs were              ex-offenders. Seaside towns have been
                   unglamorous and relatively low paid,                described as the ‘dumping grounds for
                   they nevertheless gave local people their           people facing problems such as
                   first step into the job market. Today,               unemployment, social exclusion and
                   13.3 per cent of working age adults in              substance abuse’.3 Some of these
                   seaside towns claim one of the three                households were attracted by the
                   main benefits for the non-employed,                  availability of cheap accommodation in a
                   compared with 11.2 per cent nationally.             relatively attractive location; others were
                   Some — including Skegness in the East               encouraged to move into the town by
                   Midlands and Great Yarmouth in the                  service providers in other parts of the
                   East of England — have a rate of over               country.3 Margate, like a handful of other
                   20 per cent, almost double the national             seaside towns, has also been used as a
                   average.                                            processing centre for asylum seekers.
                      The housing market in Margate was                   By the 1990s, the decline of many
                   affected even more dramatically than the            seaside towns was so stark that they had
                   labour market. The reduced number of                become stigmatised. Tabloid-friendly
                   holidaymakers left the town with an                 phrases such as ‘Costa del Dole’ were
                   over-supply of rooms in hotels and                  used to paint a grim picture of stagnation
                   B&Bs. Struggling to find customers,                  and dependency, further knocking local
                   many landlords sub-divided their                    confidence and doing little to attract
                   properties into bed-sits and small flats             households or investors. Another layer of
                   and made them available to benefit                   complexity was created in Margate by
                   recipient and low-income, often                     the arrival of migrant workers from the
                   single-person, households. Single-person            new EU accession states. Margate is
                   households represent almost half of                 located in the District of Thanet, where
                   households in Margate’s Cliftonville West           the number of migrants more than
                   and Margate Central wards, the most                 doubled between 2002/03 and 2006/07,
                   deprived parts of the town, compared                the majority arriving to take up jobs in
                   with less than one third nationally.2               nearby rural areas, following the
                      The unusual design of seafront hotels            expansion of the EU in 2004.4 These
                   — several storeys high, little space at the         households arrived to work, but local
                   front or back — made them unattractive              services were ill-equipped to support and
                   to buyers, and difficult to convert to               integrate them. They added another
                   more typical family accommodation.                  transitory group to an already transient
                   Other aspects of the unusual physical               population of placed children and adults,
                   infrastructure of seaside towns went from           benefit claimants and others drawn by
                   being an asset to a drain on resources.             cheap rented accommodation.

48    Journal of Urban Regeneration and Renewal   Vol. 3, 1, 46–55   Henry Stewart Publications 1752–9646 (2009)
                                                                          Regenerating England’s seaside towns

           Taken together, this complex set of                       of skills in England’s 37 largest seaside
        interlocked problems — a weak labour                         towns are both below the national
        market; an unbalanced housing market;                        average, although this masks significant
        high levels of deprivation and population                    differences between seaside towns.
        transience — created very unstable                           Thirty-one per cent of working-age
        communities and made it extremely hard                       adults in Blackpool and 39 per cent in
        for local service providers and                              Skegness have no formal qualifications,
        regeneration practitioners to put Margate                    compared with a national average of 23
        on a more sustainable and prosperous                         per cent. Over 13 per cent of adults are
        path.                                                        on some form of benefit, compared with
                                                                     the national average of 11 per cent, and,
                                                                     worryingly, the rate of Incapacity Benefit
        CURRENT CHALLENGES                                           take-up has increased in seaside towns
        No single account covers every seaside                       against a general national fall. Average
        town in England, and those which were                        earnings are ‘substantially below the
        not as reliant on domestic tourism have                      English average’.1
        managed to diversify, creating new areas                        The demographic picture in seaside
        of growth around the culture and                             towns also reflects their relative decline.
        creativity industries, boutique shopping,                    Almost a quarter of the population is of
        the conference trade and niche leisure                       pension age, compared with a fifth of the
        pursuits such as surfing.                                     national population, reflecting the
           Nevertheless, many seaside towns have                     out-migration of younger households and
        not been able to meaningfully and                            the growth in residential care homes.
        sustainably create a new economic                            The population is still growing, in line
        purpose, and are still reliant on the                        with the national trend, but at a lower
        declining tourist trade and other                            rate than England as a whole.
        low-wage, low-skills and sometimes                              In terms of the housing market, the
        seasonal sectors. The catering and                           availability of cheap, private rented
        hospitality sectors account for 30 per                       accommodation remains the single
        cent of jobs in seaside towns, and jobs in                   biggest challenge to creating more
        public administration, education and                         sustainable communities. As the
        health are also over-represented. In                         benchmarking study put it, seaside towns
        contrast, the banking, finance and                            have ‘high levels of private renting more
        insurance sectors, which — until recently                    akin to London’1 — but without the
        at least — generated significant                              high levels of demand, buoyant labour
        employment growth nationally, are all                        market and countervailing high house
        under-represented. The low numbers of                        prices which are found in the capital.
        jobs in the sectors which have suffered                         Seaside towns are often hostage to the
        from the immediate impacts of the                            local geography and topography. The
        banking crisis may have protected seaside                    characteristics which once made them
        towns in the short term, but their                           desirable holiday destinations — their
        reliance on public-sector jobs and                           relative remoteness and distance from the
        investment make them vulnerable to the                       offices and factories in the big cities —
        tightening of public-sector spending over                    has become a handicap in terms of their
        the medium term.                                             future development. Smaller seaside
           According to the recent benchmarking                      towns, in particular, are peripheral
        study published by CLG, the                                  outposts on main transport routes. It is
        employment rate and the average levels                       more difficult for them to tap into the

Henry Stewart Publications 1752–9646 (2009) Vol. 3, 1, 46–55   Journal of Urban Regeneration and Renewal     49
Rickey and Houghton

                   drivers of growth, including sub-regional           coastal areas because higher levels of
                   housing and job markets, proximity to               investment are going to central urban
                   growth points, and new transport                    areas’.6
                   developments, which are often used to                  When seaside towns are included in
                   catalyse urban regeneration.                        broader regeneration programmes —
                       Seaside towns are also potentially              Margate, for example, is a mixed
                   vulnerable to the impacts of climate                communities pilot — it is unclear at best
                   changes. The specific impacts on                     whether or how policies and practical
                   different places are not entirely known             approaches are adapted to fit the seaside
                   but the best predictions suggest that               context.
                   rising sea levels — and associated faster              Despite this relative lack of interest
                   rates of erosion, increasing likelihood of          nationally, there has been a significant
                   flooding and generally more extreme and              amount of local regeneration activity in
                   unpredictable weather conditions — will             seaside towns. By and large, these have
                   impact significantly on most coastal                 been specific, localised and essentially
                   regions. In all, these risks create further         ameliorative. They have stabilised
                   uncertainty for regeneration practitioners          conditions and held the decline of the
                   and potential investors.                            poorest neighbourhoods, but often lack
                                                                       the capacity and resources to reverse it.
                                                                       There have been few comprehensive
                   GROWING INTEREST                                    programmes with the explicit objective
                   Thanks to the recent benchmarking                   of fundamentally altering the prevailing
                   study and related research, more and                market dynamics and creating a new,
                   more is known about the conditions and              diversified economic purpose.
                   challenges in seaside towns — but                      In recent years, seaside towns have
                   greater awareness of the problem only               moved up the regeneration agenda,
                   serves to emphasise the limits of                   prompted by increasingly negative
                   knowledge of ‘what works’ in terms of               coverage of once-vibrant tourist
                   solutions. As the researchers Fothergill            destinations (fuelled by the Labour and
                   and Beatty have argued, seaside towns               Conservative parties’ decision to abandon
                   are ‘the least understood of Britain’s              the tradition of holding their annual
                   ‘‘problem areas’’’.5                                conferences by the sea), the growth in
                      Seaside towns have largely been on               Incapacity Benefit against the national
                   the margins of central government                   trend, and the efforts of local
                   regeneration policy and, as a result, have          practitioners through bodies such as
                   not been central to mainstream                      BURA’s Seaside Network.7
                   regeneration programmes such as the                    The House of Commons CLG Select
                   National Strategy for Neighbourhood                 Committee’s 2007 report on coastal
                   Renewal and the Housing Market                      towns highlighted the problems facing
                   Renewal Programme. The lack of policy               the towns, including the poor quality of
                   interest and government funding has in              much of the housing stock, high levels
                   turn meant that there have been few                 of Incapacity Benefit claiming and, in
                   incentives for developers and businesses            some places, high levels of seasonal
                   to invest. As Local Futures have argued,            work. Going further, it criticised the
                   ‘there has been a significant urban focus            poor understanding of how national
                   within the government’s regeneration and            policies and systems, including the
                   renewal agenda, a policy framework that             benefits regime and the regulation of
                   may exacerbate the challenges for some              private rented housing, affected seaside

50    Journal of Urban Regeneration and Renewal   Vol. 3, 1, 46–55   Henry Stewart Publications 1752–9646 (2009)
                                                                          Regenerating England’s seaside towns

        towns and the lack of joined-up thinking                     A FRAMEWORK FOR SEASIDE
        about assistance and intervention.8                          REGENERATION
           Since the Committee’s report was                          The final section returns to the three
        produced, CLG has formed an                                  questions posed in the Introduction:
        inter-departmental working group on                          What can seaside towns do better to fit
        coastal towns and funded further                             themselves to new and emerging markets
        research, including the benchmarking                         and growth sectors? How can they shake
        study cited above. The Department for                        off the legacy of disinvestment and decay
        Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has                          and update their ‘offer’ to potential
        also established a new 45 Sea Change                         visitors, residents and investors? How can
        programme to support heritage- and                           they drive regeneration during a
        culture-led regeneration.                                    recession?
           These developments are welcome, but                           The suggested answers give grounds
        the strategic focus of central government                    for cautious optimism, but above all
        regeneration is the Regeneration                             emphasise that the challenge of
        Framework.9 In 2007, HM Treasury                             re-making seaside towns as vibrant and
        mandated CLG to develop the                                  sustainable communities remains a huge
        framework to ‘provide a clearer link                         task — one which demands yet more
        between neighbourhood renewal and                            effort from local practitioners and
        wider economic interventions’ and ‘help                      smarter, more tailored support from
        ensure regeneration interventions are                        central and regional government. This
        co-ordinated with regional strategies’.10                    section starts by looking at how recent
        The framework aims to ensure that                            policy shifts should provide the
        places facing market failure are targeted                    foundations for a smarter policy response,
        and public investment helps unlock                           before outlining a framework for new
        long-term private-sector investment.                         response.
           Even before the extreme financial                              Recent governance reforms in England
        turmoil of recent months, the move into                      have sought to sharpen the strategic
        a new phase of regeneration activity was                     ‘place shaping’ role of local authorities, ie
        clear. The days of multi-billion                             their ability to set a long-term vision for
        programmes, long lists of priority areas                     their place, and then lead local
        and area-based initiatives tackling the                      communities and their partners to deliver
        multiple aspects of deprivation are                          it. In particular, the government has
        already gone. Put simply, we already                         introduced a set of new freedoms and
        know that practitioners in seaside towns                     duties on local authorities to do more to
        cannot expect a bumper ‘new deal for                         promote economic development.11 This
        the seaside’ and, like practitioners                         enhanced strategic leadership role could
        everywhere else, will be expected to ‘do                     translate into meaningful place
        more with less’.                                             transformation if local councils can
           The government’s ambition for the                         galvanise public and private and sector
        framework is welcome, but it is clear                        partners to forge a new purpose for
        that the bleak economic picture, and                         seaside towns. This is particularly
        the difficulties in applying lessons                          important in the context of recession; a
        learned in the inner-cities to seaside                       recent report by the Work Foundation
        towns means that imaginative thinking                        emphasised the importance of ‘clear
        about making the framework work for                          strategy, strong leadership . . . and
        places such as Margate and Blackpool                         cross-sector partnerships built around a
        will be needed.                                              clear vision of the future’ in a changing

Henry Stewart Publications 1752–9646 (2009) Vol. 3, 1, 46–55   Journal of Urban Regeneration and Renewal        51
Rickey and Houghton

                   economic climate.12                                 local economy. Modern consumer habits
                      In line with the Regeneration                    mean that domestic tourism will not play
                   Framework, the role for central and                 the role it once did as the primary
                   regional government in helping seaside              source of employment. The mass tourism
                   towns to get through the recession and              symbolised by crowded beaches is
                   prepare a stronger recovery is not                  increasingly unpopular with a population
                   through large new programmes, but                   looking for uniqueness and difference.
                   tailored and specific interventions to                  Domestic tourism is, however, likely
                   repair the physical fabric, attract new             to increase as a result of the recession,
                   households, businesses and visitors, and            the weakness of the pound and
                   find ways to link seaside towns to                   longer-term concerns about the
                   growth in the surrounding regions.                  environmental impact of flying and
                      The approaches to problems which                 short-haul flights in particular. A recent
                   have worked in other places are not                 survey found that 20 per cent of Britons
                   easily mapped across to seaside towns,              who took a holiday abroad in 2008 plan
                   but there is still much that practitioners          to take their holidays in the UK in
                   can learn and adapt from their peers                2009, although this has to be set against
                   elsewhere and in other seaside towns. In            households making general cutbacks in
                   particular, emerging evidence suggests              expenditure.14
                   that the places which are best suited to               Tapping into this market means
                   cope with the impact of the recession               refreshing what is on offer, and providing
                   combine specialisation in growth sectors            cultural opportunities, quality food and
                   with a diverse base of skills and jobs.             drink and better retail facilities. It also
                   The Work Foundation’s report stressed               means renovating and refreshing public
                   the need for cities to ‘have ‘‘diverse              spaces, so that seaside towns tell a
                   specialisms’’ in knowledge intensive                different story about themselves to new
                   industries, rather than rely too heavily on         visitors. The potential for attracting
                   one area’.12 In a similar vein, analysis by         private developers back into seaside
                   the Centre for Cities of the resilience of          towns on the back of the growth in
                   different cities to the impact of recession         domestic tourism is real.
                   argued for the importance of economic                  Second, it is crucial that seaside towns
                   diversity alongside some level of                   shake off the legacy of disinvestment and
                   specialism and job clusters to ensure that          decline. Again, this is made all the more
                   places were flexible enough to take                  challenging by the credit crunch,
                   advantage of new and emerging growth                contraction in the construction industry
                   opportunities.13                                    and tightening of funding for physical
                      Reviewing the problems in seaside                redevelopment.
                   towns, the lessons elsewhere and                       Nevertheless, the task in seaside towns
                   emerging evidence on resilience to the              is not wholesale physical redevelopment
                   recession points to four key tasks which            but specific and targeted improvements.
                   form the bones of a framework for                   Tapping into relatively small-scale
                   seaside regeneration.                               funding pots and striking one-off deals to
                      The first core task is to break                   restore hotels, theatres and piers to their
                   decisively from the over-reliance on                former glory; improving frontages and
                   domestic tourism as the main focus of               facades; clean sweeps; improvements to
                   economic activity, by refreshing and                lighting — all these have worked
                   re-sizing the sector so it can play a more          successfully. Re-valuing and reviving
                   productive and sustainable role in the              local assets to fit new demands is a

52    Journal of Urban Regeneration and Renewal   Vol. 3, 1, 46–55   Henry Stewart Publications 1752–9646 (2009)
                                                                          Regenerating England’s seaside towns

        quicker, greener and cleaner strategy than                      Progress so far has been slow, but
        wholesale redevelopment.                                     incentives to move across to low-carbon
           These kinds of specific initiatives must                   technology and renewable energy sources
        form part of a broader regeneration                          are starting to fall into place, as outlined
        strategy, and concerted action to                            in the Government’s 2007 Energy White
        re-balance local housing markets is                          Paper. Two elements of current policy
        crucial. The distorting effect of the                        are particularly relevant. First, the
        over-supply of low-cost, private rented                      government has placed a Renewables
        accommodation will continue to act as a                      Obligation on licensed electricity
        drag on house prices and the potential                       suppliers to source an increasing
        for growth. Some areas are using the                         proportion of their electricity sales from
        powers provided for in the Housing Act                       renewable sources — increasing from 7.9
        2004 to remove hazards and improve                           per cent in 2007/08 to 15.4 per cent in
        conditions in poorly maintained                              2015 and ultimately to 20 per cent — or
        properties. This sends a strong signal to                    to pay a penalty. Secondly, since the
        landlords, tenants and surrounding                           introduction of the 2005 EU Emissions
        households, and can help build                               Trading Scheme, power station operators
        community confidence. Buying back                             face a cost for emitting carbon dioxide.
        private units failing inspection and                            England has the greatest wind
        transferring them to social landlords for                    generation capacity in Europe, much of
        renovation and social renting is one way                     which is concentrated along our vast
        to begin rebalancing the housing                             coastlines. Tidal and wave power are also
        market.                                                      increasingly a possibility, with the recent
           Third, seaside towns should look to                       opening of the first commercial wave
        nurture alternative industries and sectors.                  farm off the Portuguese coast. The
        The cultural-creativity sector has grown                     question is no longer whether English
        in a number of seaside towns such as                         coastlines will begin fulfilling their
        Brighton in the South East and St Ives in                    energy potential, but when and where. A
        the South West, taking advantage of the                      number of areas are beginning to explore
        availability of cheap spaces to turn into                    these possibilities, including in Thanet,
        galleries and workshops, the growing                         where an offshore wind farm has been
        interest in culture-led regeneration and                     proposed.
        the traditional association of the seaside                      Renewable energy could act as the
        with creativity and escapism. The                            catalyst for generating the new economic
        conference trade is another sector which                     purpose which so many seaside towns are
        would fit well with the accommodation                         looking for. The growth in private
        infrastructure in seaside towns. Both these                  companies looking to supply and manage
        sectors, however, are increasingly                           renewable energy could make it easier to
        crowded, and not all seaside towns can be                    develop new funding mechanisms. The
        the ‘next Brighton’.                                         sector as a whole could stimulate a range
           One under-examined growth sector is                       of employment, from research and
        energy generation and related new                            development, to construction, and
        environmental technologies. International                    manufacture of components.16 If properly
        promises and binding legislation commit                      managed, there could also be potential
        Britain to increasing the proportion of                      for partial community or public
        electricity generated from renewables to                     ownership of these facilities, creating
        10 per cent by 2010, and double that by                      localised sources of energy and revenue
        2020.15                                                      for reinvestment in the community.

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                      Realising this sort of larger-scale              households in seaside towns are among
                   transformative change to the industrial             the furthest from the labour market.
                   structure will require a combination of             Helping them into gainful and sustainable
                   significant infrastructure development,              employment will require intensive and
                   large inward investment initiatives,                closely tailored interventions and
                   improvements in skills levels and targeted          investment in skills, training and job
                   business support. All this points to the            placements. Work, however, is not a
                   need to integrate seaside towns more                panacea and needs to be matched with
                   fully into wider functional economic                an equally determined approach to
                   areas. A key lever for achieving this will          improving health, in part by improving
                   be sub-regional partnerships between                the quality of housing and the local
                   neighbouring councils and delivery                  environment, and programmes to
                   partners.                                           improve community safety and social
                      In recent years, a combination of local          cohesion.
                   demand and legislative changes has led to              Finally, in relation to the framework
                   a rise in the number and importance of              for seaside regeneration, one needs to
                   sub-regional economic partnerships across           take into account the implications of the
                   England. Clustered predominantly in                 recession. Regeneration programmes
                   areas that have suffered industrial decline         everywhere are being hit by the credit
                   in the North and the Midlands, these                squeeze, housing market turmoil and
                   partners are developing joint plans to              shaky investor confidence. In the short
                   boost economic productivity across their            term, seaside towns may be relatively
                   functional economic area — be that a                insulated from serious shocks by the
                   sub-region or a city-region. Some plans             growth in domestic tourism and the
                   focus on skills, others on business                 relatively small numbers of jobs in the
                   support, some on transport or physical              financial and business sectors which has
                   development, and a few include house                been worst hit over the past year. Just as
                   building or housing renewal. A number               they have benefited less from the ‘urban
                   of coastal areas facing the decline of              renaissance’ of the past decade or so, it
                   port-related industries — including South           may be that they are less badly affected
                   Hampshire on the South coast — have                 by the forthcoming recession. In the
                   formed such partnerships. Priorities and            medium term, their dependence on
                   partnership arrangements will vary from             public-sector jobs and investment make
                   place to place but, given their relative            them quite vulnerable. In the long term,
                   isolation, all seaside towns should think           the outlook could be much brighter if,
                   more about how local regeneration                   as outlined above, seaside towns could
                   initiatives can link the place into the             position themselves effectively for the
                   drivers of growth in the surrounding jobs           eventual up-turn, by nurturing new
                   and housing markets.                                sectors and industries and shaking off the
                      Fourthly, seaside towns need                     legacy of disinvestment.
                   people-based interventions to deal with
                   the complex needs of a diverse, transient
                   and often deprived local population, and            CONCLUSION
                   to ensure local people benefit from                  Seaside towns remain the ‘the least
                   regeneration. Tackling the particular               understood of Britain’s ‘‘problem’’
                   manifestations of worklessness and                  areas’, but the seriousness of the
                   economic inactivity is vital. Some of the           problems and the urgency of the
                   vulnerable and high-need individuals and            imperative to act decisively are

54    Journal of Urban Regeneration and Renewal   Vol. 3, 1, 46–55   Henry Stewart Publications 1752–9646 (2009)
                                                                            Regenerating England’s seaside towns

        increasingly difficult to ignore. It is                             Communities and Local Government, London,
                                                                           pp. 7–8, available at http://www.
        universally understood that seaside                      
        towns cannot go back to the future;                                /pdf/englishseasidetowns.pdf
        domestic tourism will not play the                           2.    2001 Census figures.
                                                                     3.    BURA (2007), ‘The social challenges of the
        dominant role it once did in shaping                               seaside’, BURA, London.
        the local economy and giving places                          4.    Source: National insurance number allocations to
        such as Margate a sense of place and                               overseas nationals (NINO), DWP; quoted in
        purpose.                                                           ‘Margate renewal study’ (2008), Shared
                                                                           Intelligence for the Margate Renewal
           The task is to revalue existing assets                          Partnership, London.
        and refresh the ‘visitor offer’ while                        5.    Fothergill, S. and Beatty, C. (2003), ‘The seaside
        nurturing alternative growth sectors and                           economy — The final report of the seaside
                                                                           towns research project’, Centre for Regional
        industries. Changing the prevailing                                Economic and Social Research, Sheffield.
        market dynamics by driving up skills and                     6.    ‘North/south divide by the seaside’, The
        creating new jobs and rebalancing the                              Guardian, 12th September 2007.
        housing market are crucial. But                                    Seaside+Network/
        economic solutions are not in themselves                     8.    Communities and Local Government Committee
        a panacea. Equally determined action is                            (2007), ‘Coastal towns: Second report of session
        needed to support vulnerable households,                           2006–07’, House of Commons, London.
                                                                     9.    CLG (2008), ‘Transforming places; changing
        restore a sense of stability to the most                           lives: a framework for regeneration’, 17th July,
        deprived neighbourhoods and promote                                2008, Department of Communities and Local
        greater cohesion between different                                 Government, London, available at
        communities in areas of high transience.                           citiesandregions/transformingplaces
           With a clear focus on diversification                      10.   HM Treasury (2007), ‘Review of sub-national
        and new growth and sharp interventions                             economic development and regeneration’, HM
                                                                           Treasury, London.
        to tackle the local manifestations of                        11.   Local Government and Public Involvement in
        decline, the next forty years could be a                           Health Act 2007.
        much more prosperous period for seaside                      12.   The Work Foundation (2008), ‘How can cities
        towns than the last forty.                                         thrive in the changing economy’, July, The
                                                                           Work Foundation, London.
                                                                     13.   Centre for Cities (2009), ‘UK cities in the global
        Note                                                               economy’, January, Centre for Cities, London.
        Opinions expressed in this paper are the personal            14.   Quoted in South West Tourism (2009), ‘Overall
        views of the authors.                                              position — Tourism in the South West of
                                                                           England’, January, South West Tourism, Exeter.
                                                                     15.   DTI (2007), ‘Meeting the energy challenge: A
                                                                           white paper on energy’, May, Department of
        References                                                         Trade and Industry, London.
        1.   CLG (2008), ‘England’s Seaside Towns — A                16.   The New Green Deal Group (2007), ‘A green
             ‘‘benchmarking’’ study’, Department of                        new deal’, new economics foundation, London.

Henry Stewart Publications 1752–9646 (2009) Vol. 3, 1, 46–55   Journal of Urban Regeneration and Renewal                  55

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