A coalition of struggling seaside towns and cross-party MPs has urged Boris Johnson to appoint a minister dedicated to coastal communities to kick-start their economic revival.
By Tom Rees 29 August 2020 www.telegraph.co.uk
The letter asked the Prime Minister to create a post ahead of an expected autumn Cabinet reshuffle as coastal areas are pushed to “breaking point” by the pandemic. Mr Johnson was warned coastal areas were in a “dire situation” and were “falling through the gaps”.
The letter was signed by the LGA Coastal Special Interest Group, National Coastal Tourism Academy and Coastal Communities Alliance, with their calls being backed by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Coastal Communities. The LGA group represents 57 local authorities along the coastline.
They argued that a dedicated coastal communities minister needed a remit that “cuts across departments” and would signal the Government’s commitment to levelling up the economy.
Many coastal communities have suffered a huge decline over the past 50 years as international travel boomed and a number of important industries, such as shipbuilding, vanished. Struggling seaside towns have become some of the most deprived areas in the UK.
“We feel having a minister for coastal communities would be a really significant first step,” said Emily Cunningham, lead officer for the LGA Coastal Special Interest Group. “We can’t turn our back on them. It can’t wait, we need action now.”
However, the “staycation” boom has boosted some seaside towns this summer. Blackpool and Bournemouth have seen the strongest recovery in footfall after the Covid-19 hit, while the latter and Southend have seen the biggest bounce back in spending, Centre for Cities found.
“That’s primarily about visitors going to those places because they are not going abroad,” said Andrew Carter of Centre for Cities. “Bournemouth and Blackpool are [also] benefiting from more of the residents in those two towns staying there.”
Simon Clarke, Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, said: “When the Prime Minister announced the New Deal, he made it clear that the Government is determined to change the country for the better, uniting and levelling up our regions – including coastal communities such as those in my own constituency.
“Last month I was pleased to announce £10 million in new funding for small businesses in tourist destinations – bringing jobs, investment, and financial support to the communities that need it most. Since 2012 the Government has awarded over £229 million to projects delivering sustainable growth and jobs in coastal areas.”