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Poor housing and transport a problem for coastal areas, say Lords

Words: Laura Edgar
Blackpool Pier / iStock-534600403

Housing quality is a ‘significant’ issue for coastal towns, while inadequate transport is holding them back, a House of Lords committee has concluded.

The lack of good-quality transport connectivity hinders the realisation of the economic potential of coastal areas.

The House of Lords Select Committee on Regenerating Seaside Towns, in its report The Future of Seaside Towns, says that the Department for Transport (DfT), advised by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), should prioritise improvement to the coastal transport network.

This should be informed by a detailed review of the coastal transport network to find out where the greatest socio-economic benefits can be found.

The committee believes a “sustained, long-term effort” is required to address the impact of transience on coastal areas. The Department for Work and Pensions should work with MHCLG to find out the scale of the issue and to what extent problems result from non-coastal councils placing vulnerable adults and children in these areas.

The committee wants coastal areas accommodating such placements to receive funding that reflects the financial impact of providing adequate services to support vulnerable people.

The Future of Seaside Towns recommends that the government should investigate whether local authorities require additional powers to address problems associated large numbers of HMOs. The government should also introduce measures that allow local authorities to safeguard resources necessary to enforce decent housing standards.

Additionally, the government needs to consider how existing funding for housing, such as the Homes England fund, can be used to support placemaking as well as the creation of new homes. It should also pilot Housing Action Zones, which should comprise the committee’s recommendations, and be delivered as a package of measures to support housing regeneration in coastal areas.

The committee said it supports the Grimsby town deal, which involves a strategic approach between national, local government and Local Enterprise Partnerships. It wants the government to secure town deals with other coastal towns, starting with Blackpool.

Blackpool, the committee explains, is “well-recognised” for having some of the most significant housing and deprivation issues in the country.

Starting with Blackpool would enable the government to identify the tools required to tackle such problems in other coastal towns, because “if you can solve it there you can solve it anywhere”.

The committee also considers the Tourism Sector Deal, negotiations for which are continuing, to be an “important opportunity” to help to support the regeneration of seaside towns and communities, as well recommending that current planning restrictions “which limit the potential for changes of use on port sites” are amended to remove the barriers that “prevent the productive development of land”.

Lord Bassam of Brighton, chairman of the committee, said seaside towns have been neglected for too long.

"They suffer from issues rooted in the decline of their core industries, most notably domestic tourism, but also in fishing, shipbuilding and port activity, and from their location at the ‘end of the line’. The potential impact of Brexit on these towns, particularly the hospitality sector, also remains an open question.

“A single solution to their economic and social challenges doesn’t exist. What is needed is a package of strategic initiatives and interventions where national and local government work together to address issues such as transport, housing, post-school education and high-speed broadband.”

Tim Morris, CEO of the UK Major Ports Group, said: “The recommendations on reducing planning restrictions for ports and surrounding area development and tailoring Enterprise Zones more towards the needs of coastal communities offer the potential to boost significant private sector in these areas. Other recommendations on improved transport and digital connectivity, skills development and better cross-Whitehall coordination offer the potential to really unlock the potential of the UK’s Coastal Powerhouse.”

The full report and list of recommendations can be found on the UK Parliament website (pdf).

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