From Ebb to Flow: How entrepreneurs can turn the tide for Britain’s seaside towns
A newly released report by the Centre For Entrepreneurs highlights a number of issues of relevance to Hornsea. It points out that seaside towns have now become some of the most neglected and run down locations in the country.
The 2011 government census provided updated data on socioeconomic and demographic trends in seaside towns. The results confirmed that the over 65s make up a larger share of the population in seaside towns compared to the national average (20% versus 16%), and that seaside towns have a lower employment rate (69% versus 71%). They also revealed a higher rate of long-term health problems, less ethnic diversity and fewer foreign-born residents, a greater reliance on part-time work, and a problem of unoccupied housing. A 2013 report from the Centre for Social Justice found that many seaside towns are undermined by self-reinforcing deprivation, caused by a lack of skills and aspiration, welfare dependency and vulnerability. Levels of poverty and welfare claims are higher than average, while ‘poorly maintained and overcrowded housing… makes attracting investment extremely hard’. Some local authorities have taken advantage of the low property prices in seaside towns to relocate vulnerable adults, children and ex-offenders. The report concludes that job creation, better education and attracting a younger skilled population will be key to seaside towns’ recovery.
The group undertook case studies of various seaside towns around the country and encountered several success stories. Included here is a summary of their recommendations
Unless seaside towns reinvent themselves and find new relevance, they will be unable to keep up with the rest of the country. They have to be reintegrated into the UK economy, reinvigorated as towns attractive to private investment and as places of high economic value. There are reasons to believe that this is already taking place. Some towns are pulling through, with community values serving them well. In many places, local people have come together to beautify common spaces or save a beloved structure. Visits are on the increase too: in the first quarter of 2015, visits to the seaside were higher than they have been in nearly a decade, with tourist spending increasing.
But a passive reliance on tourism will not be enough for seaside towns to fulfil their potential. What’s needed – and what the case studies demonstrate – is a transformation in the way seaside towns view themselves, as well as how they educate their children and manage their infrastructure. Seaside towns need entrepreneurs to bring ideas, jobs, and wealth to their communities; but entrepreneurs need talent, infrastructure, and public support to help them lead the revitalisation of seaside towns. The report puts forward the following recommendations as the best means of bringing about an entrepreneur-led revitalisation. To achieve them key stakeholders in seaside towns – entrepreneurs, investors, government, educators and charities – must come together with a common vision geared towards nurturing entrepreneurship.
- Identity: Local authorities, businesses and tourist agencies should join together in forging unique identities for their towns. In an era where experiences and authenticity matter most, a unique proposition (whether food culture or literary sophistication) will be key in attracting entrepreneurs and professionals in search of something different.
- Environment: Local authorities, businesses, charities and citizens should collaborate in preserving and improving the local built and natural environment, so that seaside towns are seen as attractive places to work and live.
- Activity: A strong offering in sport and culture is essential in improving the attractiveness of Britain’s coastal towns to entrepreneurs and quality of life for locals. All interested stakeholders should work together to shape a coherent cultural and sporting strategy that plays to local assets and preferences.
- Accessibility: Good existing transport links, if marketed appropriately, could increase the economic fortunes of many seaside towns by: (1) convincing entrepreneurs that they are practical places to base their operations (2) attracting the skilled professionals who want to maintain their links to the UK’s cities (3) drawing in tourists and travellers looking for convenient ways to spend shorter breaks.
- Optimism: Make room for optimism, and communicate the stories of successful ventures and good fortune to help address the image and perception of seaside towns making them more attractive.
- The ‘Challenge’ model: The government should consider launching a new ‘Challenge’ in deprived rural and coastal regions outside of England’s cities, given their success in boosting educational outcomes in London, Manchester and the Black Country. For seaside towns, call it the ‘Seaside Challenge’.
- Charities: The government should support and encourage charities – such as Teach First and the Education Endowment Foundation – that are working to improve educational standards in seaside towns, and ensure that the lessons learned inform and shape future policies.
- Academies: More secondary schools should consider becoming academies if the factors preventing improved performance (such as poor or constrained leadership, a lack of staff engagement, and a negative learning culture) would be best addressed by a more autonomous management style.
- Big data: Programmes that rigorously map out national and local economic trends and opportunities should be implemented in a range of industries and regions, so that entrepreneurs can identify places to invest. These could be public, private or non-profit initiatives.
- Asset inventories: There is a clear need for seaside towns to have publicly accessible asset inventories. In many towns finding out what exists and who owns it is far too difficult – a significant challenge for many prospective entrepreneurs. Local authorities should lead on this, given the assets they own as well as their ability to enable and coordinate data collection.
- Devolution: Seaside towns, and the broader regions in which they are located, should be granted greater decision-making autonomy. These towns have unique characteristics and socioeconomic challenges for which probably they alone know the appropriate answers. Local elected mayors should be offered as a clear option.
- Physical infrastructure: Local and national authorities should continue and upscale their investments in physical infrastructure that will support entrepreneurship on the coast. The Coastal Communities Fund is a key component of this process. Local and national authorities should work together to improve transport links. Local authorities should also invest in local public transport to better connect businesses, employees, tourists and consumers.
- Digital infrastructure: Investment in improvements that will support the growing digital sector are paramount, especially in the area of high-speed broadband. Authorities must also recognise that it is not just the cost and speed of the connection that is important, but the skills and capabilities of individuals and businesses. There must be a relentless focus on getting more businesses online, and on digital skills training. Education Information and transparency Government
Thanks to Nick Allison for providing this information. Let us know your thoughts and get some debate going. Could some of this assist us in Hornsea?