Seaside towns are at risk of being 'left behind'

2 July 2019, 12:51 | Updated: 2 July 2019, 12:53

seaside

There are calls to save seaside towns - like Whitby, from decline.

Lord Bassam says many have been 'moving backwards at a time they should have been going forwards'.

He added towns need better transport links to they're not left behind: "If action isn't taken soon to reverse the decline... the problems associated with many such communities will become intractable and irreversible," he warned.

He was opening a Lords debate on a report on the future of seaside towns by the select committee on regenerating seaside towns and communities.

Lord Bassam, who chairs the committee, said the report published in April was a "wake-up call" for government, local and national.

More than a decade ago, a Commons committee had pointed up the problems facing coastal communities - and while some measures had been put in place to improve things, much of what they had recommended had been ignored.

The report calls for better transport links to seaside towns, provision of high quality broadband, better educational opportunities and action to tackle poor quality housing.

It also recommends the creation of new enterprise zones to boost investment.

"There is a real sense that the seaside, the end-of-the-line places we all love, are missing out of the wealth generated in our metropolitan centres and they feel left behind," Lord Bassam said.

"Given that some four million people live on the coast and the coast is a major tourist opportunity for the nation, we need to urgently reverse many of the trends that are bedevilling coastal prosperity and social inclusion."

Labour's Lord Faulkner of Worcester said seaside towns had fared particularly badly under the Beeching railway cuts of the 1960s.

Lord Faulkner said Whitby, which once had three railway lines, had been "let down" by both Conservative and Labour governments - and the current service on the one remaining route from Middlesbrough was inadequate, with just four trains a day.

He praised the efforts of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) in running several trains a day from Pickering to Whitby, but said heritage lines could not provide a seven-days-a-week, year-round service, that would have existed if national network lines had not been closed.