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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 March 2007, 13:36 GMT
MPs call for aid to seaside towns
Seaside
Coastal communities often felt isolated, MPs found
The government must do more to improve the economies and quality of life in some of England's most run-down seaside towns, a committee of MPs says.

The Commons local government committee said many coastal communities had poor housing and that influxes of elderly people put pressure on social services.

In some of the poorest resorts, the MPs added, the economy must develop beyond the low-wage, seasonal tourism trade.

The government said coastal councils were receiving more funding and powers.

'Best interests'

The committee's report - being launched in Scarborough - voiced concern at what it said was the high numbers of vulnerable children, particularly those from London, re-housed in seaside towns.

The downside of the seaside
Poor housing
Physical isolation
Rising sea levels
Social problems

This was often not in the "best interests" of those moved, as they were far from home.

The MPs also found that in England as a whole since 1997 there had been a 2.2% increase in claimants of incapacity benefit, special disability allowance or income support - but in seaside towns the rise had been 12%.

Meanwhile, increased numbers of people buying second homes had made housing less affordable for existing residents.

Tourism strategy

The MPs said the government should do more to encourage a "diversification" of seaside economies.

But coastal visits and holidays should still be promoted in England with a "national coastal tourism strategy", such as that seen in Wales.

Seaside economies suffered because they were often "isolated", the MPs said.

Destinations were only reachable from "180 degrees" - that is, from inland rather than all sides, unlike other places - putting off some businesses.

The committee's chairman, Labour MP Phyllis Starkey, said: "We were disappointed to find that the government has conducted no research into the situation of coastal towns in recent years, nor did we receive any evidence demonstrating that there was any action or liaison between departments specifically on coastal towns."

She added that ministers must "develop an understanding of the particular issues facing these communities".

However, the committee's report acknowledges that the fortunes of coastal towns differ markedly.

It notes that Blackpool - recently turned down as the venue for a "super-casino" in favour of Manchester - is the 24th most deprived of 354 local authorities.

Bognor Regis, on the other hand, is ranked 279th.

The Department of Communities and Local Government said that coastal towns had stronger than average economies, and councils were receiving increased grants and powers to deal with local problems.

A spokesman said: "Giving towns, cities and regions more powers and a stronger voice is the key to turning them around and that is exactly what the government has done."


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An economically drained coastal resort in Yorkshire



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