Turning the Tide: Seaside Regeneration Report 2020

This report published by the Estates Gazette considers the decline experienced in many English seaside towns since the 1970s. It discusses the deprivation felt in these seaside towns, proposes the need to upskill coastal communities, and suggests the opportunities for real estate investors to build new facilities in these towns as a means towards regeneration.

Date added 8 July 2020
Last updated 9 July 2020

English seaside towns started experiencing a decline in the 1970s as many UK travellers chose to take their holidays abroad. This has led to levels of deprivation that are higher for seaside towns than other towns in England as these towns end up trapped in a cycle of decline.

“Coastal destinations lag behind inland towns on most measures of social and economic deprivation. Analysis of the latest ONS data reveals the extent of the challenge facing these markets” (p4).

With a particular focus on real estate development and investment, this report seeks to address the following questions:

  • How do coastal communities shake-off the legacy of disinvestment and reinvent their offer to tourists, residents, businesses and investors?
  • What can seaside towns do to ready themselves for emerging markets, economies and growth sectors?
  • In the wake of the coronavirus and the affects it will have on coastal industries and employment sectors, how can communities avoid succumbing to economic obsolescence in the future?
  • What is the role of real estate in securing the future of these destinations, and what are the distinct opportunities that present themselves for those invested in the built environment?

Report findings about deprivation

Choosing 40 English seaside towns on which to base their analysis, this report finds that, on the government’s Overall Index of Multiple Deprivation, these towns scored a high average of 33.18 compared with the national average of 19.6. Seaside towns scored higher than others on six out of seven specific measures of deprivation. The report offers tables and graphs to show the levels of deprivation of English seaside towns compared with the national average, and also compared with the local authority average, on these specific indices, namely:

  • Living environment
  • Education, skills and training
  • Income
  • Employment
  • Health and disability
  • Crime

The only measure on which seaside towns performed better than others was in accessing housing and services.

The report concludes that while “a range of government funds and initiatives are targeting the regeneration of coastal towns... it’s not just about increasing tourism” (p27). Indeed, for these towns to overcome their shared problems of “economic inertia, physical disinvestment and a myriad of social challenges” (p35) investment in real estate (both new and existing buildings) is important, according to the report. To overcome multiple measures of deprivation the report suggests “economic stagnation must be reversed if seaside towns are to free themselves from the spiral of decline” (p35). Broadening the economy of seaside towns away from such a heavy reliance upon tourism can help the economy, employment and productivity. Seaside towns could focus on retaining talent and reversing the ‘brain drain’ that can adversely affect the chance to create vibrant new economies. Towns that have managed to turn the tide should be considered as examples of success stories from which other towns can learn lessons for regeneration. A final thought from the report addresses the future proofing of English seaside towns especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic:

“The coronavirus pandemic looks set to hit seaside communities harder than other areas of the UK. The challenge is twofold: a short-term crisis is presented by the shutdown of a majority of seaside enterprises; and a longer-term issue will be how these communities manage to bounce back from the brink, given their existing status” (p37).