A commitment to replace EU investment funds worth hundreds of millions, a cut in Tourism VAT - and a plan to prevent aggressive seagull attacks are just three of the 37 recommendations made today by a group of MPs to help Britain’s coastal communities. The report also says that governmental bodies and tourism promotion authorities should challenge perceptions of the coast as old-fashioned, closed in winter and difficult to get to.
The MPs, members of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Visitor Economy, found that British coasts are suffering from chronic housing failure. In successful tourist towns second home ownership has pushed house prices to 12 times the average wage, high earning second home owners distort education funding at local schools and the unregulated sharing economy means family homes and apartments are being turned into short-term lets. Conversely in less successful seaside towns, large family homes have been turned into low quality Houses in Multiple Occupation.
Successful coastal strategies were highlighted such as the public/private partnership between Blackpool Council and Merlin Entertainments who have revived the Blackpool Tower area as part of eight attractions including the ballroom that will be used this weekend’s edition of Strictly Come Dancing.
Government funding for coastal areas – the £170m Coastal Communities Fund – was criticised for short-termism and focusing on small individual projects. Longer funding application rounds for the CCF and the creation of Coastal Enterprise Zones was recommended, particularly as many coastal areas may soon lose their ESIF funding. This European funding is only guaranteed until 2020, and will have been worth £590m to Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly since 2014, and £8.4bn to the whole UK.
Reducing Tourism VAT to 5% was considered an essential step forward by many of the 59 respondents, encouraging Brits to holiday at home and lengthening the season - just over a third of all trips to the coast take place in the months of July and August. At 20% Tourism VAT in the UK is double the average rate in the European Union.
Waveney MP Peter Aldous raised concerns about aggressive seagull behaviour –which former Chancellor George Osborne had pledged a quarter of a million pounds to study – which is blighting coastal towns. The group, pulling up short of culling, recommended cleaner streets, increased bin collection and more spikes on buildings.
The group, headed by Conservative Cornwall MP Steve Double, received 59 submissions, including those from coastal SMEs, LEPs, Local Authorities, Butlin’s and Merlin Entertainments.
Steve Double MP for St Austell and Newquay, Chairman of the APPG for the Visitor Economy, said:
“The British coastline is a national asset with great potential and with the right investment, can drive regeneration, economic growth and job creation. As an MP that represents a coastal community in Cornwall I urge the government to give serious consideration to the recommendations in this report. Together we can turn the tide and bring a smile back to all parts of the British coast.”
The Chief Executive of the Secretariat to the APPG for the Visitor Economy, the British Hospitality Association’s Ufi Ibrahim said:
“The UK’s 6000km of coastline is home to some of our best loved resorts and attractions and equally some of our most deprived towns. Hospitality and tourism is a key industry in these areas, contributing £17bn to our national economy. It is essential that government carry out the recommendations in this report to help them flourish by elongating the season, changing perceptions of seaside towns for the next generation of tourists, encouraging private/public partnerships and dealing with the negative repercussions of second home ownership.”
- Increase funding for infrastructure, including road/rail links and broadband.
- Better scheduling of repairs and railway engineering works in coastal areas to avoid times, like weekends, when people may want to visit
- Reduce Tourism VAT on visitor accommodation and attractions to five per cent
- Avoiding any tourist tax on hotel accommodation
- Incentivise public-private partnerships, use Merlin/Blackpool model as best practice
- Develop a national skills council for the visitor economy
- Promote teachers to teach in coastal communities
- View of hospitality and tourism in government needs to change to reflect the importance of the UK’s fourth largest industry
- Partnerships with private companies such as Google
- Expansion of the Coastal Communities Fund (CCF)
- Target the CCF to fund projects that extend the season
- Targeted government funding to encourage business diversity
- Increase the out of season offer through festivals, green tourism, wildlife promotion, activity holidays and conferences.
Merlin’s Head of Blackpool Cluster, Kate Shane said:
“This timely report shows how coastal resorts like Blackpool can be reinvigorated and maintained for the next generation by collaboration with local business. Merlin is proud of our partnership with Blackpool Council which has led to the refurbishment of the Blackpool tower and the introduction of Madame Tussaud's”
Samantha Richardson, Director of the National Coastal Tourism Academy:
“We are pleased that the All Party Parliamentary Visitor Economy group endorses our vision for the coast calling for a concerted effort to tackle seasonality, challenge perceptions of the coast and calling for improvements to the Coastal Communities Fund. Our communities are facing large skills gaps as educated young professionals leave the coast. What is now needed is a cross-government strategy that focuses on long-term growth and addresses the coast’s unique challenges.”