Turning the tide: social justice in five seaside towns

Document type
Burghart, Alex; Crawford, Harriet; Henson, Joseph
Centre for Social Justice
Date of publication
1 August 2013
Breakthrough Britain
Community Development and Regeneration, Employment, Poverty Alleviation Welfare Benefits and Financial Inclusion
Social welfare
Material type

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Some of the most pronounced disadvantage in Britain exists away from the big cities. This short study of five seaside towns – Rhyl, Margate, Clacton-on-Sea, Blackpool, Great Yarmouth – offers a glimpse of how social breakdown has affected some smaller communities, asks what factors continue to hold them back, and considers what more can be done to help them move on.

Although each town has its own particular issues, some common themes emerge. Most obviously, many seaside towns’ economies were badly affected by the advent of cheaper foreign travel in the 1970s that decreased demand for traditional ‘bucket and spade’ holidays. Towns that had grown since the late nineteenth century found themselves losing their economic purpose. Now unemployment is rife, the local skills base is low, and property prices have plummeted. Buildings formerly used as tourist accommodation and small businesses, such as bed and breakfasts, have been turned into extremely cheap housing. This has served to turn some seaside towns into veritable dumping grounds for groups such as care leavers, people with substance abuse problems, those with mental health issues and ex-offenders, for whom placing authorities can easily find low-cost accommodation.

There is a clear case for additional transport infrastructure, increased localism and renewed investment in struggling seaside towns. But prosperity will not spread unless people are given the aspiration, education and skills that they and the economy need, as well as a welfare system that supports more people back into work. Moreover, public policy must do what it can to nurture the strong families which, more than anything, are the basis of lifelong stability and opportunity.

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