Call for Sea­side Tzar to save coastal towns

The Oban Times - - NEWS -

A SEA­SIDE tsar should be ap­pointed to help Bri­tain’s for­got­ten coastal towns fight back from decades of de­cay, ac­cord­ing to new re­search, writes Louise Glen.

But the re­port, Cre­at­ing Coastal Pow­er­houses, paints a grim pic­ture of the prob­lems fac­ing many coastal com­mu­ni­ties, and does not re­flect Ar­gyll and the Isles, said Ar­d­u­aine’s Calum Ross, a board mem­ber of VisitS­cot­land.

From The Oban Times Face­book page, read­ers say the re­port is in­sult­ing and that no more gu­rus or tsars are needed.

Mr Ross, who runs Kilmelfort House Ho­tel, said: ‘I am on hol­i­day on Mull at the mo­ment, look­ing around me I think I like Tober­mory the ways it is ... it doesn’t need to be­come a ‘ coastal pow­er­house’.

‘I don’t think any of Ar­gyll’s sea­side towns can be put in the same box as Black­pool or Brighton. But hav­ing said that, all our coastal towns would ben­e­fit from ad­di­tional in­vest­ment.

‘If any money is to be made avail­able, I would like Oban to get a share of it. It should be in­vested in in­fras­truc­ture, trans­port con­nec­tions (es­pe­cially im­proved roads) and im­proved fa­cil­i­ties for every­one who lives here and also for those who choose to visit this won­der­ful part of the world.’

The re­port, com­mis­sioned by the Bri­tish Hos­pi­tal­ity As­so­ci­a­tion (BHA), said that peo­ple liv­ing in sea­side towns are more likely to be poorly ed­u­cated, un­em­ployed, un­em­ploy­able, lack­ing in am­bi­tion, claim­ing ben­e­fits and liv­ing in mul­ti­ple oc­cu­pa­tion hous­ing.

A sep­a­rate sur­vey, con­ducted by the own­ers of But­lin’s and the BHA, found that more than half of the Bri­tish pub­lic have not vis­ited the Bri­tish sea­side in the past three years, and 65 per cent be­lieve that the Bri­tish sea­side is run down and in need of in­vest­ment.

In Scot­land, 245,717 peo­ple are em­ployed in the hos­pi­tal­ity and tourism in­dus­try, which con­trib­utes £137 mil­lion to Scot­land’s econ­omy.

An­gus MacNeil, MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar ( Western Isles), said: ‘ With nearly half of Scot­land’s pop­u­la­tion liv­ing within a few miles of the sea­side, the coast is a fun­da­men­tal part of both the Scot­tish econ­omy and our liveli­hood.

‘I wel­come the BHA’s re­port and urge the gov­ern­ment to do all it can to sup­port in­vest­ment in one of this coun­try’s great­est as­sets.’

The BHA re­port says that the col­lapse of ship­build­ing and fish­ing, the de­cline of the tra­di­tional an­nual hol­i­day by the sea­side, grow­ing drug use, and cut­backs in bud­gets af­fect­ing main­te­nance of pub­lic places, street clean­ing, tourism pro­mo­tion and the pro­vi­sion of ed­u­ca­tion have all con­trib­uted to the sit­u­a­tion.

The BHA wants to es­tab­lish coastal ac­tion groups and in­vest­ment in phys­i­cal and broad­band in­fras­truc­ture.

David Adams McGilp, re­gional di­rec­tor VisitS­cot­land, said: ‘ The sea­side is al­ways pop­u­lar with vis­i­tors, but it is im­por­tant that des­ti­na­tions of­fer prod­ucts, ser­vices and ex­pe­ri­ences to sat­isfy mar­ket de­mand.

‘ Tra­di­tional coastal in­dus­tries have changed and con­tinue to change, and the so­cial well­be­ing of com­mu­ni­ties de­pends on a healthy econ­omy.

‘ Tourism, recre­ation and leisure de­vel­op­ments pre­sent po­ten­tial growth op­por­tu­ni­ties around the marine en­vi­ron­ment, as well as im­proved fa­cil­i­ties for lo­cal peo­ple.’

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