Tough questions will be put to the Government following a visit to the Skegness coast by members of the House of Lords Select Committee on Regenerating Seaside Towns and Communities.
The cross-party peers requested the visit to Skegness as part of their fact finding mission on issues around coastal flooding, business and skills - as well as examining the effect of regeneration and the role of the visitor economy in generating change.
We will be asking tough questions of the Government and local government coastal policy makersLord Bassam of Brighton
They took a walk along Skegness Foreshore, visited Butlins at Ingoldmells, Gibraltar Point and the new North Sea Observatory at Chapel St Leonards, ending back in Skegness at the Vine Hotel for an ‘open session’, where members of the public had the opportunity to discuss issues that concerned them.
Lord Bassam of Brighton, Chairman of the Committee, said he was particularly surprised to hear of the concern about how Brexit could affect the seasonal workforce.
In an interview with the Standard, he said: “Skegness, with its historic foreshore and the first ever Butlins resort, has a rich heritage as a seaside destination. We were keen to learn more about the steps being taken to protect and promote historic assets, alongside the development of a modern visitor economy. T
“As the fourth most popular resort in England if not the UK, Skegness is a success story, But there are clearly issues.
“One of those is the Labour market and how Brexit might affect it - especially with 20 per cent of workforce from Eastern Europe, who work very hard in the area.
“Other concerns include younger people who move away and tend not to come back.
“Transport, mobility, health and housing issues were also identified, and it was good to hear local authorities are considering building new stock with a social housing provider.
“We were also shocked to hear about the reliance on food banks and the poverty in the area - and students from Skegness Academy told us about their concerns about community safety and drug taking in the area.”
The committee was joined by senior councillors and officers from the County, District and Town Councils as well as key partners from the public sector (including the Environment Agency) and representatives from the local business community.
For them it provided an opportunity for the council and partners to discuss a range of projects including the emerging Skegness Foreshore Masterplan, the Destination Business Improvement District and the North Sea Observatory and Gibraltar Point.
In addition, the party visited Butlins, which showcased how sustained investment into the visitor product can positively impact upon the wider local economy. The day ended with an ‘open-session’ at the Vine Hotel in Skegness where the public had the opportunity to discuss issues relating to the challenges of living and working in a coastal community directly with the Select Committee. During the visit the Select Committee’s Engagement Team undertook a consultation on Skegness’ Foreshore with members of the public.
Lord Bassam said one of the highlights was the visit to the new North Sea Observatory. He said: “It is a stunning piece of architecture and it was interesting to see how the coast’s offer is being developed beyond usual activities.”
Findings will now be used to produce a report which is expected to be made public by March 2019 and debated by the Government.
“We will be asking tough questions of the Government and local government coastal policy makers,” Lord Bassam said.
Among the councillors accompanying the committee was Portfolio Holder for Coastal Economy at the District Council, Coun Steve Kirk, He said: “We were honoured to host today’s visit by the House of Lord’s Select Committee and I’d like to thank all of those organisations who supported the visit. The visit provided us with a rare opportunity to demonstrate the impact of the work we’re already undertaking and the ongoing and sometimes acute challenges we face on our coastline.“
Skegness Town Mayor, Coun Sid Dennis, said: “We were pleased to have the opportunity to meet with the Select Committee and provide an insight to some of the difficulties that a coastal community such as Skegness faces.”