Future of Seaside Towns - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:51 pm on 1st July 2019.

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Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 8:51 pm, 1st July 2019

I am sorry; I meant Dr Beeching. It was a Freudian slip. The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, is not in that category; I exempt him. It was Dr Beeching who came up with the 1961 report.

I agree with the point about the Whitby service. Last year, I got to Whitby using public transport from Scarborough. It is an excellent town; I had the pleasure of going to Ayckbourn’s Stephen Joseph Theatre before getting the bus to Whitby, which took me through Robin Hood’s Bay. I then used the heritage line, which was also excellent. I agree that Whitby has been left without a valuable connection to the south. It is worth mentioning how good some of these heritage railways are, such as the line from Cromer and Sheringham to Holt; I think that the Swanage line and the Paignton line, which goes via Greenway House—Agatha Christie’s home and a National Trust property—on the way to Kingswear, were also referred to. They do a lot of good.

The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, mentioned the heritage railways and Whitby; I congratulate him on not being steeped in blood like everybody else because he was there objecting. He also talked about chambers of commerce, which I will certainly feed into the system. I think that they may be involved with some LEPs anyway, but it is a point worth emphasising. I agree with him on the importance of the voluntary sector and programmes such as “Heartbeat” in providing tourism opportunities. Some £1.8 billion of public money has been put into Digital UK’s superfast broadband programme; I am sure that the shared prosperity fund will look at this issue as well.

The noble Lord, Lord Lennie, referred to the position in Whitley Bay and asked about the Big Local. That is funded not by the Government but by the Big Lottery Fund. It is clearly worth while but if the problem continues, that is a matter for the fund. Again, I went to Whitley Bay not long ago on a trip to Tynemouth. I got there by public transport, which was not too difficult; the metro system was pretty excellent.

The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, made a plea for ports. Of course, some ports are successful; not all are in decline. I know that Felixstowe and Tilbury, which is inland—not inland, but on the river—are massively successful. Again, public transport to Tilbury is pretty good but I take the noble Baroness’s point. Newhaven is covered by an enterprise zone, which provides an opportunity for particular policy advantages. I think she mentioned Whitehaven, which does not benefit particularly from tourism. It is good that we do not think only about tourist resorts; I thank her for that point.

The noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, spoke about Blackpool and “The Lion and Albert”. From memory, I do not think it ended well for Albert, but we want it to end well for Blackpool. The housing zone is certainly something to look at; the town deal for Blackpool is being looked at. I cannot make any promises about that but I can say that Blackpool is a challenge that the Government take very seriously. It is close to all our hearts; we all know Blackpool, which is uniquely British and certainly worth saving.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, for what he said about VisitBritain. It committed £40 million to the Discover England Fund, whose projects often concern coastal destinations, between 2016 and 2020 so, in its defence, it does quite a lot. We have also spent money on US connections to D-day and the “Mayflower”. I think the noble Lord referred to Mrs May; she holidays in this country, as he will know, on which she is to be congratulated.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, for what he said. I agree that we perhaps need a theme although, as we have seen, this is a wide-ranging area involving a great deal of different policy. I will check on the justice courts in Blackpool. It is a valid point that I will chase up. This is multifaceted. We need to consider the changes there have been in society and carry them forward. We all want the same thing. However, this is multifaceted and I will endeavour in the letter to fill in any gaps.

I thank noble Lords for a valuable debate, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, who has helped pull it together.