Eddie Bridgeman, director of both Meanwhile Space and Seasider, got all shy this week about being featured on the Regen and Renewal website this week talking about the Seasider pop-up shop in Camden. He actually did a great job and you can hear him by visiting their. I love the fact that he’s waving the ‘Everyone Loves Hastings Pier’ flier all through the interview!

Eddie and I were in a meeting at the Department for Education about the potential around Free Schools. We were joined by Annemarie Naylor of the Asset Transfer Unit so as well as the possible options for new schools to use meanwhile spaces to test out their ideas, we were talking about longer-term asset transfer, either direct to community-based free school groups or to development trusts who may then lease parts of the site to a free school group.

After the meeting we came up with a better name for my latest hobby-horse – the Seaside Towns Enterprise Partnership (a pronounceable acronym is always half the battle with new ideas!). The idea is to propose something ‘different and complementary’ to the Local Enterprise Partnerships. I completely agree with the key LEP aims – driving down decisions to ‘natural economic areas’ and enabling genuine cross-sectoral partnerships to tackle struggling economies and develop business opportunities, particularly in those areas heavily dependent on public sector spend. But as things are shaping up seaside towns will be further marginalised.

It is my belief that England’s seaside towns have more in common with each other economically, culturally and historically than they may have individually with inland counterparts in their region or sub-region. This common ground has been increasingly recognised over the past five years, although it had been a struggle to get government departments to understand the special seaside issues and opportunities. Just before the election both main parties launched seaside strategies and the Prime Minister’s recent speech about seaside tourism was very welcome, pointing out the importance and untapped potential of seaside tourism to our island economy as a whole.

As well as sharing best practice and learning from each other, the STEP could be seen as a legitimate partnership body to access Regional Growth Fund and other support that may become available in order to invest directly in specific seaside economic development projects. The economic issues in seaside towns encompass elements under the responsibility of BIS (economic development), CLG (planning, supporting people), Defra (coastal defence), DCMS (seafront heritage assets, tourism), DECC (offshore renewables), and DWP (incapacity and other welfare issues) – so they need a way of dealing with government across departments and, as Eddie said in his interview, of MAKING THEMSELVES HEARD…

This is St Anne’s pier – the last on my seaside tour, just a few miles south of Blackpool.

A strange place with a very expensive carpark out front and some very old-fashioned toddler rides. Sad to see the No Entry sign – hopefully it’s just temporary?




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