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Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside

Updated Thursday, 12th October 2006

Can you spot signs of decline as you stroll along beside the seaside?

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An ice cream van Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: BBC

Coasts have only relatively recently been places we might choose to visit.

In the 18th century they were thought rather hostile places, however, these days living by the sea is considered very desirable indeed.

Tourism has been the most important industry of many UK coastal resorts for the past century. Millions of us like nothing better than to spend a relaxing break at the seaside. Consequently, many tourist facilities are found in coastal resorts, all of which generate income and jobs for the local economy.

Are the buildings around you catering to what the tourists want or what locals need?

A booming tourist economy, with its many hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and cinemas, might benefit many people. For example, they might easily get work. Also, people might want to buy holiday homes, which could increase the value of residents’s houses. But, there may be social and economic problems associated with tourism.

Souvenir shops along the promenade Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Flickr CreativeCommons TGIGreeny
Souvenir shops along the promenade [Image: TGIGreeny - CC-BY-NC-SA licence]

How much do houses cost at this resort? You could look in a local estate agent’s window or local newspaper. Do you think prices are low or high? Are there any disadvantages of increasing house prices? Does closeness to the sea raise or lower house prices? What kind of house buyers are being targeted?

If house prices are inflated by the demand for holiday homes, it may be difficult for locals to buy houses in the place they were brought up. Furthermore, tourism is usually very seasonal in the UK. Thus, in winter, when holidaymakers have left, unemployment may rise, holiday homes may be left empty and places of entertainment may shut down so that there is little for young people to do.

Some seaside resorts might have initially survived the economic decline that hit UK manufacturing towns and cities in the 20th century. Indeed places like Hastings had a heyday in the first decades of the 20th century and up to the 1960s but since then it became ever cheaper and easier for us to go abroad for holidays. This meant that some coastal towns went into decline.

Is there evidence to suggest that the coastal place where you are is declining? Or perhaps it is booming?

You might see boarded up shop-fronts or hotels in obviously bad repair or cinemas and theatres converted to shops or even closed down. Additionally there might be few signs of community activity like adverts for meetings, social occasions or clubs and hobbies. By contrast a thriving economy will have lots of people using businesses and services, up-market shops and probably many restaurants and places of entertainment. The British coastline has changed dramatically over the last few hundred years and not only as a result of physical processes like erosion and weathering but also because of these social and economic processes.

This article was originally published in Summer 2005 as part of the Coast postcard pack




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