November 30, 2016
A blue new deal
When you consider the length of Scotland’s coastline (10,250 miles including the islands) it is a little surprising that the many hundreds of communities dotted along its length have not banded together in common cause. Recently, a number have collaborated very effectively around the contentious issue of Marine Protected Areas and New Economics Foundation has been working on a Blue New Deal proposition with coastal communities around the UK. A number of Scottish communities went down to Westminster recently for its launch.
ONCE THE SOURCE OF PROSPERITY FOR MANY COASTAL COMMUNITIES, THE UK’S SEAS ARE NOW SOMETIMES PERCEIVED AS A BARRIER TO THEIR ECONOMIC PROGRESS. OUR COASTAL COMMUNITIES ARE OFTEN THE MOST DISADVANTAGED AND DISTANT FROM PUBLIC DECISION-MAKING, WITH MANY PEOPLE FEELING LEFT BEHIND.
Somewhere, Britain lost something very important: our belief in the sea as a source of prosperity. It is our task to get it back. Turning back to the sea means getting more people excited about what our coast has to offer and growing a new generation of innovative coastal and marine businesses. The Blue New Deal is a plan to put people in control so they can shape local priorities, value their greatest asset, and revitalise the UK coast.
Fishing communities continue to lose jobs and revenue, as fishing rights accumulate in the hands of a few unaccountable companies. Many coastal areas find it hard to retain young people and recruit teachers, as they lack the appropriate physical and digital connectivity. Without the necessary support, communities and businesses are struggling to make the most of the coast’s abundant potential for cleaner energy. And without the appropriate resources, local authorities are discouraged from innovating in more sustainable ways to protect homes and businesses from climate change.
“BUT PEOPLE ON THE COAST ARE EAGER TO TAKE CONTROL. THEY WANT TO BE IN THE DRIVING SEAT, LEADING A NEW APPROACH TO REGENERATING THEIR AREAS.”
And already the coast is dotted with great ideas and projects – from sustainable shellfish farming projects in Wales and the south west of England, to a world-leading hub for marine renewable energy in Orkney.
Our challenge now is to build on those ideas and help them grow to become opportunities for fundamental, wide-scale change.
A Blue New Deal for coastal communities has to begin by asking how communities can be supported to make the most of their unique assets, now and for future generations.
In practice, that means asking:
How can we empower coastal communities to become centres for a renewable energy revolution?
How can we support coastal destinations in attracting visitors year round?
How can we ensure small fishing boats become and remain economically viable?
How can coastal communities tackle the impact of second-home ownership on the local housing market, or benefit from inward investment without leaving local people priced out of their communities?
And having asked the questions – speaking with and learning from hundreds of people up and down the country – we can now offer real answers that will help people on the coast take control of what affects their lives, today and in the future.
Some of what needs to happen would broadly apply anywhere, and benefit any community in the country – like developing new sources of finance for local businesses. Others are unique to the specific challenges and assets that coastal communities have – like adapting to coastal erosion or innovative marine leisure businesses.
A healthier coastal and marine environment plays a key role in delivering many of the things that coastal communities need and want.
There are four things that need to happen to revitalise the UK coast, and they must work together to deliver its potential.
Local people need to be in control, leading a new approach to regeneration.
Coastal communities need to work together to explore how different areas of the coastal economy – including tourism, energy, fisheries, and aquaculture – can help inspire and support each other, to turn again to the sea for jobs and economic prosperity.
More needs to be done to support coastal areas to plan for a changing coast. Proactive and innovative approaches are needed to help make the UK coast more resilient to climate change.
Government must build the capabilities of places, people, and communities; support projects, small or large; and ensure there is the digital and transport infrastructure that communities need to thrive.
There has never been a more urgent need for communities to come together and lead the change themselves. The Brexit vote was a wake-up call: communities left behind by our economy and ignored by our politics are demanding to be heard. In the face of growing inequality, political and financial instability, and increasingly urgent threats to the natural environment we depend on, we all want to see a new economy that benefits areas of the country whose potential is not being fulfilled.
“THE ACTION PLAN THAT FOLLOWS IS JUST THE BEGINNING. MAKING IT ALL HAPPEN WILL REQUIRE WORKING AT DIFFERENT LEVELS: COMMUNITIES, NATIONAL AND DEVOLVED GOVERNMENTS, AND BUSINESS AND INVESTORS.”
For investors, there is huge potential for supporting the new businesses and innovative projects that are needed.
For governments, the Blue New Deal offers the building blocks for a coastal industrial strategy, which could play a key role in helping to rebalance our economy and begin to close the gaps between the UK’s marginalised and well-off regions and communities.
The New Economics Foundation will continue to work with coastal communities from all regions of the UK, to help them reinvent and take control of their local economies, and to speak with a louder voice in government and parliament.