We need to lead the charge to coastal proof policy, to get people to build on the love of our coast to make sure that the economic, technological and environmental future works for us too.
The last few months or so have been some of the strangest I’ve lived through. Facing an invisible virus, which delivered on its potential to wreak havoc in lives up and down the country, has been hard on all of us. The virus has disproportionately harmed our already challenged communities and kept us in our places for weeks on end. However, uncaring as it sounds, COVID-19 has also given us the evidence that proves given a chance, people want the opportunity to do things in a different way. Those of us in a position to do something about it need to take responsibility and carve a real fundamental shift in the way the country operates.
Anybody who lives by the coast knows the joy of the sea. We weren’t surprised when our coastal towns and villages were swamped by visitors the moment travel restrictions were eased; it was entirely expected and in other circumstances it would be entirely welcome. But just now it’s a bit hard to get too excited about it.
Because we know that for many of our coastal towns unemployment is scandalously high. Issues like low pay; insecure work; a lack of infrastructure; B&Bs becoming HMOs, low educational attainment; transient communities with no sense of place; second home owners pricing out local people make daily life a struggle, manifesting in some of the highest death rates in the country. We also know that coastal perspectives aren’t reflected in policy and investment decisions the way they should be.
As much as the bankers from HSBC don’t want it to be true, we are an island. But our coastal voice is fragmented by the nature of geography. We are singular destinations: places to go to, not places to go through. We are all 180-degree communities and we are isolated, but we are also 10-million strong.
So we need to get organised. We need to lead the charge to coastal proof policy, to get people to build on the love of our coast to make sure that the economic, technological and environmental future works for us too.
And we need to do it now.
– Sacha Bedding, Annexe Hartlepool