Welsh Conservatives will today launch an innovative 'Seaside Strategy' to unlock the unfulfilled potential of Wales’ seaside towns and resorts.
The strategy includes measures to boost small businesses in seaside towns – extending business rate relief, and improving access to finance; offering local communities an opportunity to bid to protect local assets; and establishing an arm’s length body to replace Visit Wales, and drive forward improvements to seaside facilities.
The document, published today, comes as Welsh Conservative Leader, Andrew RT Davies, visits North Wales.
The Welsh Conservative Strategy for the Seaside includes plans to:
Scrap Visit Wales;
We would establish an arm’s-length body to manage and promote Welsh tourism. An arm’s-length body would oversee a “shift in culture” at the heart of Welsh tourism and would embrace the introduction of industry elected representatives.
Strengthen the Seaside economy;
We have announced a package of measures to boost small Welsh businesses: extending business rate relief, improving access to finance, and bolstering skills and training opportunities in Wales.
Improving seaside facilities;
We would direct Local Authorities to ensure a minimum standard of facilities in tourist areas, including seaside towns; For example, improving access to public toilets, adequate parking provision, and accessibility for disabled people.
’Seaside Awards’ for social regeneration projects;
A new arm’s-length body would establish an award scheme which recognises the best in local seaside regeneration projects, ensuring that best practice is shared and rewarding programmes that ensure sustainable seaside-based jobs.
Community Right to Bid;
We would offer local communities the right to bid to protect and preserve key local seaside amenities; including pubs, community halls, and piers.
Ensure Wales Benefits From Coastal Communities Fund;
Provide substantial support to Wales’ coastal communities so they benefit from the next round of funding available via the UK Government’s Costal Communities Fund; ending the Welsh Labour Government’s dismissive approach to this vital opportunity for support.
Make our beaches ‘Blue’;
We would launch a campaign to have more of Wales’ beaches designated with blue flag status, and to encourage local communities to introduce local seaside recycling initiatives.
Publish an annual ‘State of the Seaside’ Report;
A new arm’s-length tourism promotion body would publish an annual ‘state of play’ report, which would be debated at Committee and Assembly level; its findings would inspire debate and discussion around future improvements to our cherished seaside towns. The body would also be responsible for developing a ‘new visitor strategy’ working with local business and tourism operators to boost ‘staycations’ and other visits.
Increase flood risk awareness, and end irresponsible development;
We would designate land close to coastlines as 'Blue Belt' land to prevent future residential development. Additionally, we would raise awareness among seaside businesses and residents about flood risks.
Speaking ahead of a visit to the Old Colwyn Promenade, Andrew RT Davies said:
“Our seasides and coastal towns are amongst the crown jewels in the Welsh tourism offer.
“Many seaside towns in Wales are not reaching their full tourism potential, because they are not receiving the support they need from Welsh Government.
“Tourism is a major tool in the regeneration of seaside towns through encouraging the growth of small businesses, investing in amenities and through effective marketing.
“This is a clear strategy to support towns all around Wales’ beautiful coastlines and to help bring in tourists and make Wales a more prosperous nation.”
Commenting on plans to scrap Visit Wales Mr Davies added:
“We believe that an independent voice in tourism would be a huge boost to seaside towns.
“Ultimately, Welsh tourism needs a shift in culture, with the industry itself taking the lead.
“You won’t find too many businesses in Wales who believe that politicians are the best people to drive tourism forward, and an injection of entrepreneurial spirit would boost innovation and creativity – particularly with the dire marketing we have seen in recent years.
“We want to put power back in the hands of Welsh businesses and communities, and this announcement is part of a broader Welsh Conservative drive to de-centralise power and cut Welsh Government down to size.”
Shadow Minister for Tourism, Suzy Davies, also pledged that a Welsh Conservative Government would improve awareness of the UK Government’s ‘Coastal Communities Fund’ and ensure that Welsh town benefit from the next round of funding, which is due to start in 2016/17.
“The Coastal Communities Fund plays a huge role in supporting projects which unlock the economic potential of our seafront.
“The fund is specifically designed to help seaside towns become year round destinations, supporting our local tourism sector and sustaining jobs.
“Sadly, however, the Welsh Labour Government has done little or nothing to support the initiative and make communities aware of its existence. A Welsh Conservative Government would provide substantial support to Wales’ coastal communities so they benefit from the next round of funding available via the UK Government’s Costal Communities Fund; ending the Welsh Labour Government’s dismissive approach to this vital opportunity for support.”