Conservative MPs have called on the new prime minister to arrest the decline of Britain’s coastal communities, which face losing half their young people due to a lack of jobs.
The group of 13 MPs, including former leadership contender and Portsmouth MP Penny Mordaunt, has written to Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to urge whoever wins the Tory leadership contest to come up with a plan to boost the coastal economy.
They said: “There are serious challenges facing the country – and whilst the UK coastline continues to attract millions of visitors this summer, for the people living there it can be a very different story.
“Our coastal communities have been amongst the hardest hit by the pandemic and will be hit further by the rising cost of living. Without urgent intervention they stand to fall even further behind.”
A 2021 Survation poll of 1,000 young people in coastal communities found 49% planned to move away, with lack of jobs the overwhelming reason.
The MPs, including senior figures such as Nusrat Ghani, Bernard Jenkin and Sir Desmond Swayne, called for freeport benefits to be extended to the whole of the UK coastline and connectivity between the coast and the rest of the country to be improved.
They added: “Growing industry in coastal communities is vital to turn the tide. Industry roles, such as those in maritime, pay £9,000 more than the national average per year, and for every £1 generated by the sector, a total £2.71 is generated across the UK economy.”
The letter was organised by Maritime UK, which represents maritime industries and last year published a manifesto proposing ways to boost the coastal economy.
Chief executive Ben Murray said: “The contest deciding Britain’s next prime minister is in its final days, but we have yet to see a clear plan for growth in our coastal communities from either candidate.
“Not for the first time, the people living in these communities could be forgiven for feeling forgotten.
“We have a real opportunity to put coastal areas at the heart of Britain’s green growth. But this will require an economic plan that treats these areas as places of business and trade, not just bucket and spade.”
On Thursday, the Government announced it had opened the bidding for a new freeport in Wales.
Communities Secretary Greg Clark said freeports were “already delivering benefits to businesses and communities across England”, and added he looked forward to seeing “similar benefits for Wales”.