Centre for Coastal Communities

Challenges facing coastal communities

The challenges facing coastal communities are increasingly recognised, as new and worrying patterns of deprivation have materialised in peripheral coastal areas across the UK. With the exception of seaside resorts, there has been limited investigation of the problems experienced in widely varying coastal settlements across different parts of the country. These include unemployment, low incomes, seasonal jobs, low skills and education attainment, social immobility, high rates of anti-depressant and opioid prescribing and poor public health outcomes. International literature on coastal communities is similarly lacking; existing literature on coastal cities tends to focus on environmental but not social, economic and cultural challenges. The 'levelling up' of Britain’s periphery to create dynamic, thriving coastal communities is difficult to achieve without a better understanding of the problems they face and potential solutions.

About the Centre for Coastal Communities

The University of Plymouth is one of the few UK Higher Education Institutions with a critical mass of academics with a proven track record of research on coastal communities and strong collaborative links with key stakeholders in the public, private and third sectors. Based in one of Britain’s major coastal cities, we have expertise in coastal economic performance, deprivation, migration, educational underperformance, displaced populations, health and social care, the blue economy (renewable energy, fisheries, aquaculture, tourism, recreation and leisure), plastic pollution and economic, social and environmental policy for coastal communities. Working alongside our partners, we are uniquely placed to co-ordinate collaborative problem identification, and undertake relevant research to understand problems, co-create solutions and disseminate findings.


Research themes


Media highlights

<p>Plymouth Pioneers.  Professor Sheena Asthana<br></p>

Promoting policy to end coastal poverty

The Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research brings together world-leading research from across the University to improve the health and care of the South West and beyond. Professor Sheena Asthana, the Institute's director, is a leading advocate for improved distribution of funds to ensure fairer access to healthcare for all, focusing her attention on communities disproportionately lacking in support.

"We need to make a better clarification between addressing health inequalities and promoting equal access to equal need; making sure that the people who need the healthcare access are able to get it, and it’s not dependent on a postcode lottery." – Professor Sheena Asthana

Find out more about our actions to end coastal poverty

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Digital inequity: a major health risk in coastal Britain

“Coastal communities [...] include many of the most beautiful, vibrant and historically important places in the country. They also have some of the worst health outcomes in England, with low life expectancy and high rates of many major diseases.”

Professor Sir Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer's Annual Report 2021

Researchers at the University of Plymouth, including Professor Ray Jones and Professor Sheena Asthana – who contributed to the Chief Medical Officer's Report – and Professor Katharine Willis have been working to address digital inequities and poor health outcomes in our coastal communities.

Read more about our work targeting digital inequity

Webinar: Building back Britain and levelling up

To what extent can the challenges facing UK coastal communities be addressed?

The UK government has declared a commitment, through its Industrial Strategy White Paper (HM Government, 2017) and 'Build Back Better' (2021), to address inequalities and 'level up' across the whole of the UK, ensuring that no community is left behind, particularly as we recover from COVID-19.

However, given there has been limited investigation of the problems experienced in widely varying coastal settlements across different parts of the country, this webinar considers the extent to which ‘Build Back Better’ and the ‘levelling up’ agendas can indeed address the challenges facing UK coastal communities.

Find out more about this webinar


<p>Coastal communities<br></p>