Coastal communities, the economy and economic policy

Coastal planning and regeneration


Given the restructuring of many economic sectors on the coast, such as ports, tourism and military defence, the importance of planning and regeneration has been fundamental to the economic, social and environmental future of coastal communities. Research by Dr Stephen Essex (and students on the MSc Planning programmes) has highlighted some of the challenges of undertaking this regeneration and the often contested nature of redevelopment schemes on the coast. These papers have focused on the challenges of brownfield redevelopment on the coast; the problems of creating 'public good' and mixed communities in coastal regeneration schemes; and the outcomes of different approaches to regeneration along Plymouth's waterfront over 30 years. In addition, environmental challenges presented by urban coastal regeneration schemes have been investigated, such as issues arising from the integration of terrestrial and marine planning and the policy response of coastal planning authorities to climate change.

The underlying drivers of seaside towns


Professor Sheela Agarwal led research that examined the underlying drivers of economic performance across 58 of England’s largest seaside towns, through a multi-tiered approach, drawing on a unique bespoke 'seaside town' database. It assesses seaside town economic performance and identifies those that are 'leading' and 'lagging', along with a set of associated common socioeconomic characteristics.

Sustainable policy solutions


The University's Marine Institute is exploring the development of sustainable policy solutions, including through the blue economy. Plymouth has launched the UK's first National Marine Park (NMP), a novel Government initiative that could become the blueprint for other locations. Supported by scientists, businesses, community groups and policy makers, the NMP aims to engage city dwellers with the sea to maximise Plymouth Sound's value for recreation, industry and well-being.

The blue economy


Professor Mel Austen has led research across the multiple and interacting sectors of the blue economy (renewable energy, fisheries, aquaculture, tourism, recreation and leisure) and the broader marine natural capital, ecosystem services and their benefits. Aiming to support policy development, regulation and management for sustainable ecosystems in the UK and internationally, Austen's research integrates natural, economic, social and public health sciences to examine and quantify the societal consequences and policy relevance of changes to the marine environment and its ecosystems.

The new English freeports


Dr Nichola Harmer’s research addresses issues of sovereignty, sustainability and the representation of changing places, focusing on perceptions of the contemporary relationship between the UK and its overseas territories, spaces where formal state sovereignty unfolds in the context of local autonomies, identities and agency. Dr Patrick Holden researches international issues such as inter-state cooperation in trade and development, including work on Brexit: Renegotiating Relationships and Resilience in the South West which involved extensive interviewing and discussions with over 40 local institutions (government, business and NGOs). Building on this, Dr Holden and Dr Harmer are working together on research on the development of the new English freeports focused on the Plymouth and South Hams Freezone and how this is viewed by and will affect local communities and stakeholders.


Marine Institute

Providing an external portal to our extensive pool of world-leading experts and state-of-the-art facilities, enabling us to understand the relationship between the way we live, the seas that surround us and the development of sustainable policy solutions.

Representing 3000 staff, researchers and students, the University of Plymouth's Marine Institute is the first and largest such institute in the UK

Further information
The Marine Building

Media highlights

Webinar: Coastal Economies in the Time of Covid

The New Economics Foundation looks at the challenges facing coastal communities in the UK and how nature and people on the coast are key to a Green and Fair Recovery. This webinar includes input from leading coastal networks and community organisers working to build a broad coalition for coastal recovery, reimagining and celebration.

View the Coastal Economies in the Time of Covid webinar

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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

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South West Partnership for Environment and Economic Prosperity (SWEEP)

Applying research to deliver environmental, economic and social benefits to the South West

More about SWEEP
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