Things have been quite on this blog for a couple of months. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the perennial administrative and marking logjam that always impacts on research and creative work after the Easter break. We’re coming towards the end of this at Greenwich over the next couple of weeks, which should open up a bit more space for this project. The other thing that caused me to put the brakes on for a few weeks was the general election in the UK which has led to a transitionary period of regime change and a lot of ambiguities for regeneration policy. In the South-East, it is likely that SEEDA, the regional development agency, will be broken up. Some of the RDA’s powers will most likely be taken over by local authorities while others will be exercised by the new Local Enterprise Partnerships that will operate at sub-regional levels and will be made up of local authorities and the private sector. The Regional Spatial Strategy is also likely to go, and the new secretary of state for Communities and Local Government has already begun writing to local authorities to tell them to ignore key aspects of their RSSs, such as housing delivery targets.
What this will mean for cultural regeneration and seaside regeneration is not at all clear. The rhetoric and aims of cultural regeneration, with its emphasis on the knowledge economy and high-spending cultural tourists as the drivers of renewal, are closely linked to New Labour policy and it remains to be seen whether the rhetoric or the mechanisms of cultural regeneration will survive under a Conservative administration. Whether the new government will recognise seaside towns as particular kinds of urban areas, with their own specific issues and opportunities is also not clear. All government spending since January 2010 is under review, which could have implications for recently awarded Sea Change grants and monies recently released for seaside regeneration in the dying days of the New Labour project. Hastings, which I have blogged about elsewhere, has already lost £300,000 of funding that it expected to direct to renewal projects this year.
Taking all of this into account, the research that I’ll be completing over the Summer should provide an interesting bookend to a period in seaside regeneration in which seaside towns first followed, then began to lead, a New Labour / Neoliberal approach to regeneration and economic development.