Hartlepool has some great strengths and positive attributes. Key amongst these is its location.
The town has traditionally derived its strength and its prosperity from its position on the sea and as a coastal community.
The town traditionally grew up as a fishing village and then expanded its position and strategic importance as an important trading post.
In the 19th century, the community of West Hartlepool was established and grew rapidly in the Industrial Revolution because of the ability to transport coal from the south west Durham coalfields by ship more cheaply than other modes of transport.
In time, the great ship building companies and steelworks were set up because of our docks and ability to prosper through trade by the sea.
When we embrace our location as a coastal community, the town can thrive; when we turn our backs on the sea, we tend to falter.
However, it’s also true to say that coastal communities have distinct and often unique challenges. In some ways, it is not necessary to go through these communities in order to travel elsewhere, and so the coastal towns can feel isolated and remote from investment.
Coastal areas are often the most disadvantaged. People often move away from these towns for education and employment reasons. Connections, in terms of transport and broadband, are often not as good as in cities.
Last week in Parliament I attended an event to launch what is known as a Blue New Deal to revitalise coastal communities. The points arising from the event were fascinating and could be used to benefit Hartlepool.
It was said at the event that there has never been a more urgent need for communities on the coast to come together and affect positive change.
The point was made that it was striking that coastal communities up and down the country, but especially all along the east coast and including Hartlepool, voted overwhelmingly in the referendum for Brexit; this is in all likelihood because people felt left behind by globalisation and the changes to the economy.
There is huge scope to do significant work here. For investors, there is the potential to support the new businesses and innovative projects that are needed.
For the Government, it was suggested that such a deal would provide a coastal industrial strategy to help rebalance the economy away from London and towards manufacturing and begin to close the big gap between the country’s prosperous and poorer areas.
Most of all, a plan for coastal communities would benefit the people who live in these areas, like Hartlepool, who would receive the jobs, enjoy the wages that such employment could provide and would ensure that public services are sufficiently funded.
The Blue New Deal suggested four, inter-connected things that needed to happen to revitalise the UK coast: local people being in control to help inspire proper regeneration; coastal communities working together to see how different parts of the economy can fit, compliment and support one another; more being done to support a changing coast, caused by climate change and rising sea levels; and government providing broadband and transport infrastructure that communities need.
I think there’s some scope to adopt a lot of these principles for the benefit of the town.
The town has always prospered when it has used it natural position on the coast for superb social and economic benefits.
That can be utilised again for much bigger gains.