COAST- Co-Ordinated Action For Seaside Towns

The challenges faced by coastal areas are unique being brought about by a combination of economic employment and environmental problems.

Environment versus Development

Coastal areas rely on the quality of their local environment for their economic well-being. Economic development undertaken to meet the needs of mass tourism often has devastating effects on the natural environment. The need for sustainable development is a key challenge facing coastal regions today.

Tourism - Peaks and Troughs

Coastal towns are often highly dependent on a single industry - tourism. The tourism industry is highly competitive and subject to rapid change - increasing competition from South East Asia and North America makes European seaside towns and coastal areas increasingly vulnerable in a volatile market place. These areas need to adapt in order to remain competitive in a rapidly changing market place which is characterised by increasing globalisation and ever-higher customer expectations.


The seasonal nature of tourism creates enormous pressures during the peak season resulting in the deterioration of the local infrastructure. It also heavily affects employment which is often biased towards the service sector, with many businesses being directly or indirectly dependent on tourism. The employment opportunities available are characteristically seasonal, poorly paid and part-time and there is little or no manufacturing base or indigenous skills on which to develop new opportunities. Many towns find it difficult to provide year-round employment and to escape the socio-economic problems caused by seasonal employment.


Coastal towns are often located at a distance from major economic centres and are characterised by poor external transport and telecommunications links. This provides a disincentive for businesses and industries and as a result, coastal regions suffer from a lack of inward investment. In addition, coastal areas often border rural hinterlands and face traditional problems of rurality

Changing Populations

A high proportion of properties in coastal towns are second homes which remain vacant over long periods of time. This produces seasonal fluctuations in the demand for products and services and the pressures placed on local infrastructure. This affects both local employment patterns as well as the overall level of services available to the local population.

As people choose to retire to the seaside, coastal areas are characterised by an increasingly ageing population. This places additional demands on hospitals and care facilities.

COAST has responded to these challenges by providing a forum through which seaside towns and coastal regions can work together to tackle common challenges.

COAST's Targets:
  1. improve the competitive potential of, and opportunities for, small and medium
  2. enterprises (SMEs) in seaside towns
  3. improve the potential of human resources in seaside areas and combat the problems caused by fluctuating seasonal employment through joint projects for individual and SME training exchanges
  4. analyse and develop approaches to broadening the economic base in seaside areas
  5. exchange experience and involve other seaside areas in the work of COAST

COAST is a non profit-making association operating under Belgian law, completely financed by the membership fees paid by its members. Overseen by an Executive Committee, the network activities are divided into specialised Working Groups, examining specific policy areas such as Tourism, Planning & Infrastructure, Transport and Environment. Each working group is chaired by a founder member of the network, with the position of Honorary Chairman being held by a key Commission official or MEP specialising in that field. The chairman of each Working Group reports to the Executive Committee and the Technical Assistance Office.

While policy decisions can only be taken by the Executive Committee, a Steering Group (comprising representatives of both Executive Committee, Technical Assistance Office and all Working Groups) meets at regular intervals in order to provide an overview of current work, prepare for presentations to the Executive Committee and to solve small-scale interim problems.

The overall administrative and financial management of the COAST network is undertaken by the Technical Assistance Office which is based in Brussels. The TAO acts as the central hub of the network, maintaining links between network partners themselves and between the network and the European Union institutions.

In addition to administering the work of both Executive Committee, Steering Group and Working Groups, the TAO is also responsible for the dissemination of information on all aspects of policy affecting coastal areas. One of its primary functions is to keep network partners regularly appraised of potential EU funding opportunities through the dissemination of official documentation relating to calls for proposals relating to the main EU programmes. These services are supplemented by the organisation of information visits and meetings with EU officials.

COAST means:

1. European Information: analysis, reports
2. Meetings with European Union officials
3. Development and implementation of common projects
4. Exchange of experience in central areas (SMEs, sustainable development, environmental pollution, tourism development, regional development, etc.)
5. Local development expertise for the European Commission

1. Direct links with European Union institutions
2. Advice and technical expertise in developing common projects
3. Organisation of seminars and workshops to promote exchanges of experience among members and to promote the work of COAST to outside parties
4. Dissemination of information concerning conferences, EU programmes and policies, funding opportunities, etc.

Should you require any further information concerning the services supplied to members of the COAST network, please do not hesitate to contact the COAST Technical Assistance Office at the address below.

Information Source

Prepared by ...
34/36 Rue Breydel, 1040 Brussels, Belgium
Telephone +32 2 280 02 34 Facsimile +32- 2 23048 75
E-Mail [email protected]