IT'S ONE of Britain's most beautiful areas and favourite spot for holiday homes.

But a shock new report has highlighted the glum economic realities of life in the coastal New Forest.

Seaside towns and villages in the New Forest, where average house prices are cruising towards £420,000, have seen their economy's GVA measure (gross value added, the value generated by any unit engaged in the production of goods and services) shrink by nearly nine percentage points in just ten years.

While the size of Britain’s coastal economy grew by 7.5 per cent between 2010 and 2017, the rest of the country’s economy grew more than twice as fast, by 17.1 per cent.

The figures were produced by the non-aligned Social Market Foundation think-tank for its 'Falling off a Cliff?' report, which highlights the increasing gap between coastal areas and the rest of the UK.

It says that on average, workers in seaside town now earn almost £5,000 less than those elsewhere in the country.

While most of the country saw wages rise from 2017 to 2018, the SMF calculated that coastal workers suffered falling incomes.

"In 2017, non-coastal workers had an average salary of £29,291," said the report. "In 2018, that was £30,592. For coastal workers, the average wage was £26,098 in 2017, falling to £25,906 the following year. That means the coastal wage gap rose from £3,193 to £4,686."

More than 30 coastal areas - including the New Forest - still have economies smaller than before the financial crisis that began in 2007. The Social Market Foundation also noted that most of those places voted for Brexit.

In even grimmer news, the SMF said that people in coastal areas can now also expect to die earlier than those elsewhere, with the latest data showing a growing “death gap” between seaside populations and the rest of Britain.

SMF research director and the report’s author, Scott Corfe, said: “Coastal areas are sadly falling further behind the rest of the country. That means people there are poorer and even die younger than people elsewhere in the UK. Gaps like that are unfair and should be addressed.

“Many coastal areas are still poorer now than they were before the financial crisis in 20007. In the context of the Brexit debate, it’s notable that most of those areas voted in favour of leaving the European Union.

“Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he wants to help ‘forgotten’ parts of the country and coastal areas where incomes and lifespans are falling certainly fit that description.”