Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The Benefits of Regeneration

How do we make sure that proposals for regeneration actually help the local communities which are asked to support such plans? One of the problems in the last ten years is that development has been seen as something done to communities rather than with them.

This week, the government outlined a raft of policies to take power away from developers and central government and put control back in the hands of local people, where it belongs. This is a major step forward but there is something else we need to achieve. Wherever possible, construction projects should employ local staff and local contractors. We need communities to see and feel the economic benefits of regeneration.

Last Friday I visited Working Links, a job placement service based in Redruth. That morning, they had held a meeting to recruit fifty local people to begin work on the reconstruction of North Quay at Hayle harbour. ING have a target that 90 percent of the people working on the North Quay project should be local and live within a 30 mile radius. The work is being spearheaded by the construction company, Carillion. Despite being one of Britain’s biggest companies and having a global reach, Carillion have risen to the challenge and have made it their priority to recruit local builders. All credit to them for taking such a lead. We need others to follow. One critic of development in Camborne recently told me that Midas Homes rarely employed local people but instead sent in gangs from upcountry. That’s no good. Developers like Midas could learn a lesson or two from Carillion.

Which brings me to Hayle. This week there have been public meetings to weigh up the various options for a supermarket in the town. Big planning issues are always contentious. The easy thing for a politician to do is keep their head down. But the right thing to do is to exercise judgement and say what is in the best interests of the town.

That’s why I came out very clearly in favour of the ING proposal on South Quay at the end of last year. If we are going to have a supermarket in Hayle, then let’s at least locate it where it will bring new life in to the town rather than drain life away from the town. Let’s demand something in return from all these supermarkets and use their interest as an opportunity to repair the harbour and regenerate South Quay. Let’s demand something for the community and make plans for a new cinema in Hayle a reality. Let’s celebrate our heritage and bring the famous Goonvean Engine back to the town where it was made.

Some are suspicious of ING simply because it’s a Dutch bank. But if their recruitment policy for staff on North Quay is anything to go by, we should give them a chance.