Thursday, 29 September 2011

Time for Cornwall to take control of its own heritage

I have always believed that this part of Cornwall could make more of its amazing industrial heritage and earlier this summer I organised a mini conference to discuss how we can maximise the benefits from Cornwall’s World Heritage Site status. Camborne, Redruth and Hayle together make up the heart of the county’s industrial heritage. There are also around 8 million people around the world who are part of the Cornish Diaspora, with ancestors who can be traced back to Cornwall.

Some good work is already underway. Last week I visited the Heartlands project at Pool which is almost complete and which could create a strong central attraction to pull more people into the area. As well as bringing the engine house at Robinson’s shaft back into action, the project is also developing what promises to be an amazing landscaping project. Around the engine house will be a reflection pool and a bridge and beyond the bridge a series of gardens with plants from New Zealand, Australia, South America and South Africa to symbolise the route that thousands of Cornish emigrants took.

As I wrote last week, there is also a lot of potential for Hayle which played a central role in Cornwall’s industrial past. There are plans to restore the harbour to its former glory and to return home the famous Goonvean engine which was manufactured at Hayle Foundry. There would even be working sluicing gates to reduce the need for dredging and the plans recently gained the unanimous backing of Hayle Town Council.

However, in a bizarre twist to the story, the campaign against restoring Hayle harbour is actually being led by none other than English Heritage, the organisation that is paid for by you and I and is supposed to promote and celebrate heritage in Britain. English Heritage is one of those quangos which was very nearly shut down by the government last year but, instead, it was decided to place it on a review list and to streamline its operations.

In recent years there has been a growing feeling that Cornwall should have its own heritage organisation which takes over from English Heritage. After all, how can a quango whose nearest office is in Bristol possibly understand issues in Hayle? If you look at their website, there is not one single reference to Camborne, Redruth or Hayle, even though our towns are at the heart of a World Heritage Site. Instead, what you get are pictures of pretty castles in the home counties. Cornwall’s industrial heritage should be an attraction to the whole world but it belongs to Cornwall and Cornwall alone. It is time we started to make our own decisions about how best to bring it to life.

George Eustice can be contacted on george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or at 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall, TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.