Thursday, 24 October 2013

Keeping a Running Track in Camborne and Redruth

I have been running since I was nine, when I first joined Cornwall Athletic Club. Throughout my twenties I was running for Cornwall and at the peak of my fitness I was running around 80 miles per week. It was a big part of my life, and a lot of it revolved around training at Carn Brea. The track means a lot to me, as it does to a lot of people and organisations such as Carn Runners and Hayle Runners.

It is clear from discussion with local councillors that they are considering a few possible sites for a replacement running track with the existing site being sold to fund a major renovation and upgrade of the facilities at Carn Brea Leisure Centre. There a several options for the location of a new track in the Camborne and Redruth area, not least one of the schools or the land next to the all weather football pitches at Cornwall College. However, there are voices claiming that Truro might be a more central location and easier to get to. They couldn't be more wrong.

I have done a bit of basic research into journey times between various towns and Redruth or Truro. Accessibility is not just about distance, it is also about traffic congestion. Any tourist visiting Cornwall could be forgiven for assuming that "Truro" might be Cornish for traffic jam! Redruth is far closer to the main A30 trunk road and is more accessible for the county as a whole.

It is no surprise West Cornwall towns like Falmouth, Helston, Penzance, Hayle and St Ives all find Redruth easier to get to than Truro. However, my research also shows that the vast majority of towns to the north also find Redruth easier to get to. Drivers coming from Newquay, Bodmin and Wadebridge would take exactly the same time to get to the Redruth site as they would to the one in Truro, and this includes at busy times such as the school run and after work when people are visiting the track. Only residents of St Austell could travel to Truro quicker and this would only be by a few minutes, assuming they were lucky with the Truro traffic. Redruth is overall the easiest location to get to when measured in journey times. The new eight lane track also needs to be as central as possible because the one at Par, which is just six lanes, is not suitable for all competitions. We should also look at local populations. A track in Camborne or Redruth would service the local population of around 59,000 people whereas there are just 22,000 people in Truro.

With deliberations in Cornwall Council still ongoing, we can only hope that common sense prevails. It is important to think about the more local benefits as well such as the number of schools in the area and the existence of clubs. The main athletics clubs in Cornwall are Cornwall Athletic Club, Newquay Athletic Club, Carn Runners and Hayle Runners. All of these clubs would be better off with a track located in the Redruth area. Truro is well known for many things but athletics is not one of them, so why build the track up there in the middle of their traffic jam?


Thursday, 17 October 2013

The future of cinema entertainment

The Regal Theatre and Cinema in Redruth has been a vital lynchpin for the community for as long as I can remember. My earliest memory of it is going there with my cousins to watch Star Wars as a boy. It hosts performances by many local drama groups and is currently gearing up for a slate of core Christmas events.

Earlier this year, the Regal completed a £1.5 million investment to upgrade all of its facilities. It is a great vote of confidence in Redruth coming from one of the town's most important businesses and together with the plans to build a new Cornwall Archive Centre at the site of the old brewery, I hope that it can be a catalyst for a lot more investment in Redruth and deliver a revival in the cultural life of the town.

Last week I had the opportunity to visit the Regal and see for myself the fantastic changes that have been made. As a venue for live performances it now rivals the Hall for Cornwall but it offers something else far more forward thinking called "stage to screen". I have always been very interested in how we can use rapidly advancing digital technology to deal with the fact that Cornwall is a peninsula and a long way from major population centres. The advent of teleconferencing and the fact that it is now available to all through applications like Skype has already done great things for business. It is now less important to travel for meetings.

Now the Regal is doing the same thing for the best live performances London theatre can offer. The idea is simple, there is an agreement between firms like the Regal and the National Ballet, Royal Opera and National Theatre. Stage performances from London are broadcast live to an audience in Redruth as the performance takes place. The atmosphere from the audience at the live theatre immediately spreads to the audience in Redruth. It is just like being there yourself. Furthermore, the upgrade delivered at the Regal means that the seats are better and there are some private boxes which are excellent for private family events or corporate hospitality.

My wife has always loved theatre and last year we went to see War Horse which is probably my favourite ever stage show. In recent months the Regal has screened Swan Lake and The Audience which plots all the Prime Minister the Queen met. Between now and Christmas live shows from London include The Nutcracker, Hamlet, Spartacus. But to anyone who has not seen it, I recommend a visit to the Regal to see War Horse which arrives in the New Year.

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

Thursday, 10 October 2013

The challenges facing DEFRA

Earlier this week, all three parties had reshuffles of their front bench teams. While there were no big changes to the members of the cabinet, there was quite a lot of change within the other ministerial ranks. I was delighted to be made a minister in the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

I grew up on the family farm at Trevaskis and spent ten years working in farming before I went into politics so it has always been an issue close to my heart. Cornwall is also affected more than most parts of the country by the decisions taken by DEFRA. Firstly, we have historically always suffered from high water bills. The fact that we have to maintain water quality on such a large coastline but have a small population means that the cost of investment has had a big impact on individual household bills. In my first year as an MP I, and other Cornish MPs, made a really concerted effort to get some redress to help alleviate the problem and since April this year there has been an important first step with a £50 rebate off the bill of every household.

Secondly, Cornwall still has a very important fishing fleet operating mainly out of Newlyn but Hayle also has a small fishing industry. It already houses a distribution centre for most of the lobsters caught off the Isles of Scilly. A couple of weeks ago I met the harbour master to discuss plans to develop mussel beds in Hayle and there are some really interesting plans being put forward by the town to renovate East Quay into a new facility to develop fishing further. In Redruth we also have Falfish, Cornwall’s leading fish processing plant and a well known market leader when it comes to Cornish scallops. For as long as I can remember, the lack of flexibility in the Common Fisheries Policy has been a problem for fishermen but there are some important changes underway which means decision making will start to be returned to national governments.

Agriculture also suffers from its share of problems caused by the Common Agricultural Policy and there are some complicated changes about to be implemented. Cornwall has an important farming industry but there have been huge changes in the fifteen years since I left the industry with a smaller number of large players. This part of Cornwall has the most productive agricultural land in the county and is home to Cornwall’s biggest growers of potatoes, cauliflowers and daffodils. With a growing world population, food security is once again becoming an issue so we will need to have a vibrant farming industry in the future. I have always been keen to explore ways of making it easier for new entrants to get into farming because all successful industries need new people bringing fresh ideas.

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

Thursday, 3 October 2013

New policies at conference

The month long party conference season has finally drawn to a close. As always, those whose job it is to plan and manage such events have had to battle against the various noises off and awkward questions from the media as they try to get their policy announcements heard.

The Liberal Conservative government has made a number of significant announcements. Firstly, we have announced plans to introduce free school meals for all children of infant school age. When I visit primary schools in this area, one of the issues head teachers raise is that they have many children on their school roll whose families would be eligible to receive free school meals but are either too proud to apply or are unaware they are eligible. Sadly, some children also prefer snack foods to wholesome cooked meals. Making it automatic for all young children to receive free school meals will encourage healthy eating at a young age and there is evidence that this can improve attainment at school.

Next was the decision to accelerate the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme which is helping thousands of first time buyers get on the housing ladder by underwriting some of the lenders exposure to enable mortgage companies to offer 95 percent mortgages on new build houses. Last week I visited a Linden Homes construction site at Pool and it is clear that this policy has enabled them to get on with the work of rebuilding derelict sites in our towns. Margaret Thatcher made home ownership in Britain the norm rather than the exception and it would be a backward step if home ownership became the preserve of a privileged few again. Until the credit crunch, 95 percent mortgages were very common but now first time buyers are being given the impossible task of raising a 30 percent deposit. If we want to help people get on in life, we have to help people buy their first home.

We also saw more proposals to help the long term unemployed back into work. The evidence is overwhelming that experience of work is the single most important thing we can give the long term unemployed to help them regain their confidence, move closer to the job market and find a paid job.

When I worked for David Cameron in opposition, he was always clear that marriage should be recognised in the tax system and this pledge has finally been delivered. Most other countries already do this. In future, all married couples on basic rate tax will be able to transfer up to £1000 of their tax free allowance to their spouse. It will be especially beneficial to those couples who have young children and where one partner juggles working part time with caring for the children. When you are married you share many responsibilities. It is only right and fair that the tax system should reflect the way people live.

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

Opportunities for the next generation

Earlier this week, I took part in a panel discussion organised by Youth Parliament representatives in Cornwall. Every two years, elections are held to elect six representatives from local schools to represent the views of young people. I have always been supportive of the project because I think it is an excellent way of teaching young people about politics and citizenship and learning to speak in public can be a great confidence boost for those who get involved.

Our most lively discussion concerned the image of young people. By a show of hands every one of the fifty or so young people attending felt there was a problem with the way they were portrayed by the media and that older generations were suspicious, fearful and distrustful of them. There were plenty of anecdotes to reinforce the point. There is not much new about generational conflict. Phrases like, “the youth of today” or “the young ones” are parodied clich├ęs for a reason. However, for some reason the perception of distance between generations seems greater now than it was.

In some ways we have put up new barriers between generations. For instance, changes in the law make it far harder for a small business today to offer a weekend job to a fourteen or fifteen year old than it was just twenty years ago. A few years ago there was controversy about a new electrical device called a “mosquito” which emitted a high pitched noise designed only to be heard by teenagers as an irritating humming sound. It was used by some shops to deter all teenagers from the vicinity. It is difficult to imagine a more anti-social device.

On one level, the commitment by younger people to their community has never been greater. Membership of groups like the cadets is at an all time high and many sports clubs have more interest than they can accommodate. And you only have to look at any mantelpiece to know how much pride parents and grandparents feel for the next generation coming through.

Concerns about opportunities for the next generation are also high on people’s agenda. There is an understanding among many of retirement age that theirs was a generation that had a free university education if they wanted it, found it relatively easy to buy their first home, saw their property go up in value and sometimes enjoyed generous final salary pensions. Meanwhile, the next generation leave university in debt, find it hard to raise the deposit to buy their first house and are soon told they had better start saving for their retirement. However, the unanimous show of hands at last week’s debate showed that the supportive concern many older people feel for the generation leaving school today is clearly not being communicated.

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