Thursday, 29 October 2020

Regenerating Redruth

Since I was first elected, I have always made clear that economic regeneration in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle was my number one priority. Our local towns were once at the heart of the industrial revolution and our expertise in mining engineering was second to none.

At the height of the tin mining era, Redruth was once one of the wealthiest towns in the land. As the tin mines closed, the fortunes of our local towns like Redruth fell behind other parts of the country but today there remains a legacy of that era with some fabulous and unique architecture in the town. All too often the political attention was on big northern cities, but now we have an opportunity to reset this imbalance and deliver the economic regeneration that our towns and communities need.

A fundamental issue for our part of Cornwall is economic regeneration and how we can make sure our towns get back on their feet and revive. The way people shop has gone through fundamental change and recent events will have accelerated some trends further. Thirty years ago we saw major destination retailers all start to congregate in Truro and towns like Camborne and Redruth lost out and some of the excellent independent department stores were lost. Now, shopping is moving online at great pace and that has left places like Truro in a very vulnerable position.

We therefore need to think about our towns differently in the future.  It may be that the 20th century model of retail taking over the town centre and residential being primarily on estates around the outskirts of town has run its course. We need to get better at making our town centres more of a mixed space for living and working and improving the public realm and streetscape. As more people opt to be self-employed and often make use of digital media to work from home, there is likely to be a change in what our towns are for in the decades ahead. 

In Redruth, the new Kresen Kernow Archive is an excellent start. Projects like Krowji and the work around the Butter Market also show just what is possible with some imagination, passion and local leadership and we now have funds to help facilitate further work. In recent weeks further funding of an additional £1.68m was announced, by Heritage England, to aid in the regeneration of the town. The scheme will focus around Fore Street, increasing its attractiveness to a wider range of residents and visitors and better exploiting its potential.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen many high-streets all over the country suffer from a lack of footfall. When we turn the page on this terrible setback we need to think creatively about how to build back better and allow our town centres to find new purpose.

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Sport and Community

When the pandemic is finally over, there will be some areas where people will be determined to return to life as it was before but there will be other areas where people will reflect and seek a change in the balance of their lives. Social distancing has made people value friendships and family connections as many had perhaps started to under-appreciate them, given the frantic pace of life in the modern world. People have also discovered a new connection with the natural world during the full lockdown as access to public spaces was just about all we had. 
One area where I think people are determined to see a return to life as it was before will be sports, and perhaps where we will see even more interest is in our many vibrant sports clubs locally. Groups from Cornwall Athletic Club to all our rugby, football and cricket clubs have seen a growth in membership in recent years and I hope this resumes. 
I recently met the dedicated volunteers of Troon Amateur Football Club, at Grouter Park. They are a fantastic example of a local community project that we can be proud of and have played an important role in our community for 50 years. Membership has grown significantly recently and they are engaging children and young people of all ages and abilities. They field three teams in the Cornwall disAbility League, eleven youth teams in the Kernow League, two senior teams and even a “walking football” team. They have worked incredibly hard on plans to build a new clubhouse and facilities at the site and have already secured some important pledges of support. This is a project that deserves backing.
Despite the old stereotype of the brainy children at school being the less sporty, there is a lot of evidence that physical activity and fitness can boost the performance of the brain. There has also been a concern in recent years about the growing problem of childhood obesity. The growth of electronic-games and computers means that some children are less active now than in the past and it requires a special focus on sports to try to counterbalance that development. Cornwall is blessed with a magnificent coastline allowing a whole range of sporting activities that are not realistic prospects in other parts of the country, from surfing to sailing and many others. At Stithians reservoir, we also have the best site in the UK for windsurfing. Everyone can find something that they enjoy or are good at, keeping themselves both mentally and physically healthy.
When I was growing up, my passion was running and I will never forget the volunteers at Cornwall Athletic Club who gave up their time to coach us, drive the minibus to competitions at the weekend and act as officials at all the events. Quite often, these volunteers started because their own children were interested in the sport, but once involved, they were committed and would often stay involved for many years after their children had moved on. Above all, it is volunteers today who keep all of our sports clubs going from rugby and football to cricket, swimming and dance.

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Hayle

Last week I visited North Quay to see the current development that has been under construction since the summer and which is starting to take shape quickly. I grew up near Hayle and the regeneration of the harbour area has been talked about most of my lifetime. I can remember in the mid 1980s the attempt by Peter DeSavary to bring a project forward that didn’t get off the ground. In fact, one Hayle historian once showed me a book written around the time of the First World War that said “plans to develop Hayle Harbour have been delayed due to the war.” So perhaps it goes back even further!
There were then a couple more aborted attempts around the turn of the millennium before ING Bank of all people ended up the reluctant owners of the site as the result of one of their clients going in to administration. Progress on plans was then made. Having grown up around the history of false starts for Hayle, when I was first elected in 2010, the Hayle Harbour regeneration was one of the projects that I really applied my self to. I lobbied government to secure grants of around £5 million to improve the infrastructure to North Quay, put in the new bridge and to repair the harbour walls and raise levels to deal with flood risk. I spent many tortuous hours trying to broker an agreement between the local community, who wanted to project to move forward, and English Heritage, a government agency, which kept coming up with different objections.
We got there in the end and the ASDA supermarket was built on South Quay. It took a while for the design to grow on local people but it reflected the accommodation with Natural England and the architecture has now been recognised as a good example of what can be achieved on sites like this when people put their minds to it. ING then sold the rest of the site as they withdrew from the UK. The supermarket was only ever supposed to be the first stage of the regeneration. The final aim was to transform North Quay and have additional residential development and commercial property on South Quay. Sadly, in the past few years things have stalled again but that is now changing and work is underway.
The current first phase of the development along North Quay will be for high specification apartments. There will be around 150 in all and many of these have already been sold off plan. It is likely that the first residents will start to move in around Christmas and things will be well underway by next summer. Once again, the design of the buildings has been chosen to reflect the industrial legacy of the site to accommodate the views of Natural England. The North Quay area was the location of the local Hayle Power Station and an ICI factory and the view is that the buildings should have a nod to this past with an industrial or wharf side feel to the development.
Alongside some of the residential development, there will also be commercial space and restaurants within the development. There are also later phases planned above the Quay and around the fields at Riviera Farm. Initial ground work has already commenced and these later phases should progress over the next 18 monthsor so. When this project is complete, it will transform the harbour area and will be a major boost to Hayle. It will be good to see the harbour area finally regenerated after decades of being overlooked. 

Thursday, 8 October 2020

A new vision for skills

On Tuesday last week, the Prime Minister visited Exeter where he announced in a major speech, plans to transform the provision of skills so that more people can retrain and find new, well-paid jobs as we Build Back Better from the Coronavirus Pandemic.
I have always been a strong advocate for apprenticeships and the skills agenda. When I was a student, I studied at Cornwall College between 1987 and 1990 for a BTEC National Certificate in Business Studies and then after that a City and Guilds in Agricultural Management. I have always looked back fondly on my time at Cornwall College and valued the skills that I learnt at the college.
The College has a deep-rooted history in our area and has been at the heart of all further and higher education in Cornwall for the last 80 years or so. It is a vital local asset delivering work-based learning in our area. Until recently there were around 800 apprentices currently training in areas such as plumbing, carpentry and engineering.
Colleges and higher education providers such as Cornwall College will be vital to people’s prospects and chances as a result of the changing economy and the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. Work is changing, and it is important that people develop the skills they need to create new and better jobs.
As part of the plans, the government will rapidly expand post-18 education and training. From April adults without an A-Level or qualification will be able to take up the chance of a free and fully funded college course, paid for through the National Skills Fund with the list of available courses to be published shortly.
Further to this, education loans will be made more flexible – allowing adults and young people to choose the length and type of course that is right for them allowing them to take more high-quality vocational courses and to support them to retrain for jobs of the future. But if we’re to encourage more people to pursue a skills-based education then it is important that they have access to the best facilities, and therefore the government are investing over £1.5 billion in capital funding so that our colleges are excellent places for people to learn.
Businesses will also be encouraged to support more apprentices with the government paying businesses £1,000 to take on trainees with £111 million to triple the scale of traineeships which consist of work experience placements, training and work preparation for 16-24 year olds. We know that there is more that can be done and central to this work will be making apprenticeship training work better alongside modern and flexible working practices in construction and the creative industries so that more examples are available. 
Further details of the government’s plans will be announced in the months ahead but providing people with the ability to gain the skills they need may be transformational in the years to come.

Thursday, 1 October 2020

An historic moment for our fishing communities

Yesterday marked an historic moment for fishing. We have entered into our first fisheries agreement as an independent coastal state, an important step in building a prosperous future for the UK fishing industry. That includes our fishing communities here in Cornwall, from Newlyn to Mevagissey and Hayle to Looe.
The UK-Norway Fisheries Framework Agreement was negotiated between the UK and Norway as independent coastal states, through friendly cooperation as sovereign equals. It reflects our rights under international law and makes clear that the UK will be an ambitious, constructive, and pragmatic partner to like-minded fishing nations as we leave the Common Fisheries Policy.
After 40 years, we finally have our own seat at the fisheries negotiating table rather than being represented by the European Commission. In all our negotiations, we will work with other North Atlantic states, like Norway or the Faroes, to insist on a fairer approach. We can work together to manage our fisheries flexibly, responsively, and responsibly – negotiating access to waters and fishing opportunities annually so we can make decisions based on the latest science and the health of our fish stocks.
The agreement we have reached with Norway shows what can be achieved when both parties take a sensible approach to negotiations. We are taking the same approach to fisheries negotiations with the European Union, and have been clear that we want a fairer, more prosperous, and more sustainable future for our fisheries.
The Fisheries Bill sets out a new framework to allow us to manage fisheries outside the CFP, and gives the UK control of our waters and the opportunity to set fishing opportunities. We have the power to decide who can access UK waters and on what terms – ensuring that our fishing fleets can prosper.
For too long, we have only caught about half of the fish in our waters. And for too long, a ‘one size fits all’ mindset in Brussels has seen targets, measures, rules, and regulations swell rather than fish stocks – with too much reporting and too little action to improve sustainability and resilience.
Our approach will adapt to the latest scientific evidence, respond to technological innovation, and work transparently with local industry and local communities. And we are leading calls to end the wasteful discarding of fish at sea, working on an approach that will mean all catches can be landed, while preventing over-fishing.
Now that we have left the EU we have a great opportunity to chart a new course for our fishing industry and we owe it to our hard-working fishing communities to seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to take back control of our natural resources. Through agreements like the one we have signed with Norway, we will help them access the sea’s riches, while restoring our fish stocks to healthy levels so we achieve a better balance for the future.