Thursday, 27 May 2021

Protecting Redruth’s Heritage

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. However, with economic regeneration, it is important that we maintain our fantastic cultural heritage.

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.

Last week we received news that Redruth had obtained another £80,000 from Historic England to help with commissioning community-led cultural activities in the town centre over the next three years. Redruth Cultural Consortium is launching ‘Redruth Unlimited’, a programme of cultural commissions that will enhance Redruth’s established festivals and events, make inventive use of spaces and venues in the town, celebrate the town’s heritage and creativity, support local businesses and entrepreneurs, develop the evening economy and encourage more people to explore and enjoy Redruth. The ambition for Redruth Unlimited is that it will inject new energy and optimism into the town and for young people to be key players in the design and delivery of the programme.

While the traditional, 20th century model of retail taking over the town centre and residential being primarily on estates around the outskirts of town may have been the primary approach in the past, it now seems to have 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.

To support this transition, I have recently written in support of the Redruth’s bid for further funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund that will hopefully further the restoration of the Buttermarket. The workaround for the Buttermarket to create a modern, vibrant space for both residents and businesses alike is a real demonstration of what can be achieved when we have some imagination, passion, and local leadership and I am hopeful we can use this project to kickstart the transformation of Redruth Town Centre.

 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, 20 May 2021

Our Plan for Nature

This week I delivered a speech setting out a raft of new government policies for the environment.  One of the things that we have valued more during this pandemic is the ability to have access to the natural world and outdoor spaces. With all of the restrictions in place and three lockdowns which have required us to stay at home, the ability to get out and exercise, and form a connection with the natural world has been important.
Many people have had increased awareness of the link between our own health, and economic prosperity, and that of the planet, and there are a number of projects that aim to help those suffering from some mental health conditions to get out and others that use outdoor spaces and nature as a teaching resource for children.
The UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world. Over the last 50 years, much of the UK’s wildlife-rich habitat has been lost, degraded, and many of our once common species are in long-term decline. Between 1932 and 1984, we lost 97% of our species-rich grassland. Five species of butterfly have disappeared from England in the last 150 years. And our farmland bird indicator stands at less than half its value of 1970 – following a precipitous decline during the 1980s and 90s, and further losses since.
Our new policies aim to move the emphasis away from just slowing the pace of nature’s decline towards nature’s recovery. One of the things we have announced is a new target to reverse the decline in biodiversity by 2030 and we are the first country in the world to set such a target.  We have also set out plans to treble the rate of tree planting in this country over the next few years and to treble the rate of peatland restoration.  If we can restore peat habitats to their natural condition, then these landscapes become an important carbon store.  We also plan to introduce a new designation to improve protections for long-established woodland and set out plans to support the reintroduction of species like the Golden Eagle that once existed on our island but became extinct.
One of the tools to help deliver our new ambitions will be our new agricultural policies. Our environmental land management schemes - the Sustainable Farming Incentive, Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery – will pay farmers for environmentally sustainable actions, support local nature recovery, and deliver landscape and ecosystem recovery.
This is also a big year for the environment internationally.  We will continue to explore opportunities to build and strengthen our approach to climate change and to reverse biodiversity loss in line with our new leading target. We will be at the forefront of driving international ambition and action on nature at the CBD COP15 and the G7 in Carbis Bay in June, and on nature-based solutions at COP26.
Once this pandemic is over, we will have an opportunity through our new policies to do more both to increase and improve the number of people who access our beautiful countryside and to do more for nature’s recovery within these designated areas. With our near nature plan, we will leave the environment in a better state for future generations - and turn the tide on the decline that we have seen in recent decades.

Thursday, 13 May 2021

A New Direction for Cornwall Council

Last week local elections were held in much of the UK. Nationally, the country voted to confirm confidence in the government and the direction this country is going. The Conservatives took the seat of Hartlepool, which has had a Labour MP for over 47 years, and held important mayoralties in the West Midlands and Tees Valley, while preventing an SNP majority in Scotland and gaining control of councils across the country. 
More locally in Cornwall, there was a change in administration with Cornwall returning a majority Conservative administration of 47 out of 87 seats, for the first time since Cornwall Council was established in 2009. 
For nearly 8 years, Cornwall has been run by a Lib Dem/Independent administration who have consistently failed to exercise judgement and to make decisions even though they might sometimes involve difficult choices. The last 12 months have certainly been difficult for many people and the support offered by local government organisations has been vital to many individuals and businesses alike all over the county. Recognising that different areas had different challenges, one of the things the government did was give local councils a discretionary grant fund which they were free to distribute to local businesses in a way that suited their locality.  Some councils in other parts of the country gave a larger number of awards in smaller grants to ensure that the money they had gone as far as possible and really targeted support to those who had fallen between other schemes and therefore needed it most.
In recent years, Cornwall has suffered by having a Lib Dem administration that called for more decision making power but lacked the courage to take decisions.  They were too preoccupied with their latest press release, or their latest leaflet to actually think about their responsibilities as an elected administration.
However, we now have a majority administration with a positive and transformational agenda planned which will keep the interests of the Cornish people at its core. The ability to enact change without having to negotiate with other parties or rely on the votes of independents, means the new administration can really deliver the change at County Hall that local people want to see.
There is no doubt that the faith that the Cornish people have placed in the Conservatives is a huge responsibility. It is important that we all come together to tackle the many difficult challenges that Cornwall faces, but I have faith that this administration will work hard to represents the desires of local, Cornish people whether you voted for them or not. The new administration has the opportunity to build upon the governments national agenda of building back better, greener and stronger than before as we recover from the pandemic.

Thursday, 6 May 2021

Pet Theft and Animal Welfare

When it comes to animal welfare, we have a record that we can be proud of. We were the first country in the world to pass legislation to protect animals. Since 2010, we have banned the use of battery cages for laying hens, made CCTV mandatory in slaughterhouses in England, made microchipping mandatory for dogs, modernised our licensing regime for dog breeding and pet sales, and banned commercial third-party sales of puppies and kittens.
Our 2019 manifesto committed to going further, and we have just delivered on one of our flagship commitments. The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill has achieved Royal Assent and become law. This means that the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty will be raised from six months to five years from 29 June.
We are a nation of animal lovers, and a 2017 public consultation on this issue attracted over 9,000 responses with a clear majority supporting tougher sentences. Locally in Cornwall, we have some exceptional charities that help keep elderly or vulnerable people united with their pets. The Cinnamon Trust in Hayle runs a nationwide network of volunteers who visit elderly people and take their dogs out for a walk. As well as providing their pets with exercise the volunteers also provide much needed social contact for people ask risk of loneliness and, should the pet’s owner sadly pass away before their pet, the dog has a social bond with their walker and this can help resettle them.
There is absolutely no place in this country for animal cruelty of any kind, and we must make sure that those who abuse animals are met with the full force of the law. The new maximum penalty will enable courts to take a firmer approach to cases including dogfighting, abuse of puppies and kittens, illegally cropping a dog’s ears and gross neglect of farm animals.
These sentences will be amongst the toughest in Europe and will help ensure that courts are able to enforce extended penalties for those who cruelly mistreat any animal, sending a clear message that animal cruelty will never be tolerated.
In 2019, we passed Finn’s Law. Finn was a police dog who was stabbed whilst pursuing a suspect with his handler PC David Wardell. Finn sustained serious stab wounds to the chest and head, but only criminal damage charges could be brought against his attacker. This Act, coupled with Finn’s Law, ensures that those who harm either service or any other animals are punished properly. PC Wardell has campaigned tirelessly on this issue, as have various animal welfare organisations including the RSPCA and Battersea Cats and Dogs Home.
There is more to do though. In recent months, there have been alarming reports of an increase in pet theft. I know just how important a much-loved pet is, and in recent weeks I have met both the Home Secretary and the Lord Chancellor to discuss the matter. We are all determined to crack down on pet theft and will say more about our plans to do so in the weeks ahead.
We will continue to work to cement our position as a world leader in animal welfare, and we will continue to pursue our ambitious commitments in this space. I am determined that, in addition to treating our own animals well, we will tackle some of the unacceptable practices that take place abroad and set a clear sense of direction on animal welfare issues.