Thursday, 24 June 2021

The Fibre Park

Last week I met Toby Parkins, Chief Executive of Headforwards Software in Pool, to discuss the quickly developing plans of a new Fibre Park in the area. It was welcome to see this proposal was included in the recent Camborne Town Board submission, which has just been granted by the government meaning the project will receive nearly £3.9 million to help get it across the line.

In recent years we have seen an embryonic but vibrant computer software industry taking root in this part of Cornwall. The big leap forwards came with the introduction of superfast broadband.  It means that software companies can now compete around the world from a digital connection in Cornwall.  Previously, people often had to choose between a high-flying job in London or the lifestyle choice of Cornwall.  That's changing. Today, new industries like software producers can run world-beating operations from Camborne and Redruth offering people the best of both worlds.

The concept behind the fibre park proposal is to bring the right kind of business space within the footprint of the Cornwall College campus so that there can be work experience and training opportunities for young people.  The project will create almost 7,000m2 of additional high-quality workspace at the college. This new facility will have the world-class digital connectivity required to meet the needs of one of the fastest-growing tech clusters in the UK. This will also be coupled with school outreach activities, inspiring young people to develop the digital software skills that will enable them to progress into a wide range of tech industries. Young people taking computer courses at Cornwall College will be able to develop their talents within real working environments rather than in a classroom detached from front line innovation.

The progress on the Fibre Park has been further supported by the announcement that Cornwall will be one of the first areas in the UK to receive funding from ‘Project Gigabit’ to deliver a super-fast, reliable internet connection. This new scheme will allow homes and businesses all over Cornwall to benefit from a super-fast internet connection, helping encourage growth and creating new jobs which will, in turn, boost regeneration.

Throughout our area, local computer software companies are now employing hundreds of people and are paying good salaries.  I want to see them grow and prosper and I also want to ensure that young people taking their GCSEs are having the opportunity to learn to write computer code so that they can take up these new opportunities. The last year has seen considerable disruption for many young people and it is important that we do all we can to get their education back on track.

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Reflection on the G7

Last week the G7 was held in Carbis Bay.  Despite the concerns about congestion, in the end the area affected was largely limited to Carbis Bay itself.  There had also been concerns about violent protest but, in the end, while there were plenty of activists making their point it was generally done in a good-natured Cornish way. In closing the summit the Prime Minister gave a statement outlining achievements of the Summit, including important work on preventing a global pandemic happening again, addressing climate change, and supporting education around the world – working together to build back better, creating jobs and ensuring long-term economic growth.

Many of the biggest issues we face as a nation are faced internationally and the G7 Summit, provided world leaders with the opportunity to act together. Some of the landmark agreements include: pledging more than one billion coronavirus vaccine doses – including 100 million from the UK, to the world’s poorest countries; agreeing to get 40 million more girls into school and 20 million more reading by the end of primary school in the next five years; and agreeing a shared global agenda for tackling issues such as climate change and pollution.

For Cornwall, it was a great opportunity to raise our profile on the world stage, to showcase some of the world leading work we do on renewable energy as well as great assets like the Eden project. There were lots of other local initiatives taking place alongside the main summit.  On Thursday, I visited Gwinear Primary school where I met with the owners of the Redruth-based Mitchell & Webber Oil Company. Michell & Webber are working to on a new trailing a new renewable liquid fuel, known as Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO). As part of this process they have trialled the system with Gwinear Primary School by replacing their old fossil fuel system to help demonstrate the viability of the new, renewable biofuel. It is vital that we look to new, greener technologies to heat our homes if we are going to be able to stay on track to hit net-zero by 2050 but this is a challenge in rural areas which often rely on oil boilers.  Finding a way to allow them to convert their boilers at reasonable cost to a fuel with a lower carbon footprint may well be part of the solution in the medium term.

I also opened the Global Offshore Wind (FLOW) Conference in Falmouth on Friday. From this it became apparent that there are at least 5 offshore wind project developers now active in our region. What was also encouraging, in the Conference run up, is the turn round of the Wave Hub project in my constituency.  There have been some challenges trying to deploy wave power in recent years but it is now set to become the Celtic Sea’s first floating offshore wind (FLOW) array after the project diversified in recent years utilising its existing infrastructure for the deployment of FLOW.

Finally, I visited Mutton Cove at Godrevy to meet some of the volunteers involved in some nationally significant work being done on seal conservation.   There has been a lot of effort going in to reducing disturbance of seals with new information boards for the public.  I also visited the World Parrot Trust at Paradise Park to hear more about some of the policy ideas they have on tackling the illegal trade in endangered species of parrot and some of the problems associated with social media which makes it easier for illegal traders to find buyers.

Overall, for me the G7 represented a powerful opportunity for the UK to show the world what we can do but it was only a three day event and, of course, the important work that everyone is doing to address the challenges the world faces must continue and the things that were pledged must now be delivered.

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Camborne Town Deal

Since first being elected in 2010, I have made a commitment that the economic regeneration in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle was my number one priority. Over the last 11 years, I have worked hard to deliver on that promise. Today, I am pleased to report the welcome news that the Prime Minister has announced Camborne has been awarded £23.7 Million from the Town’s Fund, the highest of any town in Cornwall.
The new funding will support projects like the possible acquisition and refurbishment of Camborne bus station to create the ‘Buzz Station’ complex, the creation of a ‘Fibre Park’ tech hub and the renovation of Camborne Rugby Club’s facilities. Our local towns were once at the heart of the industrial revolution and our expertise in mining engineering was second to none. Over the years, with the loss of mining and companies like Holmans, our fortunes waned and all too often the political attention was on big cities. Now, that is changing and we have an opportunity to reset this imbalance and deliver the economic regeneration that our towns and communities need.
In recent years, we have made progress in regenerating our towns with the Kresen Kernow archive centre at the old brewery in Redruth, with the new link road and developments around Heartlands and Tuckingmill, the prospect of South Crofty reopening and new jobs in industries like computer software. But there is more to do to maintain momentum.
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 run its course.  We need to rethink the purpose of our town centres and more and more retail goes online and goods are delivered directly to the home.  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. This new funding for Camborne will give us the finance to promote some of the changes that can secure our future prosperity.  

Later this week, world leaders will gather in Carbis Bay in Cornwall for crucial discussions on world issues at the G7 Summit. Against the backdrop of the Cornish coast, they are expected to agree on action to tackle climate change, protect nature and lead a recovery from coronavirus that works for everyone across the length and breadth of our countries. The announcement of this new funding will play an important role in the shaping of the legacy of the G7 Summit, with Cornwall benefiting from new investment in its town centres and natural landscape under these plans.

Thursday, 3 June 2021

G7: Cornwall 2021

Next week the G7 will be taking place in Carbis Bay.  For Cornwall, it will be a great opportunity to raise our profile internationally and promote our beautiful landscapes and excellent food and drink.  In terms of a legacy for the Duchy, a lot of emphasis has been going on ensuring that any bounce in tourism happens next year and in the future since Covid travel restrictions mean that local businesses have no shortage of customers in this current season. 

It will also be a good opportunity to promote some of the leading work that Cornwall does on green energy and the environment.  Cornwall was home to the first-ever wind farm in the UK some thirty years ago.  We are also at the forefront of plans for locating offshore wind in Hayle and a number of projects to take forward geothermal energy.  At this summit, the environment and climate change will be one of the key issues on the agenda since it is seen as an important staging post along the way to COP 26 later this year, also being held in the UK, where we will be seeking to get greater commitments from the rest of the world on carbon emissions.

In the run-up to the leaders’ summit next week, there was also an Environment Ministers track for G7 which I chaired a couple of weeks ago and where we made some important progress.  In particular, this G7 became the first where all member countries had committed to achieve net-zero by 2050.  Secondly, member countries committed to halting and reversing the loss of biodiversity by 2030. These are major steps forward and a sign of the dedication G7 countries have to tackle the twin challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.

All G7 members have also now committed to supporting the global “30by30“ target to conserve or protect at least 30 per cent of global land, and at least 30 per cent of the global ocean by 2030 and an agreement to phase out international fossil fuel finance starting with coal.  There were measures to tackle global deforestation with all members committing to increase support for sustainable supply chains that decouple agricultural production from deforestation and forest degradation and there were new pledges covering the illegal wildlife trade, and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

Any G7 event brings a degree of disruption locally and the logistical challenges and security arrangements can be complex, but a warm Cornish welcome awaits world leaders next week and I have no doubt that the beauty of St Ives Bay will leave a lasting impression.

Digital Skills and Connectivity

One of the ways we can raise wages and incomes in the area is by promoting more apprenticeships and locally Cornwall College which I attende...