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Tuesday, 24 August 2010

National Emergency

I have read with interest reports of a ‘National Emergency’ in Cornwall in the last week – it seems that there are sometimes queues of traffic in and around Cornwall.

We are told by the tourism bosses that such a state of affairs is likely to have dire consequences for the Cornish economy and that the only solution is to build new roads and to ‘improve’ those which already exist so that it will make it easier to increase the number of visitors to the Duchy.

As the owner of a business that benefits from the summer ‘tourist trade’ I think that such hyperbolic claims should be viewed with extreme caution.

Newer and bigger roads are not even a part of the solution to Cornwall’s economic problems – they would merely exacerbate them and further erode the distinctiveness of the Cornish environment. Cornwall is unique within the British Isles and needs unique and inventive solutions to address the economic needs of its people. Faster and bigger roads are not a solution they are part of the problem.

Major roads not only blight the landscape but can actually have a detrimental effect on Cornish businesses. It is often argued that Cornwall is a remote part of the UK and that we need more and better roads to help us compete with upcountry enterprises. What is often forgotten is that it is just as easy to think of London and the Midlands as being remote from Cornwall. By ‘improving’ the road networks it gives the globally corporate concerns an even bigger advantage over local entrepreneurs by making their shops and outlets easier to supply - in short it becomes viable to set up in ‘remote’ Cornwall. Cornwall’s remoteness needs to be seen as an advantage to be embraced. We need to develop better sea ports and use the fact that Cornwall is surrounded by three sides by the sea. Cornish firms could export and distribute goods around the UK and develop markets throughout the rest of Europe and the world.

Of course, bigger and faster roads also mean that it is easier to reach all of those second homes for the odd weekend – so even more people from the South East can buy up Cornish houses, putting prices even further beyond the reach of local people. Naturally, these extra ‘second-homers’ will be buying their provisions at local Cornish shops and not stocking up from Waitrose before they arrive for their overnight visit.