Ensuring Devolution Works for Cornwall

Cornwall was the first county to sign a devolution deal with central government, giving Cornwall Council, NHS Kernow and the Local Enterprise Partnership greater control over how our taxes are spent and our local public services are run. The deal is a great opportunity to improve the health and well-being being of people in Cornwall, as well as grow our economy sustainably. The questions are how we can use the deal to our best advantage and, in relation to issues like climate resilience and extreme weather, whether Cornwall has the answers to its own problems. 

We already know that Cornwall’s green economy is strong: it has been a pioneer of low carbon technology and renewable energy development and is home to some of the UK’s most striking natural landscapes. So, developing our green economy will be central to our plans. As a result of the deal, locally shaped investment and support opportunities are now available for low carbon businesses and social enterprises in Cornwall. 

Exeter University, based at Tremough, has mapped the natural capital value of the land in Cornwall and at a workshop I organised with the Green Alliance we discussed how this information could be used in Cornwall Council’s planning decisions.  

The Duchy has many high-quality food and drink producers that are a key part of our sustainable growth plans, so making the right decisions about land use will be vital. We need the land to produce food, generate energy as well as space for homes, business and recreation, while protecting the ecosystems and natural environment we all value. 

From my discussions with our Local Enterprise Partnership, it is clear that they are on the right track, as a driver of low carbon growth and renewables. It has recognised Cornwall’s advantages in relation to growing its green economy and exploiting its wealth of renewable energy sources, particularly marine and geothermal energy. The LEP is performing a valuable role in bringing the links between business, the public sector and the environment closer and making the most of local expertise.  

The government has set out an ambitious modern industrial strategy, that will ensure as the economy grows, no one and no region is left behind. Green growth is at the heart of this strategy and I am pleased that our local and regional industrial strategy is focused on producing more high-quality food and drink, generating more green energy while contributing to the electric vehicle revolution with lithium extraction as well as investment in satellite technology and space exploration. 

The recent weather serves as a strong reminder that climate change is Cornwall’s problem too. The work of Cornwall Flood Forum is building community resilience and involvement in flood prevention and mitigation. Balancing responsibilities and priorities is complicated, but we have to take the whole community with us to be successful. We know we need to engage all Cornish residents on the nature of our energy future and in thinking about how we value our natural capital, recognising that the Cornish natural landscape is an asset, to be enjoyed and handed down safe to future generations.  

Infrastructure change is too often felt as something done to people, not by them. If we increase engagement and information sharing among Cornish communities on issues around energy, climate change and the natural environment, we will foster a better understanding of our personal environmental responsibilities. An existing initiative showing great results is Carbon Logic, a project tracking people’s personal commitment to tackle climate change through ten ‘pledges’. It has already delivered real carbon reductions while supporting local farmers and businesses. 

To increase local action in Cornwall on global challenges, green growth needs to be a more tangible concept for local people and increasing our sense of participation and ownership of the means to achieve it is vital. 

First published in the Falmouth Packet 30/01/18