Heritage is not English; it's ours
I HAVE always believed this part of Cornwall could make more of its amazing industrial heritage, and earlier this summer I organised a mini- conference to discuss how we can maximise the benefits from Cornwall's World Heritage Site status.
Camborne, Redruth and Hayle together make up the heart of the county's industrial heritage. There are also around eight million people around the world who are part of the Cornish diaspora, with ancestors who can be traced back to Cornwall.
Some good work is already under way. Last week I visited the Heartlands project at Pool, which is almost complete and could create a strong central attraction to pull more people into the area. As well as bringing the engine house at Robinson's Shaft back into action, the project is also developing what promises to be an amazing landscaping project. Around the engine house will be a reflecting pool and a bridge, and beyond the bridge gardens with plants from New Zealand, Australia, South America and South Africa to symbolise the route thousands of Cornish emigrants took.
As I wrote last week, there is also a lot of potential in Hayle, which played a central role in Cornwall's industrial past. There are plans to restore the harbour to its former glory and to return home the famous Goonvean engine manufactured at Hayle Foundry. There would even be working sluice gates to reduce the need for dredging, and the plans have gained the unanimous backing of Hayle Town Council.
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However, in a bizarre twist, the campaign against restoring Hayle harbour is being led by none other than English Heritage, the organisation paid for by you and me and supposed to promote and celebrate heritage in Britain. It is one of those quangos very nearly shut down by the Government last year but, instead, it was decided to place it on a review list and to streamline its operations.
In recent years there has been a growing feeling that Cornwall should have its own heritage organisation, taking over from English Heritage. After all, how can a quango whose nearest office is in Bristol possibly understand issues in Hayle? If you look at its website, there is not one single reference to Camborne, Redruth or Hayle, even though our towns are at the heart of a World Heritage Site. Instead, what you get are pictures of pretty castles in the Home Counties. Cornwall's industrial heritage should be an attraction to the whole world, but it belongs to Cornwall, and Cornwall alone. It is time we started to make our own decisions about how best to bring it to life.
George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@ parliament.uk or at 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall, TR14 8JD, or by telephone on 020-7219 7032.