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Poor but beautiful areas can be condemned to inactivity

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 04, 2012

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I write in response to the article (WMN Aug 28) informing us of the Campaign to Protect Rural England's (CPRE) wish that Cornwall's Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) should, like Dartmoor and Exmoor, become designated a National Park(s) to provide them with even greater protection from becoming economically violated.

First let me nail my colours to my mast – I was in the summer awarded a BSc degree in Renewal Energy by the University of Exeter. During my studies the matter of AONBs and the economic wellbeing of rural communities became a subject of great interest to me – particularly so the conundrum of increasingly economically stressed rural communities (fuel poverty, high transport costs, the consequences of government funding cuts so frequently mentioned in the WMN) that are surrounded by a viable wind resource – often in an AONB. If there is a viable wind resource in a neighbouring AONB that could throw an economic lifeline to that community should, as the Localism Act suggests, local decision making that reflects local circumstances decide whether to develop, or should the AONB be out of bounds as the CPRE suggests? And does Cornwall not already have enough economic handicaps to overcome?

The report "Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Safeguarding our landscape's beauty & benefits for future generations", fortunately has a more realistic approach when it recognises "exploitation of natural resources has been the historical source of Cornwall's wealth. Agriculture, fishing and mining were the dominant forces in an economy that shaped the Cornish landscape and these industries provided a common link between many of the communities within the county." Wind is a natural resource and to be found in many of Cornwall's disadvantaged rural areas.

Another quote the CPRE proposal brings to mind is one I came across – in Raine, J.W. (1980) Energy and Its Local Implications – which makes an even more valid point now than it did at the time when the UK was flush with North Sea oil and gas, it reads: "The 'real energy' game takes place at the international and national levels, the consequences of 'real energy' price increases can have disproportionate socioeconomic consequences at the rural community level. Consequently a more critical examination of the energy implications associated with traditional patterns of rural life, and the impact rising fuel costs have on particular groups within such communities is needed. Domestic rural energy and, transport costs, are then of local concern, not the province of pressure groups, nor other 'remote players' who do not suffer their consequences."

If CPRE nail their colours to their mast we shall be able to see they are both a pressure group and a remote player.

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