“NEWQUAY and Cornwall are still open for business” – this is the message the Deputy Prime Minister says he wants UK holidaymakers to hear following weeks of devastating storms.
Nick Clegg visited a weather-beaten Fistral beach along with local tourism and business leaders during a whirlwind tour of the county yesterday.
He told the Cornish Guardian he was impressed with the locals’ strong desire to bounce back, and pledged a host of initiatives and funding plans to help the county get back on its feet.
He also urged families not to cancel planned holidays to Newquay and other duchy destinations because of the weather.
Mr Clegg said: “Cornwall has been hit hard by the weather but my most striking impression is the desire for everyone to bounce back as quickly as possible.
“Cornwall hasn’t come to a stand-still. Yes, there is a lot of repair work to be done and yes, people will need help, but Cornwall is still open for business.”
Accused by some of “welly-waving” publicity seeking, the Deputy PM vowed that Cornwall would receive all the help it needs from the government.
“We want to help,” Mr Clegg said. “And I want to be clear: the government will not walk away once the cameras have gone.”
He said the coalition had made the “unprecedented” move of offering councils £130 million in storm relief, and pledged to restore transport links and repair the damaged coastline.
Traders would also be offered a ‘business rates holiday’, while £750,000 was being made available to Citizen’s Advice Bureaus to advise people on insurance claims and other issues.
Having earlier spoken to the harbour master at Porthleven, Mr Clegg said fishermen in particular were in need of urgent help, with many – including those in Newquay – unable to earn a living due to recent weather and sea conditions.
He told this paper: “They need to know they will be given help and I will ask the fisheries minister to look at this.”
During his visit to Newquay, Mr Clegg held a meeting at the Headland Hotel with Malcolm Bell, head of tourist board Visit Cornwall, and Julian German, Cornwall Council portfolio holder for economy and culture, among others. Press were not permitted to attend.
Mr Bell said later: “The meeting provided an invaluable opportunity to discuss a number of very real issues, not least the need to restore Cornwall’s image following damaging and misleading reports of being ‘cut-off’. Nick Clegg’s assurance that he and all members of parliament will support the open and accessible message is a welcome comfort.
“Next week’s half-term is going to be an important milestone in restoring confidence in our accessibility.”
He said the government and Highways Agency would need to work together to minimise disruption on the A30 and A38 – a point stressed at the meeting.
Mr German applauded Flybe and Newquay Cornwall Airport for putting on more flights between London Gatwick and Newquay.
“The impact of the travel disruptions caused by the damaged rail network highlights the significant role this vital air link plays in Cornwall’s connectivity for tourism as well as the wider business community,” he said. “The businesses around the table demonstrated a powerful conviction for Newquay Cornwall Airport at the meeting which will leave Nick Clegg in no doubt of the long-term necessity of the airport and the need for the Public Service Obligation (PSO) funding for the route from October 2014.”
Mr Clegg had earlier refused to back a campaign by the Cornish Guardian’s sister paper, the West Briton, to install a new rail line to replace the damaged Dawlish route, using cash from the £42 million HS2 high speed rail project.
He said he accepted that alternatives needed looking at, but described proposals to syphon cash from HS2 as “impractical”.