For Cornwall, G7 summit brings mix of disruption and hope
Falmouth, ENGLAND (AP) – Towering steel fences, masses of police, beach protests: The turquoise waters and white sands of Cornish seaside seem decidedly less idyllic this week as leaders of the Group of Seven Wealthy Democracies
Falmouth, ENGLAND (AP) – Towering steel fences, masses of police, beach protests: The turquoise waters and white sands of Cornish seaside seem decidedly less idyllic this week as leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy democracies descend for a summit.
US President Joe Biden and leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan arrive for three days of talks starting Friday in the small village of Carbis Bay near St. Ives in Cornwall. The area is a popular holiday destination in the southwestern tip of England known for its long scenic coastline, mild climate and a tasty pastry called Cornish Pasty.
Locals may be used to the crowds and traffic jams during the peak summer tourist season, but the disruption caused by the summit is on another level. A naval frigate dominates the coastline, armed soldiers guard major sites and some 5,000 additional police have been deployed to the area. The authorities even hired a cruise ship with a capacity of 3,000 people, moored offshore, to accommodate some of the additional officers.
A main road is closed all week and local train lines and bus services have been closed. A 3-meter (10-foot) high metal fence known as the “Steel Ring” has been erected around Treganna Castle in Carbis Bay, where world leaders will stay. Security is also stepped up in the nearby town of Falmouth, the main international media base covering the summit.
“It’s just a totally surreal experience, the police presence is phenomenal. It has to be the safest place in the country right now, ”said Sue Bates, 64, who relaxed on the beach on Wednesday. Her husband John said they felt their vacation home shake when helicopters flew over.
“I’m sorry for the consequences this has on the locals, I understand that some restaurant staff cannot get to work during the G-7 period, which is quite unfortunate,” she said. .
Still, Bates and others have said they believe the long-term benefits of promoting tourism and local businesses around the world will be worth it.
The UK government hopes the summit will bring £ 26million ($ 37million) of tourism growth to Cornwall, one of the poorest parts of the country – and all of Western Europe. Despite its upscale restaurants and luxury lodges, some areas are among the poorest 10% in England. Wages are below the national average and child poverty is high in areas near the St. Ives waterfront.
The summit has been a boon for local hotels and guesthouses, which have just been allowed to reopen after months of forced shutdown under the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. All rooms have been reserved months in advance by media and visiting officials.
For a small business like The St. Ives Co., which was chosen to provide gift baskets to some of the world’s most powerful leaders, this is a dream opportunity.
“When we’re like, Joe Biden is going to use our toiletries, you almost have to keep telling yourself – it happens, we do it,” co-owner Tegen Mackay said.
Others are not so happy. A local fisherman, Ian Jepson, told British media he had been turned back by a warship and could not fish in the waters due to an “exclusion zone”. And Andrew Narbett, who runs sightseeing boat trips on his Tiger Lilly boat, said many reservations had been canceled and he wouldn’t bother operating during the summit.
“We were full yesterday and throughout the day we had a lot of cancellations where people were traveling on the A30 (main road) and seeing signs saying ‘major disruptions’,” he said .
Some see the summit as a chance to promote Cornwall’s emerging sectors, especially its green businesses. Climate change is one of the main issues on the summit’s agenda, and the UK government has said Cornwall was chosen as the venue in part because it was “already a driver of innovation green “.
Glen Caplin-Gray, who heads the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Partnership for Local Businesses, said he was keen to showcase low-carbon businesses in the area, such as offshore wind farms and mining lithium. Lithium is a key component in batteries for electric vehicles.
“What last year has shown, in terms of the pandemic, is that there is an overdependence on tourism here,” he said. “It’s great that people want to come and visit us, but it’s also very important to look at other higher paying industries. “
Sylvia Hui, The Associated Press