Region in struggle to halt decline of economy

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The Independent Online

Looming out of 34 acres of disused clay pits, the Eden Project's plant-filled "biospheres" represent Cornwall's attempt to reinvent itself as an environmental and technological hub. The £86m showpiece has drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors since it opened in March.

Looming out of 34 acres of disused clay pits, the Eden Project's plant-filled "biospheres" represent Cornwall's attempt to reinvent itself as an environmental and technological hub. The £86m showpiece has drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors since it opened in March.

Its boldness and modernity are a world away from the attractions of the Celtic county's stone cottages and rugged coastline which usually draw a torrent of summer tourists.

The university will now join the Eden Project in an area struggling to recover from economic decline.

The Cornish live in one of the poorest areas in Europe. Workers in Cornwall earn an average of £317 a week, 23 per cent less than the national average. In January this year, 4.8 per cent of its population was unemployed, almost a third more than the national average of 3.7.

Cornwall's economic demise has shadowed the twin decline of tin-mining and fishing, with reduced catch quotas imposed by Europe. The county has also been hit by the closure of tourist attractions to halt the spread of foot-and-mouth.

But it is now receiving millions of pounds in European aid after it was granted Objective One status in 1999. The Eden Project's founder, Tim Smit, says: "Cornwall is on the verge of a renaissance. Within five years there will be a superb new university here and a pioneering technology cluster that will represent the Silicon Valley experience for the 21st century."

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