Letter: New plans needed for the South-west

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The Independent Online
Sir: David Walker ("In Search of a Bigger Splash", 29 May) is right to say that two into seven won't go: Devon and Cornwall can't be squeezed into the seven-county development agency proposed for the South- west. The rural deprivation of Cornwall cannot be compared with the prosperous commuter belts of Wiltshire and Gloucestershire - the challenges and opportunities we face are entirely different.

However, Mr Walker is wrong to say that the political community in Cornwall and Devon is asleep to the problem we face. Liberal Democrats from across the two counties have long campaigned for better infrastructure - upgrading of the Penzance-London main line and development of Falmouth harbour, to name but two examples.

The problem is not lack of will, or a hostility to economic growth, but fragmentation of effort. Devon and Cornwall are plagued by a plethora of different agencies - new plans must unite these bodies, not add to them. For that reason it is to be regretted that local government reorganisation did not stretch to unitary status for Cornwall.

Now Labour must recognise that Devon and Cornwall are special cases. Many would argue that they are too disparate to share one agency, although close co-operation and co-ordination would always be necessary. To those who say this would be too localised a unit, I would point out that the successful Highlands and Islands Enterprise Scheme covers a population considerably smaller than that of Cornwall.

Whatever the solution, the seven-county model is a non-starter. It will be resisted tooth and nail by the people of the South-west - John Prescott should rule it out today.

ROBIN TEVERSON MEP

(Cornwall and West Plymouth, Lib Dem)

Callington, Cornwall

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