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Policy and Intelligence Newsletter - 2 August 2021

Welcome to the new format Policy and Intelligence Newsletter, which will explore a different theme each month, giving you data insights, policy analysis and signposts for further reading. There will also be regular sections providing a news roundup and Parliamentary stories of interest. This month, we take a deep dive into Cornwall’s ecological emergency and what the Council and partners are doing to help nature recover. 

News roundup

  • As of 28 July a total of 23,094 people in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have tested positive for Covid-19. A total of 478 people in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have died within 28 days of a positive test for Covid-19. 
  • England moved to Step 4 of the Government’s Covid-19 roadmap on 19 July, with many restrictions coming to an end. The Prime Minister has urged a cautious approach, and said that the Test, Trace and Isolate system must remain in place. However, some fully-vaccinated critical workers are able to leave isolation in exceptional circumstances
  • Every adult in the UK has now been offered a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and proof of vaccination will be required for entry to nightclubs from September. The committee which advises the Government on vaccinations (the JCVI) has recommended that children at risk of being seriously affected by Covid-19 are also offered a vaccine.
  • New analysis by the County Councils Network and Tunstall Healthcare highlights the benefits that assistive technology (AT), such as remote health monitoring systems, can have for adult social care - but has found that 69% of county authorities believe that AT is harder to roll out in rural areas compared to cities.
  • Last month we wrote about research by Habitat for Humanity and the Empty Homes Network which stated that 44.8% of Cornwall’s housing stock consists of second homes. This figure, cited by their report, is inaccurate – following an intervention by Cornwall Council, the Empty Homes Network has revised the report to give a more accurate figure of 4.95%. Cornwall remains the Local Authority area in England with the largest number of second homes by volume (13,642 homes), but does not have the highest proportion of second homes in the country. 
  • 29 July is Earth Overshoot Day for 2021, when annual human demand for ecological resources outstrips what Earth can regenerate in that year. If the whole world used resources like the UK, this day would have fallen on 19 May.
  • The Future of Local Government, a new report by the County Councils Network and PricewaterhouseCoopers, finds that councils are facing rising demands and declining resources, with the pandemic reducing income while leading to additional responsibilities and associated costs. However, by showing the same resilience and agility demonstrated during the pandemic, the authors suggest that local authorities can empower community groups and make better use of technology, to play a key role in tackling challenges such as the climate emergency. Kate Kennally, Cornwall Council’s Chief Executive, presented at the report’s launch event, showcasing the transformation work Cornwall Council is doing in this space.
  • study by Loughborough University has estimated that over 4.6 million bedrooms in England overheated in summer 2018 (when peak temperatures reached levels likely to be normal in 2050), with overheating more prevalent in households living in social housing, on low incomes or over the state pension age.

 

View from Westminster

The Prime Minister has set out his vision for levelling up in advance of the Levelling Up White Paper, likely to be published in the autumn. The speech highlighted the UK’s geographically unbalanced economy and place-based differences in life expectancy, access to higher education and child poverty. Levelling up measures will include a £4.8 billion levelling up fund; mortgage guarantees for first-time buyers; and greater availability of different models of devolution.

The newly-published Long-Term Plan to Support the Evolution and Regeneration of High Streets is a key part of the wider levelling up strategy, focusing on making town centres vibrant places to live, work and visit, with the help of Town Deals and proposals for community ownership of pubs, sports grounds and local shops.

Several new planning initiatives have been announced by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, including the launch of the Office for Place, new National Model Design Code and revised National Planning Policy Framework. The measures aim to put beauty back at the heart of the planning system and to empower communities to help create local design codes.

As summer holidays get underway, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has published a Tourism Recovery Strategy, warning that some analysts predict UK tourism may not reach 2019 levels of volume and expenditure until 2025. To try to recover earlier than 2025, DCMS suggests measures to improve the tourism industry’s resilience; provide more non-seasonal well-paid employment; and use technology to enhance visitors’ experiences. However, the Rural Services Network is concerned at the lack of rural proofing in the strategy and what it sees as the unequal funding received by rural areas.

The Government’s focus on recovery and renewal can also be seen in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s new Innovation Strategy. The strategy aims to raise public investment in research and development to £22 billion per year; increase private investment; and galvanise public/private sector cooperation by determining “innovation missions” to tackle the most important issues facing the UK.

 

Deep dive: Ecological Emergency & Nature Recovery

Cornwall’s natural environment is at the core of our identity and heritage, and we vitally depend on it for our health and prosperity. When well managed it provides critical ‘ecosystem services’ like food, clean air and water, and a place to relax and unwind.

Cornwall currently contains…

  • Over 40 habitat types.
  • 9.9% tree cover, with 2% ancient woodland.
  • 5.7% moorland, upland & heathland.
  • 1.8% wetlands.
  • 74.4% farmland.
  • Over 2,400ha of maerl beds and over 120ha of coastal saltmarsh.
  • Over 650km of coastline.
  • 48,000km of Cornish hedges.

And it has various forms of protections and designations

  • 1.7% of land is in a nature reserve.
  • 13% is in a ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’ or County Wildlife Site.
  • 18 Special Areas of Conservation and 3 Special Protection Areas.
  • 54 Wildlife Trust sites.
  • 34% of our inshore marine area is in a designated protected area.
  • 30% of land is in the Cornwall or Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

But nature is in trouble. There is an ecological emergency, with wildlife in serious decline and habitats being lost and degraded at an unprecedented rate. The outlook globally and nationally is stark…

And whilst it might look green, the state of nature in Cornwall reflects those downward trends

  • 12% of important species are now threatened with local extinction or complete loss in Cornwall.
  • 21 breeding birds and 8 bumblebees have gone extinct in Cornwall since the 1970s.
  • Nearly 1/2 of terrestrial mammals and 3/5 of butterflies of are found in fewer places in Cornwall since the 1980s.
  • 152km of hedgerow & Cornish hedges have been lost.
  • 80,000kg of rubbish was removed from our beaches in 2019.
  • Only 21% of land and 7% of our inshore seabed area was in positive management for nature in 2019.
  • Only 24% of our rivers and 15% of lakes had a good status for wildlife in 2019.
  • Only 5.7% of our emissions were reabsorbed by our environment in 2019.

Nature recovery is vital for tackling climate change, and is a win-win for our health and the economy too…

So the evidence is clear that we must support nature on land and at sea to prevent ecological breakdown. To halt the decline we need to enhance nature, not just protect it. Our Environmental Growth Strategy provides a long-term framework to not just conserve, but to grow nature – by ensuring that there is more of it, and that it is bigger, better, more diverse and more joined up. And we’re making progress on delivery:

  • ·        Making Space for Nature is our award-winning programme which has enhanced nature in over 40ha of urban settings across 7 towns.
  • ·        Forest for Cornwall has planted 149,000 trees so far towards its target of an extra 2% of Cornwall’s land area.
  • Our Urban Verge Rewilding policy is helping wildflowers to flourish, with a new approach to cutting the 75ha of Council-maintained verges. 
  • ·        Making Space for Sand, a new project that will protect sand dynamic dune habitats, a vital sea defence for coastal communities.

But we need to go further. Along with our Local Nature Partnership, our communities and businesses, we can achieve our target that at least 30% of our land and seas are well-managed for nature by 2030. We’ll be engaging later this year on our draft Nature Recovery Strategy – detailing how we can enhance, protect, create and restore a Cornwall Nature Recovery Network.

The Council’s decision-wheel can help guide your consideration of nature. You can also explore ways communities and businesses can get involved – and if you know of any great examples, nominate them for this year’s Cornwall Sustainability Awards.

 

Want more data?


Information in the newsletter is correct at time of writing, 9am on Thursday 29 July. 

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