G-7 Meet Highlights Cornish Village Venue

Carbis Bay in Cornwall is hosting the G7 summit
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By Johnny O’Shea

BBC News


The town of St Ives and neighbouring village of Carbis Bay are in full view of the world this week.

The G7 summit is being held in these often tranquil, and beautiful coastal communities less than 20 miles (32km) from Land’s End in Cornwall.

Preparations have been ongoing since the shock announcement in January, and now the reality has arrived.

“It is exciting and impressive, but intimidating,” Carbis Bay resident Mary Tincombe, 63, said.

Mary Tincombeimage copyrightMary Tincombe
image captionMary Tincombe said she had passed about 100 police officers on a 15-minute walk

She lives within the so-called ring-of-steel, a black metal fence which is about 10ft (3m) high and surrounds the village locking out all but the locals, the special guests, and lots of police.

“I walked to the post office this morning, a 15-minute walk and we must have walked past about 100 police officers.

“It is very, very real. It feels like another lockdown.”

Steel fence
image captionA metal fence has been put up around the village of Carbis Bay

For more than a month the police have been in the village, inspecting drains, installing CCTV and lights, but this week it has been ramped up.

Busses and lorries carrying hoarding materials frequently pass to get to the Carbis Bay Hotel, where the leaders will meet.

It is at the bottom of the one, very steep, road through the village to the beach.

Carbis Bayimage copyrightGetty Images
image captionOne resident of Carbis Bay said they would not leave the village by car until after the summit

Out to sea naval ships are now regularly scouring the coastline, while in the skies there has already been an impressive show of military and diplomatic planes and helicopters.

Ms Tincombe’s partner Chris drives a minibus taxi and has been taken off the rota for five days due to the difficulties of getting out of the village, and back again.

They are not planning to get in the car and leave the village until after the summit on Monday.

Warship and surf lessonThere are two warships moored off St Ives Bay

The Bean Inn at the top of the village has got just one booking on each of Thursday and Friday nights, “a complete contrast to normal”.

“We have had hundreds of inquiries but as soon as we are honest about the difficulties they will have getting to us, most of them are put off,” Kate Horrill said.

The scenic option for getting from Carbis Bay to St Ives would be the South West Coast Path or the train along the coast, but both have been closed off for the summit.

The town of St Ives, from this vantage point, is full of pretty buildings wedged around the harbour which, when the sun shines, glows aqua with light that makes it a haven for artists.

It is also this that attracts second home owners and tourists – and perhaps G7 summit hosts.

St Ives
image captionSt Ives is popular with tourists especially during the summer months

Its population is about 12,000, and on an average summer day an extra 15,000 people will squeeze into the narrow streets, according to Visit Cornwall.

At the harbour there are people milling about, some eating ice creams or pasties, despite the signs warning of hungry seagulls.

Although 5,500 extra police officers have been drafted in, there are not many around the harbour, and delivery vans are passing through without problems.

St Ivesimage copyrightGetty Images
Some businesses say the streets of St Ives are quieter as a result of the G7 summit and people avoiding the resort

There are no signs up about the G7, and no real indication that seven of the world’s most powerful people will be gathering about a mile away in Carbis Bay later this week.

“It is really quiet, much quieter than it should be at this time of year,” Megan Steeds from St Ives Boat Rides says from her stand on the slip-way.

“We have had about 50 or 60% cancellations.

“We are now thinking if it is even worth staying open this weekend.

Dylan Lee, who works for her, adds “maybe we should all shut down along the harbour and try to get compensation”.

“It’s not just us but all the shops too.”

Also, beside the harbour, Billy Thomas says his glass-bottomed boat trips are not viable because the reef he takes passengers over is deemed too close to Carbis Bay by the authorities.

“I emailed the Cabinet Office about compensation weeks ago, but was told no, because it would be ‘business as usual’. Well this is anything but normal.”

The BBC has also contacted the Cabinet Office for a response.

Further around the harbour, the lifeboat station will be manned all week due to “concerns over crews responding to pagers, and navigating through the town and the tourists,” senior helm George Deacon said.

Speaking about the G7 coming to his corner of the world, Mr Deacon said he thinks it is a “really good thing”.

“It puts not only St Ives, but Cornwall on the world map.”

George Deacon will be staying at the lifeboat station all weekend

The RNLI also provides the lifeguards on the beaches and has drafted in extra staff, including on Porthmeor Beach which is currently overlooked by two Royal Navy war ships.

Near the lifeboat station is the Salvation Army building that was severely damaged by a fire in 2020.

Presents and aid destined for low income families in the area were destroyed but the community stepped in to raise more than £32,000.

Nathan Thomas is a volunteer and said the fundraising showed the collective spirit in St Ives, but had a message for the visiting dignitaries.

“From a practical point of view St Ives isn’t wealthy – it’s got very wealthy people here. It is impoverished and has got just as many issues as anywhere else.

“It is a harsh place to live because it has such a masquerade – it is so beautiful and so wonderful and the world leaders are coming to our town. And yet there is such a forgotten community out there.”

Foodbank sign
The St Ives foodbank has a message for the G7

Behind the harbour, up the hill just a few roads, is a part of town where more than a third of children live in poverty.

The foodbank, run from the All Saints Parish Church, says it has seen a fourfold increase in demand since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cornwall received large amounts of EU funding, as one of the poorest areas in Europe.

Thomas Cocking
Thomas Cocking is not supportive of the G7 summit being held in his hometown

Elsewhere, St Ives resident Thomas Cocking, 64, believes the summit is a “total and utter complete waste of money and time”.

He has lived in the town his whole life, is a former lifeboat coxswain, a role currently filled by his brother. His great-great-grandfather was killed in a lifeboat disaster 82 years ago.

“We don’t need any more people here. My brother-in-law was a fisherman but had to move out of town because there was nowhere to park.

“We have had public toilets closed, the police station is being sold off, and the hospital has already gone. Why here?

“People say its just a few days but it has been more like seven weeks.

“I can’t walk to the end of my road without someone in a yellow coat asking me what I am doing.”

Not everybody is against it. Amy Smith, 27, says she thinks it is “quite positive”, but tempers that with a concern that rents are so high that people working in hospitality cannot afford to stay for the summer season.

“It’s got a lot worse this year,” she said.

Leon Andrews, 19, said: “I think it is great, it’s the most interesting thing to happen in St Ives for a while.

“I don’t know why people are complaining.

“I mean, I am a delivery driver for the local curry house and they have cancelled all the deliveries for this weekend, so it is disruptive.

“But I still think it is a good thing.”

Judy Garratt lives in a house overlooking the town and said while the summit is causing some inconvenience “when you live here you expect it to be busy in the summer anyway – us locals are used to it.”

She believes it may have benefits. “I’m not sure St Ives needs the publicity, but other areas in Cornwall will hopefully get highlighted.

“If it brings in money to help eliminate some of the poverty then that would be the main thing.”

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