In both interviews and secondary data, Cornwall is generally described as being economically vulnerable. Both objectors and supporters of the project draw upon an image of economic deprivation to define what the place ‘is’. In terms of objections, it is argued that the project will affect the surf and the image of surfing in the region, which will in turn affect tourism (seen as a major and vital industry in the area).
‘Cornwall is already one of the most economically weak counties in the UK and relies on the surfing industry more than most realize. Anything that damages the regular swell would destroy this huge national and international income’ (Email objection, p3).
Alternatively the economic vulnerability of the area is used as a way of justifying what is presented as a small, insignificant or acceptable impact on the surf, to attract a much needed ‘sustainable’ industry to the area.
‘[Cornwall has] the lowest wages in the country, high unemployment, very little sort of indigenous industries […] SWRDA [are] taking a very […] pragmatic approach and saying, “well this industry could actually employ, sustainably, a lot of people and also give us the renewable power that we want”.’ (Device developer interview).
Some argue that it is any perception of impact rather than the ‘actual’ level that is important (as in the quote below). This links to a strong sense expressed by a range of actors that surfing is an integral part of Cornwall’s identity; therefore, to affect the image of surfing in Cornwall is to affect what Cornwall is.
‘To what extent this project will affect the quality of the surf is not the biggest issue. It is the perceived image of Cornwall as a prime surfing destination that worries us. Surfers will avoid the areas concerned and focus their travel/visits to areas not affected. It will surely push people to go elsewhere, even abroad’ (Email objection, p236).