Sunday, 22 November 2020

My latest report to St Enoder Parish Council

My latest update report will be presented to a virtual meeting of St Enoder Parish Council on Tuesday. It covers the time period of 21st September to 22nd November 2020, and is as follows:

1.0 Council and other meetings

Over the last two months, I have attended a large number of virtual meetings and briefings via Microsoft Works and Zoom.

In terms of Cornwall Council, these have included two meetings of Full Council and two associated briefings, three meetings of the Cornwall Local Engagement Board, a single meeting of the Central Sub-Area Planning Committee, three meetings of the Economic Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee and one meeting of an associated inquiry into the economic vitality of rural and coastal areas, three formal meetings about the Community Governance Review for the Electoral Review Panel plus seven preparatory or follow-up meetings (as vice-chairman of the Panel), one meeting of the Cornish National Minority Working Group plus two associated briefings and two meetings about Cornwall Council’s approach to funding requests to central government for Cornish culture, three meetings of the BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethic) steering group, a briefing on the Government’s proposed changes to the planning system and another about Cornwall Council’s approach to planning policy, one meeting about a strategy for the China Clay Area, one meeting of Cornwall Council’s informal investment panel, three sessions relating to Cornwall Council’s “The Cornwall We Want” public engagement exercise and two Group Leader meetings. I have also had direct discussions with officers on a host of planning, traffic and other matters.

I have also attended two meetings of a lockdown support group for the China Clay Area, four meetings of St Enoder Parish Council, plus single meetings of the St Austell Bay Economic Forum and the South and East Cornwall Community-Led Local Development Local Action Group. 


2.0 Planning applications

The Parish Council and I have had to deal with a significant number of planning applications throughout October and November. Updates on a few specific applications are shown below.

2.1 Fifty new properties in St Columb Road (PA20/02929)

In June, St Enoder Parish Council objected to the proposal for fifty new properties to the rear of the development presently being built opposite the Doctors’ Surgery at St Columb Road. Cornwall Council’s affordable housing team also raised objections.

The developer has submitted additional information challenging the concerns raised by the Parish Council and others. At this Tuesday’s Parish Council meeting, councillors will be looking at what the developer is now saying.

2.2 Unit 2, Indian Queens Industrial Estate (PA19/05975)

This application sought a new access into an industrial unit at the Indian Queens Estate from Moorland Road and the provision of 15 parking spaces. It was strongly opposed by local residents. Planning officers recommended that it should be approved, so I referred it to a meeting of the Central Sub-Area Planning Committee on 2nd November.

At this meeting, I argued that the original planning consent for the industrial estate stated that it should be served by a strategic internal road (Lodge Way) and that it was appropriate that this arrangement should continue in order to keep traffic away from Moorland Road.

The chairman of St Enoder Parish Council Michael Bunyan also spoke at the meeting, as did local resident Manus Allfree. I am pleased to be able to report that the members of the Planning Committee voted unanimously to reject the application.

The owners of Unit 2 had also created a largish area of hardstanding, which they said would be turned back to grass if their application for the parking area was successful. But unbeknown to me, they had already submitted a planning application (PA20/09460) for four houses on this area of hardstanding (see below) 


This will almost certainly be refused as the Indian Queens Industrial Estate is identified as a principal employment area in the St Enoder Neighbourhood Plan, which states that “proposals for housing within the principal employment areas for the Parish … will not be supported.”

2.3 The Stables (PA19/04433 and PA20/08024)

Last year, Cornwall Council refused a retrospective planning application (PA19/04433) for the “retention of building and its continued use for the storage and repair of motor vehicles” at The Stables on Pit Lane, Indian Queens. It had been rented out as a commercial garage. The owner appealed the refusal to the Planning Inspectorate and, on behalf of the Parish Council, I produced a detailed written submission in support of the unitary authority’s position.

The Planning Inspector has dismissed the appeal and his decision was issued on 5th November. He wrote:

“The appeal site and appeal building are seen as a stark industrial encroachment into this landscape. This is made particularly noticeable by the removal of a length of hedgebank and its replacement with the entrance and wooden fencing, as well as the harsh surfacing and also the main building, which by virtue of its design and materials cannot be construed to be an intrinsic part of the character of the area … policy 2 of the Cornwall Local Plan Strategic Policies 2010-2030 requires that development maintains and respects the special character of Cornwall by, amongst other things, ensuring that the design of development is high quality and demonstrates a cultural, physical and aesthetic understanding of its location. Policy 12 of the LP seeks to ensure that development ensures Cornwall’s enduring distinctiveness and maintains its distinctive natural and historic character by, amongst other things, showing a clear understanding of, and response to, its landscape. Policy 23 of the LP makes clear that development should recognise and respect landscape character. In light of my above findings the development which is the subject of this appeal would be in conflict with all of these policies.”

The owner of The Stables also recently submitted a planning application (PA20/08024) for the “planning in principle” of five dwellings in a field next to the unauthorised garage. Cornwall Council has also rejected this application and the refusal notice states:

“The application site is in the countryside, some 100 metres from the nearest designated development envelope of Indian Queens, and the five new proposed homes, by reason of their inevitable character and bulk, would harm the distinctive rural character of the area. In the absence of special justification to permit housing in this location, the application is contrary to policies 1, 2, 3, 7, 9, 12, 21 and 23 of the Cornwall Local Plan Strategic Policies 2010 - 2030 and Housing Policy 2, Housing Policy 3 and Housing Policy 4 of the St Enoder Parish Neighbourhood Plan 2018-2030.”

2.4 Derelict pig farm at Higher Fraddon (PA19/04433) and (PA20/08024)

Two applications have been submitted for the derelict pig farm site in Higher Fraddon.

Given the extent of development in Higher Fraddon in recent years, the St Enoder Neighbourhood Plan (NDP) (produced by the Parish Council) states that any redevelopment of the site should be for employment purposes. This was why the previous owners were told that a development of 28 dwellings (PA19/00656/PREAPP) on the site would not be acceptable.

The first application is for the conversion of some of the farm building into five dwellings (PA20/08679). It is not a planning application in the traditional sense as it relates to something brought in by the UK Government called “Q Class” developments, which over-ride what is in the St Enoder NDP.

In simple terms, “Q Class” allows buildings on farm holdings to be converted into dwellings as long as they are structurally sound. For such applications, the “merit” of such schemes is not considered, as the focus is simply on whether the buildings are structurally sound and can be converted. It should also be noted that in such proposed “Q Class” developments, the maximum number of allowed dwelling is five.

The paperwork implies that they might also try to get a couple of extra buildings on the site converted into dwellings through a separate means (namely Policy 7 in the Cornwall Local Plan).

The owners of the site have also submitted an outline application for 16 holiday units (PA20/09375). It seems that they are arguing that a holiday use on the site is “employment-related” and therefore complies with the policies in the St Enoder NDP. This approach seems somewhat far-fetched to me.

3.0 Planning White Paper

In recent weeks, I have also been active in raising concerns about the Government’s proposed changes to the planning system, which I believe would be a disaster for Cornwall. I co-authored a motion to Cornwall Council setting out opposition to the changes, which was supported by the majority of elected members at the Full Council meeting on 22nd September.

I also fed information into Cornwall Council’s detailed response to the consultation, and drafted further feedback from St Enoder Parish Council and Mebyon Kernow. In addition, I prepared on-line campaign materials for others to use.

4.0 Traffic matters

4.1 Parking issues at Kingsley Village


A continuing priority for me in recent weeks has been the ongoing parking issues caused by the Kingsley Village complex and, in particular, the extent of parking along New Road.

Planning permission for the shopping complex specified that each of the businesses should put travel plans in place. This has not happened and I have been working with council officers, who are corresponding with each of businesses.

It is also the case that there is a small staff parking area. But this is not being used very much and, ridiculously, many members of staff continue to park on New Road. I have been regularly monitoring this situation. For example, I visited the site on the early evening of 13th November – as we are in the second lockdown, the main car parks were 80% empty, but there were 25 cars on New Road and yet only one car in the staff parking area (see below). 


The situation was similar during the day on 16th November, when there were only five cars in the staff car parking area.

I have therefore been in regular contact with the owners of the complex (CPG) about how the parking arrangements are not working and making representations about how staff should park on the site, rather than on surrounding roads and elsewhere.

4.2 New footway from Harvenna Heights estate

The transfer of part of the field to the west of Indian Queens School from Cornwall Council to St Enoder Parish Council is progressing, and the paperwork for the funding to build a new footway between the Harvenna Heights estate and Indian Queens School has been drafted. 


Though the Parish Council does not yet own its part of the field, we have cleared it of vegetation (see above) so that we will be able to mark out the route of the footway as soon as we have ownership confirmed.

4.3 Design work for other highway schemes

As previously reported, Cornwall Council has agreed to carry out a series of highway works. This includes (i) a zebra crossing on Chapel Road, Indian Queens, and some form of crossing on St Francis Road, (ii) enhanced safety measures outside Summercourt School, and (iii) pedestrian crossways linked to the traffic lights at Summercourt and two permanent vehicle activated signs on the A3058. Various design works are ongoing though this is taking much longer than usual, because of the present pressures on the unitary authority. I am in regular contact with council officers about the importance of these works and the need for the works to progress as quickly as possible.

4.4 Mobile vehicle activated sign

I have been working with other parish councillors to move the mobile sign around the Parish. Recent locations have been on Moorland Road, Indian Queens, and School Road, Summercourt. We are compiling a list of agreed locations for the sign, so please let me or the Parish Clerk know of any places where you think the sign should be located for four-six weeks.

4.5 Other matters

In addition, I have been following up on a number of traffic matters, ranging from blocked drains to localised flooding, and I have requested a full review of the road at the bottom of Fraddon Hill, following an accident a few months back. I can confirm that Cornwall Council is planning to repaint double yellow lines in this area.

5.0 “Towards a Strategy for the China Clay Area”

A member of Cornwall Council’s Localism team and the Cornwall Councillors from our area have been working together to produce a document which challenges the unitary authority to be more supportive of the communities of Clay Country. It identifies a range of “asks” which would form the basis of a wide-ranging strategy for the China Clay Area, and is to be presented to a meeting of the Community Network Area in December.

To give a feel for the document, the introduction is as follows:

“Clay Country is a unique area in the very heart of Cornwall. It’s landscape and communities have been forged through centuries of human endeavour, most notably through the large-scale extraction of china clay which followed the discovery of the mineral by William Cookworthy in the mid-18th century.

“Our Area comprises a range of villages – each with a distinct sense of its own identity – who share an industrial heritage. Yet it also has significant social and economic problems.

“It has a population larger than almost all Cornish towns, yet misses out on investment and the provision of local services because interventions from the UK Government, Cornwall Council and other service providers are largely focused on urban areas.

“Cornwall Council often argues that Westminster politicians focus too much on metropolitan centres and fail to understand the needs of places such as Cornwall.

“We would respectfully suggest that Cornwall Council has fallen into the same trap by disproportionately focusing its efforts onto Cornwall’s main towns.

“We are proud to represent the China Clay Area as Councillors and believe it is time that the Council gives the area the recognition that it merits and the investment that it deserves.

“It is our hope that this document represents an important first step in the implementation of a distinct strategy for the China Clay Area which will boost the prospects of residents across our five parishes.”

I have also given evidence to an Economic Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee inquiry session into the economic vitality of rural and coastal areas. My contribution focussed on the needs of Clay Country.

6.0 Covid-19

The ongoing health emergency continues to make life very difficult for people. As a Cornwall Councillor, I attend fortnightly meetings of the Cornwall Local Engagement Board where we are briefed about how public bodies are working to deal with Covid-19, as well as a lockdown support group for the China Clay Area comprising representatives of a number of bodies and charities. The Parish Council continues to be a contact for Volunteer Cornwall.

7.0 Remembrance Sunday

In spite of the second lockdown, it was good that the annual Remembrance Sunday event at St Enoder Churchtown was able to go-ahead as a socially-distanced gathering. I was pleased to read out the names of the fallen and I would like to thank everyone involved with organising the commemoration.

8.0 Grants

As a Cornwall Councillor, I have a community chest, from which I give grants to local groups. I can confirm that I have now fully spent my allocation for 2020-2021. In addition to covering some of the costs of the Parish Council’s response to the Coronavirus crisis, I have pledged funds to St Enoder Youth Club, Indian Queens Under-5s, the Wesley Pre-School and the volunteer team who will be providing a food larder which is being planned for our area.

9.0 Parish Council matters

I have also been liaising with the Parish Council Clerk and other parish councillors on a range of issues, which included the new streetlights on the road to the Indian Queens Recreation Ground.

10.0 Inquiries

While this report has been a summary of many of my recent activities, I have helped a wide range of people with localised issues.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

UPDATE ON PARLIAMENTARY CONSTITUENCIES BILL


As we have previously reported, Mebyon Kernow was extremely disappointed that Cornish MPs chose not to move an amendment to the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill to ensure that no cross-Tamar “Devonwall” constituencies could be created in the future.

Such an amendment was moved in the House of Lords by Lord Tyler with the support of Lord Teverson and Lord Bourne, but we were equally disappointed that the peers chose not to push the amendment to a vote.

The Lords did however agree an amendment that the electorate for individual constituencies would need to be within 7.5% of the average seat size – up from the figure of 5% in the Bill as originally drafted.

Lord’s amendments to the Bill were considered in the House of Commons yesterday and I wrote to Cornish MPs to request that they support the amendment on constituency size. It would not rule out a Devonwall seat, but it might, to a degree, limit the likelihood of a cross-Tamar constituency.

It was made clear to MPs that if the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill only allows a 5% divergence from the average constituency size, it was likely that it would be statistically impossible to deliver seats that meet this criteria and fall wholly within the historic boundaries of Cornwall (and the Isles of Scilly) by the time of the review expected around 2030. 

It is disappointing to report that all six Cornish MPs voted down the Lord’s amendment yesterday.

WELL DONE TO MARCUS RASHFORD AND HIS SUPPORTERS

Well done to Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, his thousands and thousands of supporters, and all those charities, altruistic businesses and individuals, for pressuring the UK government into a massive u-turn on the issue of free school meal provision for low-income families during school holidays.


It is really good news that the money has been found for a “Covid winter grant scheme,” which I understand will be run by councils, as well as the expansion of a “holiday food and activities programme” and an increase in funding for Healthy Start payments.

Marcus Rashford may now be a very successful professional athlete, but he has been able to speak with a great deal of authority on this issue. Unlike ministers in this Government, he personally experienced poverty growing up in Wythenshawe, Manchester.

A magnanimous campaigner, he has sought to share the credit for his success, thanking the “charity workers, volunteers, teachers, care workers, key workers, that have fought for this level of progress for years” and saying that he was “honoured to be on this journey” with them. It also heartening that he intends to push for further measures to strengthen the safety net for those living in poverty through his “child food poverty taskforce.”

It would be easy to lambast the Government for the insensitive way in which it handled this issue, prior to the u-turn. But I think it best that we celebrate that the Prime Minister and MPs have listened and taken action.

At this very difficult time with the second lockdown, it is also to be welcomed that MPs have listened to unions and businesses, and taken the decision to extend and broaden its furlough scheme. There is undoubtedly considerable relief in many homes that the Treasury will now pay up to 80% of the wages of furloughed staff until 31st March. This is so vital for this month, while the additional support for the next four months could save many jobs.

In addition, it is positive that the Treasury has stated that staff, who have been made redundant, can be rehired and supported with furlough funding, and that there will be enhanced support for self-employed workers over the next three months.

We are all again coming to terms with what the latest lockdown entails, but it was thoughtful that Remembrance Sunday events were able to be held in a Covid-19 secure manner and I was honoured to be able to read out the names of the 90 men and one woman from my home parish who lost their lives in the two World Wars.

[This is my article in this week's Cornish Guardian].

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

JOE LOUIS IN CORNWALL IN 1944


My article in today’s Cornish Guardian is about the world heavyweight champion Joe Louis, who visited Cornwall in 1944 in advance of D-Day. In particular, I understand that he came to Fraddon, where there were exhibition bouts of boxing to entertain the troops. The article is as follows:

October is Black History Month and a new group called Black Voices Cornwall has been working to provide curriculum packages of short lessons on black history that can be used in Cornish schools and other educational institutions. It is my view that this initiative should be widely welcomed, as it is important that children and others can learn more about the diversity of human experience.

People may recall that I am doing some research into the impact of WW2 on my home area, and I have a story to share about the world heavyweight champion Joe Louis who was in Cornwall in 1944.

Joe grew up in poverty in Alabama and he took up boxing in Detroit. He went professional in 1934 and defeated a number of prominent boxers, including former champions. In 1937, he knocked out Jim Braddock to become world champion and he also fought two famous fights with the German boxer Max Schmelling in 1936 and 1938. He was successful in the second, a title bout, at a time of increasing global tension because of what was happening in Nazi Germany.

Joe later enlisted in the US Army, though he was destined not to see combat. A much-loved American hero and an iconic black figure, he appeared on posters for war bonds and became a symbol of opposition to Nazism. But at that time, in a truly awful contradiction, much of American society was still segregated and black people were being systematically denied their basic civil rights.

In 1944, Joe was in the UK visiting American GIs and British servicemen, who were preparing for D-Day. He was with other boxers, who staged exhibition matches to entertain troops and boost military morale.

It is well documented that Joe visited Bodmin (see photo), but I have been told by a farmer that he also came to Fraddon and exhibition bouts were held at the western end of the village. A large number of GIs were based locally (in camps divided by race), though I understand Joe refused to perform in front of segregated audiences.

I would certainly be delighted to hear from anyone who has any information about Joe’s visit to Fraddon or US forces in Mid Cornwall in 1944.

Sunday, 25 October 2020

RESPONSE TO PLANNING WHITE PAPER CONSULTATION FROM MEBYON KERNOW



RESPONSE TO PLANNING WHITE PAPER CONSULTATION
FROM MEBYON KERNOW – THE PARTY FOR CORNWALL


Mebyon Kernow strongly objects to the “Planning for the Future” White Paper.

It is our view that there are already many problems with the existing National Planning Policy Framework, not least because of the “presumption in favour” of development which has led to unchecked and damaging development that local communities have been unable to prevent.

But the proposed changes would undoubtedly make this situation even worse and be a disaster for Cornwall, its communities and environment.

PLANNING POLICY SHOULD BE DEVOLVED TO CORNWALL

In 2014, the UK Government recognised the Cornish as a national minority through the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, and pledged that the Cornish would be treated in the same way as the “other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.”

It is noted that the White Paper only relates to Cornwall and England, because planning is devolved to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

We call on the UK Government to fully meet its obligations through the Framework Convention and deliver a meaningful devolution settlement for Cornwall, which should include a National Assembly for Cornwall with the ability to take all decisions about planning and housing. This would include the powers to produce a Cornish National Planning Policy Framework and agree housing and other targets.

THE WHITE PAPER

The document includes numerous references to things such as tackling climate change, protecting green spaces, more building on brownfield land, the construction of beautiful homes and greater community involvement – but these claims are contradicted by the wider context of the document which is principally about making it easier for developers to develop!

Zoning (proposal 1)

Our members are extremely concerned at the proposal to zone the whole of Cornwall, and that land in “growth areas … would automatically be granted outline planning permission for the principle of development” and that there would even be “automatic approvals” for certain “pre-established development types” in other areas.

There is a lack of clarity in the document about how the zoning would work, but we feel it would be sub-standard to the existing planning system and there would be a risk of unregulated sprawl and unsustainable developments impacting on numerous Cornish communities.

Our members also strongly object to the “automaticity” of consent, which would undermine the ability of local residents to make meaningful representations on proposals for new housing and other developments in their areas. There is no evidence that communities would engage in the production of a Cornwall-wide policy document, rather than specific Neighbourhood Plans and / or planning applications.

Development management policies set at “national scale” (proposal 2)

Our members are strongly opposed to the proposals to further centralise the planning process in Whitehall with key development management policies “established at national scale.”

It is unacceptable that the decision-making capacity of local councils should be reduced. People in Cornwall know what is best for Cornwall, and should have the ability to set the planning policy framework that is used for the determination of planning applications.

Mebyon Kernow has no confidence that “national” policies imposed from Westminster / Whitehall will in any way understand or reflect what is distinct about Cornwall and its communities and heritage.

Our members are unhappy that the extent of policies in Local Plans would be reduced and we find it incomprehensible that local planning documents might be reduced to little more than "design guides and codes” for developments that have been automatically sanctioned through central government policies.

As noted previously, Mebyon Kernow aspires to see the creation of a Cornish NPPF and we would appeal to the UK Government to work with the people of Cornwall to maximise the policy development capability of bodies to the west of the Tamar.

“Standard method for establishing housing requirement figures” (proposal 4)

Our members are also strongly opposed to the imposition of a top-down “standard method for establishing housing requirement figures,” which would be particularly disastrous for the Cornish countryside and many of our local communities.

It is shocking that the UK Government has come up with a formula that would expect over 4,000 new properties to be built in Cornwall each year. Cornwall’s Local Plan already has an extremely high housing target of 52,500 new housing units over a twenty-year period.

It is frankly ridiculous to expect Cornwall’s next 20-year housing target to be increased to more than 81,000 dwellings. This truly unsustainable level of housing growth would have a significantly adverse impact on Cornwall’s environment and our public services. It would increase the number of dwellings in Cornwall by over 30% in just twenty years and it would equate to the construction of significantly more housing than presently located in the whole of the Camborne, Pool & Redruth area, and the Falmouth & Penryn Network Area, and the Truro & Roseland Network area.

It is little wonder that the formula has been described by some local government bodies as a “mutant algorithm.”

The idea that massively increasing house-building will reduce house prices is a fallacy. Over the last fifty years, Cornwall’s housing stock has doubled, whereas the problems with affordability have worsened.

It is also questionable that decision-makers in Westminster are actually that committed to measures which would reduce house prices or lower rents, as government policies in recent years have fed house price inflation and deliberately increased the cost of affordable housing.

Our members therefore disagree that any formula should include factors relating to affordability. Put simply, affordability problems are not a justification for an increase in the overall amount of housing, which would mostly be open-market non-affordable properties. Instead, this evidence should be used by central government to justify increased investment in proper affordable housing.

In addition, we would point out that this approach does nothing to tackle the issue of empty properties or to address the adverse impact of second home ownership on many Cornish communities – some of which can feel like ghost towns in the winter.

Automatic planning consents (proposal 5)

As noted above, our members object to automatic “outline planning permission” in growth areas and “automatic approvals” for certain “pre-established development types” in other areas for the reasons already explained.

It is clear that the White Paper fails to explain how the historic and natural environments of Cornwall will be safeguarded when automatic planning permissions are being allowed. For example, while designated landscapes and designated heritage assets will be protected, what about non-designated heritage assets or non-designated historic landscapes, and who will assess the extent of below-ground remains which might need geophysical survey?

Such issues demonstrate that the whole approach in the White Paper has not been properly thought through.

Mebyon Kernow members also oppose the imposition of large new settlements through the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime. We continue to be outraged that the so-called eco-town or garden village being built near Penwithick was imposed on Cornwall in spite of opposition from around one thousand people.

Speeding up of the planning process (proposal 6)

The priority for planning should be to make the right decision. This is more important than the speed of the application process and our members have experience that many delays in the planning process are caused by applicants putting in sub-standard information to the local council.

Mebyon Kernow is strongly opposed to suggestions that planning fees should be returned to applicants if developments are not dealt with within certain timeframes or are allowed on appeal.

The planning system needs to be fair and balanced, and to be seen to be balanced and fair. It must protect the Cornish countryside while allowing appropriate developments to go forward. The whole concept of refunding planning fees would show just how a planning system is tilted in favour of developers and landowners – rather than communities.

Thirty-month timetable for Local Plans (proposal 8)

Mebyon Kernow considers the proposal that local authorities should produce a new Local Plan (to a Government template) within a 30-month timetable to be ridiculous. In particular, our members have noted that the document states the initial stage asking for zoning suggestions should take only six months, while the drafting of the whole Local Plan (including the zoning of all land) should take only 12 months.

This is totally impractical, especially for a place the size and complexity of Cornwall – which is made up of numerous towns, villages and smaller settlements; urban, rural, coastal and industrial areas; and extends over a length of 75 miles.

There needs to be adequate time for there to be meaningful consultation and engagement with local communities in the production of planning policy documents.

A rushed plan will lead to bad planning outcomes and do damage to local communities.

Neighbourhood Plans (proposal 10)

Many of our members have been involved with parish councils and groups, which have worked extremely hard to produce Neighbourhood Plans and give a planning context to their local area.

It is clear that the changes in the White Paper would undermine the status of Neighbourhood Plans, and local communities will no longer be able to make decisions about where development should and should not be allowed in their local areas. This is a retrograde step which should not be allowed to happen.

In addition, the changes would make it much harder for residents to make meaningful representations on development proposals in their areas.

Sustainability (pillar two – planning for beautiful and sustainable places)

Mebyon Kernow would challenge the statement that “sustainability is at the heart” of proposals in the White Paper.

As noted above, the level of growth set out by the “standard method for establishing housing requirement figures” would increase the number of dwellings in Cornwall by over 30% in just twenty years. There is nothing sustainable about this extent of development, which would lead to the loss of a great deal of Cornish countryside and cause drastic and irreversible change to the character of Cornwall.

Design (pillar 2 – planning for beautiful and sustainable places)

Mebyon Kernow note the Government’s proposals about design guides and codes, which it is stated should be prepared “locally.”

It is the view of our members that all decisions about planning policy should be taken in Cornwall – it is not just about design, but also the scale of development and where it is located, etc.

A simpler framework for assessing impacts on environment (proposal 16) and conserving and enhancing historic buildings and areas) (proposal 17)

Mebyon Kernow is extremely worried that proposals in the White Paper will fail to safeguard Cornwall’s rich historic and natural environments.Our members feel that, with there being automatic planning permissions in growth areas and other zones, it is questionable whether enough attention will be given to the adverse impacts of developments on the environment.

While designated landscapes and designated heritage assets will clearly have some protection, this will undoubtedly not be the case with non-designated landscapes and non-designated heritage assets, which we would argue are very important.

For example, we would wish to see additional protections for Cornish hedges, some of which date to prehistory, and which could be lost if the planning system is dismantled in the manner proposed by the Government.

Infrastructure and affordable housing (Planning for infrastructure and connected place – pillar three)

Mebyon Kernow is extremely concerned at proposals in this section of the White Paper, which are lacking in detail.

It is the view of our members that Section 106 legal agreements have traditionally worked well in ensuring that affordable housing and other community benefits are delivered, while there has been great confusion around the Community Infrastructure Levy.

A reformed Infrastructure Levy appears very complex and it is understood that many planning professionals are querying how it will work. It also concerning how the consultation is asking questions about whether the same amount of affordable housing and whether it needs to be provided on-site.

It is the view of Mebyon Kernow that a key aim of planning should be maximise the percentage of properly affordable homes on developments and, in terms of rental housing units, they should be for social rent not the expensive so-called “affordable rent.”

The UK Government needs to ensure that the cost of affordable housing – both for rent and purchase – needs to be tied to the level of local wages, rather than being a slight discount from inflated rental or purchase costs. This is especially important in Cornwall, which is one of the poorest areas in Western Europe and where average wages are amongst the lowest in the United Kingdom.

Our members were also extremely concerned at the proposal in the recent “technical changes” consultation, which suggested that affordable housing would not be sought on sites of up to either 40 or 50 new properties. And while it states that this would not apply in designated rural areas (as defined by a 1981 Housing Order), this is problematic as many non-urban areas in Cornwall are shamefully not designated as rural areas.

Impact on people with protected characteristics (Equality Act 2010)

As noted at the start of this representation, in 2014 the UK Government recognised the Cornish as a national minority through the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

But the authors of the White Paper have not considered the impact of the planning changes on the Cornish national minority and, in the view of MK members, the document fails to address the social, economic and housing problems being faced by the long-term residents of Cornwall, such as low incomes, poor economic prospects and limited access to properly affordable housing.

It is obvious that the construction of 81,000 – mostly open-market – new properties is not about meeting the needs of the people of Cornwall. It relates more to the feeding of an external market for property, which would likely lead to 150,000-180,000 new residents in Cornwall. It would also allow many wealthy families to have a second “home,” when many Cornish people do not have a first home.

The UK Government’s approach to planning policy, and indeed wider governance issues relating to Cornwall and the Cornish, clearly breaches a number of clauses in the Framework Convention.

A further submission will be made to the UK Government about the content of the White Paper and the Framework Convention.

PLEASE THINK AGAIN …

The members of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall would ask the UK Government to rethink its approach to planning. The Planning White Paper would not be good for Cornwall and our members would formally request that all decisions about planning and housing are devolved to Cornwall.