Friday, 26 May 2017

Where do the Westminster parties stand ...


My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian addressed the failure of the largest Westminster parties to mention Cornwall in their manifestos and MKs challenge to all General Election candidates. It was as follows:

The decision of Mebyon Kernow not to contest the General Election has been quite widely reported.

This year, our focus was on the local elections and the timing of the announcement during these council contests meant that, with our level of resources, it would have been frankly impractical to put together and finance a meaningful campaign.

MK will not be formally endorsing any other political party though, of course, our individual members will be making their own choices as to how they engage with the election.

As an organization, we will be actively lobbying would-be MPs on those issues which we believe are important for the residents of Cornwall. With this in mind, I have looked at the manifestos of the three largest Westminster parties.

I was very disappointed – but not surprised – that the Conservative Party (even with six MPs in the Duchy) did not once mention Cornwall in its policy document. The Labour Party manifesto likewise failed to mention Cornwall at all, though in both documents there are plenty of references to Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, London and a host of other places.

To be fair to the Liberal Democrats, in their manifesto, Cornwall does get a couple of mentions in their sections on constitutional reform. But it is all a bit garbled and mixes up local and regional government – they promise” devolution on demand” and “greater devolution” of powers to “Councils or groups of Councils working together – for example to a Cornish Assembly …”

This week, I have written to all candidates standing in Cornish constituencies and asked what they would do on four key issues if elected.

The first issue is fair funding. It is well known that public services in Cornwall have received less funding than other parts of the United Kingdom for many years. This situation has been worsened by massive cuts from recent governments, and surely local people need to know how would-be MPs and their parties would tackle this issue.

Second, Cornwall’s economic performance is less than 75% of the EU average. Brexit means that Cornwall will lose structural and other funds, causing great uncertainty for local businesses, farmers and others. We need to know which parties will guarantee investment to Cornwall in lieu of the EU funds and not just in the short term.

Third, many people in Cornwall are frustrated at the lack of local control over a host of issues. MK has long campaigned for greater self-government for Cornwall through the creation of a National Assembly, but we have called on would-be MPs to campaign for the devolution of all aspects of planning to Cornwall.

And fourth, in 2014 the UK Government recognised the Cornish as a “national minority” and agreed to a wide range of obligations through the Framework Convention. But sadly, it has since failed to act on these duties and our question to the candidates is simple. What will you do for the Cornwall’s unique identity?

My latest monthly report

At last week’s meeting of St Enoder Parish Council, I presented my latest monthly report. It covered the time period 27th March to 14th May 2017. It was as follows:

1. The result of the election

The last few weeks have been dominated by the elections to Cornwall Council and I am very pleased to have been re-elected to serve my home parish on the unitary authority.

I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who voted for me, and I would also like to thank the many people for their kind comments and support throughout the election campaign.

The full result was as follows:

Dick Cole (MK) - 1,090
Rachel Andrews (Con) - 143
Kate Martin (Lib Dem) - 74

This level of support is truly humbling and I will continue to work really hard for St Enoder Parish and do my best to repay the faith that local people have shown in me.

2. Council meetings

There have been a limited number of formal meetings in recent weeks, principally because of the unitary authority elections. I have attended three Cornwall Council meetings: Full Council, Constitution and Governance Committee, and the “national minority” working group tasked with the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and how it affects the Cornish. In addition, I have attended a range of informal meetings about local issues.

Since election day, I have attended two induction days for councillors and a host of training sessions are being arranged for members of the unitary authority in the coming weeks. Indeed, it has been a bit “déjà vu” since I was re-elected and last week I attended meetings with planning officers about (i) the ongoing issues relating to the biogas plant at Higher Fraddon and (ii) the planning applications relating to the Carvynick – see below for more detail.

In the same period, I have also been at three meetings of St Enoder Parish Council and the Annual Assembly, at which I presented my annual report for 2016/2017.

3. Other meetings

I have also attended three meetings of the board of ClayTAWC at St Dennis, of which I am Chairman.

4. Fraddon Post Office

Fraddon Post Office closed on 24th April and the Parish Council Clerk and I are continuing to put pressure on Post Office Ltd to reinstall provision in the eastern end of the Parish. We met with two representatives of the organisation on 3rd May.

The situation was little changed from the meetings in March and Post Office Ltd is still adamant that the provision of a local Post Office needs to be in partnership with a local retail unit. We continue to point out that such options are not apparent in the Fraddon / Indian Queens / St Columb Road area at this time.

There were also discussions at that meeting about the need for outreach to serve the eastern part of the Parish, though Post Office Ltd are still stating that they would be looking to only do two three-hour sessions each week. A number of local Post Office branches (with the relevant equipment and trained staff) have been approached to provide the outreach but all have declined.

Post Office Ltd is looking at where the outreach services might be provided and the options as to who might provide the actual service.

In addition, we have asked Post Office Ltd to liaise with Royal Mail about how they deal with mail that could not be delivered. We expressed concern that local people are having to drive to Newquay to pick up post and they stated that they thought it would be possible to involve a Post Office branch that was much closer to our area.

The Parish Council has also launched a petition which will hopefully show the strength of local feeling on this issue.

5. Update on biogas plant and pig farm at Higher Fraddon

I attended a meeting with planning officers on 12th May for an update about the above planning permissions and the discharge of various conditions.

In terms of the consent for the biogas plant, which was granted on 6th September, the update is as follows:

Condition 1 states that, “within 9 months of the date of this permission,” the height of one of the secondary digester should be reduced. It is highly unlikely this will be achieved within the above time-frame, and Greener for Life have tried to submit a further planning application to reduce the amount by which the height must be reduced. I have however since heard that the company no longer intend to submit such an application.

Condition 4 states that “within four months of the date of this permission, a detailed `Construction Management Plan' (CMP) … shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority (LPA) … for the reduction in height of the secondary digester and other necessary construction works including surface water drainage and the commissioning phase of the anaerobic digester plant.” A CMP has not been agreed and the Council is looking to serve a “breach of condition notice.” Greener for Life has just submitted further information for the discharge of this condition.

Condition 5 states that “prior to the reduction in the height of the secondary digester and other works, a scheme for the control of pollution during the works shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority (LPA). This should take the form of a Construction Environment Management Plan (CEMP) …” This has not yet been done, even though the timetable states that the works on the dome should be completed by June 6th 2017. Greener for Life has just submitted further information for the discharge of this condition.

Condition 6 which sets out the “details of a scheme for the provision of surface water management” has been agreed, but cannot be actioned because the CMP (condition 4) has yet to be agreed.

Condition 14 states that the “definition of Heavy Goods Vehicles shall be agreed between the applicant and the Local Planning Authority [and] within one month of this decision a list of vehicles types (including dimensions) of this class that will service the plant.” Cornwall Council has twice refused to discharge this condition as, even though Greener for Life has repeatedly promised to use the douliner vehicle, they did not wish to have any restriction on what sort of HGVs could access the plant. The Council is looking to serve a “breach of condition notice” in relation to this condition.

Condition 16 (approval of a Vehicle Management Policy) has been discharged.

Condition 17 (approval of a scheme of landscaping) has been discharged, but the condition states that “all planting … shall be carried out within six months of the date of this permission …” Because this deadline has not been met, the Council is looking to serve a “breach of condition notice” in relation to this condition.

Condition 20 (agreement of an Odour Management Plan) has been discharged.

Greener for Life also submitted a Section 73 application which sought to modify condition 14 to allow an increase in the number of smaller vehicles accessing the plant, which the Parish Council objected to. Cornwall Council is still accessing this application, though it is clear that more vehicles are travelling to the site than specified in the condition, which the owner repeatedly said was appropriate at the Planning Appeal.

There are also some outstanding issues with the redevelopment of the pig farm, in terms of the insertion of biofilters, surface water drainage and landscaping.

The following letter was received from a representative of the pig farm in late April.

“Progress in respect of the full implementation has been delayed due to a number of factors mainly associated with the procurement and availability of sub-contractors and issues with the availability and delivery of the bio-filters. I am now able to confirm the following:

“Condition 2 – The work on the construction of the surface water drainage and attenuation has now commenced and will be completed in due course.

“Condition 5 – Biofiltration – The retrofitting of the biofilters for buildings 4 and 5 will commence very shortly. However it is not proposed to install the biofilters on buildings 2 and 3 until the biofilters have been installed on buildings 4 and 5 and to allow sufficient time to assess their performance. My clients need to be certain that the biofiltration system on buildings 4 and 5 is fully functional before making any commitment with any further installation. We will therefore provide an update on the performance of the biofilters in respect of buildings 4 and 5 in due course.

“Condition 11 – Landscaping – The work to implement the landscaping scheme has commenced on site and this work will be completed in the current planting season.”

6. Update on Carvynick

I attended a meeting with planning officers on 11th May for an update on progress with the application to remove holiday conditions on the holiday park complex. The meeting was also attended by three representatives from Kingsley Developers.

There was a significant difference in perspective between the planning officers and the owners of the complex. I understand that discussions will be continuing and I will update when there is more clarity.

7. Broadband in Summercourt

As reported at the Annual Assembly, the eastern part of Summercourt around the primary school has had a very poor broadband signal for many years. On behalf of the School and local residents, I made representations to British Telecom on this matter and I am is pleased to be able to confirm that BT has confirmed that the improvement works will be carried out within this financial year and hopefully prior to Christmas.

8. Out and about

One advantage of an election campaign is that you get to stomp around every bit of the Parish and to review progress on matters that have been reported in previous weeks and months. I am presently chasing up on a number of issues and will report in more detail in my next monthly report.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that the issue most often raised with me during the election was traffic, parking, etc. I will be submitting further information to Cornwall Council about concerns at a number of locations and will also report in more detail in my next monthly report.

9. Inquiries


During the couple of months, I have also helped numerous people with advice and guidance on a range of problems which have included anti-social behaviour, housing problems and traffic concerns.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

News from Full Council; 23rd May 2017


The first meeting of the new Cornwall Council took place today.

It was a relatively subdued affair which commenced with a minute’s silence for the victims of the terrible attack in Manchester. This was followed by a series of heartfelt tributes to Cllr Steve Rogerson who passed away suddenly during the local election campaign. A further minute’s silence was held in his memory.

Mary May (Penryn) and Hilary Frank (Saltash) were elected to serve as Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Council. Their’s were the only nominations and both votes were unanimous.

The contest for leader of the Council was between Adam Paynter, representing the Liberal and Independent groups, and the Conservative’s Phil Seeva, who proposed a minority Tory administration.

Adam was successful – with 70 votes against the 44 secured by his Tory opponent. There was one abstention. I can confirm that the MK group voted for the Liberal and Independent administration.

And obviously, there was also time for the “first day at school” group photograph.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

The absurdity of election coverage …


As someone who has fought a lot of elections for Mebyon Kernow, both at local and parliamentary level (Westminster and European), I have worked ridiculously hard to generate coverage in the mainstream media. And it has been very, very difficult to get fair coverage for MK.

Today, MK announced that it would not be contesting seats at the 2017 General Election. It was not an easy decision. The statement can be found at: Statement on General Election

As a consequence, I have spent much of the day dealing with the media. I did a live interview with Radio Cornwall at 7.00 this morning, and I have also recorded interviews with both ITV (top left) and BBC Spotlight (top right).

It all seems so strange. We pretty much got zero coverage of our local election campaign on television and really struggled to get meaningful coverage during previous elections - even when we announced candidates!

And yet we announce we are not going to do something – we get much more coverage.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Mebyon Kernow is top choice in Clay Country


MK activists in the St Austell and Newquay constituency focused resources on five seats for the Cornwall Council elections on May 4th and the results show that, in the local elections, MK was the most popular choice for voters.

A summary of the popular vote in the China Clay Area was as follows:

Mebyon Kernow (five candidates) – 2,383 votes
Conservatives (six candidates) – 1,739 votes
Independents (six candidates) – 1,712 votes
Liberal Democrats (six candidates) – 973 votes
UKIP (one candidate) – 100 votes

Matt Luke and I successfully defended our seats, and we achieved two second places. The others seats were won by the Conservatives (2) and independents (2).

The full results were as follows:

Bugle
Conservative – 488
Garry Tregidga (MK) – 360
Liberal Democrat – 354
Independent – 84

Penwithick and Boscoppa
Matt Luke (MK) – 397
Conservative – 381
Liberal Democrat – 174

Roche
Independent – 601
Brian Higman (MK) – 369
Conservative – 140
UKIP – 100
Liberal Democrat – 72

St Dennis
Independent – 363
Independent – 271
Independent – 199
Conservative – 103
Liberal Democrat – 39

St Enoder
Dick Cole (MK) – 1,090
Conservative – 143
Liberal Democrat – 74

St Stephen
Conservative – 484
Liberal Democrat – 260
Independent – 194
Jerry Jefferies (MK) – 167

In the town and parish council election, five members were elected unopposed. These were Michael Bunney (St Goran), myself (St Enoder), Brian Higman (Roche), David Holman (St Mewan) and Matt Luke (Treverbyn).

Matt Facey stood in Mevagissey and topped the poll for the Parish Council with 515 votes, while Julie Fox polled 348 votes for a seat on St Austell Town Council – missing out on election by only 22 votes.

Well done all for your hard work and support.