Sunday, 14 July 2019

SOME THOUGHTS ON PLANNING FOLLOWING RECENT DEMONSTRATION AT COUNTY HALL


At last week’s meeting of the unitary authority, a considerable number of campaigners joined together to protest at the level of housing growth across Cornwall. A number of local groups were also present at the demonstration to raise concerns about specific developments which they consider will have an adverse impact on their local area.

A large number of people continue to be angry at the housing target of 52,500 new housing units, for the period 2010-2030, which is included in the Cornwall Local Plan.

I share many of these concerns and I understand people’s frustrations. Not least, this is because, as a local councillor, I have been on the losing side in many planning battles where, I strongly believe, the wrong decisions were taken.

In terms of local planning policy, I was heavily involved in the production of the Local Plan document and argued for a lower housing target of 38,000-40,000, with a stronger focus on the provision of proper local-needs affordable housing. In addition, I recall arguing for less growth in areas such as Bodmin and Newquay, and I was among the small number of members who opposed the so-called “eco-town” in Clay Country.

But overall, I was pretty unsuccessful in my representations and I would describe the process of agreeing the housing target as a “charade.” So much of the debate was not about what would be right for Cornwall, but what might be acceptable to central government.

The final housing target, submitted to the Government, was 47,500 but even this was deemed inadequate by a government-appointed inspector who, following an “Examination in Public,” pushed up the figure to the 52,500.

The reality is that the top-down National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) does largely dictate how local councils deal with planning matters.

In terms of housing targets, I remember the most recent consultation into revisions to the NPPF when the UK Government stated that they expected housing targets for council areas to be calculated using a top-down “standard method.” They even included an appendix in the document showing that if Cornwall’s housing target was recalculated, using their method, it would go up to 58,000.

In all this “toing and froing,” Cornwall Council has come in for significant criticism and I believe it really does need to be much more robust in challenging the diktats of central government.

It is my strong view that we should be uniting around a strong campaign to ensure that all decisions over planning and housing should be taken here in Cornwall, democratically, through a Cornish NPPF, without interference from Whitehall and their inspectors.

[This will be my article in this coming week's Cornish Guardian].

My thoughts on the recent National Minority Summit


Five years on from the recognition of the Cornish as a national minority, Cornwall Council held the first UK National Minority Summit at Falmouth University on Friday 5th July.

It was a privilege for me to be involved with the organisation of the event and it was great to hear from so many activists from across the Cornish movement. In addition, there were telling contributions from others from further afield such as Professor Tove Malloy (Director of the European Centre for Minority Issues), Cornishman Dr Davyth Hicks (Secretary General of the European Language Equality Network), Professor Elin Haf Gruffydd Jones (University of Wales Trinity St David) and Iain Campbell (University of the Highlands and Islands), plus Montfort Tadier and Ben Spink from Jersey.

Also at the event was Lord Bourne (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) and he used the gathering to announce a one-off payment of £200,000 to support Cornish culture, with three-quarters of the money earmarked for the language.

He spoke about Cornwall’s rich history and distinctive identity, and how “we should support the Cornish language and help it flourish for generations to come.”

I had the opportunity to speak at the summit and, obviously, I welcomed the funding announcement. But I also told the Minister that the UK Government needed to do so much more to meet the wider obligations that it agreed under the Framework Convention. In particular, I reminded him that, in 2014, they had pledged the Cornish would receive a parity of treatment with the other national minorities (Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh) but that this had not transpired as yet.

Lord Bourne knew the challenge was coming as I had the good fortune to share a “working dinner” with him on the night before the summit, along with Cllr Bert Biscoe and Cllr Jesse Foot, Professor Tove Malloy and Dr Davyth Hicks, plus council officers and the Minister’s own staff.

It would be accurate to report that we pressed Lord Bourne on a wide range of issues which also included long-term funding for the Cornish language, greater control over Cornwall’s heritage, better public broadcasting in the Cornish national interest, and a Cornish tick-box on the 2021 census.

He knows that it is our intention to continue to lobby him and others in the UK Government on these and associated matters, and I hope that many people across Cornwall will join us in doing this.

I would like to finish by thanking the council officers who worked so hard to make the summit a success.

[This was my article in last week's Cornish Guardian].

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Big Enough, Rich Enough, Smart Enough


During my recent visit to Scotland – for a week’s holiday – I took the opportunity to read Scottish newspapers and catch snippets of Scottish television. I found the news media to the north of the Tweed to be so very different to the largely London-centred output that we, in Cornwall, have come to accept as the norm.

It was so refreshing to see the news from a national perspective that was not dominated by the South East of England.

There is even one newspaper, launched only in 2014, called The National, which actively campaigns for an independent Scotland. While I was there, it launched another independence campaign titled “Big Enough, Rich Enough, Smart Enough.”

It is a clever initiative. It seeks to reverse the age-old criticism of the push for both devolution and independence, that stated Scotland was “too small and too poor,” while its inhabitants were not clever enough. It is an effort that resonated with me.

As the leader of Mebyon Kernow, I must make it clear that I am not saying that I wish to campaign for an independent Cornwall. I remain 100% committed to securing meaningful devolution for Cornwall within the United Kingdom through a National Assembly.

But the National’s campaign did resonate with me because I can remember the numerous occasions when arguments against greater self-government for Cornwall suggested our nation was also “too small and too poor.” I have also lost count at how many times I have heard people question whether the residents of Cornwall have the where-with-all to govern themselves, and why we need to bring in new people for prominent local jobs as if there is no-one already living in Cornwall who is capable of doing such roles. Remember how David Penhaligon defined an expert as “someone who comes from 150 miles away.”

As the quote from David Penhaligon shows, this has long been a problem and it is just over thirty years since the seminal text “Cornwall at the Crossroads” by Bernard Deacon, Andrew George and Ronald Perry was published.

I believe this book is as relevant now as it was in 1988. It rightly made the case for Cornwall as a special place with a distinct identity, rooted in the strengths of its people and communities, while pointing out how decisions about Cornwall were continuously being based around externally derived assumptions that it was “remote” and “too small” and its people suffered from backwardness.

Looking forward, how about joining me in a “Cornwall is Big Enough, Rich Enough, Smart Enough” campaign?

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

It is 50 years since Daphne Du Maurier called for home rule for Cornwall


Much has been written about the life and achievements of the novelist Daphne du Maurier, and it is often noted that the author of Frenchman’s Creek, Jamaica Inn, My Cousin Rachel, Rebecca and Rule Britannia was a member of Mebyon Kernow.

Indeed, it is fifty years since she had an article published in MK’s Cornish Nation magazine, which was titled “Stand On Your Own Two Feet.”

It is a quite interesting piece of writing and very optimistic, believing that “a form of self-government for Cornwall with legislative powers touching local industry, education, health and economy” was possible within ten years.

Very much of its time, it does cover a range of subjects including education – she argued against the closure of small schools – and economic matters, such as the need to support the traditional industries of “fishing, mining, farming.” She set out hopes that Cornwall’s fishing ports would be “able to compete in a big way” and local mining companies should not be outdone by large American companies, while agriculture could help Cornwall be more self-sufficient in terms of food production.

In particular, she had a lot to say about tourism. Bemoaning the impact of “junk-shops” and “trinket-booths” selling mass-produced goods on Cornish quays, du Maurier argued that the “visitor should be encouraged to come to Cornwall because of its historical interest and its present day craftsmanship, not merely because it has beaches that are ideal in fine weather.”

She also called for Cornwall to “have its own Tourist Board” with “all matters relating to tourism … in the hands of this Board, who would not take direction from other similar bodies beyond the Tamar.”

But du Maurier did not just want greater control over tourism and had the following vision for the future:

“The aim must surely be to make Cornwall a really worthwhile place in which to live, and work, and bring up future generations, not harking back too much to the past, but looking forward and planning for the century ahead. Not ‘just another county,’ but a Cornwall where ‘One and All’ means what it says, no divisions, no petty strife, no inter-borough squabbles, no east versus west, a united Cornwall able to run its own affairs with minimum direction from London yet remaining part of the UK and loyal to the Crown.”

[This article was recently published in the Cornish Guardian.]
If anyone would like a free photocopy of the original article, please contact me on dickcole@btinternet.com.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

My latest report to St Enoder Parish Council


At tonight’s meeting of St Enoder Parish Council, I presented my most recent monthly report. It covers the time period of 27th May – 23rd June, though please note I was away on holiday between 15th and 23rd June.

It was as follows:

1. Council meetings and related activities

I have attended a number of formal meetings or briefings at Cornwall Council. These include the Neighbourhoods Overview and Scrutiny Committee, China Clay Area Network meeting and the Positive Parking Review Panel. In addition, I attended a number of informal meetings with council officers, senior councillors and others. I also attended a meeting of St Enoder Parish Council.

2. St Enoder Neighbourhood Plan

Following the consultation into the “pre-submission” draft of the Neighbourhood Plan for St Enoder Parish, which ended on 4th March, the document was submitted to Cornwall Council on 7th May in accordance with the Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012 (as amended).

Cornwall Council is now carrying out a further statutory consultation of residents and other interested stakeholders on the document. This will run for six weeks from 20th June until 1st August.

The document and supporting information can be viewed on the “neighbourhood planning” section of the Cornwall Council website.

3. Planning matters

3.1 Carvynick Holiday Park


On 18th March, planning permission was granted for 38 holiday units at Carvynick and an office/leisure building, with access, layout and scale, appearance and landscaping reserved. A holiday condition, which had my full support, was imposed on the 38 units so that they could not be unfettered residential properties.

A previous application for the same site at Carvynick had been refused by the unitary authority. Kingsley Developers (SW) Ltd appealed this earlier decision to the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol, seeking for there to be no “holiday conditions” on the “holiday units.”

The Inspector issued his ruling on 4th June, which I did not agree with. He acknowledged that the proposal did not comply with policy 3 in the Cornwall Local Plan, which supports the “rounding off of settlements and development of previously developed land within or immediately adjoining that settlement of a scale appropriate to its size and role.”

He wrote that: “In terms of the criteria under Policy 3 of the Local Plan it is not within or immediately adjoining the settlement of Summercourt and I am not persuaded that the holiday park forms a settlement in its own right. In these circumstances, the scheme would not fulfil the requirements of Policy 3, in particular in respect of rounding off.”

But he granted permission for open-market housing on the site. After ignoring Policy 3, he referred to the subordinate Policy 21 which supports “sustainably located proposals that use previously developed land.”

The Inspector also made it clear that he was allowing open-market housing at Carvynick. He wrote: “The appellant indicates that the site would be operated by a management agreement such that the dwellings would in any event be occupied as holiday lets. While this may deliver the intended approach to the use of the site, I attribute this matter little weight in my considerations as the effect of a permission, without a condition restricting occupation to holiday accommodation, would be to allow open market housing.”

I must add that as part of the application, the develpoers would be obliged to pay a contribution towards the local education infrastructure and affordable housing.

3.2 Housing applications in Higher Fraddon

In my last monthly report, I reported on the planning application and the two submissions for “pre-application advice” on the right-hand-side of the road leading to Higher Fraddon, which had generated considerable opposition from local residents.

Cornwall Council previously issued pre-application advice for a possible 14 new dwellings (PA19/00791/PREAPP) in the wooded area. It advised against an application, stating that it would be against Policy 4 of the emerging St Enoder Parish Neighbourhood Plan. The same advice has now been issued for the proposed 28 dwellings on the old farmyard site (PA19/00656/PREAPP).

The concluding section stated: “The proposal would be contrary to Policy 4 - Exception Sites and Policy Employment 1 of the emerging NDP and does not appear to have the support of the local community. It is unlikely that should the proposal proceed to formal submission it would be supported.”

The application for a single property in the wooded area (PA18/11316) has been refused. The reason for refusal was as follows:

“The proposed dwelling would result in a negative and harmful impact on the character and appearance of the area by way of eroding the open space and wooded area, which is covered by a Tree Preservation Order, and physically extending the built form of the settlement into the open countryside. The impact on the distinctive character and appearance of the area and loss of woodland and scrub is considered to outweigh any benefits of this proposal and therefore the proposal does not comply with Policies 1, 2, 3, 7, 12, 21, and 23 of the Cornwall Local Plan, and paragraphs 8, 170 and 174 of the NPPF 2019.”

4. Road safety issues and traffic issues

In my last monthly report, I gave a comprehensive update on a range of matters relating to road safety and traffic matters. I have a couple of specific updates:

4.1 Traffic issues at Indian Queens School
I have continued to make representations about getting Cornwall Council to bring forward road safety measures included in the School Travel Plan, which was produced in 2014 as part of the planning application to build extra classrooms at the School.

- Cornwall Road Casualty Reduction Strategy

On 23rd May, I attended a meeting of the Neighbourhoods Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which was considering the content of a new Cornwall Road Casualty Reduction Strategy and associated Action Plan. The Action Plan includes a range of feasibility studies and specific engineering improvements, to deal with road safety matters, to be carried out within the next two years. I made forceful representations at the meeting that the road safety elements in the School Travel Plan for Indian Queens School should be included in the document.

I have had a number of follow-up meetings with officers and I can confirm that I have succeeded in getting this addition made to the Action Plan for the Casualty Reduction Strategy. The exact wording is as follows:

“Indian Queens School - Road safety improvements to be investigated, as set out in the Travel Plan, for potential future delivery.”

Obviously, I will be continuing to seek that the measures are investigated as quickly as possible.

- Upcoming meeting
There is to be a meeting at Indian Queens School next week to discuss a range of issues, which will include the provision of the proposed new footway between the Harvenna Heights estate and the School.

4.2 Improvements along A3058 (north of Summercourt)

As previously noted, Cornwall Council was successful in its bid to the Government’s Safer Roads Fund to carry out safety works on the A3058 between Summercourt and Quintrell Downs. The funding of over £1 million will not be made available until 2020/2021 but work has commenced on scoping what works should be funded.

I have been in contact with the design team and I have been informed that it is likely that the initial plans will have been completed by August and it was suggested that the follow-up consultation would be in 2020-2021. However, I have made it clear that I would like to see the design work made public as soon as is practicable, so that local people can give their views on what is proposed.

5. Clearing fly-tipping down the Kelliers

It was great to be involved with the latest effort to clear “historic” fly-tipping from the Kelliers in advance of the Parish Council’s plans to improve the locality as a countryside area.

Thanks to Colum Taylor (Cornwall Rural Community Council) who organised volunteers from the unitary authority through the “Cornwall Council Employee Volunteering Scheme;” thanks to the wonderful volunteers themselves who were an absolute pleasure to work with; and thanks to the guys from Biffa who picked up the rubbish.

We found loads of stuff – beer cans, tyres, car bonnets and even bits of an ice cream van!

6. Planning application for extension to Indian Queens Cemetery
Working with the Parish Clerk, I have produced a “planning statement” for the “change-of-use” application to ensure that the extension to Indian Queens Cemetery can be used for burials.

7. Electoral Review Panel

At the meeting of this Panel on 18th June, I was re-elected vice-chairman.

8. Neighbourhoods Overview and Scrutiny Committee

I attended the special meeting of the Scrutiny Committee on 31st May, which heard presentations about how the unitary authority will be doing its bit to combat climate change – having recently declared a “climate emergency.”

It is good to see that this matter is also being considered by the Parish Council at its meeting on 25th June.

9. World War One project

Following the submission of all the necessary paperwork to the Heritage Lottery Fund (to show how we spent their grant of £7,500), they have confirmed that they are happy with how we carried out the project and used the resources at our disposal.

10. Proposed World War Two project

June 6th 2019 marked the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy and, on September 3rd, it will be 80 years since the United Kingdom entered the Second World War.

I have made it known that I am scoping the content of a book about the individuals from Fraddon, Indian Queens, St Columb Road and Summercourt who lost their lives in this conflict. At the present time, I estimate that the publication will include the life stories of 19 individuals.

The St Enoder War Memorial contains the names of 11 men from Fraddon and Summercourt, who lost their lives in the war:

Mervyn Bulford (Royal Navy / HMS Galatea)
Joseph Donald Caddy (West Riding Regiment)
Selwyn Garfield Cole (Coldstream Guards)
Douglas Kenneth Common (Royal Artillery)
Dennis Tremayne Kelly (Royal Navy / HMS Avenger)
Herbert John Nancarrow (Royal Artillery)
Denis James Powell (Royal Engineers)
Thomas Harry Powell (West Surrey Regiment)
William Henry Frederick Raison (Wiltshire Regiment)
John Maurice Tonkin (Royal Air Force)
Richard John Henwood Trevethan (Royal Artillery).

Seven men from Indian Queens and St Columb Road are meanwhile listed on the St Columb War Memorial:

William Hedley Bennett (Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry)
Eldred Grose (Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry)
George Henry Hawkey (Royal Air Force)
Thomas Pellow Hosking (Royal Air Force)
Eric Charles Noel Kent (Royal Canadian Air Force)
Maurice Sloman (Royal Navy)
Alwyn Rodney Gilbert Wright (Royal Army Service Corps).

In addition, local woman Nella Eileen Trebilcock (nee Osborne) was killed in a bombing raid on a boatyard at Dartmouth in Devon.

11. Newsletter

I am presently drafting my latest six-monthly newsletter which will be delivered around the whole of St Enoder Parish in early July.

12. Inquiries

During the last few weeks, I have also helped numerous people with guidance on a range of issues.