Friday, 20 September 2019

The White Gold festival and bricks



On 21st September, St Austell will be hosting its annual White Gold Festival. It is an event which goes from strength to strength and seeks to celebrate the importance of china clay to St Austell and the parishes of Clay Country.

There is much planned for the day which includes talks and workshop demonstrations from potters, some displays and a craft fair, as well as music and dance. So why not come along to the town, this Saturday between 10am and 4pm, and take part in what looks to be a wonderful “Festival of Clay.” Full details about the 2019 programme can be found at www.whitegold.org.uk.

I am particularly pleased to support the associated Brickfield project, through which artists Rosanna Martin and Georgia Gendall are looking to revive the art of brick-making in the locality. They have already held a number of workshops, and there is a further “drop in” brick-making session at Blackpool Pit, near Trewoon, between 2pm and 5pm on Saturday.

For me, it is particularly important that we should remember how our area had a strong brick-making tradition and how the industry thrived through much of the 19th and 20th centuries. Indeed, in my home parish of St Enoder, I know that there were at least five brickworks – at Burthy, Chytane, Gaverigan, St Columb Road and Wheal Remfry.

It is even part of my family heritage. In the 1880s, my great-great grandfather John Cole was the superintendent of Chytane Brickworks, near Fraddon, which produced bricks, tiles and coping stones. It is great for me to know that some of these coping stones can still be seen on the walls around St Enoder Cemetery, each complete with a “Chytane” stamp showing their point of origin (see above)..

Also, at St Columb Road, the brickworks was located to the south of the railway station. It does not survive but the partial remains of the associated linear pit, which supplied the enterprise with clay, can still be seen within the Parish Council’s nearby allotment field.

Wheal Remfry was the last working brickworks in Cornwall, which closed in 1972. A neighbour of mine, John Osborne, was the last man to fire the beehive kiln on the site and I am very pleased to see that he is assisting the Brickfield project with his knowledge and experience.

All the bricks made as part of this initiative will be fired in clamp kiln at Blackpool Pit between 6pm and 9pm on Saturday, and I understand there will even be jacket potatoes and beans to enjoy.

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

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Kernow FA and the Chagossians


My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian focuses on the recent football match between the Kernow FA and the Chagos Islands, and provides information about the wrongs done to the Chagossians by the British state. It is as follows:

On Sunday 25th August, I attended a football match for the first time in my life and I really enjoyed watching the Kernow Football Alliance take on a team made up of Chagos Islanders.

I think it is fantastic that the Kernow FA has been founded and accepted into CONIFA (the Confederation of Independent Football Associations), which is the “football federation for all associations outside FIFA” and supports more than 55 “teams from nations, de-facto nations, regions, minority peoples and sports isolated territories.”

As someone who is involved in numerous campaigns for greater Cornish recognition, I would like to congratulate everyone involved with this wonderful initiative to ensure there is a Cornwall team playing on the international stage.

I would also like to praise the actions of the Kernow FA organising committee for being so supportive of the Chagos Islanders, which included holding a press conference to help publicise their plight when they were in Cornwall.

It is a truly shocking story. Between 1967 and 1973 the UK Government forcibly evicted the Chagossians from the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, so that they could lease the largest of the islands (Diego Garcia) to the United States for use as a military base.

The expulsion of this community has been condemned many times as one of the most shameful episodes in British post-war history and the consequences of the exile has been very severe on the Chagossians, many of whom live in exile in Mauritius and the United Kingdom.

Campaigners have brought a range of legal challenges against the UK Government and the islanders won a historic victory in the High Court in 2000. This ruled the actions of the UK Government to be illegal and Tony Blair was in a position to end the injustice. But, in 2004, he instead invoked an obscure royal prerogative to ban the islanders from ever returning to Diego Garcia and the surrounding islands.

The UK Government appealed a more recent High Court ruling and, in recent years, has even had the brass neck to argue that it is not feasible for the Chagossians to return home, because their existence would be “precarious” and “prone to the impacts of climate change.” Strangely, they have raised no concerns about the 4,000 US servicemen and contractors, presently living on Diego Garcia.

It is shameful that the UK Government continues to hide behind legalese, and dubious and very mean-spirited arguments to stand against people who they have so terribly wronged. It is time that the Government did what is right and that is to allow the Chagossians to return home, and to help them to rebuild their communities.

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Fair funding


My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian looks at capital investment into Cornwall and explains my support for Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards’ bid for a new “Office for Fair Funding.” It is as follows:

The recent announcement of a £100 million of capital investment in a new Women’s and Children’s unit at the Royal Cornwall Hospital at Treliske is fantastic news for Cornwall. It will be good to see the Princess Alexandra Maternity wing replaced, as it known to have a short life-span because of serious structural problems.

Though the promised injection of cash has been widely welcomed, it has also led to some robust debate with plenty of cynicism from non-Conservative politicians.

One would-be MP has pointed out that it is “scandalous” that it has taken so long to allocate the funding for the replacement plans “drawn up years ago.” Others have challenged the timing of the announcement “by a Prime Minister with one eye firmly fixed on a General Election” and described the investment as a “drop in the ocean” after the Government has “starved the NHS of money.” There have also been challenges as to where the funding is actually coming from, with the obligatory comments about “magic money trees.”

As a local councillor, I share the concern at the harm caused by austerity and know that the UK Government needs to do so much more to repair the damage caused by a decade of cuts and under-investment in our public services.
But at this time I would prefer to be positive and to challenge central government and Cornwall’s MPs to demonstrate that this latest announcement does indeed represent a massive shift in policy and means Cornwall – and other parts of the UK far from London and the South East – will be a greater priority in the future.

One immediate action that the UK Government and Cornish MPs could take would be to support the proposed legislation from Welsh MP Jonathan Edwards for a new “Office for Fair Funding.”

The Plaid Cymru MP has, quite colourfully, pointed out how “London and the South East of England continues to act as a black hole, sucking in talent and investment from the rest of the UK.” He has added that regional inequalities have so “disfigured the UK economy” that “we no longer really have a ‘UK economy’ in any meaningful sense - there is the South East of England and then the rest.”

Jonathan’s bill would be a first step in addressing such regional imbalances and at its core there “would be a statutory obligation to deliver geographic wealth convergence.” Put bluntly, the Prime Minister and MPs would be “legally bound to deliver a fairer economic balance between the nations and regions of the UK.” And that could only be good news for Cornwall.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

100 years of council housing ...


One hundred years ago, on 31st July 1919, the Westminster Parliament passed the Housing Act (1919). It was momentous legislation that amended the earlier Housing of the Working Classes Act (1890) and brought forward ambitious plans for the provision of council housing with low rents.

The Housing Act had its legislative roots in the Tudor Walters Committee report of 1917 and is known as the Addison Act after the Health and Housing minister, Christopher Addison. It is also linked to the pledge from the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, that he would deliver “habitations fit for the heroes” who had served in the First World War, though his words are more generally remembered as “homes fit for heroes.”

According to the UK Government, the Act “made housing a national responsibility, and local authorities were given the task of developing new housing and rented accommodation where it was needed by working people.” It promised significant subsidies from central government towards the construction of half a million houses within three years and, though subsequent economic problems meant that the funding had to be reduced, a total of 213,000 homes were completed through the provisions of the Act.

The Tudor Walters report specified that new housing should not be tiny terraced units squeezed onto very small plots, but “generously proportioned” houses with good-sized gardens.

The new rental properties provided by St Columb Rural Council in my local area in the early 1920s were certainly as foreseen by MPs. These included Barnfield Terrace in Indian Queens, as shown in the above photograph, Beaconside in Summercourt and Westbourne Terrace in Penhale – where my own father was born about ten years later. 

Another Housing Act followed in 1924 which allotted further funding to local councils, while additional legislation in 1930 lead to the clearance of a large number of slums. Figures show that “inter-war Housing Acts” helped local councils to build 1.1 million new homes.

Strategically, this new approach placed public sector housing at the very heart of government policy and this lasted for more than six decades.

Sadly, this all changed with the sell-off of council housing, which was commenced by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Government of the 1980s and, I believe, this is one of the reasons why we have such a dysfunctional housing market in the UK today.

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

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

My latest monthly report to St Enoder Parish Council


At tonight’s meeting of St Enoder Parish Council, I tabled my most recent monhly report. It covers the time period of 24th June to 19th July 2019. It was as follows:

Listed below are some examples of the activities that I have been involved with over the last four weeks.

1. Holyer an Gof book awards

I am very pleased to be able to report our book “Trusting Fully Trusting” (about the servicemen of Fraddon, Indian Queens, St Columb Road and Summercourt who lost their lives in the First World War) has won an important award.

Parish Council Chairman Michael Bunyan, my wife Ann and I attended Gorsedh Kernow’s Holyer an Gof Publishers’ Awards at the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro on 10th July.

The book won Class 5B (best Cornish book about social, cultural and political history published in 2018), but also went on to win the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies Holyer an Gof Cup (for best non-fiction Cornish book published in 2018).

I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone associated with the book awards and their positive view of our publication, which was compiled with the support of the wider community and St Enoder Parish Council.

2. Council meetings and related activities

I have attended a number of formal meetings, briefings and training sessions at Cornwall Council, which include Full Council, the Environment Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee (and workshop), planning training (on a future approach to long-term policy preparation), two meetings with planning officers about the planning situation at Carvynick (of which the second was also attended by the owners), a briefing on the work programme of the Electoral Review Panel, and a meeting of the National Minority Working Group.

There have also been informal meetings with a range of officers at the unitary authority and I have attended two meetings of St Enoder Parish Council.

In addition, I was heavily involved with the first UK National Minority Summit, organised by Cornwall Council, which took place at Falmouth University on 5th July. As well as being at the event, I attended two preparatory sessions and a “working lunch” with a Government Minister and council staff.

Further information about some of these meetings are included later in this monthly report.

3. Other meetings

During the last month, I attended meetings of Indian Queens Pit (trustee) and the “Community Led Local Development” Local Action Group for South and East Cornwall (vice-chairman).

4. Planning matters

4.1 St Enoder Neighbourhood Plan


The statutory consultation on the St Enoder Neighbourhood Plan will end on 1st August. On behalf of the Parish Council, I have been liaising with the relevant officers at the unitary authority and an inspector will soon be appointed to formally review the document.

4.2 Carvynick Holiday Park

In my last monthly report, I outlined how a planning inspector had granted outline planning permission for 38 residential units at Carvynick and an office/leisure building. The matters of “access, layout and scale, appearance and landscaping” were reserved and further applications will need to be submitted to set out the detail of what is developed.

I met with planning officers on 24th June to discuss what the inspector had agreed and a further meeting was held with planning officers and the owners of the site (Kingsley Developers (SW) Ltd) on 19th July. At the second meeting, the owners of the site repeated criticism of the St Enoder Neighbourhood Plan that they had made at previous meetings of the Parish Council and made a range of comments about how they might develop the site. There was reference to both tourism and residential development, and it would be fair to say that I am unclear about the full nature of their plans and will be seeking further clarification in the coming weeks.

5. Road safety issues and traffic issues

5.1 Indian Queens School


Last month, I was successful in ensuring that the content of the School Travel Plan was included in the Action Plan associated with the Road Casualty Reduction Strategy.

A further meeting was held at the School on 3rd July. It covered a range of issues, but a key focus was on how a large proportion of the field next to the School could be landscaped and fenced off for use by the children, and a path created between the School and the Harvenna Heights estate, thereby creating an additional pedestrian route to the School.

It was noted that the Parish Council had previously stated it would welcome the remainder of the field being devolved into its care. I confirmed this was still the case and I have since met with a senior officer at the unitary authority. We are looking at how the construction of the new path could be funded from a capital pot relating to the devolution of assets to parish councils, in advance of the transfer of the land.

There is to be a follow-up meeting within Cornwall Council on 1st August.

5.2 Re-surfacing and patching

In recent weeks, Cormac has carried out some patching on rural roads in the southern part of the parish and through Trefullock Moor. I have been informed that they will also be re-surfacing The Drang and the Suncrest Estate between 8th and 13th August.

5.3 Double yellow lines

I am continuing to push for faded double yellow lines to be repainted. It is a particular problem along parts of St Francis Road. I have again been in contact with Cormac and the parking team at Cornwall Council.

I have pointed out that as Cormac will be re-surfacing The Drang and the Suncrest Estate between 8th and 13th August, which will include the refreshing of some lineage near the Victory Hall. I have suggested that it would make sense that other faded lines are redone at the same time and this has been agreed in principle.

6. St Enoder Cemetery

As well as maintaining two open cemeteries, St Enoder Parish Council looks after two closed cemeteries. These are the churchyard at St Enoder (which the Parish Council agreed to maintain only a couple of months ago) and the adjacent old cemetery which contains the war memorial.

I am pleased at how the Parish Council is working hard to improve the old cemetery and has decided that, in the coming months, it will re-erect a number of fallen headstones. On 4th July, I was pleased to assist the Parish handyman Nigel Trebell to remove the remains of some tree stumps from the areas where works will be taking place.

7. UK National Minority Summit

I have been a member of councillor and officer team, which organised the first UK National Minority Summit that took place at Falmouth University on 5th July.

I found myself in the fortunate position of being one of three elected members and two council officers who shared a “working lunch” with Government Minister Lord Bourne. He spoke at the Summit and announced £200,000 of funding for Cornish culture and language, but we also used the opportunity to lobby him on a range of issues around the failure of the UK Government to meet its obligations through the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

8. Full Council
In advance of the Full Council meeting on 9th July, there was a demonstration outside the Council offices at which a range of groups and individuals set out concerns about the extent of development that is happening across Cornwall and how it is, conversely, not meeting the needs of local communities.

I spoke with a number of the protesters and intend to continue to raise their concerns at future meetings of the authority.

9. Electoral Review Panel

This Panel will soon be starting work on the Community Governance Review, through which the boundaries of local parishes or internal arrangements of parish councils could be changed. The closing date for submissions was last week and, as vice-chairman of the Panel, I am anticipating there will be a massive amount of work associated with this.

I can also confirm that Newlyn East Parish Council has made a submission to include some land near Mitchell (presently in St Enoder Parish) to be shifted to their parish.

10. Newsletter

In recent weeks I have been out and about delivering my latest six-monthly newsletter around St Enoder Parish and I would like to thank everyone who has helped me with this task.

11. Inquiries

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

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My next monthly report will be presented to the 24th September meeting of St Enoder Parish Council.