Sunday, 6 April 2008

What future for Clay Country?

This week, I have commented on the Government decision to place IMERYS’ proposal for an eco-town on a shortlist of fifteen – of which ten may be taken forward. The proposal includes 5,000 new homes and about 35 hectares of employment land on six sites in and around the China Clay Area.

Unelected SW quangos expect the district of Restormel to accommodate 15,700 houses over the next twenty years, which equals a 35% increase in housing stock across the Borough. With the eco-town proposal, it is clear that the level of development would be even higher in the St Austell Area.

I have also pointed out that the amount of housing planned for the St Austell Area is clearly not about meeting local needs and is unsustainable, and that support for the eco-town proposal could impact on attempts to construct a cohesive economic strategy for St Austell/St Blazey and the Clay Area.

The statement from central government claims that the proposal ‘forms part of a major regeneration programme which is being taken forward with extensive involvement between IMERYS and Restormel BC, Cornwall CC and South West RDA.’

The truth is that, in advance of the short-listing, the Government never sought Restormel Borough Council’s view about the eco-town proposal, in terms of its scale, location or appropriateness. The Imerys proposal has simply bypassed the democratic process thus far.

I am Chairman of Restormel’s Planning Policy Committee and with many others at Restormel, I have been working hard to produce regeneration strategies for St Austell/St Blazey and the China Clay Area, which will soon be going out to consultation.

This work has focussed on identifying what is best for this area in terms of economic development and identifying the best schemes for employment land. But now we are being told by central government that we may have to support all of IMERYS’ proposals and, as far as I am concerned, this means the work on the Council’s strategy for the area may be undermined as a result.

It remains my view that local politicians, elected here in Cornwall should be making the decisions about how Cornwall is developed in the future. Local politicians should decide how much housing is built, where it is built and what sites are redeveloped for employment land.

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