As a prominent critic of the whole process, it will surprise no-one I consider that the undemocratic and top-down nature of the decision undermines the integrity of the local planning process.
At this time, we are waiting to see if central government will continue to push for 15,700 new properties to the built in the former Restormel area over the next twenty years. If this target is not reduced, it could mean that we would be expected to accommodate up to 10,000 new houses in and around St Austell. That is not sustainable and it is not about meeting local needs.
In the government’s mind, it appears that this inappropriate level of housing and the imposition of the eco-town are inextricably linked. Indeed, today’s announcement could make it more difficult to reduce the planned level of house-building in Mid Cornwall.
It remains my view that it is wrong for central government to decide development priorities in Cornwall. Local people and their democratically-elected politicians should be able to decide how much housing is built, where it is constructed and what sites are redeveloped for employment land.
I have always fully accepted that certain parts of the eco-town proposal do have merit. But I believe that these sites should have been assessed in competition with all other possible development proposals in St Austell and the China Clay Area as part of a local planning process with the appropriate development promoted in the agreed locations – not imposed by Whitehall mandarins and Government ministers.