Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Robertson letter to Pickles angers China Clay Area

Councillors from the China Clay Area have discovered that Alec Robertson, the Leader of Cornwall Council, had written to Eric Pickles calling to him to uphold the planning appeal for an incinerator near St Dennis.

The application for a 240,000 tonne incinerator was refused by Cornwall County Council at a planning meeting on 26th March 2009 by 20 votes to one. Cllr Robertson was one of the councillors to vote against the proposal.

Staff from the Council’s planning service and legal professionals have since defended that decision at the Planning Inquiry which took place between March and October 2010. The inspector has produced a report which has been forwarded to Mr Pickles who, as Secretary of State, will have the final say as to whether the incinerator is built. His decision is expected on or before the 2nd June.

Rumours about the existence of a letter from Alec Robertson to Eric Pickles had been circulating for a couple of weeks. At an informal Cabinet meeting in St Austell on Monday 9th May, I asked Alec to confirm whether such a letter existed and had been sent. When this was confirmed, I requested that the letter be released. The letter, dated 7th April, was made public today – more than five weeks after it was sent.

Extracts from the letter state the following:

“ … I am very keen that you appreciate the dire financial consequences for this Council if you do not uphold this particular appeal.”

“I and my Cabinet colleagues are unanimously of the view that the appeal needs to be upheld and strongly urge you to uphold it.”

These comments are in stark contrast to what Cllr Robertson said when he attended a public meeting at St Dennis on 25th September 2009 with Corporate Director Tom Flanagan, other council officers and the Conservative parliamentary candidate for the area. Local people were reassured that the Council would robustly defend the appeal.

It is clear to me that the leadership of Cornwall Council has betrayed the people of St Dennis and the China Clay Area, undermining their own planning staff in the process. They told local people that they would robustly defend the appeal. But instead, and behind closed doors, they have ‘secretly’ lobbied Eric Pickles to allow the incinerator to be built. This is unforgivable.

Alec Robertson said one thing but has done the exact opposite. He is showing a total disregard for the agreed position of Cornwall Council and the integrity of the planning process.

No comments: