Monday, 2 February 2015

Opposing the eco-town

It is well-known that I have been a persistent critic of plans for an eco-town near St Austell. This can be demonstrated by looking back through the pages of this blog.

The application for 1,500 houses has now been submitted and I will, in the coming weeks, be having a lot to say about the proposal.

But for the time being, I have looked back at some of my previous blog entries to “set the scene.” Here are few extracts, with links to the full blog entries:

Restormel’s view of the eco-town

“As the Chairman of Restormel’s Policy and Scrutiny Committee 4, I wrote a draft response to the Government’s document ‘Eco-towns – Living a Greener Future’ with the support of my Vice-Chairman Tim Jones. It was modified, and in some ways improved, with the support of the officers of the Council.

“It was then presented to the Council’s cabinet on Monday evening.

“Five pages long, it is quite a hard-hitting document. It criticises the likely imposition of yet more unsustainable housing on the district, it raises concerns about the impact of the proposals on existing communities, it objects to the ‘top-down’ and undemocratic manner in which central government has handled the whole process, it notes how the eco-town proposal may conflict with local economic regeneration strategies and how the Council has seen no evidence that the development will be an exemplar of environmental technologies. It also raises a considerable number of more detailed concerns and site-specific issues.

“Sadly, the Liberal Democrat dominated cabinet and officers decided that they wished to ‘water down’ this one section of the document.

“Instead of clearly objecting to the proposal, they preferred to say that the ‘Council must be satisfied that the proposed eco-town does not commit the Borough Council or prejudice its position in respect of the objection to the higher levels of housing growth in the panel report … and will only accept the proposition for an eco-town if it helps deliver the employment-led regeneration and all of our other objectives for the area set out in our emerging strategies’.”

Objection by Restormel Borough Council

“I can report that the cabinet at Restormel Borough Council has backed the call of Policy and Scrutiny Committee 4 (which I chair) to raise objections to the proposed ‘eco-town’ development around St Austell.

“I am especially pleased because the Liberal Democrat dominated cabinet watered down the comments in an earlier committee report which objected to the eco-town.This time around, Policy and Scrutiny 4 had met on 6th January to discuss the new Planning Policy Statement (PPS) on eco-towns and the Sustainability Appraisal of the St Austell proposal. A detailed report on the Imerys proposal, written by myself and Cllr Tim Jones (vice-chairman) was presented to the committee and unanimously endorsed.”

The eco-town announcement

“The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) today confirmed that Imerys’ proposal for a 5,000-property eco-town (spread over six different sites around St Austell and the China Clay Area) has been given the go-ahead.

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.

”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.”

Eco-town update

“It has been interesting to note the comments on the eco-town from my political opponents in recent weeks.#

“Lib Dem PPC Stephen Gilbert claimed that the “eco-town could bring the Clay Area back to life” (I didn’t know it was dead) while Conservative Caroline Righton welcomed the proposals which she described as “ambitious and brave.”

“Labour’s Lee Jameson meanwhile said that “Labour has come though for the people of Cornwall” before criticising the Conservatives and Lib Dems for opposing the scheme. He clearly hasn’t been in the area much in the last few months – if he had been here, he would have seen David Cameron photo-opportunities with Imerys and the Lib Dem Executive of Cornwall Council backing the scheme.

“Matthew Taylor MP is also backing the scheme, which he believes is an alternative to “large-scale piecemeal low quality estates over the next few years to meet the housing needs locally without the jobs and facilities these communities need.” I believe this to be an ill-considered position. Accepting top-down diktats also runs counter to the ‘campaign’ by the MPs against the Regional Spatial Strategy.

“It seems that I have a distinctive position from all the other PPCs and I will endeavour to make sure that I remain true to these principles.”

SITA / Eco-bos / Eden Greenwash
“On the 2nd August, I blogged about the most recent days at the Public Inquiry into the incinerator proposed for St Dennis. I focussed on the fact that SITA were claiming the proposed eco-town developments at Drinnick/Nanpean and Blackpool could potentially take the heat from the incinerator.

”This week, the Cornish Guardian featured the links between the eco-town development and its associated company Eco-Bos (74% Orascom, 25% Imerys and 1% Eden Project) and the incinerator on its front page.”

Other pages which may be worth a viewing are:

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