Monday, 25 May 2015

More on the "Local Plan" Examination

Now that the General Election is over, the Cornish Guardian has invited me to resume my weekly column. In this coming week’s edition, I comment on the recent Examination into the Cornwall Local Plan. It will be as follows:

Last week, I spent a number of days at the Atlantic Hotel in Newquay, where key elements of the proposed Cornwall Local Plan were being assessed through a Public Examination.

I have written before about my frustration at how the production of the Local Plan – the planning blueprint to guide future development in Cornwall up to 2030 – has been “guided” by onerous constraints imposed by central government.

And at the Examination, a single (up-country) Inspector is checking to see that the document is “sound” or – in others words – compliant with the policies of central government. These include the National Planning Policy Framework, which contains a “presumption in favour of development” and has been rightly described by many people – myself included – as a “developers’ charter.”

Amongst other things, the Local Plan contains a housing target of 47,500 new properties in Cornwall between 2010 and 2030, which is not popular with a growing number of people who are concerned at how their communities are changing beyond recognition.

And yet, last week’s Examination was addressed by a large array of landowners, developers, planning agents and high-powered legal professionals. These included representatives of the House Builders Federation, Wainhomes, Persimmon Homes, Eco-bos and many, many more.

They collectively spent much time trying to pick holes in the Council’s documentation, using every opportunity to push for a significantly higher housing target – so that they could build more and boost their profits. They even argued that more housing should be built to compensate for the loss of permanent homes to second homes.

At this stage, it is not possible know how the Inspector will rule and what changes he will insist are made to the document in the coming months.

But this initial stage of the Examination has reinforced my view that all decisions about planning and planning policy should be taken in Cornwall.

I believe this should include the production of a Cornish National Planning Policy Framework to replace Westminster’s NPPF, which would allow housing and other targets to be agreed locally without interference from central government.

It is my belief that this would also allow Cornwall to have a lower and more sustainable housing target, with development geared to meet local needs and planning policies that actually defend the Cornish countryside.

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