Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Today, I failed to get the “eco-community” removed from the Cornwall Local Plan

I chaired the latest (four-hour) meeting of the Planning Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) at Cornwall Council, this afternoon.

The one item on the agenda was the latest version of the Cornwall Local Plan, which has been redrafted following the first stage of the Examination in Public who took place in May.

As a result of the Examination, the government inspector instructed the Council to make a series of changes to make the document “sound,” and therefore adoptable. This included increasing Cornwall’s housing target for the period 2010-2030.

Today, the officers presented a new FOAN (Full Objectively Assessed Need) for Cornwall, which followed guidance set in place by central government. The new target is 52,500 new properties for the plan period, which was accepted by councillors.

It is fair to say that members struggled to envisage how a lower figure could be acceptable to the Inspector. They were also fully aware that David Cameron had recently told councils that, if a local plan was not in place by 2017, the government would step in and take control of the process away from local councillors and impose [an even worse] plan.

There was also much discussion around other aspects of the revised Local Plan, particularly around affordable housing and the distribution of housing development around Cornwall.

I took the opportunity to argue that the proposal for an “eco-community” near St Austell should be removed from the document.

I told the meeting that:

-  An “eco-community” proposal had been included in the Cornwall Local Plan because central government had included a St Austell “eco-town” in a Planning Policy Statement. But since the PPS has recently been withdrawn, councillors could legitimately reconsider whether the allocation was appropriate.
-  If the level of housing proposed for the China Clay Area (including eco-community) was allowed to go forward, it would mean that the housing stock of Clay Country would increase by 87% over four decades (from 1991 to 2030).
-  The “live” application for a 1,500 unit eco-community does not have local support. It has been opposed by over 1,000 representations, two local parish councils and St Austell Town Council.
-  Last month, the China Clay Community Network Area had written to Cornwall Council seeking that the unitary authority withdraw its backing for the "eco-community."

This part of the meeting was a little fractious and a number of councillors spoke in favour of the “eco-community”, while others argued that they did not want to change the “distribution” at this “late stage” or that high housing growth in Clay Country in the past was not enough to justify a breathing space at this time.

I nonetheless proposed that the “eco-community” allocation be removed from the document, and the housing reallocated to other parts of Cornwall. This was seconded by independent councillor Gary King from St Austell, but I was extremely disappointed that the proposal was defeated by six votes to two.

The unitary authority’s Cabinet will consider the Local Plan on 3rd December, followed by the Full Council on 15th December.

1 comment:

Jonathan Taylor said...

Well fought Dick...how can we help ?What's next..?