In my first column for the Cornish Guardian in 2016, I have written about the proposal for an eco-community near St Austell. I believe there are a number of aspects of recent debates which have not received enough coverage in the local media.
The article will be as follows:
The proposal for a so-called “eco-community” of 1,500 new properties in the China Clay Area has been in the news in recent weeks.
Eco-bos are now claiming that the sky-tip is not under threat and in a pre-Christmas press release stated the historic feature would be a “focal point” as part of a “heritage park" near the new housing.
Their spokesman actually said: “To be absolutely clear, Eco-bos has never proposed removing the sky-tip so its future is not in doubt …”
Such a statement is not accurate.
Only 18 months ago, there was a consultation from Cornwall Council and Eco-bos which contained possible three scenarios for the “eco-community.”
In two of the scenarios, the sky-tip was to be removed. In the third, the consultation claimed – with unforgivable double-speak – that the feature would be “retained” albeit “transformed to improve safety for ease of public access and sculpted to provide a new viewpoint.” Put simply, it would have been reprofiled making it unrecognisable.
As a long-standing opponent of the “eco-community,” I challenged the whole scheme at a meeting of the unitary authority in mid December, when the final draft of Cornwall’s planning blueprint for the period until 2030 – known as the Local Plan – was agreed.
I moved an amendment that the “eco-community” be removed from the Plan. This was seconded by MK councillor Matt Luke, who represents Penwithick & Boscoppa.
In my contribution to the debate, I pointed out that the central government Planning Policy Statement, which stated that there must be an “eco-town” near St Austell, had been cancelled in March 2015. I argued that this meant councillors could legitimately reconsider whether such a proposal was appropriate.
I further argued that the “eco-community” did not have local support, as it had been opposed by over 1,000 people plus two local parish councils and St Austell Town Council.
And I added that, if the level of housing proposed for Clay Country (including the eco-community) did go ahead, the housing stock of the area would increase by 87% between 1990 and 2030 – the highest level of growth in the whole of Cornwall.
I felt it right to describe this amount of housing as “excessive.” It would, for example, be three times the level of housing growth experienced in South East Cornwall and much more than double that of a number of other areas including West Penwith, Falmouth & Penryn, and Wadebridge & Padstow.
It was therefore extremely disappointing that my amendment was only supported by eight councillors – all four Mebyon Kernow councillors plus four independents.