Monday, 7 March 2016

Local opposition to so-called "eco-community" in "Local Plan"

The consultation on the recent changes to the Cornwall Local Plan closed at 5.00pm today.

It is a strange consultation, in that local residents have been invited to only comment on the modifications to the Local Plan agreed by Cornwall Council, following instructions from the Inspector at the first session of the Examination in Public (EiP). All new comments will be sent direct to the Inspector, prior to the EiP being reconvened.

Cllr Matt Luke, on behalf of a number of local residents, and the St Austell & Newquay Constituency Party of MK, have submitted specific objections to the proposed "eco-community," which had been modified during the recent deliberations.

Extracts from Matt’s representation were as follows:

I am writing on behalf of a number of residents in the Clay Country and St Austell areas to express our opposition to the inclusion of the proposed “eco-community” at West Carclaze & Baal in the Cornwall Local Plan.

Policy Statement: Eco-towns – A Supplement to Planning Policy Statement 1

It is our view that the allocation for an “eco-community” stems from the policy direction contained within the above document which was published on 16th July 2009. This statement specified that an eco-town should be built at St Austell.

This document gave significant momentum to the proposal for an eco-community at West Carclaze & Baal, in spite of significant local opposition. It is also our view that there has been a resultant lack of scrutiny for the proposal which was, in effect, being driven forward by central government.

However, on 5th March 2015, Brandon Lewis announced in a written ministerial statement that the “Planning Policy Statement: Eco-towns - A Supplement to Planning Policy Statement 1” was cancelled for all areas except north west Bicester.

An extract from the statement referred to the “eco-towns programme” being a “total shambles” which had “built nothing but resentment.” It also referred to the proposals as being “unsustainable and environmentally damaging.”

We are disappointed that Cornwall Council failed to remove the allocation from the document, following the cancellation of the PPS supplement.

Indeed, we consider that the proposed eco-community would, in the words of the ministerial statement, be “unsustainable and environmentally damaging,” and we would request that the Inspector at the Examination in Public removes the eco-community proposal because of the information set out below.

Lack of popular support

An application for a 1,500 unit eco-community at West Carclaze & Baal (PA14/12186) was validated in January 2015. We consider this application to have been premature and we also believe that its submission has inappropriately influenced the development of planning policy for Mid Cornwall in the draft Cornwall Local Plan.

But the application has shown that the proposal does not have local support. It has been opposed by over 1,000 representations and two local parish councils, as well as St Austell Town Council.

The reasons for opposition to this proposal are multi-faceted.

The development is masquerading as a brown-field development, for example, but much of the housing will be on the few remaining green fields in between St Austell and the village of Penwithick.

Local people are also opposed to the level of housing growth being proposed for the China Clay Area (see below), the pressures on the local infrastructure, concerns about flooding, the impact on nature conservation interests, and much more.

We would formally request that the objections to the development, which can be viewed on Cornwall Council’s planning portal, are forwarded to the Inspector for the next stage of the Examination in Public, so that he can fully appreciate that the eco-community is an unsustainable development which is not worthy of support.

A development that will not live up earlier promises

The various documents that have been produced in recent years, by the promoters of the original eco-town proposal, made numerous promises about the environmentally-friendly nature of the development and “low-carbon living” (Clay Country Eco-town Summary Booklet; July 2009).

Local people were also variously promised 40-50% affordable housing (Clay Country Eco-town The Facts; 2008) or 40% affordable housing (see Clay Country Eco-town Summary Booklet; 2009).

Though we are fully against the principle of this development, we do acknowledge that Policy 3 of the draft Cornwall Local Plan does contain some policy guidelines for the development of the eco-community. But these are frankly inadequate and are only a shadow of past promises.

For example, the target of 40% affordable housing is unacceptable and shows that this proposal lacks the very environmental credentials that have been used in the past to justify the development of a so-called eco-community.

We would request that the Inspector acknowledges the paucity of environmental credentials behind this proposal and removes the eco-community from the Cornwall Local Plan.

Unsustainable levels of growth in Clay Country

Between 1991 and 2010, the China Clay Area experienced faster housing growth than any other part of Cornwall. According to Cornwall Council’s own figures, the level of housing growth – based on the existing housing stock – was a very significant 47%.

It is our view that the imposition of an eco-town or eco-community on the China Clay Area, in addition to other planned housing, is truly unsustainable.

If the level of housing proposed for the China Clay Area in the Cornwall Local Plan (including the 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).

It is our view this this amount of housing is “excessive,” with greater percentage growth than any other part of Cornwall. 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.

We would therefore formally request that the level of housing growth for the China Clay Area is reduced through the removal of the allocation for the eco-community.

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