Sunday, 8 May 2016

My Cornish Guardian article: Elections and the St Ives Neighbourhood Plan

My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian covers the recent elections and the potential challenge to the St Ives Neighbourhood Plan. It contains material that I have already included within blog entries on this site, but it is here for the sake of completeness. It will be as follows:

There was a myriad of elections on Thursday 5th May, which demonstrated a growing variance in the various nations and regions across the United Kingdom.

Mebyon Kernow’s sister parties in Scotland and Wales both did well.

Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP won a third consecutive Scottish Parliament election, which is a truly amazing achievement. The SNP polled a record number of constituency votes – at over one million – while the Labour Party had its worst election in Scotland since 1918 and the Conservatives became the official opposition at Holyrood.

In Wales, the Conservatives lost ground while Plaid Cymru became the main opposition to Labour, with the Plaid leader Leanne Wood winning the previously Labour heartland seat of the Rhondda. UKIP also managed to secure their first Assembly Members.

Politics in Northern Ireland continues to be dominated by the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein, though two anti-austerity campaigners from the People before Profits Alliance were elected in Belfast and Foyle.

And in London, Labour’s Sadiq Khan won a resounding victory to become the Mayor of London, taking over from Boris Johnson of the Conservative Party. It has been widely reported that the new Mayor had achieved the “largest personal mandate of any politician in UK history” with a total of 1,310,143 votes.

There was also the shambolic elections across Cornwall, England and Wales, for various Crime and Police Commissioners, as well as local elections in many parts of England, and the various political parties are still arguing about who did well and who didn’t.

Here in Cornwall, there was one further localised poll, and it was fantastic to see 83% of voters in St Ives endorsing a Neighbourhood Plan for their town, which included a policy to ensure that any new-build properties would not be able to be sold as second homes.

This is of considerable significance for the development of Neighbourhood Plans in other parts of Cornwall, and it represents a symbolic fight-back against a top-down planning system which is out of control.

However, a firm of developers (RLT Built Environment Limited) is seeking to challenge the democratically expressed views of the people of St Ives through a judicial review. One of the grounds being argued by RLT is that the new policy would impact on the “human rights” of those people who would wish to purchase a second home.

It is clear that their motivation has nothing to do with what is best for St Ives or Cornwall, and it is all about their own profit-driven house-building plans.

It is my view that the ability of developers to challenge such a local democratic decision is plain wrong and such challenges must be defeated!

What is more, I find it particularly distasteful that RLT are talking about the rights of the multiple-property-owning classes. What about the “human rights” of those individuals and families who cannot afford a first home, and are paying a ridiculous amount of rent to simply put a basic roof over their heads and which, as a consequence, is undermining their wider quality of life?

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