Opponents of the proposal will be aware that following the debate on the “eco-community” at the Examination in Public (19th May), the Inspector confirmed the “the provision of eco-communities at West Carclaze/Baal and Par Docks” should stay in the document with an “indicative overall scale of about 1,500 and 500 dwellings respectively.”
The consultation on the Inspector’s post-hearing changes are being consulted on until Friday (12th August) and we formally requested that he look again at this issue and review the various representations submitted by Mebyon Kernow and others.
Extracts from our representation included the following:
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 and the proposed “eco-community” was included within the Cornwall Local Plan following limited scrutiny because of the pervading policy direction set by central government.
But that PPS was cancelled in March 2015 with the-then Minister stating that the “eco-towns programme” was a “total shambles” which had “built nothing but resentment.” It also referred to the proposals as being “unsustainable and environmentally damaging.” Unfortunately, the cancellation of the PPS happened after the “eco-community” had been included within the draft Cornwall Local Plan.
We would request that the Inspector acknowledges this key shift in central government policy and removes this proposed “allocation” from the Cornwall Local Plan.
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 to have 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.
Residents in Mid Cornwall have raised numerous objections to the proposal. These include the undeniable fact that the development is masquerading as a brown-field development, though much of the housing will be on the few remaining green fields in between St Austell and the village of Penwithick [as pictured above]; and partly on land that has restoration conditions (ie; is technically green-field).
Local people are also opposed to the level of housing growth being proposed for the China Clay Area (see below), the pressures on local infrastructure, concerns about flooding, the impact on nature conservation interests, the change to the character of this historic mining area, and much more.
We would argue that, put simply, the proposed “eco-community” has not been worked up in enough detail to justify inclusion with the Cornwall Local Plan.
A development fails to 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, for example, 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 we consider that the target of 30% affordable housing is unacceptably low (given past promises), and the environmental credentials that had been used in the past to justify the development of a so-called “eco-community” are unlikely to ever be delivered.
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 over 80% 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 will, as always, keep everyone informed about how the Inspector deals with our comments.