Wednesday, 28 October 2020

JOE LOUIS IN CORNWALL IN 1944


My article in today’s Cornish Guardian is about the world heavyweight champion Joe Louis, who visited Cornwall in 1944 in advance of D-Day. In particular, I understand that he came to Fraddon, where there were exhibition bouts of boxing to entertain the troops. The article is as follows:

October is Black History Month and a new group called Black Voices Cornwall has been working to provide curriculum packages of short lessons on black history that can be used in Cornish schools and other educational institutions. It is my view that this initiative should be widely welcomed, as it is important that children and others can learn more about the diversity of human experience.

People may recall that I am doing some research into the impact of WW2 on my home area, and I have a story to share about the world heavyweight champion Joe Louis who was in Cornwall in 1944.

Joe grew up in poverty in Alabama and he took up boxing in Detroit. He went professional in 1934 and defeated a number of prominent boxers, including former champions. In 1937, he knocked out Jim Braddock to become world champion and he also fought two famous fights with the German boxer Max Schmelling in 1936 and 1938. He was successful in the second, a title bout, at a time of increasing global tension because of what was happening in Nazi Germany.

Joe later enlisted in the US Army, though he was destined not to see combat. A much-loved American hero and an iconic black figure, he appeared on posters for war bonds and became a symbol of opposition to Nazism. But at that time, in a truly awful contradiction, much of American society was still segregated and black people were being systematically denied their basic civil rights.

In 1944, Joe was in the UK visiting American GIs and British servicemen, who were preparing for D-Day. He was with other boxers, who staged exhibition matches to entertain troops and boost military morale.

It is well documented that Joe visited Bodmin (see photo), but I have been told by a farmer that he also came to Fraddon and exhibition bouts were held at the western end of the village. A large number of GIs were based locally (in camps divided by race), though I understand Joe refused to perform in front of segregated audiences.

I would certainly be delighted to hear from anyone who has any information about Joe’s visit to Fraddon or US forces in Mid Cornwall in 1944.

Sunday, 25 October 2020

RESPONSE TO PLANNING WHITE PAPER CONSULTATION FROM MEBYON KERNOW



RESPONSE TO PLANNING WHITE PAPER CONSULTATION
FROM MEBYON KERNOW – THE PARTY FOR CORNWALL


Mebyon Kernow strongly objects to the “Planning for the Future” White Paper.

It is our view that there are already many problems with the existing National Planning Policy Framework, not least because of the “presumption in favour” of development which has led to unchecked and damaging development that local communities have been unable to prevent.

But the proposed changes would undoubtedly make this situation even worse and be a disaster for Cornwall, its communities and environment.

PLANNING POLICY SHOULD BE DEVOLVED TO CORNWALL

In 2014, the UK Government recognised the Cornish as a national minority through the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, and pledged that the Cornish would be treated in the same way as the “other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.”

It is noted that the White Paper only relates to Cornwall and England, because planning is devolved to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

We call on the UK Government to fully meet its obligations through the Framework Convention and deliver a meaningful devolution settlement for Cornwall, which should include a National Assembly for Cornwall with the ability to take all decisions about planning and housing. This would include the powers to produce a Cornish National Planning Policy Framework and agree housing and other targets.

THE WHITE PAPER

The document includes numerous references to things such as tackling climate change, protecting green spaces, more building on brownfield land, the construction of beautiful homes and greater community involvement – but these claims are contradicted by the wider context of the document which is principally about making it easier for developers to develop!

Zoning (proposal 1)

Our members are extremely concerned at the proposal to zone the whole of Cornwall, and that land in “growth areas … would automatically be granted outline planning permission for the principle of development” and that there would even be “automatic approvals” for certain “pre-established development types” in other areas.

There is a lack of clarity in the document about how the zoning would work, but we feel it would be sub-standard to the existing planning system and there would be a risk of unregulated sprawl and unsustainable developments impacting on numerous Cornish communities.

Our members also strongly object to the “automaticity” of consent, which would undermine the ability of local residents to make meaningful representations on proposals for new housing and other developments in their areas. There is no evidence that communities would engage in the production of a Cornwall-wide policy document, rather than specific Neighbourhood Plans and / or planning applications.

Development management policies set at “national scale” (proposal 2)

Our members are strongly opposed to the proposals to further centralise the planning process in Whitehall with key development management policies “established at national scale.”

It is unacceptable that the decision-making capacity of local councils should be reduced. People in Cornwall know what is best for Cornwall, and should have the ability to set the planning policy framework that is used for the determination of planning applications.

Mebyon Kernow has no confidence that “national” policies imposed from Westminster / Whitehall will in any way understand or reflect what is distinct about Cornwall and its communities and heritage.

Our members are unhappy that the extent of policies in Local Plans would be reduced and we find it incomprehensible that local planning documents might be reduced to little more than "design guides and codes” for developments that have been automatically sanctioned through central government policies.

As noted previously, Mebyon Kernow aspires to see the creation of a Cornish NPPF and we would appeal to the UK Government to work with the people of Cornwall to maximise the policy development capability of bodies to the west of the Tamar.

“Standard method for establishing housing requirement figures” (proposal 4)

Our members are also strongly opposed to the imposition of a top-down “standard method for establishing housing requirement figures,” which would be particularly disastrous for the Cornish countryside and many of our local communities.

It is shocking that the UK Government has come up with a formula that would expect over 4,000 new properties to be built in Cornwall each year. Cornwall’s Local Plan already has an extremely high housing target of 52,500 new housing units over a twenty-year period.

It is frankly ridiculous to expect Cornwall’s next 20-year housing target to be increased to more than 81,000 dwellings. This truly unsustainable level of housing growth would have a significantly adverse impact on Cornwall’s environment and our public services. It would increase the number of dwellings in Cornwall by over 30% in just twenty years and it would equate to the construction of significantly more housing than presently located in the whole of the Camborne, Pool & Redruth area, and the Falmouth & Penryn Network Area, and the Truro & Roseland Network area.

It is little wonder that the formula has been described by some local government bodies as a “mutant algorithm.”

The idea that massively increasing house-building will reduce house prices is a fallacy. Over the last fifty years, Cornwall’s housing stock has doubled, whereas the problems with affordability have worsened.

It is also questionable that decision-makers in Westminster are actually that committed to measures which would reduce house prices or lower rents, as government policies in recent years have fed house price inflation and deliberately increased the cost of affordable housing.

Our members therefore disagree that any formula should include factors relating to affordability. Put simply, affordability problems are not a justification for an increase in the overall amount of housing, which would mostly be open-market non-affordable properties. Instead, this evidence should be used by central government to justify increased investment in proper affordable housing.

In addition, we would point out that this approach does nothing to tackle the issue of empty properties or to address the adverse impact of second home ownership on many Cornish communities – some of which can feel like ghost towns in the winter.

Automatic planning consents (proposal 5)

As noted above, our members object to automatic “outline planning permission” in growth areas and “automatic approvals” for certain “pre-established development types” in other areas for the reasons already explained.

It is clear that the White Paper fails to explain how the historic and natural environments of Cornwall will be safeguarded when automatic planning permissions are being allowed. For example, while designated landscapes and designated heritage assets will be protected, what about non-designated heritage assets or non-designated historic landscapes, and who will assess the extent of below-ground remains which might need geophysical survey?

Such issues demonstrate that the whole approach in the White Paper has not been properly thought through.

Mebyon Kernow members also oppose the imposition of large new settlements through the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime. We continue to be outraged that the so-called eco-town or garden village being built near Penwithick was imposed on Cornwall in spite of opposition from around one thousand people.

Speeding up of the planning process (proposal 6)

The priority for planning should be to make the right decision. This is more important than the speed of the application process and our members have experience that many delays in the planning process are caused by applicants putting in sub-standard information to the local council.

Mebyon Kernow is strongly opposed to suggestions that planning fees should be returned to applicants if developments are not dealt with within certain timeframes or are allowed on appeal.

The planning system needs to be fair and balanced, and to be seen to be balanced and fair. It must protect the Cornish countryside while allowing appropriate developments to go forward. The whole concept of refunding planning fees would show just how a planning system is tilted in favour of developers and landowners – rather than communities.

Thirty-month timetable for Local Plans (proposal 8)

Mebyon Kernow considers the proposal that local authorities should produce a new Local Plan (to a Government template) within a 30-month timetable to be ridiculous. In particular, our members have noted that the document states the initial stage asking for zoning suggestions should take only six months, while the drafting of the whole Local Plan (including the zoning of all land) should take only 12 months.

This is totally impractical, especially for a place the size and complexity of Cornwall – which is made up of numerous towns, villages and smaller settlements; urban, rural, coastal and industrial areas; and extends over a length of 75 miles.

There needs to be adequate time for there to be meaningful consultation and engagement with local communities in the production of planning policy documents.

A rushed plan will lead to bad planning outcomes and do damage to local communities.

Neighbourhood Plans (proposal 10)

Many of our members have been involved with parish councils and groups, which have worked extremely hard to produce Neighbourhood Plans and give a planning context to their local area.

It is clear that the changes in the White Paper would undermine the status of Neighbourhood Plans, and local communities will no longer be able to make decisions about where development should and should not be allowed in their local areas. This is a retrograde step which should not be allowed to happen.

In addition, the changes would make it much harder for residents to make meaningful representations on development proposals in their areas.

Sustainability (pillar two – planning for beautiful and sustainable places)

Mebyon Kernow would challenge the statement that “sustainability is at the heart” of proposals in the White Paper.

As noted above, the level of growth set out by the “standard method for establishing housing requirement figures” would increase the number of dwellings in Cornwall by over 30% in just twenty years. There is nothing sustainable about this extent of development, which would lead to the loss of a great deal of Cornish countryside and cause drastic and irreversible change to the character of Cornwall.

Design (pillar 2 – planning for beautiful and sustainable places)

Mebyon Kernow note the Government’s proposals about design guides and codes, which it is stated should be prepared “locally.”

It is the view of our members that all decisions about planning policy should be taken in Cornwall – it is not just about design, but also the scale of development and where it is located, etc.

A simpler framework for assessing impacts on environment (proposal 16) and conserving and enhancing historic buildings and areas) (proposal 17)

Mebyon Kernow is extremely worried that proposals in the White Paper will fail to safeguard Cornwall’s rich historic and natural environments.Our members feel that, with there being automatic planning permissions in growth areas and other zones, it is questionable whether enough attention will be given to the adverse impacts of developments on the environment.

While designated landscapes and designated heritage assets will clearly have some protection, this will undoubtedly not be the case with non-designated landscapes and non-designated heritage assets, which we would argue are very important.

For example, we would wish to see additional protections for Cornish hedges, some of which date to prehistory, and which could be lost if the planning system is dismantled in the manner proposed by the Government.

Infrastructure and affordable housing (Planning for infrastructure and connected place – pillar three)

Mebyon Kernow is extremely concerned at proposals in this section of the White Paper, which are lacking in detail.

It is the view of our members that Section 106 legal agreements have traditionally worked well in ensuring that affordable housing and other community benefits are delivered, while there has been great confusion around the Community Infrastructure Levy.

A reformed Infrastructure Levy appears very complex and it is understood that many planning professionals are querying how it will work. It also concerning how the consultation is asking questions about whether the same amount of affordable housing and whether it needs to be provided on-site.

It is the view of Mebyon Kernow that a key aim of planning should be maximise the percentage of properly affordable homes on developments and, in terms of rental housing units, they should be for social rent not the expensive so-called “affordable rent.”

The UK Government needs to ensure that the cost of affordable housing – both for rent and purchase – needs to be tied to the level of local wages, rather than being a slight discount from inflated rental or purchase costs. This is especially important in Cornwall, which is one of the poorest areas in Western Europe and where average wages are amongst the lowest in the United Kingdom.

Our members were also extremely concerned at the proposal in the recent “technical changes” consultation, which suggested that affordable housing would not be sought on sites of up to either 40 or 50 new properties. And while it states that this would not apply in designated rural areas (as defined by a 1981 Housing Order), this is problematic as many non-urban areas in Cornwall are shamefully not designated as rural areas.

Impact on people with protected characteristics (Equality Act 2010)

As noted at the start of this representation, in 2014 the UK Government recognised the Cornish as a national minority through the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

But the authors of the White Paper have not considered the impact of the planning changes on the Cornish national minority and, in the view of MK members, the document fails to address the social, economic and housing problems being faced by the long-term residents of Cornwall, such as low incomes, poor economic prospects and limited access to properly affordable housing.

It is obvious that the construction of 81,000 – mostly open-market – new properties is not about meeting the needs of the people of Cornwall. It relates more to the feeding of an external market for property, which would likely lead to 150,000-180,000 new residents in Cornwall. It would also allow many wealthy families to have a second “home,” when many Cornish people do not have a first home.

The UK Government’s approach to planning policy, and indeed wider governance issues relating to Cornwall and the Cornish, clearly breaches a number of clauses in the Framework Convention.

A further submission will be made to the UK Government about the content of the White Paper and the Framework Convention.

PLEASE THINK AGAIN …

The members of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall would ask the UK Government to rethink its approach to planning. The Planning White Paper would not be good for Cornwall and our members would formally request that all decisions about planning and housing are devolved to Cornwall.

Friday, 23 October 2020

Time to back farming


My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian covers the parliamentary debates around the Agriculture. It is as follows:

In its manifesto for the 2019 General Election – just ten months ago – the Conservative Party pledged to “raise standards” in areas such as “animal welfare, agriculture and the environment.” 

But last week, the majority of Conservative MPs voted to reject an amendment to the Agriculture Bill (put forward by members of the House of Lords) that future agricultural and food imports would need to meet domestic standards in terms of animal health/welfare and food safety.

It was lost by 332 votes to 279, with just 14 Conservative MPs voting for the amendment.

The Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, local MP George Eustice, has stated that the UK Government already has the “legal powers to protect our food standards and animal welfare so the amendment tabled was not necessary.” He added that there was a “clear commitment” from the Government to uphold such standards in future trade deals, but many want such assurances to be enshrined in law.

Rebels included former farmer and Devon MP Neil Parish, who chairs the influential Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and appealed to his parliamentary colleagues to ensue the legislation was a “great beacon” on animal welfare and the environment “when negotiating future trade deals.” I feel he was right when he told MPs: “Would it not be right for the Secretary of State for International Trade to have the armour of having the backing of Parliament to say ‘I can’t negotiate away that particular part of the deal with you because it is written down in law’?”

It is most telling that representatives of the farming industry have been very critical of what happened in the House of Commons.

The NFU in Scotland said that the vast majority of their members were “bitterly disappointed” that the amendment had not been supported, which it described as “an ambition that has received unprecedented levels of public support.”

NFU President Minette Batters meanwhile expressed concern that the linked proposal for a Trade and Agriculture Commission (with guaranteed parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals) was not even considered because of some opaque parliamentary procedure. It remains her view that “the future of British food and farming is at stake” and that “without proper safeguards on future trade deals we risk seeing an increase in food imports that have been produced to standards that would be illegal here.”

It seems to me that the UK Government needs to revisit its position and legislate to back British farming.

Thursday, 8 October 2020

BAD NEWS: NO VOTE ON DEVONWALL IN HOUSE OF LORDS


In the House of Lords today, peers considered the Parliamentary Boundaries Bill at Report Stage. Lords Paul Tyler, Nick Bourne and Robin Teverson moved and spoke to an amendment to protect Cornwall (and the Isles of Scilly) as an electoral area.

In response, the Government Minister, Lord True (see photograph), said that he would not accept the amendment to prevent a “Devonwall” constituency.

I was very disappointed that the supporters of the amendment did not push it to a vote, but chose to withdraw it.

It was noted in the debate that peers had earlier in the afternoon voted to increase the variance in constituency size (up or down) from 5% to 7.5%, which it was said would make a cross-Tamar seat more unlikely.

But such a change would not rule out “Devonwall” in the future and it is also unlikely that MPs in the House of Commons will accept this change.

In addition, it must be pointed out that the Bill will lead to a fresh review of boundaries every eight years or so. We supplied evidence from Government’s own Office of National Statistics), which shows “Devonwall” could become a reality by the time of the review due to take place around 2030, because Cornwall’s population is anticipated to rise quicker than other parts of the UK.

Feeling very disappointed tonight, but would wish to add for the record that I was pleased that the leader of Cornwall Council, with the support of the leaders of all political groups on the authority, wrote to numerous Lords, calling on them to support the amendment.

Pretty gutted there was no vote.

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

PLEASE JOIN US IN OBJECTING TO PLANNING CHANGES



If you agree with Mebyon Kernow that the Government's proposed planning changes will be bad news for Cornwall, please find the time to send a representation to the consultation.

The consultation on the “Planning for the Future” White Paper ends at 11.45pm on 29th October and comments can be sent to planningforthefuture@communities.gov.uk

Please also send your comments to your local MP and the email addresses for Cornwall’s MPs are as follows: 

Steve Double MP (St Austell and Newquay) 

George Eustice MP (Camborne and Redruth)

Cherilyn Mackrory MP (Truro and Falmouth)

Scott Mann MP (North Cornwall)

Sheryll Murray MP (South East Cornwall)

Derek Thomas MP (St Ives)


A SUGGESTED LETTER?

Please see below some text would could form the basis of a letter.

OBJECTION TO “PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE” WHITE PAPER

I wish to strongly object to the Planning White Paper. I believe it will be a disaster for Cornwall. It dismantles the existing system and hands power over to developers; it further centralises authority in Whitehall and will lead to a truly unsustainable level of housing growth, with an associated adverse impact on our environment and our public services.

The imposition of a top-down “standard method for establishing housing requirement figures” would be particularly disastrous for the Cornish countryside and many of our local communities.

I am shocked that the UK Government has come up with a formula that would expect over 4,000 new properties to be built in Cornwall each year. Cornwall’s Local Plan already has a high housing target of 52,500 new housing units over a twenty-year period. I consider it ridiculous and unsustainable for this to be increased to more than 81,000 dwellings.

Proposals in the White Paper seem set to centralise the planning process in Whitehall and take decision-making powers away from councils. I see that it states key “development management” policies will be “established at national scale,” and it is clear the policy development capabilities of local authorities will be greatly reduced. Clearly, democratic aspects of the planning process will be undermined.

I am also disturbed that there is an expectation that the whole of Cornwall is to be zoned, and that all land in “growth areas … would automatically be granted outline planning permission for the principle of development” while there would be even be “automatic approvals” for certain “pre-established development types” in other areas.

Many local communities have worked hard to produce Neighbourhood Plans, which will be left worthless by these planning changes, which is shameful.

In addition, the changes would make it much harder for residents to make meaningful representations on developments proposals in their areas.

Please think again about your planning changes.

It remains my view that all decisions about planning should be made in Cornwall and this should involve the production in Cornwall of a National Planning Policy Framework for Cornwall.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

TEN YEARS WITH THE CORNISH GUARDIAN


This week marks my tenth anniversary as a columnist. It has been a privilege to contribute to the Cornish Guardian on a weekly basis and I would like to thank staff at the newspaper for their help and support over this last decade.

I sincerely hope that my pieces have been worth reading and also thought-provoking, and I would like to extend my thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read what I have produced.

I have written about numerous subjects and I have certainly covered some issues on multiple occasions as they continue not to be resolved – or I happen to disagree with the “progress” that is made.

My first column appeared on Wednesday 22nd September 2010. It was about the massive waste incinerator planned for St Dennis and came less than two weeks before the final session of the Public Inquiry, which granted planning approval for the plant.

As an opponent of the development, I somewhat predictably argued that the case for an incinerator with an annual capacity of 240,000 tonnes did not make environmental sense. This was partly because so much recyclable and bio-degradable material would be burnt when a much better use could be made of these resources.

And because I considered the plant to be over-sized, I made the argument that it did not make economic sense for Cornwall Council and local taxpayers.


Ten years on, my views have not changed. The waste disposal contract is a massive burden on a cash-strapped local authority, which was unable to go forward with the waste collection contract as it desired because of financial constraints.

The significant increase in positive tests for Covid-19 across the United Kingdom and the documented problems with “test and trace” is extremely worrying. It is not right that so many people with potential symptoms of the disease in Cornwall are struggling to book tests or are being offered tests at upcountry venues, sometimes hundreds of miles away.

There have been some reports that the Government is targeting tests at those parts of the country with higher infection levels, but a study by the Times newspaper shows an unacceptable regional inequality in the provision of testing. It documents that 80-100% of people in Northern Ireland and Scotland can get local tests relatively easily, whereas in the Midlands and South East England there is also a strong likelihood that tests can be secured. 

But in many other places, such as Cornwall, people, are really struggling to be seen. This must change and MPs need to ensure greater parity across the UK.

[This was my column in today's Cornish Guardian].

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

My latest Cornwall Councillor report



My latest monthly report will be presented to tonight's virtual meeting of St Enoder Parish Council. It covers the period from 10th August to 20th September 2020, and is as follows:


1.0 Council and other meetings 

Over the last six weeks, I have attended a large number of virtual council meetings and briefings via Microsoft Works and Zoom. These included two meetings of the Cornwall Local Engagement Board (which reviews actions to combat Covid-19), a development session for the Economic Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee (plus a review into the study for the private rented sector), two budget briefings, a Cornish National Minority Working Group (and an associated briefing), three meetings of the BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethic) steering group, six update meetings on the Community Governance Review for the Electoral Review Panel, five meetings for Cornwall Councillors from the China Clay Area, a Group Leaders’ meeting and a briefing in advance of the Full Council meeting on 22nd September.

I also attended a handful of meetings to discuss a range of local issues, as well as one meeting of St Enoder Parish Council and the annual general meetings of the two South and East Cornwall Local Action Groups.

2.0 Traffic matters

The present difficulties have certainly slowed progress on a number of projects that I have been pushing forward, though I do have some positive news to report. 

2.1 New footway from Harvenna Heights estate

As previously reported, the majority of the field to the west of Indian Queens School will become additional recreational space for the School.

The reminder of the land is due to be transferred from Cornwall Council to St Enoder Parish Council, along with a financial sum to construct a pathway to the Harvenna Heights estate. In recent weeks, there have been ongoing discussions about the extent of the land going to the School. A map has been produced and the land coming to the Parish Council is shown marked in red.

I am pleased that the process to transfer the land is now underway.

2.2 Crossings on Chapel Road and St Francis Road

I also have an update on the crossings that I have been seeking in relation to the Travel Plan for Indian Queen School. The feasibility study has been completed and it recommended a zebra crossing on Chapel Road, along with a pedestrian refuge on St Francis Road. Cornwall Council has confirmed that the works will now definitely go-ahead and detailed design work has now been commenced. However, I am continuing to lobby council officers for the suggested crossing on St Francis Road to also be a zebra crossing.

I am awaiting confirmation of the timetable for the design works and the implementation of the scheme.

2.3 Summercourt School

Discussions about improved safety measures outside Summercourt School have been ongoing and I can confirm that I have formally proposed that a scheme be fully worked up and funded through the Community Network monies for highway improvements.

2.4 A3058

The funding is still in place for improvements between the crossroads at Summercourt and the roundabout at Quintrell Downs. The design work for the scheme is nearing completion and includes pedestrian crossings linked to the traffic lights on three of the four roads at the crossroads, plus a permanent vehicle activated sign at the northern entrance into the village. As previously reported, I have secured an additional (south-facing) vehicle activated sign to be placed in St Austell St.

Council officers are planning to visit the village to assess where the vehicle activated signs would be located and I am pushing for this to take place as soon as possible.

2.5 Mobile vehicle-activated sign

I am really pleased that the Parish Council has purchased a new vehicle-activated sign. It is a mobile unit, which we will be placing in various 30 mph zones around the Parish for a few weeks at a time. The sign shows the speed of the approaching vehicle. If it is below 30 mph, it will also flash up “THANK YOU.” If it is over 30 mph, it will flash up “SLOW DOWN.” The speed readings will also be recorded, so that councillors will have evidence to lobby the unitary authority and Police where there are problems.

The first location for the sign was at the approach into Fraddon from St Columb Road, and we have just repositioned it on Moorland Road, Indian Queens.

The Parish Council has received a number of requests about where the sign might be positioned in the future and I am working to come up with an agreed list of locations for the sign.

3.0 Parking issues at Kingsley Village

I continue to receive a large number of representations about the parking problems in the vicinity of Kingsley Village, especially along the stretch of highway where New Road meets the roundabout at Vincents Tractors. I have been in ongoing discussions with council officers, in particular about the travel plan for the complex and the need to get information from the travel plan co-ordinators for the various businesses on the site – but there seems to be a lack of information coming through from them.

At the present time, a meeting is being arranged with senior planning and other officers to seek further action. 

4.0 Planning applications

I have an update on a couple of planning applications.

4.1 Six extra gypsy / traveller pitches at Little Meadows, Toldish (PA20/03553)

Cornwall Council has refused planning permission for six additional gypsy / traveller pitches at Little Meadows, Toldish. There is already a planning consent for six units at the site, which have yet to be constructed.

The reason for refusal was as follows:

“The proposal would appear as incremental encroachment into the open countryside and have an urbanising effect on the rural location, poorly integrated with the wider settlement of Toldish. This would be significantly harmful to the spacious rural character of the area and erode its open qualities in context with the adjacent land uses and low density of development and be out of character with its existing distinctive beauty and character of the undeveloped countryside, especially when viewed cumulatively with the previously permitted six pitches. The proposal would thereby be contrary to policies 1, 2, 12 and 23 of the Cornwall Local Plan 2010-2030 adopted 2016 and policy Landscape 2 of the emerging St Enoder Neighbourhood Plan.”

We understand that the applicant will appeal the decision to the UK Government’s Planning Inspectorate. The Parish Council and I will keep local residents informed about what happens next.

4.2 Twenty dwellings on land adjacent to Lindsay Fields, Fraddon (PA20/01508)

The layout for this application has modified with the addition of garages to all of the properties. It is still being assessed by planning officers.

5.0 Planning White Paper

The Government’s proposed changes to the planning system will be debated at the next Full Council meeting of the unitary authority on 22nd September.

I submitted one motion, while the group leader of the Liberal Democrats also put forward a motion on the same topic. In order to ensure that the Planning White Paper and related changes are debated, the two motions have been merged into one, which Cllr Brown will propose and I will second.

It remains our hope that councillors will unite around the motion, which will be as follows: 

This Council notes that:

1. The Government has published the “Planning for the Future” White Paper and an associated document that would bring forward some more immediate changes to the planning system.

2. The proposals would completely alter the planning system in Cornwall.

3. The Royal Institute for British Architects has called the proposals “shameful” and added they “will do almost nothing to guarantee delivery of affordable, well designed and sustainable homes”. The RIBA has also said that the proposals could lead to the next generation of slum housing.

4. The changes are opposed by the all-party Local Government Association.

5. The issue of land banking is not addressed in the White Paper, even though research by the Local Government Association has demonstrated that there are existing planning permissions for more than one million dwellings across the UK that have not yet been started.

This Council believes that:

6. For all its imperfections, the traditional planning system administered by local authorities allows for significant local democratic input into future development and gives local people a say in planning proposals that affect them.

This Council resolves that:

7. The unitary authority raises strong objections to the proposed changes in the White Paper and linked consultation document, which should include the following:

- An objection to the further centralisation of the planning process, which would undermine the work of Cornwall Council and town and Parish councils, and severely weaken the Cornwall Local Plan and Neighbourhood Plans. The changes would also reduce the ability of residents to make meaningful representations on proposals for new housing and other developments in their areas.
- An objection to the “standard method for establishing housing requirement figures,” which has been described by some Councils as a “mutant algorithm.” The changes would increase Cornwall’s 20-year housing target to an extremely unsustainable 81,000 properties – up from the present target of 52,500.
- An objection to the zoning of land, which would allow certain developments to happen without the need for a formal planning application. The changes would risk unregulated sprawl and unsustainable developments – pressures to which many settlements in Cornwall are highly vulnerable.
- An objection to the proposal that a new Local Plan must be completed to a central government template within a 30-month timetable. The changes would reduce the ability of the unitary authority to prepare planning policies best suited to Cornwall.
- An objection that affordable housing would no longer be sought on sites (not deemed designated rural areas) of up to 40 or 50 new properties. The changes would diminish seriously the amount of social rent and affordable housing built in Cornwall and do nothing to tackle the issues associated with second homes and empty properties.
- An objection to the extension of “permission in principle” to larger housing developments, which would further undermine the openness of the planning system.

This Council also resolves to:

8. Raise concerns about the end of Section 106 legal agreements and the introduction of an Infrastructure Levy which could make it more difficult to ensure the delivery of social rent / affordable homes and other community benefits.

9. Raise concerns that the UK Government is failing to address the issue of “land banking.”

This Council further resolves that:

10. The final content of the consultation responses from Cornwall Council / Cabinet Member be discussed with all political groups and the supporters of this motion.

11. The Cornwall Association of Local Councils (CALC) and all local councils in Cornwall are advised of Cornwall Council’s deep opposition to the Government’s proposals.

12. Cornwall Council writes to and lobbies Cornwall’s Members of Parliament urging them to oppose the Government's proposals and to seek their withdrawal, and to circulate their replies to all members of the Council.

6.0 Community Governance Review

I have been spending a considerable amount of time on the review of parish boundaries and arrangements for parish councils, and a number of virtual meetings will be held in the next six weeks to come to a conclusion on a range of requests for change.

7.0 Parish Council matters

I have also been liaising with the Parish Council Clerk on a number of issues, including the construction of the new road in the extension to Indian Queens Cemetery.

8.0 Grants

As a Cornwall Councillor, I have a community chest, from which I give grants to local groups. I have gifted to £200 to St Enoder Youth Club for new equipment and I have covered some of the costs of the Parish Council’s response to the Coronavirus crisis. I still have £1,250 left and I would welcome hearing from local groups who might be interested in funding.

9.0 Inquiries

This report has been a summary of my recent activities, but I have helped a wide range of people with specific local issues.

Friday, 18 September 2020

TODAY IS THE ANNIVERSARY FOR WELSH DEVOLUTION ... CORNWALL NEEDS THE SAME


23 years ago today, the people of Wales voted in favour of a Welsh Assembly. MK leader Cllr Dick Cole was in Cardiff, along with a number of number of MK members. Looking back, he writes:

"I have wonderful memories of this particular night, because I was in the Welsh capital for a Channel 4 programme about the outcome of the referendum, which was broadcast from Cardiff Castle.

"For me, it was the first time that I had been invited to take part in a live television debate, but it did not work out as I had anticipated. I was there to comment on the implications of a YES vote for the rest of the United Kingdom but, as it was looking like a NO vote, they did not bother to use me. The programme then ended, ridiculously, before the last regional results were announced and the final outcome known.

"At that time, it would be accurate to say that I was less than happy to have travelled all the way to Wales and not even participated in the debate.

"But Channel 4 had booked me a room at the Park Hotel, where the YES camp was based and had planned their celebratory party.

"When I got there, the mood was dark and sombre, as the campaigners – many of whom had dedicated their lives to the goal of greater self-government for Wales – feared their dream of devolution would not be realised.

"I was present when the final result came in, along with a few others from Cornwall, complete with flags of St Piran. I will never forget the raw emotion of that night, the explosion of sheer joy when everyone realised that they had indeed won the vote, and I am grateful that I was able to be there. Thank you Channel 4 for my night in Cardiff.

"The campaign for Welsh devolution continues to be an inspiration for me. I just hope that we can replicate their success here in Cornwall and win a Cornish Assembly of Parliament."

UPDATE ON CORNWALL COUNCIL MOTION AGAINST CHANGES TO PLANNING SYSTEM


The Government’s proposed changes to the planning system will be debated at the next Full Council meeting of the unitary authority on 22nd September. 

I submitted one motion with the support of MK colleagues, Labour and independent councillors, while the group leader of the Liberal Democrats also put forward a motion on the same topic. In order to ensure that the Planning White Paper and related changes are debated, the two motions have been merged into one, which Cllr Brown will propose and I will second. 

It remains our hope that councillors will unite around the motion, which will be as follows:

CORNWALL COUNCIL OPPOSITION TO PROPOSED CHANGES TO PLANNING SYSTEM

This Council notes that:

1. The Government has published the “Planning for the Future” White Paper and an associated document that would bring forward some more immediate changes to the planning system.

2. The proposals would completely alter the planning system in Cornwall.

3. The Royal Institute for British Architects has called the proposals “shameful” and added they “will do almost nothing to guarantee delivery of affordable, well designed and sustainable homes”. The RIBA has also said that the proposals could lead to the next generation of slum housing. 

4. The changes are opposed by the all-party Local Government Association.

5. The issue of land banking is not addressed in the White Paper, even though research by the Local Government Association has demonstrated that there are existing planning permissions for more than one million dwellings across the UK that have not yet been started.

This Council believes that:

6. For all its imperfections, the traditional planning system administered by local authorities allows for significant local democratic input into future development and gives local people a say in planning proposals that affect them.

This Council resolves that:

7. The unitary authority raises strong objections to the proposed changes in the White Paper and linked consultation document, which should include the following: 

- An objection to the further centralisation of the planning process, which would undermine the work of Cornwall Council and town and Parish councils, and severely weaken the Cornwall Local Plan and Neighbourhood Plans. The changes would also reduce the ability of residents to make meaningful representations on proposals for new housing and other developments in their areas.
- An objection to the “standard method for establishing housing requirement figures,” which has been described by some Councils as a “mutant algorithm.” The changes would increase Cornwall’s 20-year housing target to an extremely unsustainable 81,000 properties – up from the present target of 52,500.
- An objection to the zoning of land, which would allow certain developments to happen without the need for a formal planning application. The changes would risk unregulated sprawl and unsustainable developments – pressures to which many settlements in Cornwall are highly vulnerable.
- An objection to the proposal that a new Local Plan must be completed to a central government template within a 30-month timetable. The changes would reduce the ability of the unitary authority to prepare planning policies best suited to Cornwall.
- An objection that affordable housing would no longer be sought on sites (not deemed designated rural areas) of up to 40 or 50 new properties. The changes would diminish seriously the amount of social rent and affordable housing built in Cornwall and do nothing to tackle the issues associated with second homes and empty properties.
- An objection to the extension of “permission in principle” to larger housing developments, which would further undermine the openness of the planning system.

This Council also resolves to:

8. Raise concerns about the end of Section 106 legal agreements and the introduction of an Infrastructure Levy which could make it more difficult to ensure the delivery of social rent / affordable homes and other community benefits.

9. Raise concerns that the UK Government is failing to address the issue of “land banking.” 

This Council further resolves that:

10. The final content of the consultation responses from Cornwall Council / Cabinet Member be discussed with all political groups and the supporters of this motion.

11. The Cornwall Association of Local Councils (CALC) and all local councils in Cornwall are advised of Cornwall Council’s deep opposition to the Government’s proposals.

12. Cornwall Council writes to and lobbies Cornwall’s Members of Parliament urging them to oppose the Government's proposals and to seek their withdrawal, and to circulate their replies to all members of the Council.

Friday, 11 September 2020

UPDATE ON PARLIAMENTARY CONSTITUENCIES BILL



This week, on Tuesday and Thursday, peers in the House of Lords have been debating aspects of the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill through a Committee Stage. 


Paul Tyler, a Liberal Democrat who was previously MP for North Cornwall, has tabled what we understand to be a “probing amendment” on this matter. It will lead to a discussion about the need to “Keep Cornwall Whole” though inevitably there will not be a vote.

The amendment has also been sponsored by Lord Teverson and Baroness Jolly, plus former Conservative Minister Lord Bourne; and it will be debated on Tuesday 15th September.

It is my hope that a more meaningful amendment can be produced and taken forward to the next part of the legislative process – Report Stage – for a formal vote.

I have been lobbying peers involved with the Committee Stage.

I fully accept that Cornwall will continue to have six constituencies wholly within its boundaries (including the Isles of Scilly) after the upcoming review. But I fear that this will not be the case in future reviews (happening every eight years or so).

Projections from the Office of National Statistics show that Cornwall’s population / electorate is anticipated to rise much faster than the UK as a whole. And because the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill only allows a 5% divergence from the average constituency size – it means that by 2030 it will once again be statistically impossible to deliver parliamentary constituencies and fall wholly within the historic boundaries of Cornwall (and the Isles of Scilly).

We are continuing to lobby peers and MPs to modify the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill to protect Cornwall as an electoral area and ensure that the UK Parliament meets its obligations through the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

Friday, 4 September 2020

COUNCIL MOTION AGAINST PLANNING CHANGES



Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government was in Cornwall this week. He suggested people should “embrace” his proposed planning changes, which he claimed would “help local people have more say.”

The truth is that the spin does not reflect the reality of the planning changes.

I am pleased to be able to report that I have tabled a motion to the next meeting of Cornwall Council, which strongly opposes the Planning White Paper and associated changes. The meeting will take place virtually on 22nd September.

The motion is as follows:

This Council notes that the Government has published the “Planning for the Future” White Paper and an associated document that would bring forward some more immediate changes to the planning system.

This Council notes that the proposals would completely alter the planning system in Cornwall and raises strong objections to the proposed changes which include the following:

· An objection to the further centralisation of the planning process, which would take decision-making powers away from Cornwall and undermine the Cornwall Local Plan and Neighbourhood Plans.

· An objection to the “standard method for establishing housing requirement figures” which would increase Cornwall’s 20-year housing target to an extremely unsustainable 81,000 properties – up from the present target of 52,500.

· An objection to the zoning of land, which would allow certain developments to happen without the need for a formal planning application and also undermine faith in the planning process.

· An objection to the proposal that a new Local Plan must be completed to a central government template within a 30-month timetable, which will reduce the ability of the unitary authority to prepare planning policies best suited to Cornwall.

· An objection that affordable housing would no longer be sought on sites (not deemed designated rural areas) of up to 40 or 50 new properties.

· An objection to the extension of “permission in principle” to larger housing developments, which would further openness of planning process.

This Council also raises concerns about the end of Section 106 legal agreements and the introduction of an Infrastructure Levy which could make it more difficult to ensure the delivery of affordable homes and other community benefits.

This Council further requests that the Government rethinks its approach to changing the planning system.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

PLEASE RESPOND TO CONSULTATIONS ON PLANNING CHANGES



Two weeks ago, in my column in the Cornish Guardian, I wrote about the Government proposals to completely change the planning system. Since then, a large number of people have spoken to me about the “reforms.”

The breadth and complexity of the changes mean that lots of people are struggling to comprehend how planning will work in the future, while many are opposed to the nature of the changes. I am hearing particularly strong opposition to the top-down imposition of a new twenty-year housing target of 81,000 properties across Cornwall – up from the present figure of 52,500.

There are two ongoing consultations, but some individuals have expressed the view to me that there is no point in responding. They feel that nothing can be done and the Westminster Government will simply press ahead – regardless of what the general public might say. But it is extremely important that we do make our views known to central government and our local MPs.

It remains my opinion that the proposed new planning system will be a disaster for Cornwall. It further centralises authority in Whitehall and will lead to a truly unsustainable level of housing growth, with an associated adverse impact on our environment and our public services. I can confirm that I will be making a detailed submission to this effect.

If you wish to join me in responding to the “Planning for the Future” and the “changes to the current planning system” consultations, the necessary documentation can be found on the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government website.

Making our views known might have an impact. There have been numerous Government u-turns in recent months (including aspects of the response to Covid-19 and a rethink on the marking of A’levels and GCSEs).

And I would like to remind everyone that not all Government proposals come to fruition. This includes the South West Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS), which was published for formal consultation in August 2008. The document contained proposals for a twenty-year housing target of 68,200 new housing units for Cornwall – up from an earlier figure of 45,000.

But the RSS did not happen and was ditched by the Conservative-led Coalition, elected in 2010. Eric Pickles, the-then Secretary of State, said the Government was “committed to localism and greater local decision-making in planning” with a “significant shift in power to local people.” 


Surely, this what the present Government should be delivering, instead of their proposition in its “Planning for the Future” White Paper, which take control away from local communities and their elected representatives.

This is my article in this week’s Cornish Guardian.

The White Paper consultation (which closes on 29 October) can be viewed at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/launch-of-planning-for-the-future-consultation-to-reform-the-planning-system

The second consultation (which closes on 1 October) can be viewed at: www.gov.uk/government/consultations/changes-to-the-current-planning-system

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

MPs NEED TO RETHINK PLANNING WHITE PAPER



The Government has published a White Paper called “Planning for the Future,” which sets out its proposals for a much changed planning system. I think it will be a disaster for Cornwall and I agree with a leading economist that, in many ways, it dismantles the existing system and hands power over to developers.

The document makes numerous claims. It talks about dealing with climate change, supporting “sustainable, beautiful, safe and useful development” and giving communities a “greater say over what gets built” in their areas. But the reality is very different.

It is proposing a top-down “standard method for establishing housing requirement figures,” which will be imposed on councils. A prominent firm of planning consultants has already calculated that Cornwall Council would be expected to promote the delivery of 4,054 new properties each year

This means that the unitary authority’s next twenty-year Local Plan would have to include a ridiculous and unsustainable target of 81,000 housing units over the next two decades – irrespective of what councillors and residents think is appropriate for Cornwall. This would be significantly up from the present housing target of 52,500.

Proposals in the White Paper would centralise the planning process in Whitehall and take decision-making powers away from councils. It states key “development management” policies will be “established at national scale” and the policy development capabilities of local authorities will be greatly reduced.

The Government plans to bring forward zoning. All land will have to be placed in one of three categories in new Local Plans. These are described as “growth areas suitable for substantial development, renewal areas suitable for development, and areas that are protected.” The White Paper adds that growth areas, once identified, “would automatically be granted outline planning permission for the principle of development” while “automatic approvals would also be available for pre-established development types” in other areas suitable for building.” Basically, planning without the need for planning permissions.

There is a second consultation document, which proposes some immediate changes to the planning system. This includes a disastrous proposal that no affordable homes would need to be provided on developments of up to either 40 or 50 new properties, though it would not be applied in some rural areas.

All in all, it looks like there will be far-reaching shift in the planning system, much of which will be bad news for our communities. But not in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – as planning has been devolved to these Celtic nations. Surely, this is another massive reason why we need to secure devolution for Cornwall.

This is my article in this week’s Cornish Guardian.

Thursday, 13 August 2020

SHORT BRIEFING ON PLANNING WHITE PAPER



Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall has been asked to provide a briefing on Government proposals to change the planning system. This includes the “Planning for the Future” White Paper and associated consultation document, which aims to bring forward some more immediate changes.

Here are some of the key points from the White Paper:

· A “standard method for establishing housing requirement figures” across “England” is proposed. Lichfield Planning Consultants have already reported that the annual target for Cornwall would be calculated at 4,054. This would equate to 81,000 new properties over the lifetime of a twenty-year Local Plan. The present Cornwall Local Plan (2010-2030) has a target of 52,500 new properties – that is 2,625 per annum.

· All land would need to be placed in one of three categories in a Local Plan. The document states that these are “Growth areas suitable for substantial development, Renewal areas suitable for development, and areas that are Protected.” The White Paper adds that “Areas identified as Growth areas (suitable for substantial development) would automatically be granted outline planning permission for the principle of development, while automatic approvals would also be available for pre-established development types in other areas suitable for building.” 


· Proposals in the White Paper would also centralise the planning process in Whitehall and take decision-making powers away from local areas. It wants development management policies “established at national scale” and therefore Local Plans will be weakened as a result. It wants the number of policies in Local Plans to be reduced, and suggests there could be a focus on “design guides and codes” for developments.

· The document expects local authorities to produce a new Local Plan (to a Government template) over a 30-month timetable. This is as follows: Stage 1 [6 months], the local planning authority “calls for” suggestions for areas under the three categories (Growth, Renewal and Protection); Stage 2 [12 months], the local planning authority draws up its proposed Local Plan (to include Growth areas); Stage 3 [6 weeks], consultation on document which has been submitted to the Secretary of State for examination; Stage 4 [9 months], examination of Local Plan by Government-appointed planning inspector; Stage 5 [6 weeks], Local Plan is finalised and comes into force.

· It is suggested that Neighbourhood Plans will continue, though it is extremely likely that they will be significantly undermined by the wider planning reforms.

· Section 106 legal agreements which have traditionally guaranteed affordable housing (and other community benefits prior to the Community Infrastructure Levy) will be ended and a reformed Infrastructure Levy will be put in place. It appears complex and many planning professionals are querying how it will work and, for example, deliver affordable housing as part of developments.

There is also a lack of detail about how the proposed new approach would work and great uncertainty about what it all means.

The White Paper does include numerous references to things such as tackling climate change, protecting green spaces, more building on brownfield land, building beautiful homes and greater community involvement – but these are contradicted by the wider context of the document which is about making it easier for developers to develop!

A second consultation document proposes four more immediate changes to the planning system. These proposals have significantly more detail than those in the White Paper.

· This includes more information on the “standard method for establishing housing requirement figures” also included in the White Paper, which would impose an annual target on Cornwall of over 4,000 new dwellings. It is not fully clear when such a new target would be imposed on Cornwall, though it could be when the Cornwall Local Plan is five years old (November 2021).

· There is also a proposal to promote “First Homes,” as part of the delivery of what the Government terms affordable housing. “First Homes” would be sold on the “open market” at a discount from market price of at least 30%, though Councils could increase this discount to 40% or 50%. The document is unclear whether the discount would be a one-off or there would be a mechanism for the units to be affordable in perpetuity. The Government expects that First Homes should also be delivered on exception sites.

· Affordable housing is presently sought on all developments above ten units, but the Government is planning to “temporarily change this.” The proposal is that no affordable homes would need to be provided on sites of up to either 40 or 50 new properties. It is stated that this will be to support small builders and will be for an initial period of 18 months. The approach will then be reviewed. However, it also states that, in designated rural areas, there can still be a threshold of five units or fewer for the delivery of affordable housing. But this is problematic as many non-urban areas in Cornwall are not “designated rural areas” (from the Housing Order 1981). Such parishes include St Michael Caerhays, Feock, Mevagissey, St Columb, St Goran, St Mewan and the majority of Clay Country.

· The fourth proposal was for an extension of “permission in principle,” which the Government describes as a “faster way of obtaining planning permission for housing-led development, which reduced the need for landowners and developers to incur significant costs to establish the principle of development for housing.” This was introduced in 2017 and the Government is now saying that it should be extended to large developments.

The White Paper consultation (which closes on 29 October) can be viewed at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/launch-of-planning-for-the-future-consultation-to-reform-the-planning-system

The second consultation (which closes on 1 October) can be viewed at: www.gov.uk/government/consultations/changes-to-the-current-planning-system

Monday, 10 August 2020

My monthly councillor report



My latest report will be presented to Tuesday’s meeting of St Enoder Parish Council. It covers the time period of 22nd June – 9th August 2020 and is as follows:

1.0 Covid-19 emergency

Recent weeks have seen the lockdown eased, but many people remain very concerned about the threat of new outbreaks or the economic impact of the crisis on their businesses or employment prospects. I continue to give what advice I can to those local residents who have contacted me.

Strategically, a Local Outbreak Management Plan has been put in place for Cornwall, which seeks to provide a blueprint for managing any future Covid-19 outbreaks to protect residents and support the most vulnerable. A Health Protection Board, made up of professionals from across the public sector, is responsible for the Plan.

I am grateful to have been appointed to the linked Cornwall Local Engagement Board, which receives regular updates about new infections and related matters from partner organisations.

2.0 Prescription deliveries

Since 1st April, I have been working with volunteers to deliver prescriptions from the St Columb Road Surgery to shielding households across St Enoder Parish (and sometimes slightly further afield). Shielding officially ended on 31st July and the volunteer deliveries also ended at the end of July.

It has been a privilege to work with a team of wonderful individuals over the last 17-and-a-half weeks and I would like to say a massive thank you to Michael Bunyan, Steve Curtis, Heather Goodwin, Amanda Kendall, Lara McShee, Dawn Wilkes, Brian and Lynne Young.

It is clear to me that everyone’s efforts have been greatly appreciated by the community.

3.0 Council and other meetings

Over the last six weeks, I have attended a large number of virtual council meetings and briefings via Microsoft Works. These included the Cornwall Local Engagement Board, Full Council (plus an associated agenda briefing), Economic Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee and three briefings, Electoral Review Panel (plus an agenda briefing and two follow-up meetings), a briefing on the Council’s investment programme, Cornish National Minority Working Group (plus an agenda briefing and two follow-up meetings on an associated education project), three meetings of the BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethic) steering group plus an associated roundtable as part of the “Cornwall We Want” consultation, three meetings for councillors from the China Clay Area, and one-to-one meetings with the Chief Executive and the corporate director of Neighbourhoods.

In addition, I have attended three meetings of the China Clay Community Hub, reviewing actions to deal with the present health emergency, plus single meetings of the St Austell Bay Economic Forum and St Enoder Parish Council.

4.0 Ongoing projects

Over the last six weeks, I have continued to liaise with various individuals at the unitary authority about a series of ongoing projects. These include the provision of a new footway from Harvenna Heights estate to Indian Queens School, improvements along the A3058, and following up on the feasibility study about crossing on Chapel Road and St Francis Road, Indian Queens.

Progress is slow, not least because of the present difficulties, but I hope to have good news in the near future.

5.0 Traffic matters

5.1 Mobile vehicle activated sign


I am really pleased that the Parish Council had agreed to purchase a mobile vehicle activated sign which can be moved around the Parish and placed in various areas to record the speed of traffic and to flash to encourage motorists to slow down. Watch out for the sign – it should be “in action” in less than a week.

5.2 Accident at bottom of Fraddon Hill.

There was recently a crash at the bottom of Fraddon Hill, when a car was driven into the front wall of a house. I have met with local residents and I am making representations to Cornwall Council and asking them to investigate what happened and whether safety measures can be considered.

5.3 Kingsley Village


Prior to the lockdown, I was making representations about the parking problems in the vicinity of Kingsley Village, including where New Road meets the roundabout. Since the complex has reopened, I have received a number of further complaints and I am continuing to lobby officers at the unitary authority to address the complaints.

6.0 Local planning matters

6.1 Applications

In my last report, I provided an update on a number of live planning applications. These included the following:

· A new vehicular access from Moorland Road into one of the units on the Indian Queens Industrial Estate (PA19/05975).

· 23 dwellings on land adjacent to Lindsay Fields, Fraddon (PA20/01508).

· Reserved matters for 16 dwellings on the Carvynick Holiday Park, Summercourt (PA20/02147).

· Large storage building to rear of Manor Drive in Fraddon (PA20/02308).

· Fifty dwellings at St Columb Road (PA20/02929).

· Six extra gypsy / traveller pitches at Little Meadows, Toldish (PA20/03553).

These applications are still being considered by the planners and no decisions have been taken as yet.

6.2 Appeal into unauthorised commercial garage

Last year, Cornwall Council refused a retrospective planning application (PA19/04433) for the “retention of building and its continued use for the storage and repair of motor vehicles” at The Stables Holiday Park on Pit Lane, Indian Queens.

The owner has appealed the decision to the Planning Inspectorate and I have produced a detailed written submission in support of the unitary authority’s position on behalf of the Parish Council.

7.0 Planning White Paper

The UK Government has just published a White Paper setting out proposals to completely change the planning system. This includes zoning, which – in some areas – would allow developers to build without even needing to apply for formal planning permission. They are also planning to “temporarily lift the small sites threshold” so that developers will not need to provide affordable housing on sites of less than 40 - 50 units.

The document is confusing and contradictory, and I think it will undermine local democracy and neighbourhood plans. I am campaigning against the changes, which will be out for consultation over the next 12 weeks.

8.0 Small open spaces

Cornwall Council owns a number of small open spaces in estates in St Enoder Parish, some of which have play equipment on them – Hanover Park, Indian Queens; Lindsay Fields, Kingsley Court, Penhale Gardens, St James View – all in Fraddon; Clodan Mews, St Columb Road.

I am lobbying the unitary authority for these areas to have a tidy-up and, where appropriate, for the equipment has a good clean. I would also like to thank residents in Penhale Gardens for taking things into heir own hands and tidying up their own area.

9.0 Black Lives Matter

Following the recent Black Lives Matter protests, Cornwall Council has set up a steering group to consider how best the local authority can work with BAME individuals. As the Chair of the Cornish National Minority Working Group – another important part of the Council’s diversity agenda – I was asked by the Council leadership to sit on the steering group.

10.0 Inquiries

This report has been a summary of my recent activities, but I have helped a wide range of people with localised issues.

Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki - 75 years on


Last week marked the 75th anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. More than 140,000 people died in the initial blasts or lost their lives as a consequence of their injuries, radiation poisoning and other factors.

At this time, I believe it is important that we remember the destructive powers of such weapons and the terrible human cost that follows whenever they are used.

Kate Hudson, the General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, has vividly described the effect of the first bomb, which fell on Hiroshima on 6th August 1945, destroying 13 square kilometres of the city:

“The heart of the explosion reached a temperature of several million degrees centigrade, resulting in a heat flash over a wide area, vapourising all human tissue. Within a radius of half a mile of the centre of the blast, every person was killed. All that was left of people caught out in the open were their shadows burnt into stone. Beyond this central area, people were killed by the heat and blast waves, either out in the open or inside buildings collapsing and bursting into flames.”

Three days later on 9th August 1945, the second bomb fell on Nagasaki. Over the years, I have read many personal recollections from survivors about the awful horrors they experienced. One was from a man called Hirotami Yamada, who was a child at the time. He recalled how “the flash and heat from the detonation felt like the sun had fallen from the sky; then everything went dark. When the light returned, much of Nagasaki had been vaporised in a cloud of smoke and dust that barrelled a mile up into the clouds.”

Most of his family initially survived because they were some distance away from the centre of the blast, but in the coming days he had to watch heartbroken as his siblings succumbed to death.

75 years on, at the annual ceremony at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, the city’s mayor, Kazumi Matsui, called on world leaders to seriously commit to nuclear disarmament. In a moving speech, he said “we must never allow this painful past to repeat itself," adding that “as the only nation to suffer a nuclear attack, Japan must persuade the global public to unite with the spirit of Hiroshima."

The words of Mr Matsui need to be heeded and we must do all in our power to ban nuclear weapons and ensure that they can never be used again.

[This is my article in this week's Cornish Guardian newspaper].

Monday, 27 July 2020

PARLIAMENTARY CONSTITUENCIES BILL


My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian looks at the threat of a ”Devonwall” parliamentary seat. It will be as follows:

On Sunday 30th October 2016, campaigners congregated at Polson Bridge on the Tamar to protest against the proposal for a “Devonwall” parliamentary seat.

The “Boundary Commission for England” (BCE) had recommended a Bideford, Bude and Launceston seat, but this had not come about by accident. It happened because of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act (2011), which sought to reduce the number of MPs to 600 and ensure that electorates for individual seats were within 5% of the average seat size. Because the legislation did not protect Cornwall as an electoral area, it was a statistical impossibility for the BCE to propose a whole number of seats for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

Westminster did not listen to the protesters, though the proposals of the BCE failed to go ahead because of unrelated political disagreements in London.

The UK Government has now put forward another Parliamentary Constituencies Bill, which will lead to a new review of parliamentary boundaries though, this time, the number of MPs will be kept at 650.

I would acknowledge that it is unlikely that this next review will lead to a cross-Tamar constituency. But the legislation, as presently drafted, states that a fresh boundary review should be carried out every eight years. Given projected population changes, it seems to me that it would only be a matter of time before the likelihood of a “Devonwall” constituency arises once again. 

Cornwall is a historic nation, with its own culture, traditions and language, while the Cornish are recognised as a national minority. This places many obligations on the UK Government. With this in mind, I submitted evidence to the Public Bills Committee and formally requested that MPs ensure the Cornish border, which has been in existence for more than one thousand years, is respected in all future boundary reviews and Cornwall’s territoriality is not breached.

The Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons on 14th July. One Cornish MP, Cherilyn Mackrory, spoke in the debate (see above) and did make a number of good points. But because Cornwall’s MPs had chosen not to move the necessary amendment, the Bill went through unaltered.

I was anticipating that Cornwall’s MPs would take the opportunity to table an amendment and I am simply dumbfounded that they did not.

This week, the Bill moves to the House of Lords and peers will consider it further in the Autumn. I sincerely hope that they will come together to amend the Bill to Keep Cornwall Whole.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

GREATER SELF-GOVERNMENT FOR “THE CORNWALL WE WANT”

In my article in tomorrow’s Cornish Guardian, I have written about the unitary authority’s latest consultation exercise and I have called on one and all to be ambitious and demand our own National Assembly or Parliament. The full article is as follows:

Cornwall Council is presently holding what it hopes will be its “biggest ever listening project.” It is titled “The Cornwall We Want,” and comes at a time of great uncertainty as we face considerable challenges because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It is very sad to see enterprises such as the Eden Project laying off so many of their staff and some businesses not re-opening after the lockdown. And it is scary to see projections from economists that suggest between 66,800 and 72,800 jobs in Cornwall are under threat, while a number of Cornish towns have been identified as locations likely to be worst affected by the crisis.

Other worrying statistics show that there has been a 400% increase in applications for free school meals and a 140% rise in requests for council tax support.

It is right that the unitary authority is seeking the views of Cornish residents as politicians and others grapple with what is described as “recovery and renewal.”

The arguments coming out of the Council point out that surveys show “nine in ten people do not want to go back to the old normal” and that there is an “unprecedented level of public demand for change.” It argues that there is a pressing need to “create a more resilient society, where prosperity is truly shared, and is decoupled from ecological and climate breakdown.”

In addition, the leadership of the Council claims that it is “building a strong ‘yes for Cornwall’ case for devolution of the powers and funding” needed to deliver recovery and renewal. They add that we can build a better Cornwall “by giving people a greater say over decisions that affect them” and how “we also need to create a more equal power partnership with Whitehall, with greater local control over the levers and funding for Cornwall to flourish.”

They claim that we need to be bold, but nonetheless seem fixated on Cornwall’s present “unitary governance model” of local government and entities such as the unelected Leadership Board – which isn’t very ambitious at all!

I will be arguing that if people in Cornwall are serious about meaningful devolution, we need to be building the case for a new democratic deal, similar to those enjoyed in Wales and Scotland, with our own National Assembly or Parliament.

I hope you will agree with my perspective on devolution, but whatever your views, please visit https://letstalk.cornwall.gov.uk/ to have your say.

Thursday, 16 July 2020

LETTER FROM GOVERNMENT MINISTER CHLOE SMITH


I recently wrote to the Government Minister responsible for the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill, Chloe Smith. In the same week that MPs failed to move an amendment to Keep Cornwall Whole, I received a very, very disappointing reply from Ms Smith.

It is clear that the Minister does not understand the Government’s obligations to the Cornish and Cornwall. For information, the reply was as follows:

Thank you for your letter of 1 July and for your thoughts on future boundary reviews in Cornwall. Thank you also for submitting written evidence to the public bill committee scrutinising the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill. I note your request that the Government bring forward an amendment to preclude the possibility of a cross-Tamar seat - essentially creating a group of protected constituencies for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly - and your linked idea of a Boundary Commission for Cornwall.

As I made clear during the Committee debates on the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill, the Government recognises the distinct culture and heritage of Cornwall and includes Cornwall in its application of the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM).

As part of this, under the terms of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML), the Government is committed to recognising regional or minority languages such as Cornish and to supporting action to promote the language’. In 2019, MHCLG provided £200,000 to support a range of Cornish language projects, as well as work to tackle barriers to systematic education provision around Cornish language and culture and build cultural distinctiveness into planning and development decisions.

Whilst the Government celebrates and champions the cultural diversity of all parts of the United Kingdom, we are also committed to ensuring equality for all its citizens irrespective of where they live in the UK. Achieving equal constituencies, and therefore votes that carry equal weight, is an important element of this.

In order to deliver the “updated and equal constituencies” that we committed to in our 2019 Manifesto, it is important that the Boundary Commissions work within a certain tolerance of the UK electoral quota and balance this with the range of other factors that they may take into account, such as geographical features, local government boundaries and community ties.

We appreciate that the proposal, made during the 2016-18 boundary review, to create a constituency that crossed the boundary of Devon and Cornwall was a controversial one. It is important to note that that review was based on 600 constituencies. We cannot prejudge the proposals that will be made by the next boundary review, but under the provisions of the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill, the next review will be based on 650 constituencies and this will give more leeway to the Boundary Commissions and is likely to make the considerations in Cornwall and Devon less challenging.

May I also highlight that the boundary review process includes extensive public consultation (generally 24 weeks over three separate periods) to allow local communities, organisations and individuals to comment and make counter-proposals, and for that feedback to be taken into account. During the 2016-18 boundary review, over 50% of BCE’s initial proposals were adjusted in light of consultation responses and representations.

I hope that the move to retain 650 constituencies, combined with the rigorous and consultative process of the Boundary Commissions, provides some reassurance about the next boundary review. I do not believe that creation of either a separate boundary commission for Cornwall, or a protected group of constituencies for Cornwall, would be advisable. Both would potentially set precedents that could undermine the principle of equal votes and the Government’s manifesto pledge to deliver equal constituencies.

A Public Service Broadcaster (PSB) for Cornwall?


My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian looks at BBC cuts and the need for a PSB for Cornwall. It is as follows:

It is bad news that the BBC has taken the decision to cut 450 jobs in its regional news and current affairs television and radio programming. I find this particularly disappointing as it has always been my view that we need broadcasting to be less dominated by London and other metropolitan centres.

This approach to job cuts and the scope of future broadcasting is also worrying from a Cornish perspective. I have been among those supporting the push for a Public Service Broadcaster (PSB) for Cornwall, something that the authorities have yet to act upon.

Wales has the S4C television channel, while Scotland has BBC Alba, and as the Chairman of Cornwall Council’s National Minority Working Group, I recently wrote to a House of Commons Select Committee in support of a Cornwall PSB.

The Cornish were recognised as a national minority in 2014 and the UK Government pledged that we would be treated the same as the UK’s other national minorities. But Cornwall is the only Celtic part of the state without its own media service, while TV content is produced for all of the UK’s Celtic languages – except Cornish!

When the BBC Charter was renewed in 2016, it included a commitment to support the UK’s regional and minority languages through its “output and services and through partnerships with other organisations,” but the Charter defines “regional and minority languages” as being Welsh, Scottish-Gaelic, Irish and Ulster Scots. Unbelievably, the Cornish language is excluded from this list, which demonstrates the BBC is showing significant disrespect towards its own diversity commitments.

The unitary authority has commissioned a study to investigate the potential for a Cornwall PSB and a summary report has just been published by Denzil Monk and Mandy Berry.

A hard-hitting document, it makes the case that Cornwall has been failed by current TV provision and that it has often been “constructed from the outside as a perpetual destination,” while “local” television is delivered through the framework of a “SW region of England.”

The report argues that so many of our national traditions are overlooked, while “divergent realities of contemporary Cornish culture are hidden.”

It adds that, “where visible, Cornishness is diminished to a ‘local curiosity’ to view as part of the commodified ‘picturesque romanticisation’ Cornish lifestyle or visitor experience, a picture postcard world of cream teas, romantic ruined mines and quaint fishing villages.”

It then asks the very incisive question: “But what if our view was wider than a postcard?”