Tuesday, 23 February 2021

MY LATEST MONTHLY REPORT


My latest monthly report will be reported to tonight's meeting of St Enoder Parish Council. It covers the time period of 25th January – 22nd February 2021, and is as follows:

1.0 Council and other meetings

Over the last month, I have attended a number of virtual meetings and briefings via Microsoft Works and Zoom.

In terms of Cornwall Council, these have included the Central Sub-Area Planning Committee; an informal Economic Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee and an associated review into standards for social housing (2); the Cornish National Minority Working Group, associated briefings (2) and a meeting about the upcoming 2021 census and the publicity for the “write-in” option for Cornish nationality; the Informal Investment Panel; an update on parking policy; local China Clay Area members; a briefing about the upcoming Full Council meeting; Group Leaders; and all member briefings (3).

In addition, I have attended the Covid-19 Local Outbreak Engagement Board (1); council briefings about the response to the Covid-19 pandemic (2); and the lockdown support group for the China Clay Area (1).

I have also been at three meetings of St Enoder Parish Council, one meeting of the St Austell Bay Economic Forum, and one meeting of the South and East Cornwall Community-Led Local Development Local Action Group.

2.0 Planning applications

The Parish Council and I continue to deal with a range of planning applications. Updates on some specific planning matters are shown below.

2.1 Fifty properties at St Columb Road (PA20/02929)

On 16th December, Cornwall Council refused planning permission for the construction of 50 new properties at St Columb Road, which were proposed for land at the rear of the development opposite the Doctors’ Surgery.

I have just been informed that the applicant has chosen to appeal the decision to the Bristol-based Planning Inspectorate. Cornwall Council and other interested parties will now have until 23rd March to submit evidence in support of the refusal.

The two reasons for refusal were as follows:

1. The application site is not located within a main town identified in Policy 3 for the county's strategic housing growth, the site is not infill development or rounding off and is not to be sited on previously developed land. The proposal needs to be considered as a rural exception site under policy 9. It is considered that the proposed scale of up to 50 houses in this location would not be well related to the physical form of the settlement and would be at odds with the prevailing character in this location and would appear as inappropriate housing encroaching into the open landscape which would have a detrimental impact upon the intrinsic rural character. The proposal is therefore contrary to policy 2, 3, 9 and 23 of the Cornwall Local Plan and policies 2, 3 and 4 of the St Enoder Parish Neighbourhood Plan.

2. In the absence of a mechanism to secure the provision of affordable housing, education contributions, open space provision onsite and off-site financial contribution, health care contributions and financial contributions for mitigation for the Penhale Special Area of Conservation for which there is evidence of an identified need, the proposal is considered to be contrary to policies 8, 13, 16, 22 and 28 of the Cornwall Local Plan, guidance contained within paragraphs 8, 17, 61, 62, 94 and 96 of the National Planning Policy Framework 2019, and CC - Guidance on s106 Planning Obligations for Education Provision (April 2012).

St Enoder Parish Council always submits comments to planning appeals and, at tonight’s meeting, I will be offering to write a detailed representation on behalf of the Council and local objectors.

2.2 Ouistreham, Indian Queens (PA20/00184)

An outline application was submitted for a bungalow in the back garden of Ouistreham, which is opposite Queens Garage. The Parish Council raised objections to the development and how it was inappropriately squeezed into the back garden.

Planning officers recommended that the application be approved, so I referred it to a meeting of the Central Sub-Area Planning Committee on 22nd February. I spoke at the meeting, along with the Chairman of the Parish Council Michael Bunyan, and the application was refused. The vote was eight to four.

2.3 Derelict pig farm at Higher Fraddon

Last month, I reported that the owners of the derelict pig farm site had been speaking to Cornwall Council about whether a development of seven-eight new dwellings on the site would be acceptable – in place of the five consented “Q-class” conversions and the possible conversion of a couple of other buildings on the site.

They did supply an initial mock-up of how the development might look, but they sought to include a significant amount of agricultural land (to the west) into the development area. Cornwall Council informally advised that this increase in the footprint would be unacceptable and the development would need to be restricted to the site of the extant buildings.

The Council has also advised that the applicant should do a formal pre-application consultation before putting in any planning application. The owners have, as a result, submitted a pre-application enquiry, but I am disappointed because they ignored the Council’s guidance and have included agricultural land into their proposed development area.

3.0 Parking issues at Kingsley Village

As previously reported, I have continued to make presentations about the ongoing parking issues on the B3275 near Penhale. I remain unhappy with the amount of progress and, earlier in the year, I escalated the issue by making further representations to senior planning officers.

As a consequence, a meeting was held on 2nd February and the enforcement officers agreed to make further requests to the businesses within the complex for information about how they manage their staff traffic movements and their parking arrangements. Two businesses have responded and I will discussing next steps with council officers in the near future.

4.0 Highway improvements

4.1 Proposed new footway between Harvenna Heights estate and Indian Queens School

I am still pushing for the transfer of part of the field to the west of Indian Queens School, from Cornwall Council to St Enoder Parish Council, to be completed, so that the Parish Council can begin the construction of the proposed new footway between the Harvenna Heights estate and Indian Queens School. I will update as soon as further progress is made.

4.2 Proposed zebra crossings on Chapel Road and St Francis Road, Indian Queens

Last month, I confirmed that a proposal for a zebra crossing and associated speed cushions on Chapel Road had been worked up, near to the top of the Drang. There was a follow-up meeting on 2nd February, when the basics of a draft proposal for a zebra crossing on St Francis Road was also agreed.

I am hopeful that the formal consultation on both crossings will be carried out in the very near future.

4.3 Proposed works in Summercourt

There was another accident on Beacon Road on Saturday 6th February, which again emphasised the need for the improvements along the A3058.

As previously reported, funding has already been secured for the extension of the 30mph limit on Beacon Road, signalised pedestrian crossings linked to the traffic lights at Summercourt crossroads, and two permanent vehicle activated signs (VAS) on the A3058 (one in Beacon Road and one in St Austell Street).

I am pleased to be able to report that a new officer has been allocated to the design work for the project and good progress is now being made. A meeting was held on 5th February at which the location of the VAS in Beacon Road was agreed in principle. Discussions are ongoing about the location for the VAS in St Austell Street (see above) and I will be updating councillors tonight.

I am also continuing to seek updates on the enhanced safety measures, which I have asked to be provided outside Summercourt School.

5.0 Trefullock

In recent weeks, there have been ongoing problems with flooding on the roads around Trefullock, and I have been in contact with local residents. I am pleased to be able to confirm that Cornwall Council has agreed to carry out an improvement scheme in the next financial year.

6.0 Covid-19

As noted above, I attend meetings of the Cornwall Local Engagement Board, where we are briefed about how public bodies are working to deal with Covid-19, as well as a lockdown support group for the China Clay Area comprising representatives of a number of bodies and charities.

In addition, as a volunteer, I have been helping the medical staff at St Columb Surgery who have been doing some vaccinations, by helping marshal local residents as they arrive for their jabs.

7.0 2021 Election

I am somewhat surprised that the 2021 local elections have not been delayed by a few months, because of the pandemic and ongoing lockdown. The UK Government has stated that the elections will take place on 6th May and I can confirm that it is my intention to stand for re-election.

As the number of councillors has been reduced from 123 to 87, and if I am re-elected to Cornwall Council, I will have to serve a larger area covering both St Dennis and St Enoder parishes.

8.0 Cancellation of NDP referendum

The referendum into the Neighbourhood Plan for St Enoder Parish was due to take place on 6th May, on the same day as the local elections and the poll for Police Commissioner. It is likely that the referendum will take place in early summer.

9.0 Inquiries

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

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Be Cornish on the 2021 census


It is exactly four weeks to census day (Sunday 21st March) is census day, though people will be able to fill in the online form from early in March.

This represents an  opportunity for Cornish people to formally record their national identity.

The Government has again refused a Cornish tick-box, but the Office of National Statistics has allocated a census code to “Cornish” and individuals will be able to evidence their Cornishness through write-in options.

The ONS has also promised that – for the first time – they will produce a full analytical report on the population who identify as Cornish, covering topics which will include health, housing, work and education.

Question 14 will ask: “What is your national identity?” Tick-boxes offered are “British,” “English,” “Welsh,” “Scottish,” “Northern Irish” and “Other.” This means that if you wish to record your nationality as Cornish, you can tick the “Other” box and write in “Cornish” in the space provided.

The ONS is keen that as many people fill out the census online as possible, and the online version will contain a range of prompts. One positive piece of news is that, for the national identity question, the supporting text will give “Cornish” as one of the examples of a “Other” nationality.

Question 15 will ask: “What is your ethnic group?” Five sections will describe a range of broad ethnic backgrounds. For example, under “White,” the options are a collective “English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish or British,” “Irish,” “Gypsy or Irish Traveller,” “Roma,” and “Other.” Other ethnic groups include “mixed or multiple,” “Black” or "Asian." To record yourself as Cornish, you will need to pick the section which you think best represents your broad ethnic background, tick the “Other” box and write in “Cornish” in the space provided.

Question 10 will ask where individuals were born, while Question 18 will ask: “What is your main language?” In both these cases, you can also use “Other” boxes to record yourself as Cornish-born or as a Cornish speaker, if that is appropriate.

This census represents an opening to ensure that our Cornishness is recorded. Please speak with your family, friends and neighbours to ensure that they take full advantage of the various write-in options.

Monday, 15 February 2021

MK LOBBIES BBC & OFCOM FOR PARTY ELECTION BROADCAST


Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall has responded to a BBC consultation on party election broadcasts (PEBs) for the 2021 local elections, which it says discriminates against parties, such as MK and the Yorkshire Party. MK has also written to the regulator – OFCOM.

The consultation re-affirms the existing “four nation” approach, which principally states that, for local and parliamentary elections, political parties would need to stand in one-sixth of the seats in any of the “nations” of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales to be allowed a party election broadcast.

The BBC states that for the local election in “England” it is estimated that “there will be approximately 5,000 seats contested, so the qualification threshold is likely to be approximately 835 candidates.”

This means that, in May’s elections, MK would need to contest all 87 council divisions in Cornwall, along with 748 other council seats outside of Cornwall, to secure a PEB.

MK has had a similar problem in past General Elections. In the 2010 and 2015 General Elections, MK contested the maximum number of seats available to it as a Cornish political party – six! But we were denied a PEB because, in addition to the six seats in Cornwall, we did not contest 83 seats in England!

And yet political parties in Northern Ireland would have only had to stand in three of the 18 seats available to them to secure a PEB, in Wales it would have been seven seats out of the 40 available, and nine out of the 59 in Scotland.

The following statement has been issued:

“Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall has written to the BBC and OFCOM challenging the ‘four nation’ approach to party election broadcasts, which discriminates against MK.

“We reminded them that, in 2014, the UK Government recognised the Cornish as a ‘national minority’ through the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. At that time, the UK Government made it clear that this ‘decision to recognise the unique identity of the Cornish, now affords them the same status … as the UK’s other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.’

“It is MK’s contention that the BBC and OFCOM, in terms of PEBs, is therefore failing to meet its obligations to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, with regard to the Cornish and Cornwall as a national territory within the United Kingdom.

“We have formally requested that the nation of Cornwall be treated in the same way as the other Celtic parts of the United Kingdom for the purposes of party election broadcasts.”

MY COMMENT ON NHS REORGANISATION


Launched in 1948, the National Health Service is the United Kingdom’s greatest achievement, and it is not possible to overstate the significance of the NHS over the last seventy-plus years. Universal healthcare has saved so many, and it continues to transform the very existence of millions of people.

This was never truer than right now as medical professionals, and their support staff, dedicate themselves so determinedly in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

I was therefore somewhat surprised that, at this most difficult time, the Health Secretary has announced plans for a wholesale reorganisation of the NHS which, it has been reported, will do away with the structural reforms of previous Conservative Governments.

It is clear than the changes will centralise power into the hands of government ministers with Matt Hancock announcing that “the Secretary of State will be empowered to set direction for the NHS and intervene where necessary.”

He has claimed that the changes will do away with “irksome bureaucracy,” though one prominent GP, Anne Robinson, was quick to point out that “every major NHS change” that she had experienced in a 30-year career had “promised less bureaucracy and delivered more.”

Many people, myself included, will undoubtedly be nervous of yet another political reorganisation of healthcare, and I agree with the British Medical Association that such a “sweeping reorganisation” should not be rushed through while medical staff “are still tackling the winter surge in infections, hospitalisations and tragically, deaths.”

I understand that the proposals include an end to competition rules, which presently dictate that all contracts must be put out to tender. This could be positive if, as argued by the BMA, the NHS itself is always the “preferred provider for NHS services,” and the rules also ensure that out-sourcing to large corporations “at huge expense to the taxpayer” is no longer the norm.

The Health Secretary is speaking about “better connectedness between health and social care,” though one prominent health policy academic, Professor Sir Chris Ham, has stated the plans do not go far enough and “will not provide the solution … because successive governments have ducked that.”

I agree that MPs are failing to take a lead on this, and central government is continuing to instruct local councils to raise council tax by 3% a year to specifically go towards meeting the rising costs of social care.

As we start the debate around the proposed changes, it seems to me that they must be informed by the expertise of medical and social care professionals, and that Westminster politicians must find significant additional resource to guarantee a health and social care system fit for the 21st century.

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

Friday, 29 January 2021

The G7 and "levelling up"?

Prominent Cornish politicians and public figures have been queuing up to rejoice at the news that the next G7 summit of world leaders will take place in Carbis Bay in June. The leader of Cornwall Council, Julian German, has declared that he wants to ensure there is a “lasting legacy” to the west of the Tamar, while the Prime Minster has suggested that the event will “showcase” Cornwall to the world.
From my perspective, I fear that West Cornwall will simply be a pretty background for the talks, and there will be little focus on the reality of modern Cornwall.

As the political commentator Bernard Deacon has said: “Swarms of journalists will descend from across the globe eager for copy. But will all they devour be the same stale old imagery of Cornwall as just a tourist destination? Can Cornwall be presented as more than a picturesque backdrop?”

I sincerely hope the summit is a success and meaningful progress is made to tackle climate change and other global ills. But there is much to be concerned about – not least that we are still in the teeth of a worldwide pandemic.

At the last G7 in France, more than 13,000 people officers, plus military personnel, were used to deal with protestors and the Assistant Chief Constable of the Devon and Cornwall Police, Glen Mayhew, has said that “it will be the biggest security operation” ever undertaken by the force.

It has been well-documented that the cost of past summits in the UK have not been fully met by central government, and it cannot be right that Cornish taxpayers may have to meet a significant element of the cost of the summit in these very straightened times.

It has also been proffered that the economic benefits of the event to Cornwall would be £50 million, with suggestions that this is part of the UK Government’s new “levelling-up agenda.” But it is most certainly not part of any strategic attempt to combat the economic inequality that plagues the United Kingdom.

The Prime Minister has just set up a “Build Back Better Council” of business leaders, which he says is about “levelling up opportunity for people and businesses across the UK.”

It has been reported that there are 30 members on the Council, of which 22 are based in London. I understand that three others are based in towns just outside the UK capital, two in the Midlands, one in Cambridge, one in the north and one in Scotland. Apart from being London dominated, isn’t it telling that there is no-one from Wales, Northern Ireland or Cornwall?

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