Saturday 26 January 2008

Public Inquiry needed on incinerator plans

This week, I was one of three councillors from Restormel Borough Council who publicly re-stated calls for a Public Inquiry into the construction of a large waste to energy plant (incinerator) in Mid Cornwall.

At a Full Council meeting in 2006, Cllr Fred Greenslade (Lib Dem – Rock Ward), John Wood (Independent - Rock Ward) and I successfully persuaded Restormel councillors to overwhelmingly back our calls for a Public Inquiry, when the waste management contract was being agreed between the County Council and SITA.

Though the Government has, so far, failed to act on the calls of the Borough Council and others, this remains the view of Restormel.

On Wednesday and Thursday, we viewed the display organised by SITA at St Dennis Working Mens’ Club which set out more detail on the incinerator that they wish to construct near the village of St Dennis.

We saw nothing at the display which allayed our concerns about the consequences of how Cornwall County Council and SITA plan to deal with Cornwall’s waste and issued the following statement:

“We do not accept that a single centralised incinerator is the appropriate way to deal with Cornwall’s domestic waste or the manner in which the China Clay Area was identified as the site for the incinerator.

“It remains our view that waste should be dealt with as close as possible to where it arises and should not be transported over very long distances to a single site in the Clay Area.

“The people of St Dennis and the Clay Area as a whole deserve the right to put their concerns at a Public Inquiry.”

Thursday 10 January 2008

68,700 new houses for Cornwall?

The findings of the ‘Examination in Public’ into the ‘Regional Spatial Strategy for the South West’ (RSS), produced by the unelected SW Regional Assembly, were released on Wednesday (9th January).

It contains the bombshell that the RSS plans to massively increase house-building and proposes that 68,700 houses be built in Cornwall over the next 20 years.

The original Draft RSS was published in 2006 and proposed that a hefty 45,000 houses be built in Cornwall over the next two decades. The new figures represents a further increase of 53% which equates to an extra 23,700 properties.

The document outlines that the housing should be spread across Cornwall as follows:

· Caradon – 6,500 housing units (an increase of 700 on the original document)
· Carrick - 10,900 housing units (an increase of 900)
· Kerrier – 14,400 housing units (an increase of 6,200)
· North Cornwall – 13,400 housing units (an increase of 5,800)
· Penwith - 7,800 housing units (an increase of 3,000)
· Restormel - 15,700 housing units (an increase of 7,100)

I am very shocked by the news at the moment and consider it mind-boggling that a mere handful of people in unelected and unaccountable SW quango-and can come up with such ridiculous proposals which, if allowed to proceed, will have such a disastrous impact on Cornish communities, our local environment and infrastructure.

I will post more on this as and when I receive it.

Monday 7 January 2008

Government responds to MK e-petition

Like many other people, I have just received the Government’s response to an e-petition posted on the Downing Street website by MK councillor Richard Clark which called on them to “reject Cornwall County Council's bid for unitary status” and to instead introduce legislation for a Cornish Assembly.

The Government response is not in any way surprising. It was as follows:

“The Government issued an Invitation to Councils in October 2006 to come forward with proposals for a single-tier of local government in their areas. Following a process of careful assessment, which included a twelve week consultation on shortlisted proposals, the Government announced on 5 December 2007 that Cornwall County Council's proposal for a single unitary council for Cornwall will be implemented.

"It was judged to have met all of the five criteria as specified in the original Invitation to Councils. The order creating the unitary authority will be debated in Parliament in the New Year. It is intended that the new unitary council will be up and running on 1 April 2009.

"The Government's view on the idea of a separate assembly for Cornwall is well known and remains unchanged. It is not easy to see advantage in an 'assembly' that would duplicate an existing unit of local government over a coterminous area.

"The Government's approach on devolving powers from central Government to the sub-region was set out in the Local Government White Paper published on 26 October 2006 and in the Review of sub-national economic development and regeneration published on 17 July 2007. The Review builds on the White Paper by proposing increased powers and stronger incentives for all local authorities, including those in Cornwall, to improve the prosperity of their communities.

"On 17 July 2007, the Government also announced that 'Regional Assemblies in their current form and function will not continue'. Regional Assembly planning and housing responsibilities will transfer to the existing Regional Development Agencies (RDAs).”

The Government statement is very disappointing, but clearly shows that the creation of a single council for Cornwall is about local government reform and nothing more.

The statement demolishes those ridiculous Liberal Democrat claims that a unitary council for Cornwall will lead to the devolution of greater powers.

The response notes that there may be some ‘increased powers’ for all local authorities. In other words, if the Government does finally get around to devolving a few more powers to local authorities, it will not just be to unitary councils. Indeed, bodies such as Somerset County Council will get just as much a Cornish unitary council.