Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Restormel's view of the eco-town

As the Chairman of Restormel’s Policy and Scrutiny Committee 4, I wrote a draft response to the Government’s document ‘Eco-towns – Living a Greener Future’ with the support of my Vice-Chairman Tim Jones. It was modified, and in some ways improved, with the support of the officers of the Council.

It was then presented to the Council’s cabinet on Monday evening.

Five pages long, it is quite a hard-hitting document. It criticises the likely imposition of yet more unsustainable housing on the district, it raises concerns about the impact of the proposals on existing communities, it objects to the ‘top-down’ and undemocratic manner in which central government has handled the whole process, it notes how the eco-town proposal may conflict with local economic regeneration strategies and how the Council has seen no evidence that the development will be an exemplar of environmental technologies. It also raises a considerable number of more detailed concerns and site-specific issues.

In the document, we clearly wrote that the “Borough Council is committed to employment-led regeneration and does not support the current targets for house-building in the panel report into the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) or the housing-led proposal for an eco-town around St Austell and the China Clay Area.”

Sadly, the Liberal Democrat dominated cabinet and officers decided that they wished to ‘water down’ this one section of the document.

Instead of clearly objecting to the proposal, they preferred to say that the “Council must be satisfied that the proposed eco-town does not commit the Borough Council or prejudice its position in respect of the objection to the higher levels of housing growth in the panel report … and will only accept the proposition for an eco-town if it helps deliver the employment-led regeneration and all of our other objectives for the area set out in our emerging strategies.”

I argued strongly, with some support from other members, that the imposition of an eco-town of 5,000 houses would make it more difficult to stop high house-figures on Mid Cornwall and that the IMERYS proposal was out-of-step with other strategies.

It was not to be. The cabinet voted 5-1 to weaken the thrust of the document – five Liberal Democrats versus one independent councillor.

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