Sunday, 26 October 2008

The Chagossians

I am disgusted by the actions of House of Lords, this week, over-turning a 2006 High Court ruling which would have allowed the Chaggosians home.

For those who are not aware of the case, the Chaggosians were forcibly evicted from their island homes in the Indian Ocean between 1967 and 1973 by the British Government so that they could lease the largest of their islands, known as Diego Garcia, to the United States for the construction of one of the biggest military bases in the world.

Over the last thirty years, the islanders have campaigned hard to regain access to their original homes. Led by Olivier Bancoult and lawyer Richard Gifford, they won a historic victory in the High Court in 2000, which ruled their expulsion illegal. They had to deal with Blair’s decision to invoke an archaic royal prerogative in order to dismiss the 2000 High Court judgment.

The islanders refused to give up and went back to the High Court in 2006 and once again won the right to return home. In a damning verdict, the High Court even condemned the actions of the British government as “repugnant.” In May 2007, the government lost again at appeal.

But the House of Lords has overturned the islanders' earlier victory in a three-two majority. Lord Hoffmann ruled that the government was entitled to legislate for a colony in the security interests of the United Kingdom. The US state department had argued that the islands might be useful to terrorists and Lord Hoffmann even said: "Some of these scenarios might be regarded as fanciful speculations, but in the current state of uncertainty the Government is entitled to take the concerns of its ally into account."

The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, had the nerve to welcome the most recent judgement as a vindication of the government's decision to appeal, saying that: "We do not seek to excuse the conduct of an earlier generation … It was about decisions taken in the international context of 2004.”

These actions make me truly ashamed of the British Government.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

There is still time to comment on RSS

Like many others, I have just received the official government response to my epetition concerning the South West Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS), the proposal to build over 68,000 houses in Cornwall over the next 20 years and MK’s assertion that Cornwall’s democratically elected representatives should be empowered to deliver a housing strategy which focuses on providing affordable homes to meet local needs.

The response was as follows:

The latest Proposed Changes from the Secretary of State were prepared by the Government Office for the South West (GOSW). Government Offices are not a quango but an integral part of central government; bringing central government closer to local partners and ensuring that policies and programmes are informed by local knowledge. Ultimate accountability for decision making at the regional level remains with Ministers.

The Regional Assembly is a partnership of elected councillors from all local authorities in the region and representatives of various sectors with a role in the region’s economic, social and environmental well-being. Each Member is accountable to their own home organisation or to the sector which they represent. Local Authority Members are elected Councillors and are therefore accountable to their own constituencies as well. The Assembly is accountable to all its Member organisations and to the Department of Communities and Local Government.

In developing the draft RSS for the South West, the Regional Assembly worked closely with the region’s local authorities to develop its proposals and undertook extensive consultation with regional partners on the draft. The detailed evidence underpinning the strategy and the results of the consultation were reviewed in detail at the Examination in Public by the Independent Panel of Inspectors.

Evidence on the housing needed to address the acute issues of housing affordability in Cornwall and to meet the needs of Cornwall’s growing population has been key to determining Cornwall’s housing allocation. This evidence was fundamental both to the development of the draft South West RSS by the Regional Assembly and to the Secretary of State’s Proposed Changes to the RSS.

Housing figures are not derived from one model or set of projections. They are the result of the range of evidence and debate that has been considered through the process of preparing the Strategy and latest evidence about household growth in the region including:

· household projection

· the needs of the regional economy
· evidence about the affordability of housing
· the findings of the Sustainability Appraisal, Appropriate Assessment and other information about environmental capacity
· the likely impact on transport and other infrastructure, and
· evidence about the availability of suitable land.

The comments made in this petition will be considered along with all other representations made during the consultation process, before the final Regional Spatial Strategy for the South West is finalized for publication.

What a load of nonsense.

There is still time to make your feelings known. The ‘consultation’ continues until 24th October. Views can be sent through the link found on the Government Office for the South West website, by email to or in writing addressed to the RSS Team, GOSW, 2 Rivergate, Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6EH.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Lib Dem antics at County Hall

At a meeting today, the Liberal Democrat Executive of Cornwall County Council agreed their comments on the Secretary of State’s draft of the Regional Spatial Strategy.

They backed officer recommendations that they should object to the policy “relating to the provision and spatial distribution of waste sites and facilities” and to make representations to central government to get the policy changed.

In particular, they want to see changes to Policy W2 which states that ‘strategic’ waste management or disposal facilities should be sited within, on the edge of, or in close proximity to Strategically Significant Cities and Towns (SSCTs). The China Clay Area, where an incinerator is proposed, is not within a SSCT and the only areas covered by the designation in Cornwall are Truro-Falmouth/Penryn-Camborne/Pool/Redruth.

In advance of the meeting, I made representations to the Executive along with my fellow Restormel councillors Fred Greenslade (Liberal Democrat) and John Wood (Independent).

We noted that many people are already concerned about the fact that the County Council will be making the decision as to whether their own contractor SITA should be allowed to build an incinerator in St Dennis.

We were adamant that it was not appropriate for the ruling Lib Dem administration to seek blatant changes to the Regional Spatial Strategy in order to make it easier to grant themselves planning permission for an incinerator in Mid Cornwall.

Unsurprisingly, they did not listen to us!