Thursday 16 July 2009

The eco-town announcement

The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) today confirmed that Imerys’ proposal for a 5,000-property eco-town (spread over six different sites around St Austell and the China Clay Area) has been given the go-ahead.

As a prominent critic of the whole process, it will surprise no-one I consider that the undemocratic and top-down nature of the decision undermines the integrity of the local planning process.

At this time, we are waiting to see if central government will continue to push for 15,700 new properties to the built in the former Restormel area over the next twenty years. If this target is not reduced, it could mean that we would be expected to accommodate up to 10,000 new houses in and around St Austell. That is not sustainable and it is not about meeting local needs.

In the government’s mind, it appears that this inappropriate level of housing and the imposition of the eco-town are inextricably linked. Indeed, today’s announcement could make it more difficult to reduce the planned level of house-building in Mid Cornwall.

It remains my view that it is wrong for central government to decide development priorities in Cornwall. Local people and their democratically-elected politicians should be able to decide how much housing is built, where it is constructed and what sites are redeveloped for employment land.

I have always fully accepted that certain parts of the eco-town proposal do have merit. But I believe that these sites should have been assessed in competition with all other possible development proposals in St Austell and the China Clay Area as part of a local planning process with the appropriate development promoted in the agreed locations – not imposed by Whitehall mandarins and Government ministers.

Tuesday 14 July 2009

Government of Cornwall Bill

Liberal Democrat MP Dan Rogerson today tabled a ‘Government of Cornwall’ Bill in the House of Commons.

Dan’s call for powers to be devolved to Cornwall and the very concept of a ‘Government of Cornwall’ Bill is to be welcomed. It is our hope that this will help to reinvigorate the debate about the need for a Cornish Assembly.

Sadly, the bill is flawed and fails to understand or make any distinctions between regional government for Cornwall and local government. The Bill proposes that powers equivalent to the Welsh Assembly should be transferred to the new Cornwall Council which would somehow also continue as a local council.

The reality is that Cornwall’s new unitary authority is a local government body – no different in legal terms, for example, to the 22 unitary councils which operate in Wales beneath the Welsh Assembly.

It makes no sense for the functions of local government (Cornwall Council) and regional government (Cornish Assembly) to sit within one body.

Cornwall needs the greatest devolution possible to a powerful Cornish Assembly (pulling down powers from regional quangos and central government) AND democratically-elected local government, delivering good quality public services.

Monday 13 July 2009

I'm back

Once again, I have not blogged for a week or two. Part of the reason is that I did slope off to West Wales for a week to enjoy a ‘well-earned’ break to recover from the election campaign and all that went before it.

As far as Cornwall Council is concerned it is still meetings, meetings and yet more meetings. For tomorrow, it has even been suggested to me that I slice myself up into a number of chunks in order to attend all the meetings that I have been invited to.

I had been hoping to attend the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (10.00) and a briefing on Day Centre changes (1.15-2.15). I was then placed onto the Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education which had a training session (10.00) and then a formal meeting (2.00) – also both on the same day. But what I will actually be attending is a Homes and Communities briefing from 9.30-4.00.

Today it was a little less fraught. I took the opportunity to take an officer from the Highways Section around St Enoder Parish in order to point out the wide range of issues that had been identified in the Parish Plan and which need to be acted upon. The day finished with our second briefing on waste and the work that we need to do to deliver a strategy for dealing with it appropriately and sustainably.

More news and comment soon.