Saturday, 30 May 2015

Cornwall deserves better!

My article in next week’s Cornish Guardian looks at how the Queen’s Speech contained much about constitutional reform, but Cornwall was ignored … again! It will be as follows:

The first Queen’s Speech of the new Conservative Government contained much about constitutional reform.

There was, of course, the promised renegotiation of the “United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union” and an “in-out referendum on membership of the EU before the end of 2017.”

The Government outlined its commitment to further legislation to “secure a strong and lasting constitutional settlement, devolving wide-ranging powers to Scotland and Wales,” alongside other measures to boost the devolved structures in Northern Ireland.

It also set out a proposal for "English votes for English laws" at Westminster, while promoting a “Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill” which it says “paves the way for powers over housing, transport, planning and policing" to be devolved to large English cities and their hinterlands.

Sadly, but unsurprisingly, there was no specific mention of Cornwall.

We continue to hear a lot about devolution and localism from Westminster politicians, but I personally feel it is a sham.

A few months ago, the Prime Minister was in Cornwall promoting a local “growth deal.” David Cameron had a lot to say about “giving local communities the power and the money,” and he described the funding announcement as being about “genuine devolution.”

But the reality is that responsibility for the “growth deal” falls to the unelected and unaccountable Local Enterprise Partnership. And don’t forget, it was also around this time that central government did a U-turn and centralised administrative control over the next programme of EU funding away from Cornwall.

The unitary authority is promoting a “Case for Cornwall,” which it says “sets out details of the additional powers and freedoms we want from the new Government.”

But I am greatly disappointed by this document which is not ambitious enough for Cornwall. It did not make the case for a far-reaching new democratic settlement for our area, as has been delivered in Wales and Scotland. It simply seeks a few limited extra powers for our one principal local authority.

The document does not even seek to combat the influence of the growing number of unelected groups and boards, which are taking political and economic power away from those who have been elected democratically. Indeed, in places, it even suggests increasing the extent of this unaccountable quangocracy.

I believe Cornwall deserves better. And now is the time to put pressure on the unitary authority and Cornwall’s six MPs to demand they campaign for meaningful democratic devolution for Cornwall and the creation of our own National Assembly.

Monday, 25 May 2015

My latest report to St Enoder Parish Council

I normally prepare monthly reports for St Enoder Parish Council, but this did not prove possible in March and April due to other time constraints relating to my candidacy in the St Austell and Newquay seat at the General Election.

My report for tomorrow’s Parish Council meeting therefore covers the time period of 23rd February – 24th May 2015. It will be as follows:

1. Council meetings

I have attended a range of formal meetings over the last three months. These included: Full Council (2) plus an associated briefing, Strategic Planning Committee, Central Planning Committee, Planning Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) and two associated pre-agenda and preparatory meetings, Planning and Development Improvement Group, Constitution and Governance Committee, China Clay Area Network meeting, a group leaders meeting, the working group for the Council’s so-called “Case For Cornwall” (3), and a meeting about the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

I have also attended a significant number of meetings in relation to the biogas plant and pig farm at Higher Fraddon, and I was present at four days of the Examination into the Cornwall Local Plan. See below for more details.

In addition to the formal meetings listed above, I have had numerous meetings with council officers and others to discuss a range of issues.

2. A tribute to Dennis Harris

At the Cornwall Council meeting on 19th May, I pleased to able to lead the tribute to former Parish Councillor Dennis Harris. Other councillors who spoke were Malcolm Brown and Andrew Mitchell, who served with Dennis on Restormel Borough Council and Cornwall County Council respectively.

As we all know, Dennis was a great stalwart of this Parish for many decades, serving on St Enoder Parish Council for more than 40 years, Restormel Borough Council for 26 years and Cornwall County Council for 16 years. He was the Mayor of Restormel between 1988 and 1989, and when the Council was abolished he was rightly made an Alderman of the Borough.

A warm and gentle man, he also – amongst many, many things – served as a school governor, assisted Age Concern, helped raise funds for the RNLI, helped out with his local youth club, served on committees for Summercourt New Memorial Hall and the nearby Thomas Playing Field.

3. Other meetings

I also attended meetings of the St Austell Bay Economic Forum, the South and East Cornwall Local Action Group, and Governors at Summercourt Academy (3), as well as a number of meetings relating to the eco-town planned for the area between St Austell and Penwithick.

4. Penare Pig Farm, Higher Fraddon & associated biogas plant

I have continued to dedicate a significant amount of time to the issues relating to the development of the biogas plant at Higher Fraddon, and the re-development of the pig farm. In particular, I have chaired three meetings of the Higher Fraddon Community Forum (with members of the Higher Fraddon Residents’ Group and representatives of Cornwall Council, Greener for Life and the pig farm), along with numerous meetings with the Higher Fraddon Residents’ Group and individual residents.

I am becoming increasingly disappointed that Greener for Life fail to follow up on many of the action points from the Forum. Minutes from the meetings are available from the Clerk.

The next meeting has been provisionally arranged for Wednesday 10th June.

Cornwall Council has patched much of the road (from Fraddon Hill to the top corn, through residents are already reporting that the large lorries are damaging the new tarmacced areas.

The situation at the present time is that (i) the “regularising” application for the biogas plant has been submitted by Greener for Life and the consultation period is ongoing, (ii) the part-retrospective application for the pig farm has been submitted but at the time of writing has yet to be validated, and (iii) Greener for Life have given notice that they will be submitting a further application about their traffic movements.

These applications will certainly dominate the coming months and I have given local residents assurances that I will ensure Cornwall Council arranges a meeting for them to meet members of the Strategic Planning Committee.

5. Lack of buses in Summercourt
Since Western Greyhound ceased trading, I have been in regular contact with staff at the Council's “passenger unit,” concerning the fact that First’s service between Truro and Newquay does not stop in Summercourt. I have received numerous representations from local people on this matter and I have brought them to the attention of the unitary authority.

The problem is that east-bound buses need to turn around in Summercourt and to head out on the same road. Turning is no longer an option at the depot, which is in the hands of the receivers. The Council has explored alternative routes with First, such as via Brighton Cross or via St Enoder Churchtown and Narrow Lane to Fraddon, but because of the timings involved and the resultant need to restructure timetables, it has not proved possible to reach agreement.

I can however report that Cornwall Council has worked with Summercourt Travel to slightly increase the number of trips through its 497 service (to Truro via Ladock), which now leave from outside the London Inn.

I publicised the problems at April’s Full Council and I am continuing to put pressure on the Council to identify a separate piece of land within Summercourt, where the buses could turn around when travelling east, so that we can have an improved service through the village.

6. Planning

Planning continues to dominate civic life in St Enoder Parish and I have been actively involved with a large number of ongoing applications. Listed below are a few examples, though this list is by no means exhaustive:

- Solar farm at Burthy (PA13/05983)

Following the completion of the solar farm at Burthy, I have formally asked council officers to follow-up on the unilateral agreement signed by the landowner and applicant which stated that a community payment of £7,000 per MW of installed capacity would be paid within one month of the solar farm becoming operational.

- Land west of Kilburn, Fraddon (PA14/00882)

This application for twenty houses has not yet been signed off. I have complained about the manner in which it has been handled and I will report more at the June meeting.

- Site of the former John Julian Depository (PA14/09266)

The Section 106 agreement for this application is presently being finalised. It will include a payment towards the provision of open spaces / play equipment within St Enoder Parish.

- Phase 4 of Harvenna Heights (PA14/10417)

I have been liaising with Ocean Housing about a slight redesign of their affordable housing scheme to accommodate a safe access point for a potential footpath from the estate to Indian Queens School, as set out in the School’s traffic management plan. I have involved the School and Cornwall Council in this, but I am disappointed that I have made no tangible progress. It is likely that there will be a planning condition to safeguard the possibility of a link, but this has not been specifically designed into the scheme.

- Solar farm at Glebe Farm, Summercourt (PA14/12025)

The “extension” to the existing solar farm on the entrance into Summercourt was approved at the Strategic Planning Committee Meeting on 14th May. The applicant agreed to screening along the A30 and it has been confirmed that the annual Community Payment of £2,000 will come direct to the Parish Council.

- Development of Indian Queens Industrial Estate (PA15/00916)

This application was approved at the Strategic Planning Committee Meeting on 14th May. The vote was unanimous.

- Three turbines on Pines Tip, Fraddon (PA15/00955)

I have been keeping in regular contact with the case officer for this application and I will report the likely timetable for the committee meeting at our meeting.

- Nine new mobile home pitches at Pedna Carne (PA15/02430)

This application has been approved. I had received representations about the proposal but there were no planning policies which would merit a different decision.

- Three dwellings at School Lane, Summercourt (PA15/03068)

This application has been refused under delegated powers. Cornwall Council ruled that the location was inappropriate and no special circumstances to justify a different outcome.

- Large garage / store at Linton Rise, Summercourt (PA14/10939)
- Five dwellings at Cobble Lane, Fraddon (PA15/00763)
- 44 holiday lodges at Carvynick (PA15/01472)

Following objections from St Enoder Parish Council, I have referred the above applications to Cornwall Council’s Central Planning Committee.

- Retail development at Kingsley Village

An application has been submitted for the redevelopment of Kingsley Village, which newspaper reports state involve Marks and Spencer. I understand that this could include a large extension towards the residents of Penhale Cottages.

7. Cornwall Local Plan; Examination in Public

Last week, I spent a number of days at the Atlantic Hotel in Newquay, where key policies in the proposed Cornwall Local Plan were being assessed through a Public Examination.

At the Examination, a single Inspector is checking to see that the document is “sound” or – in others words – compliant with the policies of central government such as the National Planning Policy Framework.

The Local Plan contains a housing target of 47,500 new properties in Cornwall between 2010 and 2030, which is not popular with a growing number of people who are concerned at how their communities are changing beyond recognition.

And yet, at the Examination there was a large array of landowners, developers, planning agents and high-powered legal professionals using every opportunity to push for a significantly higher housing target. They even argued that more housing should be built to compensate for the loss of permanent homes to second homes.

At this stage, it is not possible know how the Inspector will rule and what changes he will insist are made to the document in the coming months.

8. Full Council; 28th April

This meeting agreed Cornwall Council’s Transport Plan, which set out a range of future schemes. I voted against the document as I considered it was not balanced geographically and did not include any schemes relating specifically to St Enoder Parish, such as the measures included in the traffic management plan produced in association with consented new classrooms at Indian Queens School.

9. Highways issues

I have also been in regular contact with officers from Cormac on a range of issues. This includes the partial patching of the road through Higher Fraddon and the problems caused by construction traffic relating to the solar farm at Burthy. It is my intention to give a more detailed update on highway issues in my next monthly report.

10. Newsletter

In March and the early part of April, I distributed a Parish-wide newsletter along with a booklet setting out the key findings of the questionnaire for the St Enoder Neighbourhood Plan. Thank you to everyone who assisted me with the deliveries.

11. Inquiries

Throughout the last three months, I have also helped numerous people and local organisations with advice and guidance on a wide range of issues.

12. My priorities

Along with my ongoing day-to-day work, I have identified three priorities for the next few months. These are as follows:

· The submission of a grant application to fund the ongoing work on the Neighbourhood Plan.

· Preparation of a scheme for the redevelopment of the play area in the Indian Queens Recreation Ground and associated grant applications. Part of the funding for this project could include monies from via the unilateral undertaking from the Burthy Solar Farm and the Section 106 agreement for the site of the former John Julian Depository.

· Submission of grant application for the planned community project which relates to St Enoder Parish and the First World War.

More on the "Local Plan" Examination

Now that the General Election is over, the Cornish Guardian has invited me to resume my weekly column. In this coming week’s edition, I comment on the recent Examination into the Cornwall Local Plan. It will be as follows:

Last week, I spent a number of days at the Atlantic Hotel in Newquay, where key elements of the proposed Cornwall Local Plan were being assessed through a Public Examination.

I have written before about my frustration at how the production of the Local Plan – the planning blueprint to guide future development in Cornwall up to 2030 – has been “guided” by onerous constraints imposed by central government.

And at the Examination, a single (up-country) Inspector is checking to see that the document is “sound” or – in others words – compliant with the policies of central government. These include the National Planning Policy Framework, which contains a “presumption in favour of development” and has been rightly described by many people – myself included – as a “developers’ charter.”

Amongst other things, the Local Plan contains a housing target of 47,500 new properties in Cornwall between 2010 and 2030, which is not popular with a growing number of people who are concerned at how their communities are changing beyond recognition.

And yet, last week’s Examination was addressed by a large array of landowners, developers, planning agents and high-powered legal professionals. These included representatives of the House Builders Federation, Wainhomes, Persimmon Homes, Eco-bos and many, many more.

They collectively spent much time trying to pick holes in the Council’s documentation, using every opportunity to push for a significantly higher housing target – so that they could build more and boost their profits. They even argued that more housing should be built to compensate for the loss of permanent homes to second homes.

At this stage, it is not possible know how the Inspector will rule and what changes he will insist are made to the document in the coming months.

But this initial stage of the Examination has reinforced my view that all decisions about planning and planning policy should be taken in Cornwall.

I believe this should include the production of a Cornish National Planning Policy Framework to replace Westminster’s NPPF, which would allow housing and other targets to be agreed locally without interference from central government.

It is my belief that this would also allow Cornwall to have a lower and more sustainable housing target, with development geared to meet local needs and planning policies that actually defend the Cornish countryside.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Cornwall Local Plan "Examination"

For the last two days, I have been in attendance at the Public Examination of the proposed Cornwall Local Plan, which has been taking place at the Atlantic Hotel in Newquay.

Individual topics covered today included the Council’s (not very popular) proposed housing target of 47,500 new properties between 2010 and 2030.

Surrounding the Council was a gaggle of developers, planning agents and legal representatives. These included the House Builders Federation, Persimmon Homes, Wain Homes, Eco-bos, Barton Wilmore, Boyer Planning, David Lock Associates, D2 Planning, Emery Planning, Smith Gore, Tetlow King, Origin 3, Savills and Stride Treglown … the list just goes on and on.

All the big companies and corporate representatives argued in favour of much higher housing numbers. The arguments included (i) the need for more housing to generate more “affordable” housing, (ii) the need for more housing because of “market signals” … don’t ask, (iii) the need for more housing for older people, (iv) the need for more housing to compensate for the loss of permanent homes to second homes …

Not feeling hopeful!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

No to Devonwall seat

As the leader of MK, I have written to Cornwall’s six Conservative MPs and challenged them to oppose any attempts to create a cross-Tamar “Devonwall” seat.

This follows the announcement from senior Conservatives that the redrawing of parliamentary constituency boundaries is “at the top of the agenda for the new Conservative government.”

The new Conservative government plans to action the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act, which would lead to a ‘Devonwall seat, but Cornwall’s MPs are in a position to ensure that the legislation is revisited and the creation of a cross-Tamar constituency prevented.

The territorial integrity of Cornwall – a historic Celtic nation – must be protected and our future MPs must serve constituencies that lie entirely within the boundaries of Cornwall (and the Isles of Scilly).

It is also the case that the Cornish people have been recognised as a ‘national minority,’ which reinforces why the historic border of Cornwall should be treated the same as the historic borders of Scotland and Wales when it comes to the delineation of new constituencies.

Further information

In 2011, the Coalition Government voted through the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act. It reduced the number of parliamentary constituencies across the UK from 650 to 600 and sought to ensure that (almost) all seats had a population of within 5% of the average constituency size.

A consequence of the legislation was that it would lead to a cross-Tamar Devonwall seat. The boundary changes did not happen prior to the General Election because of a fall-out within the Coalition and the implementation of the Act was delayed until after 2015.

According to the Boundary Commission website, the Commission currently plans to formally begin working on the next review in the spring of 2016, with the intention of submitting its final recommendations to central government by the early autumn of 2018.

Friday, 8 May 2015

The result in St Austell and Newquay

It was a privilege to represent MK in the St Austell and Newquay seat in the 2015 General Election, and to be able to work with such a wonderful team of fantastic and committed people, who have Cornwall’s best interests at heart. I believe that, together, we ran a good campaign. Our literature was good, the hustings went well, we worked hard and the feedback was extremely positive and yet, as in the 2010 General Election, this did not translate into a significant vote.

I came sixth and I am disappointed that I only polled a total of 2,063 votes, up slightly on the 2,007 votes I achieved in 2010, but down 0.2% in terms of the share of the overall vote at 4.1%.

I would like to sincerely thank everyone who supported me with their votes. I so wish that I could have achieved a better result for you all, but it remains my view that our biggest problem remains our inability to secure meaningful coverage on regional and UK-wide television – the medium which has the biggest impact on General Elections.

In my home parish of St Enoder Parish, which I am proud to represent on Cornwall Council, I managed 20%–25% of the vote, which equates to around 500 votes. Thank you to everyone in Fraddon, Indian Queens, St Columb Road and Summercourt, who supported me.

I also polled over 20% in the Trethurgy area, where I have been out-spoken in my opposition to the eco-town, and 17% in St Dennis, where I am well-known for my work against the incinerator. And again, I thank the people of these areas for putting their faith in me, but in many other places across the constituency, the MK vote was quite limited.

It is my intention to take the weekend off. In a few days, I will comment more about the outcome of the General Election, MK’s overall performance, the nature of the new Government, and MK's plans for the future,

My gratitude to everyone who supported the campaign.

Thursday, 7 May 2015


Polling day has arrived.

Please use your vote to demand a better deal for Cornwall and to send a shockwave through the political establishment, by backing your local Mebyon Kernow candidate. Thank you.

Good luck message from the EFA

Mebyon Kernow has received numerous messages of support for today’s General Election, including the European Free Alliance which has produced this rather nice poster.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The final day of the campaign

The final day of campaigning for the 2015 General Election has been quite positive from my perspective and that of MK.

As well as meeting a number of people who confirmed they will be voting MK, I have received many messages of support via email, facebook and, of course, the good-old telephone.

Also this morning, Radio Cornwall featured an interview with me as one of the “Party Leaders,” while this evening I was featured on ITV Westcountry. The piece focused on the refusal of Ofcom and the BBC Trust to allow MK a Party Election Broadcast. A short section of the broadcast was shown which at least gave some hint at what we stand for.

Publicity in the print media for the St Austell and Newquay constituency has also been positive. The St Austell Voice and Newquay Voice has been doing in-depth articles with the candidates over the last six weeks and my interview appeared today.

I hope all this will have a positive impact on any undecided voters.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

MK ignored by BBC Newsnight

BBC Newsnight tonight featured a segment from the St Austell and Newquay seat. It had been recorded in April.

It included content relating to Cornish nationalism and the strength of the Liberal Democrats. Kernow King was interviewed and film of the Gorsedh proclamation in St Austell was included. In spite of the content, MK did not even merit a mention – even though Conservative, Lib Dem and UKIP did!

What really upsets me is that I had been contacted to take part through my position as leader of Mebyon Kernow, but I was dropped. They stated that they had decided not to feature any politicians, but just a selection of local people. 

And then tonight, the film was followed by a discussion with a prominent Liberal Democrat politician.

You couldn't make it up.

Mebyon Kernow makes it onto ITV regional news … just

You may have noticed that the headlines of the regional ITV news at 6.00 stated “and Cornwall’s own political party criticises broadcasters for denying it airtime.” 

You may also have noticed there was no further mention of MK on the programme.

I was actually at Wadebridge, ready to do a live interview for the programme with reporter Bob Constantine. Sadly ITV’s mobile equipment let them done at the last minute and connection to the main studio was lost.

Mr Constantine did however film a formal interview, which he said could be edited into a piece to be broadcast tomorrow. 

Monday, 4 May 2015

SNP and Plaid Cymru back MK call for a PEB

Senior politicians from the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru have called on the BBC Director-General to allow Mebyon Kernow - the Party for Cornwall a Party Election Broadcast (PEB).

The move came as the BBC persisted in disallowing the Cornish party from having even a regional level broadcast despite the UK formally recognising “the distinct identity of the Cornish people” through the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

Michael Russell MSP (SNP), the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, and Dafydd Trystan, the Plaid Cymru Chairman, wrote directly to BBC Director-General Tony Hall and the Chair of the BBC Trust Rona Fairhead in support of fair coverage for MK.

Mr Russell said: “As a former SNP Chief Executive involved in the long struggle for fair treatment by the BBC in the matter of Party Election Broadcasts, I recognise, alas, that the BBC's failure to grant Mebyon Kernow - the Party of Cornwall - a PEB during the current General Election is sadly symptomatic of the BBC's continuing inability to fully understand, respect and respond to the current realities of political, linguistic, and geographic diversity in our islands today.”

“Given that Cornwall has this [national] status it should therefore be accorded the same status as Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, when deciding how PEBs are allocated. According to the BBC a registered political party which stands candidates in a minimum of one sixth of the seats up for election in a nation will qualify for one party election broadcast in that nation. MK are standing in all seats in Cornwall.”

The call was immediately backed by Plaid Cymru with the Party Chairman, Dafydd Trystan, also writing to the BBC along with several other members of Plaid Cymru.

In addition, several European autonomist parties have written in support of MK along with the President of the European Free Alliance, Francois Alfonsi.

Thanks to my campaign team

Thanks to everyone who has been out on the campaign trail in the St Austell and Newquay seat today. I am chuffed that so many people came out and supported me in places including my home parish of St Enoder, but also Foxhole, Newquay, Penwithick, Roche, St Austell, St Columb and Trewoon.

Pictured above is this morning's Penwithick team.

I am also extremely grateful to everyone who has been helping me throughout the last week in Bugle, Nanpean, Par, St Blazey, St Dennis, St Stephen, Treviscoe and more.

All the help is so appreciated.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Latest media update

Media coverage of the General Election over the last few days included two features on the Radio 4 Today programme. The first was titled “Camborne and Reduth: Candidates hope to improve marginal’s future,” broadcast on 27th April. The second was titled “Cornwall: Isolation of the South West,” broadcast on 1st May.

Neither programme even mentioned Mebyon Kernow, which is just plain unacceptable.

In terms of the state-wide newspapers, the only mentions of MK seem to relate to the incident involving the Labour candidate Michael Foster.

Also unbelievably unacceptable.

I can report however that I have been contacted by ITV – after significant pressure from MK – who have agreed to film a short piece which, I understand, will be broadcast on Tuesday.

Such limited coverage is poor, but I will nonetheless try to make the best of it.

Some fair election coverage

In recent weeks, I have made numerous comments about the lack of meaningful press coverage being afforded to the MK General Election campaign on regional television and the mainstream ‘London-centred’ print media … more on that in a little while.

But I must also record that we have received reasonably fair coverage on Radio Cornwall and in local newspapers. I was particularly pleased with this week’s Cornish Guardian and its report on the recent hustings at Penrice Academy.