Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year

As we edge ever closer to the festive break, I would like to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

I would also like to thank all those people who have been supportive of my work throughout 2015, as both the councillor for St Enoder and as the leader of Mebyon Kernow.

I can assure you all that I am most grateful for the help and encouragement I have received. It is much appreciated.

Nadelik lowen ha blydhen nowydh da.

Blogging will recommence early in January.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Higher Fraddon latest ... meeting with Highways England

Following the deferral of the planning applications for the biogas plant at Higher Fraddon – partly to explore an alternative access to the site from the A30 – a meeting was held with Highways England at the Cornwall Council Offices at Bodmin on Monday.

Present at the meeting were two representatives of Highways England (Alexis Field, Sally Parish) and one from their contractors Kier (Dave Ewings), three representatives from Cornwall Council (Nigel Doyle, Jeremy Edwards and Jim Holt) as well as Steve Double MP and his wife Ann, Dan Johns from the pig farm (plus a planning consultant for JMW Farms Ltd; Russell Dodge), David Manley (Greener for Life) and two representatives from the Higher Fraddon Residents Group; Anne Woolcock and Bella McCarthy.

Anne and Bella are pictured below, just before the meeting, with a petition of over 700 names calling for a new access off the A30.

I was also there and chaired the ninety minute session.

At the meeting, the representatives of Highways England made it clear that they considered the A30 to be an important corridor to promote economic growth, which they wished to turn into an “expressway.” They also made clear to us that they were not keen for additional junctions to be created.

They did however acknowledge that new junctions could be allowed in very exceptional circumstances, but advised that any justification would be very, very difficult to achieve.

In spite of the Highways England view on a new access, they agreed to send additional information about its approach to the trunk road network to local representatives.

Attendees at the meeting also discussed a range of issues relating to traffic and the biogas plant, and we will be reporting back in detail at the next meeting of the Higher Fraddon Community Forum.

This will take place on Wednesday 13th January at Kingsley Village and all are welcome.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Cornwall Council to end contract with BT

Some good news for Christmas … The High Court has ruled that the unitary authority will be allowed to scrap its contract with BT to run IT, human resources and other services.

There will be much to read and digest in the coming weeks, but Mr Justice Knowles has apparently ruled that BT “faced problems of its own making” and did not provide “the service it had promised to the standard it had promised.”

I am proud of the fact that all MK councillors on Cornwall Council opposed the outsourcing in 2012 and recent events show that we were clearly right to do so.

More comment to follow.

But for those interested in recalling what happening three years ago, please visit:

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Cornwall already has less elected representatives than other parts of UK

On 23rd November, I wrote about how three representatives of the “Local Government Boundary Commission for England” (sic) came to Cornwall and informed councillors that we had to undertake an immediate boundary review (ie. number of councillors and ward boundaries) for the 2017 council elections.

This was in spite of the fact that the so-called “devolution deal” between Cornwall Council and central government included the following:

“Cornwall Council will take forward a council boundary review. The boundary review is expected to reduce the number of local councillors and will be taken forward by the Boundary Commission. This review will commence in 2017.”

At Tuesday’s Full Council meeting, it was agreed to set up a cross-party panel to undertake the work and I will be MK’s representative on the body.

Councillors across the chamber are extremely upset about the rushed review that will no ensue.

And I am also saddened at the initial wave of press coverage, which is factually challenged and very demeaning of the role and work of Cornwall Councillors.

Graham Smith writing in the Cornish Guardian made the ridiculous statement that: “The size of Cornwall Council, which has 123 councillors, has been a cause for concern … the Welsh Assembly has only 60 members and the Scottish Parliament is not much bigger than Cornwall Council, with 126 (sic).” There are actually 129 MSPs.

First, this is a ridiculous comparison as the unitary authority is most certainly a parliament or an assembly, and the reality is that Cornwall (population 535,000) has less councillors than most other areas.

Prior to the creation of the unitary authority, Cornwall had 331 councillors on principal local authorities. It now has only 123.

Scotland (population 5.3 million) has 1,222 principal authority councillors, while Wales (population 3.1 million) has 1,254 councillors on its 22 unitary authorities.

The contrast with the local government arrangements in the neighbouring English counties of Devon and Somerset is also very stark. Devon (population 1.4 million) has 492 councillors, while Somerset (population 913,000) has 425 councillors.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The Sky Tip is safe ... please allow me to be cynical!

The future of the Sky Tip has been well covered in today’s local newspapers (Cornish Guardian and St Austell Voice), following a splurge of publicity from Eco-bos – the firm which wishes to build the so-called eco-community at West Carclaze and Baal.

Eco-bos have “confirmed” that the Sky-Tip is safe and will not be removed as part of the development.

To be exact, a spokesman for the firm actually said:

“I am aware of the speculation around the future of the Sky Tip but to be absolutely clear Eco-Bos has never proposed removing the Sky Tip so its future is not in doubt … Sky Tip is and always has been staying as part of the West Carclaze regeneration – not only to reflect the area's mining history but as the focal point for our exciting proposals for a major new heritage park."

To state that Eco-bos has “never proposed removing the Sky Tip” is untrue.

In 2014, there was a consultation about the “eco-community” from Cornwall Council and Eco-bos. There were three scenarios which included the “modification or relocation of the Sky Tip.”

Scenario 1 stated: “Sky Tip removed, and new sculpted landscape feature located on top of West Carclaze Mica Dam; becoming land sculpture public open space.”

Scenario 2 stated: “Sky Tip retained, transformed to improve safety for ease of public access and sculpted to provide a new viewpoint.” To translate – this meant that it would be levelled and a landscape reprofiled so that the Sky Tip would not be recognisable.

Scenario 3 stated: “Sky Tip removed, and new sculpted landscape feature located on top of West Carclaze Mica Dam; becoming land art integrating a recreation hub and viewpoint.”

To see for yourselves, why not visit:

It is probably more important to remember that Cornwall Council has agreed, as reported recently,  to modify its Local Plan to ensure that the “provision of eco-communities at West Carclaze & Baal and Par Docks [will be] led by a masterplan and design code” to include the “retention of the Sky Tip and other distinctive landscape features as part of the green infrastructure of the site.”

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

MK councillors fail to get "eco-community" removed from Local Plan

At today’s Cornwall Council meeting on the Local Plan, I moved an amendment that the so-called “eco-community” allocation for West Carclaze and Baal be removed from the document.

The amendment was seconded by Cllr Matt Luke, who represents the Penwithick area where the “eco-community” would be built.

I was extremely disappointed that my amendment was only supported by eight councillors. These were the four MK councillors; Loveday Jenkin (Crowan & Wendron), Andrew Long (Callington), Matt Luke (Penwithick & Boscoppa) and myself (St Enoder), plus four independents; Bert Biscoe (Truro Boscawen), Des Curnow (St Stephen), Sandra Heyward (St Austell Gover) and Loic Rich (Truro Tregolls).

I still consider that the arguments made by Cllr Luke and I were compelling, but they achieved no real traction with the wider membership of Cornwall Council.

My contribution to the debate was as follows:

As one of the members for the China Clay Area, I would wish to move the amendment to remove the allocation of an eco-community at West Carclaze and Baal; and ask that officers are delegated to redistribute the 1,200 properties pro-rata across all 19 networks.

I will acknowledge that this amendment was not supported at the Planning PAC. But for a number of us in the Clay Area – as long-standing opponents of the eco-town – this is about being boringly consistent.

The “eco-community” proposal was included in the Local Plan because central government included a St Austell “eco-town” in a Planning Policy Statement. 

But that PPS was cancelled on 6th March “for all areas … except north-west Bicester.”

The inspector also queried what the Council was trying to achieve with the allocation.

This, I believe, means councillors can legitimately reconsider whether the proposed development near Penwithick is appropriate.

I believe it is not.

The level of housing development in the Clay Area has been very high. 

And if the level of housing proposed for Clay Country (including the eco-community) does go ahead, the housing stock of our area would increase by 87% between 1990 and 2030.

This is excessive. It will, for example, be three times the level of housing growth experienced in South East Cornwall and more than double compared to a number of other networks including West Penwith, Falmouth & Penryn, and Wadebridge & Padstow.

I would add that, when the China Clay Area Network met in October, it was unanimous in asking the unitary authority to withdraw its backing for the "eco-community."

Please support the amendment and ensure a fairer, more equitable distribution of the housing target.

In his contribution to the debate, Cllr Matt Luke told the meeting that there was “significant local opposition to the development of over one thousand extra houses in an area that has already had higher housing growth than any other part of Cornwall.”

In particular, he pointed out that the present application for an “eco-community” had been opposed by over 1,000 people, two local parish councils and St Austell Town Council.

But it was all to no avail, though the revised Local Plan does contain additional constraints as I outlined in my blog of 13th December.

Changes to Cornwall Local Plan agreed

A revised draft of the Cornwall Local Plan was agreed at today’s Full Council meeting.

As readers of this blog will know, a submission draft of the document was presented to central government earlier this year and a single Government Inspector, Simon Emerson, was appointed to review the proposed planning policies at an Examination in Public (EIP).

The first stage of the EIP took place in May, when Mr Everson ruled that the Examination be suspended so that elements of the document could be rewritten.

Today’s meeting basically agreed those changes, as instructed by Mr Everson, with the headline housing target now being 52,500 based a new FOAN (Full Objectively Assessed Need.

Councillors from across the Chamber voted to agree the changes to the document, because frankly that was all they could do.

However, I proposed that the “eco-community” allocation be removed from the document, and the housing reallocated to other parts of Cornwall, but my proposal was defeated overwhelmingly.

I will cover this in more detail in another blog later tonight.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Cornwall has the lowest economic performance of any nation in UK

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has just released the latest GVA (gross value added) figures, which record economic performance across the UK.

For those who want a better understanding of GVA, it is the “measure of the growth of national income. It is measured by adding up the income generated by individuals and businesses in the production of goods and services, including the effects of inflation, but excluding taxes such as VAT.”

These latest figures are for the year 2014 and show that Cornwall has the lowest economic performance of any nation in the United Kingdom.

In 2014, England had a GVA per head of £25,367, which was 103.1% of the UK average, followed by Scotland with a GVA of £23,102 (93.9%). Doing less well were Northern Ireland and Wales, with GVA figures of £18,682 (75.9%) and £17,573 (71.4%) respectively.

By comparison, the figure for Cornwall (including the Isles of Scilly) was only £17,278, which was 70.2% of the UK average.

Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly is also one of forty “NUTS2 sub-regions,” and it is the 38th worst-performing, only doing better than the Tees Valley & Durham and West Wales & the Valleys.

Also, very worryingly, the latest ONS bulletin stated: “GVA per head increased in 39 of the 40 NUTS2 sub-regions … the only sub-region not to increase was Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly, where GVA per head decreased by 0.1%.”

Figures from the ONS also show that the United Kingdom has the greatest regional disparity of any country in the European Union, with the GVA in the Inner London (West) NUTS2 sub-region recorded at £123,406 per head – seven times that of Cornwall.

It is my view that these statistics show that Cornwall has been failed by the economic policy, and investment priorities, of the Westminster Government, which has repeatedly failed to address the massive economic inequalities between the regions and nations of the UK.

These GVA figures should unite people of all political persuasions to put real pressure on central government to agree an Economic Fairness Act to ensure Cornwall gets it fair share of government investment.

[This will be my article in this week’s Cornish Guardian.]

Campaign to save the sky-tip … UPDATE

The petition to safeguard the sky-tip near Penwithick (which has been under threat from the proposed development of a so-called eco-community) secured great deal of publicity last week.

It ranged from the Daily Mail through to Radio 5live and Radio Cornwall.

Much of the coverage was factually challenged, with the Daily Mail even headlining: “Could Cornish slag heap become a Unesco site? Campaigners fight to get 'landmark' recognised after plans threaten to flatten it …”

I was quoted by the Daily Mail, though they did not speak to me. They reused a statement from 18 months ago, which was: “I cannot comprehend this sudden desire to wreck such an important part of the industrial heritage of mid Cornwall and, to be frank, it saddens me greatly. Make no mistake, the destruction of the sky-tip is unacceptable and we must do all that we can do to stop such cultural vandalism.”

Readers of this blog will know that I attempted to have the “eco-community” removed from the Cornwall Local Plan at the last meeting of the Planning Policy Advisory Committee.

Supporters of the scheme did however acknowledge that there needed to be stronger controls over the development, including the protection of the sky-tip.

Text has been added to the Cornwall Local Plan, which will be debated at Tuesday’s meeting of Full Council.

The new text includes the following:

Policy 3 …

The provision of eco-communities at West Carclaze and Baal [and Par Docks] led by a masterplan and design code that will set out the framework for the development and reflect the aspiration for environmental quality, including the delivery of all of the following alongside the other policies of this plan:

- 30% affordable housing and 5% self and/or custom build housing; 

- Improved access to public transport and non-car travel modes.

And for the West Carclaze and Baal sites:

- Provision of employment space, Carluddon technology park and space for further economic growth;
- The provision of a new local centre to include facilities for health, neighbourhood shopping, community facilities and a new primary school;
- Strategic scale open space with public access and trails linking into existing networks as part of green infrastructure improvements;
- The retention of the Sky Tip and other distinctive landscape features as part of the green infrastructure of the site;
- Demonstrate high levels of energy efficiency in the fabric of buildings on the site;
- Strategic Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems to reduce flood risk on and beyond the site;
- Meeting all of the regulated energy requirements of the development from renewable and low carbon sources on or near to the site;
- Provision of low carbon heat via a heat network with consideration given to sourcing that heat from geothermal resources within the vicinity of the site; and
Sites for the eco-communities will be identified through the Site Allocations DPD.

For information, I will still be opposing the eco-community at this Tuesday’s meeting.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

The Local Plan at Cabinet

Today, Cornwall Council’s ruling (Independent / Liberal Democrat) Cabinet considered the latest draft of the Cornwall Local Plan – see my blog from 17 November for more information.

I took the opportunity to invite the ten members of the Cabinet to remove the so-called “eco-community” allocation (for West Carclaze and Baal) from the document, and reallocate the housing to other parts of Cornwall.

As with the recent PAC meeting, I reminded councillors that:

- An “eco-community” proposal had been included in the Cornwall Local Plan because central government had included a St Austell “eco-town” in a Planning Policy Statement. But since the PPS has recently been withdrawn, councillors could legitimately reconsider whether the allocation was appropriate.
- If the level of housing proposed for the China Clay Area (including eco-community) was allowed to go forward, it would mean that the housing stock of Clay Country would increase by 87% over four decades (from 1991 to 2030).
- The “live” application for a 1,500 unit eco-community does not have local support. It has been opposed by over 1,000 representations, two local parish councils and St Austell Town Council.
- Last month, the China Clay Community Network Area had written to Cornwall Council seeking that the unitary authority withdraw its backing for the "eco-community."

Sadly, no-one on the Cabinet took up my challenge and argued against the "eco-community."

The document will now be referred to Cornwall Council on 15th December.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

MK cannot support air strikes on Syria

The leadership team of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall has today issued a statement setting out its opposition to British air strikes on Syria.

This follows the announcement that the Westminster Parliament will today be debating whether British forces take part in further air strikes against ISIL.

The statement is as follows:

“We unreservedly condemn the unforgivable attacks from ISIS, which are truly barbaric, but consider that air strikes are likely to prove to be counter-productive.

“Such attacks would inevitably lead to yet more civilian casualties and refugees, and do little to end the civil war in Syria. The air strikes could even lead to a further escalation of terrorism around the globe, make the UK a much less safe place and even more susceptible to attacks.

“It is telling that MPs on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee have also concluded that the Prime Minister has ‘not adequately addressed concerns’ raised by MPs in its recent report on the UK’s approach to Syria.

“We would fully support international efforts to tackle ISIS through other means, such as undermining their oil sales and reducing its financial strength, while restricting its access to arms.

“We also support a political solution to secure a peace deal for Syria and the wider area, which could then lead to wider plan for the reconstruction of the region.

“At the same time, we would appeal to the Prime Minister not to repeat the mistakes of past military interventions, such as in Afghanistan and Iraq.”