Thursday, 30 March 2017

Speeches from MK councillors at today's Strategic Planning Committee

Matt Luke and I both gave speeches at today’s meeting of the Strategic Planning Committee (when the “eco-community” was approved). We are pictured looking out over some of the green fields which will now be lost.

The speeches  were as follows:

 Speech by Cllr Matt Luke

As the councillor for Penwithick and Boscoppa, I am here to put forward the views of local people.

The majority of the proposal lies within my division and I do not support this “eco-community” application. The vast majority of local people that I speak to are also opposed to the development.

I would refer councillors to paragraph 140 in the committee report. This states that there have been 1,179 letters of objection, but only three letters of support.

And even though the update report shows that there have been two extra letters of support, this is next to nothing – especially compared to the massive level of local opposition to the scheme.

There are a number of important issues that I would like to raise.

First, I am fed up being told this is a brown-field development. It is a fact that much of the housing will be on green fields to the south of Penwithick.

It is also the case that the existing landowner already has planning obligations to restore the clay workings in this area.

I am also very unhappy at the level of housing growth being forced onto the China Clay Area. It is so much greater than other parts of Cornwall. It is excessive and unsustainable. It is certainly not “eco.”

The development of this “eco-town” will also put great pressure on the local infrastructure, such as the NHS which is already creaking in the wider St Austell area. And the cars from 1,500 houses will increase congestion on local roads.

This development will change the very character of the local area, and I also share the concerns of local people about how the sewage might be dealt with.

It is unacceptable for the committee report to say that waste from the site will be “likely to go” to the Luxulyan treatment works. Sewage is a massive concern for residents and this lack of certainty is unacceptable.

Various documents have been produced by the promoters of the eco-town proposal over the last ten years. The documents made numerous promises about the environmentally-friendly nature of the development, “low-carbon living,” affordable housing and even cable-cars!

For example, in the past, the promise was for 40% to 50% affordable housing, but the present proposal is for only 30%.

I therefore cannot believe that any promises associated with this application will actually happen. I mean, of course, the commitments which relate to the school, the community hub, the open space and sewage treatment.

This outline application is full of “what-ifs,” and I do not think it should be allowed to go through.

I would ask you to refuse this application and, given the detail in the committee report, it is premature to entertain any thought of approving this scheme at this time.

I would like to return to the issue of affordable housing. I am disturbed that the residents of Treverbyn Parish would not have priority when the affordable units become available.

You will see that the proposed area for “local connection” extends from Summercourt to Roche, and all the way down to Par and St Blazey.

If you do support this proposal, I would ask that you make sure that a significant percentage of the affordable housing does go to those residents of Treverbyn Parish in housing need

After all, this development is in Treverbyn Parish, in the China Clay Area. Yet the repeated references to the St Austell Community Network Area in the committee report show that the needs of the China Clay Area have not been to the fore, when this application was being written up for approval.

Members. Would you be happy to see a development of 1,500 new properties – opposed by one thousand-plus letters – in your divisions? I doubt it.

Would you be happy to see such a development close to Looe or on the Roseland, for example? I doubt that as well.

It is equally inappropriate for the China Clay Area. Please have the courage to reject this application.

Speech by Cllr Dick Cole

It is well known that I have been a long-standing critic of the so-called “eco-community.” And I have found the whole manner, in which it has been brought forward, to be extremely frustrating.

In the summary on page 26 of the committee report, it is stated that “approval would be a genuine plan led decision.” I do not agree with this conclusion.

The “eco-community” has only been brought forward because a Westminster Government decreed that an “eco-town” should be built in Cornwall, in the Clay Area.

This was encoded in a Planning Policy Statement, titled “Eco-towns - A Supplement to PPS 1.” The existence of this top-down document meant that Cornwall Council had little option, other than to include the “eco-community” in the Cornwall Local Plan.

Members will also be aware that, following the cancellation of the PPS on St Piran’s Day 2015, Cllr Luke and I unsuccessfully attempted to persuade this Council to remove the “eco-community” as an allocation in that Local Plan. And last year, we made the same arguments at the resultant Examination in Public.

Here today, we are being consistent and true to our roots in Clay Country.

Members, when the PPS was cancelled, the Government Minister stated that the “eco-towns programme” had been a “total shambles” and was “unsustainable and environmentally damaging.”

I agree. It is just a shame that the same government has now rebranded this “eco” proposal in mid Cornwall as a garden village.

It will come as no surprise to you that I do not agree with the case officer that the merits of the scheme outweigh the harm. There is much which we should be concerned about.

Between 1991 and 2010, the China Clay Area experienced faster housing growth than any other part of Cornwall. According to Cornwall Council’s own figures, housing growth was a very significant 47%.

If the level of housing presently proposed for the China Clay Area in the Cornwall Local Plan (including the eco-community) was allowed to go forward, it would mean that the housing stock of Clay Country would increase by 82% over four decades (from 1991 to 2030).

This amount of new housing growth is not sustainable, and it represents a level of growth, much greater than other parts of Cornwall.

It would, for example, be three times that of the Cornwall Gateway CNA and significantly more than double that of a number of other areas including West Penwith, Falmouth & Penryn, and Wadebridge & Padstow.

I would add that I share the additional concerns raised by Cllr Luke in his contribution today about how (i) this development is largely on green-fields but continues to masquerade as a brown-field scheme, (ii) would have an adverse impact on the infrastructure of the local area, and (iii) the uncertainty over numerous elements of the proposed scheme.

As a democrat, I also give great weight to the fact that it does not have local support.

As already stated, more than one thousand representations have been received in objection to this proposal – from local people in places such as Bugle, Penwithick and Boscoppa. I am saddened that more weight has not been given to these objections.

It is my view that this planning application has influenced this Council’s emerging policy – for example, in the Allocations DPD – more than this democratic body has influenced the shape of the application in front of you.

There are two additional letters of support, which are referenced in the update sheet. But it is not like they are from residents in Carluddon or Scredda.

It is telling that one appears to be from a governmental representative in Switzerland, while the other is from this Council’s Director for Economic Growth.

This all seems to be about doing things to Clay Country – and never mind what local people think.

It is also the case that this application has been live for over two years and we have been waiting additional information. That information was only received a few weeks ago, and yet this application has been pushed through to this meeting with undue haste amid great uncertainty.

I see that there are also references to the new Technology Park near Carluddon. This development has been consented, the funding is in place, and work has started.

I object to the notion that this initiative somehow justifies the construction of 1,500 new properties in such a prominent location and, I say this as a archaeologist, within a landscape of significant historic interest.

In particular, I note that the Local Plan states that “all landscapes matter.” Reading the impact of the development on landscape and landscape character (page 101 onwards), it seems to show that this is not the case in Clay Country.

This is just one of the large number of adverse and potentially adverse impacts, which are most certainly not outweighed by any perceived benefits from the scheme.

To conclude, I would ask that you to reject this application today.

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