Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Great editorial in Cornish Guardian

Today's Cornish Guardian also had a positive editorial in favour of a Cornish tickbox. It was as follows:

It may not be debated with the same fervour as Brexit or the same passion as changes to the NHS, but the campaign to to have Cornish identity recognised with a 'tick box' on the next census is an important one.

Cornwall has long been considered a Celtic nation, yet it continues to be treated as a second-class citizen compared to its cousins in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. 

All six MPs representing Cornwall in Westminster have campaigned for a Cornish tick box at the 2021 census and it now may be one step closer.

Steve Double, Conservative MP for St Austell and Newquay has secured an adjournment debate in Parliament on June 11 where the case for full recognition of Cornish national identity in the next national headcount will be argued.

While there are no guarantees that the Office of National Statistics will adhere to the words of our Cornish MPs, there is no denying that the current census options do not recognise Cornwall's unique identity and the overwhelming demand from Cornishmen and Cornishwomen to be recognised as a nation of people in their own right.

Pleased to welcome support of MPs for Cornish tickbox

In today's Cornish Guardian, my article praises Cornish MPs for their support for a Cornish tickbox on the 2021 census, and looks forward at what the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities should mean for Cornwall. The article is as follows:

Cornish 'tick box' is the least we can expect from census

It is more than four years since the Cornish were recognised as a national minority by the UK Government through the Council of Europe. It was a truly landmark decision. But central government has, thus far, failed to treat the Cornish in the same manner as other national minorities, such as the Scots and the Welsh, which it promised in 2014.

An Advisory Committee from the Council of Europe visited the United Kingdom in March 2016 and, last year, published an Opinion which was very critical of how the UK Government and other public bodies were complying with the articles of the relevant Framework Convention with regard to the Cornish,

I am optimistic that this situation will improve in the coming months, and it is to be welcomed that Cornish MP Steve Double has been appointed to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Mr Double himself has issued a serious and forthright statement about bringing his “Cornish credentials” to the organisation, adding that “it was the Council of Europe that granted ethnic minority status to Cornish people,” something he was “keen to ensure we make the most of.”

Cornwall’s MPs have thrown their weight behind the campaign to secure a Cornish tickbox on the next census, and they have secured an adjournment debate in the House of Commons to consider issues relating to Cornish identity and the 2021 census.

This is all very heartening, and I sincerely hope that the actions of local MPs also reflect a sea-change in the thinking of central government as a whole.

For the sake of Cornwall, we need to win those immediate and symbolic battles to (i) secure the tickbox to give us census parity with the other nationalities of the UK, and (ii) to protect Cornwall’s territorial integrity by preventing the creation of a cross-Tamar “Devonwall” parliamentary constituency.

But that can only be the beginning. There is so much to be done to ensure that the Framework Convention is acted upon and Cornwall gains from the national minority status of its people. As far as I am concerned this needs to include:

- Meaningful devolution to a Cornish Assembly, and the acceptance of Cornwall as a distinct national community for all forms of governance, administration and service provision.
- A formal presence for Cornwall at the British and Irish Council, where the other Celtic parts of the British Isles are already represented, along with the governments of Guernsey and Jersey.
- A Cornish Language Act, the return of the funding for our national language, and the enhanced teaching of Cornish.
- A distinct Cornish offering from the BBC, and other media outlets.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

My latest report to St Enoder Parish Council

Last night, I presented my most recent report to St Enoder Parish Council. It covered the time period: 26th March – 20th May 2018

Listed below are some examples of the work that I have been doing. Please note that this report is not exhaustive.

1. Council meetings

Over the last two months, I have attended a range of formal meetings, briefings and training sessions. These have included: Full Council, a pre-agenda session for Full Council, Cabinet (2), Economic Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee, National Minority Working Group, a workshop on the content of a Housing DPD (development plan document), meetings with local members from the China Clay Area (2), Group leaders’ meetings (2), one-on-one meeting with the Chief Executive, a training session on planning, and briefings on corporate parenting, the so-called garden village consented near Penwithick, parking, Project Genesis (developing neighbourhood policing for the future) and the stadium for Cornwall.

In the same period, as well as a number of informal meetings with council officers and others, I attended the St Enoder Parish Annual Assembly at which I tabled my annual report. I was also present at five meetings of St Enoder Parish Council and chaired the most recent meeting of the working group tasked with preparing the Neighbourhood Plan.

There was a further meeting between the operators of the pig farm at Higher Fraddon, and council (planning and environmental health) from the council, to discuss issues of odour.

2. Other meetings and activities

I have attended meetings of ClayTAWC (Training and Work Centre for the China Clay Area) (Chairman) and Indian Queens Pit (trustee), plus two meetings of the South and East Cornwall Local Action Group (one of which was the AGM) and the AGM of the St Piran Trust (trustee).

In addition, I went to the most recent meeting of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Leadership Board (as an observer). The Board considered the “New Frontiers” document, which I wrote about in a previous monthly report.

3. Highway matters

3a. Ongoing highway issues and present work programme

As noted in my last monthly report (March), the recent bad weather has caused a number of highway problems and I have been in regular contact with staff at Cormac. I have reported a host of potholes, many of which have been patched, and raised concerns about a number of areas where the road fabric is deteriorating (eg. The Drang, Carworgie Way, Pocohontas Crescent and Toldish in Indian Queens).

I can confirm that the following areas are in the resurfacing programme for 2018/2019:

- A392 from Newquay Road turning towards White Cross.
- Carnego Lane, Summercourt.
- Road from Melbur Blockworks towards Scarcewater.
- Trefullock Moor.
- Road from A3058 towards Trendeal, as far as the turning towards Goonabarn.
- Trevarren.
- Watery Lane from Black Cross.

In addition, I can confirm that both Carworgie Way and Pocohontas Crescent are already included within the 2019/2020 resurfacing programme, but I will be continuing to lobby for these improvements to be undertaken as soon as it is practicable.

Members will be aware that I have also reported a number of problem areas to the unitary authority, which are still being assessed for inclusion within the main works programme.

Three specific updates are as follows:

- Water rising through the pavement alongside Chapel Road, to the east of Queens Garage. I have been told that the scheme is on the “long list” for consideration, but it is deemed a low priority. It has been reported to me that “the site has been visited by the design group and the asset team individually on several occasions during heavy rain whilst in the area and problems were not witnessed.” This is contrary to my previous experience and, in future, I will be monitoring episodes of rising water in this location.

- Main road through Fraddon. Following a number of flooding incidents in Fraddon in 2013-2015, it was acknowledged that the unitary authority did not fully understand the state of the road drains. Principally this is because the main pipe lies in the centre of the road and there are no manholes which allow direct access into it. In March, Cormac undertook an investigation with trial holes. I have been informed that “the survey work identified a damaged section of pipe in the middle of the road. This has now been repaired, and no other defects have been identified.”

- Flooding at entrance to Gaverigan Manor and nearby road. This is an ongoing problem linked to a road ditch, that I have been raising concerns about for some two years. I am pleased to be able to report that it has just been confirmed that mitigation works will be progressed this year.

I am continuing to follow up a number of localised issues. These include flooding problems at Trefullock, and the need for white lines around Summercourt crossroads.

I can also report that a local resident from St Columb Road, who uses a motorised wheelchair, fell into the road because of the slope linked to dropped kerbs on the pavement on which he was travelling. Cormac’s local Highway and Environment Manager is investigating this issue.

The Highway and Environment Manager has also, following a request from me, removed a redundant sign opposite the doctors’ surgery in St Columb Road, and we are making representations that Fraddon, Indian Queens and St Columb Road are given greater priority in terms of future winter gritting routes.

3b. Community Network Highways Scheme

The unitary authority recently agreed that, for each of the next four years, £50,000 will be allocated to Community Network Panels for highways improvements in their areas. This has been welcomed by Cornwall Councillors, though it is a relatively small amount of money. In the China Clay Area, it will have to be spread across six individual divisions.

How we approach the scheme locally will be discussed at the next Network Panel meeting on Monday 4th June, though it has already been stated that Cornwall Councillors and Parish Councils will need to put forward suggestions in the very near future.

It is my hope that we can have a discussion about how we collectively approach this funding at Tuesday’s Parish Council meeting.

All my previous requests to the unitary authority are still listed with the relevant officers and could form the basis of our discussions. These may be summarised as follows:

- Speed reduction measures / traffic calming at Fraddon, Indian Queens and St Columb Road, which could include traffic calming measures at entry points, possible priority build-outs through the villages, as well as permanent VAS signs.

- Speed reduction measures / traffic calming in Summercourt, which could include traffic calming measures at entry points, possible priority build-outs, as well as permanent VAS signs.

- Traffic management measures to resolve congestion, accessibility, delivery and safety issues relating to the Co-op store in St Columb Road.

- Improved pedestrian phase to existing signalised junction at Summercourt crossroads, to improve safety and accessibility.

- Access improvements at Indian Queens Primary School, which were agreed when the planning permission was granted for additional classrooms. These measures include pedestrian crossing improvements and footpath links/improvements (eg. across field to Harvenna Heights). It needs to be stated that I am continuing to push for these works to undertaken outside of the scope of this Community Network Highways Scheme.

- 20 mph speed limit and related highway improvements outside Summercourt School.

- Traffic calming at New Road near Fraddon and at Sea View Terrace on the road to St Stephen.

In addition to the above, I can report that Cornwall Council has submitted a bid to central government to make improvements along the A3058 to the north of Summercourt. It has been with the Department of Transport for a number of months, but no response has been received.

3c. Speeding traffic

I have been liaising with Cormac about undertaking some additional monitoring of traffic speeds in a number of locations, and I will make my formal requests once the Parish Council has considered its approach to the Community Network Highways Scheme.

3d. Parking matters and parking enforcement

In recent months, I have served on the “positive parking” Inquiry Panel. Obviously much of the focus has been on car parks in Cornwall’s towns but enforcement matters have also been considered.

The Inquiry has agreed a recommendation to Cabinet that there be a more equitable distribution in terms of civic enforcement and I am due to attend a further meeting to make further representations to the relevant Cabinet Member on this point.

4. Changes to bus services through Summercourt

First has announced that it will be reducing the frequency of buses between Summercourt and Truro. It is two years since we were able to get buses back onto this route (following the collapse of Western Greyhound) and I am very disappointed that this is happening.

The Managing Director of First SW has responded to my queries and stated that the decision to reduce the number of buses is because are not enough passengers. In one email to me, he stated that following;

“Over a 37 week period from last summer through to February this year, the average number of passengers either boarding a 90 bus at Summercourt bound for Truro, or arriving back in Summercourt from the Truro direction, was 0.19 per journey – so less than 1 passenger boarding or alighting for every 5 journeys we routed through Summercourt on the 90 service to/from Truro.”

The full timetable for Summercourt-Truro services from Tuesday 29th May (including both First and Travel Cornwall), is as follows;

Monday to Saturday (except Public Holidays)

Departures from Summercourt (London Inn)
0700hrs Travel Cornwall service 497
0717hrs First Kernow service 92 (MF)
0810hrs Travel Cornwall service 497 (NSD)
0810hrs Travel Cornwall service 497 (S)
0930hrs First Kernow service 95
0935hrs Travel Cornwall service 497
1050hrs Travel Cornwall service 497 (S)
1130hrs First Kernow service 95
1235hrs Travel Cornwall service 497
1315hrs First Kernow service 95
1435hrs Travel Cornwall service 497 (NSD)
1435hrs Travel Cornwall service 497 (S)
1535hrs First Kernow service 95

Departures from Truro
1010hrs Bus Station First Kernow service 95
1147hrs Boscawen Street Travel Cornwall service 497
1210hrs Bus Station First Kernow service 95
1255hrs Lemon Quay Travel Cornwall service 497 (S)
1347hrs Boscawen Street Travel Cornwall service 497
1355hrs Bus Station First Kernow service 95
1615hrs Bus Station First Kernow service 95
1715hrs Bus Station First Kernow service 92
1730hrs Boscawen Street Travel Cornwall service 484
1804hrs Lemon Quay Travel Cornwall service 497

MF: Monday to Friday only
NSD: Monday to Friday during Cornwall School Holidays only
S: Saturday only

In speaking to the Managing Director of First, I have informed him that I will continue to seek information about how well the bus services are being used, so that I can lobby for as good a service as we can get.

5. Tidy-up of the Kelliers

I was also pleased to take part in the two “tidy-up” sessions for the top part of the Kelliers on 22nd April and 20th May. The amount of rubbish on the site was very significant and I would like to thank all parish councillors and volunteers who helped out.

On 22nd April, we filled a large skip but also collected approximately 140 tyres, some gas bottles and a fridge, which were collected by Cornwall Council.

It should be noted that dealing with the fly-tipping was the Parish Council’s responsibility, as it was on Parish Council land. However, as the vast majority of the waste had been dumped prior to the Parish Council securing ownership of the site, the unitary authority agreed to dispose of the tyres and gas bottles.

On 20th May, we filled a further skip and found another twenty tyres, two gas bottles and a cooker.

6. Vote on stadium

On 17th April, councillors voted by 69 votes to 41 to agree funding of £3 million towards the stadium for Cornwall. There were seven abstentions. I was pleased to support the investment and, for me, the starting point for the debate was a simple one. It is my view that it is shameful Cornwall does not have the same sporting facilities and venues that other parts of the United Kingdom take for granted.

In addition, I could see that the £3 million from Cornwall Council would lead to spend in the local economy of £8 million from local partners and a further £3 million from the UK Government.

The funds will come from the Economic Development Match Funding pot, which must be used to boost the local economy. I must admit that I was therefore frustrated that a number of councillors argued that “public” money should not be spent on “private” projects. As elected members, they were fully aware that a great deal of “public” money – especially from EU structural funds – is granted to local businesses, large and small, to create jobs and boost productivity.

I also felt that many opponents of the proposal downplayed the importance of the role of Truro and Penwith College, which is already a significant local centre for elite sport. A stadium on their doorstep will represent a fantastic advance for educational opportunities and for local youngsters with aspirations to do well in sport.

7. PCSOs

For than 15 months, I have been making representations about the planned reduction in Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and how this will impact on our area. I attended another meeting about “Project Genesis” at County Hall last week, when I made further comment about Clay Country and our need for PCSO coverage in our area.

I continue to be frustrated that we have yet to receive any commitments about future policing levels.

8. St Austell Story

The St Austell Bay Economic Forum (SABEF) has produced a narrative to promote economic regeneration in Mid Cornwall. SABEF is meant to cover not just the town but also the coast to the south as well as the whole of the China Clay Area.

As the name suggests, the main focus is on St Austell and reference to Clay Country is quite limited. My priority has been to speak up for the parishes of the China Clay Area, and I will be continuing to do this in the coming weeks and months, hopefully securing a stronger focus on the areas to the north and west of the town.

9. World War 1 project

The project is progressing well and a community engagement session as held on 21st April at Indian Queens Victory Hall. A number of people have supplied photographs of fallen servicemen in recent weeks. The two most recent ones were of William Nail, who was active within the congregation of Black Cross Methodist Chapel, and Albert Samuel Williams, who lived at Primrose Cottage at Toldish and whose father was a local councillor after the war.

10. Inquiries

During the last month, I have helped numerous people with guidance on a range of issues.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

In support of PCSOs

It is some fifteen months since I first wrote about the Police and Crime Plan (2017-2020) for the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, and raised significant concerns about the proposal to phase out more than half of the Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs).

At the time, we were informed that the number of PCSOs would be cut from 360 to just 150 across the whole of the force area (Cornwall and Devon).

It is well known that I am a strong supporter of PCSOs and really appreciate the fantastic work they do in our local communities. As I have written many times before, I consider that the officers have been very effective in their roles, understand local communities, and have strong working relationships with Parish Councils and other bodies.

Along with many other councillors, particularly my colleagues in the China Clay Area, I have repeatedly lobbied the Police and Crime Commissioner, Alison Hernandez, on this matter. And I was pleased when, at a Cornwall Council briefing (September 2017), Ms Hernandez indicated that she and the Chief Constable were going to review the reductions in PCSO number, which they suggested were actually too onerous.

I was therefore extremely disappointed to attend another update, last week, about the Neighbourhood Policing Review, now known as “Project Genesis.”

It was stated that the local police force had to react to “changing priorities,” but would retain the “ethos” of community policing and do nothing to undermine “connectivity” with local communities.

And yet, the presentation simply trotted the old line that the number of PCSOs would be cut to 150, and there was no confirmation about any lessening of staff cuts as previously stated by the Commissioner.

It remains my view that the loss of PCSOs would have a devastating impact on community policing, particularly in rural areas, and the key priority in the Police and Crime Plan of “Connecting Communities and Policing” would be massively undermined in many areas, including the parish that I am proud to represent as an elected councillor.

I have once again written to the Police and Crime Commissioner and asked her to rethink the PCSO cuts, and confirm that rural communities in particular will not lose out as a consequence of “Project Genesis.”

If you agree with me on this matter, please join me in making yet more representations to Alison Hernandez.

[This is my article in this week's Cornish Guardian].

Friday, 18 May 2018

Votes at 16!

Votes at sixteen is a campaign that I have always supported and I was pleased when the Scottish Parliament allowed 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the 2014 independence referendum. It was particularly heartening when the Parliament then legislated to lower the voting age for all subsequent Scottish elections (including local councils).

Last week, a (cross-party) private members’ bill to lower the voting age to 16 for parliamentary and other elections was presented to the House of Commons for its second reading.

I found myself in total agreement with the proposers of the bill – Peter Kyle MP (Labour), Norman Lamb MP (Liberal Democrat) and Nicky Morgan MP (Conservative) – who released the following statement:

“Opponents of reform have argued that 16 is an arbitrary age. However, in many crucial areas, such as in taxation, we already treat our 16-year-olds as responsible contributors to society. We grant economic rights without the correlating political rights. This should concern any democrat. And this is just one example. The experience from Scotland is that 16- and 17-year-olds are both capable and responsible enough to meaningfully engage with, and improve the vitality of, our democracy.”

Sadly, the Representation of the People (Young People’s Enfranchisement) Bill did not proceed as it was “talked out.” One MP even accused colleagues of a “corrupt and unfair filibuster” and demanded reforms into how private members’ bills are dealt with.

This is just one example of why I think that the democratic system of the United Kingdom needs a major overhaul, and it came just a few weeks after a series of “unrepresentative” results in the recent local elections.

We all know how at the 2017 General Election the Conservative Party secured 48% of the votes but won all six seats. In addition, there were many areas in England where the Conservatives won all – or nearly all – of the seats, while Labour was equally dominant in places such as South Wales, inner London and some metropolitan areas in the north.

But in London on 3rd May, there were three boroughs (Barking and Dagenham, Lewisham and Newham) in which all the elected councillors belonged to the Labour Party, leaving the local authorities with no opposition group or groups. Taking Lewisham as an example, Labour won all 54 seats on the Council with 52% of the popular vote, while the Greens (18.4%), the Conservatives (13.0%) and the Lib Dems (11.8%) did not win a single seat between them.

This cannot be right in a modern democracy.

[This is my article in this week's Cornish Guardian].

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Have your say on the "National Planning Policy Framework"

My article in today’s Cornish Guardian is as follows:

The UK Government is presently consulting on a revised version of the National Planning Policy Framework, which sets out its principal policies on planning. The consultation ends on 10th May.

The new version still contains something called a “presumption in favour of sustainable development,” which has been consistently criticised by numerous communities and a wide range of interest groups who feel that it has often led to “unchecked and damaging development.”

I share this view and note that the document still states the “presumption” should be “sufficiently flexible to adapt to rapid change.” But surely, rapid change is, more often than not, inherently unsustainable?

The revised NPPF also includes a new and top-down “standard method” to set out (higher) housing targets for council areas, and a Cornwall Council briefing has made it clear that “the scope for local influence over the target is very small to nil.”

I remain extremely frustrated at how Cornwall’s housing stock has been growing at a faster rate than almost all other parts of the United Kingdom and yet Whitehall continues to dictate that the rate of development should be ratcheted up still further.

For me, one of the key priorities is the provision of genuinely affordable local needs housing. But this has been undermined by the NPPF and there are no improvements in the revised version.

Definitions of affordable housing in the new draft NPPF do not include “social rents,” which have traditionally been charged for council houses and housing association properties. Instead, “affordable” rents or sales are defined as needing a 20% discount off market prices, which still leaves the homes ridiculously expensive. The document further includes a ridiculous definition of “starter home,” which is being promoted for families with a “household income” of up to “£80,000 a year.”

In addition, the NPPF states that affordable housing “should not be sought” on development sites of less than ten units, except in “designated rural areas.” I continue to be extremely frustrated at how the definition of “rural” is a total mess, and this has not been addressed by central government. It is a nonsense that in my local area of Clay Country, four of the five parishes are deemed “urban” while one has been defined as rural.

There are many further areas of concern. For example, local wildlife trusts are campaigning against the proposal to reduce protections for “local wildlife sites” which cover vast tracts across the country.

On behalf of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall, I will be sending a detailed submission to central government, and it is my hope that many other individuals and organisations will also be making representations.