Tuesday, 22 October 2019

My latest monthly report to St Enoder Parish Council

At tonight’s meeting of St Enoder Parish Council, I tabled my most recent monthly report. It covers the time period 23rd September – 20th October 2019. It is as follows:

Listed below are some examples of the activities that I have been involved with over the last month. Please note that I was on holiday between 3rd and 13th October (inclusive).

1.0 Council meetings and related activities

I have attended a number of formal meetings and briefings at Cornwall Council, which were dominated by the Electoral Review Panel. As well as an all-day panel meeting, there were two associated preparatory / review meetings with officers and five public meetings (at Liskeard, St Austell, Tregadilett (for the wider Launceston area), St Issey (for the wider Wadebridge and Padstow area) and Truro). I also had a number of meetings with senior officers about highway improvements near Indian Queens School. Other meetings included a preparatory session for the Environment Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee about an upcoming inquiry into private sector housing and the Cornish National Minority Working Group. As the leader of the Mebyon Kernow group on the authority, I had separate meetings with the Council’s Chief Executive and Monitoring Officer about the authority’s future priorities.

There have also been informal meetings with a range of officers at the unitary authority and I have attended a meeting of St Enoder Parish Council.

Further information about some of these meetings is included later in this update report.

2.0 Other meetings and local activities

During the last month, I also attended two meetings of ClayTAWC (Clay Area Training and Work Centre) (chairman) and a single meeting of the St Austell Bay Economic Forum (board member).

3. Road safety, traffic and related issues

3.1 Indian Queens School

3.1.1 New pathway to School from Harvenna Heights estate

As reported previously, I managed to get agreement in principle that a new pathway is to be constructed across the field to the west of the School. It is planned that a large proportion of the field will be fenced off for use by the School. A new path will then be created on the exterior of the fence, allowing a new pedestrian route between the School and the Harvenna Heights estate. The Parish Council will be responsible for the maintenance of the path and remainder of the field.

Progress is being made. I was presented with a draft plan for the fenced area and a proposed alignment of the new path on 27th September. It was agreed that some tweaks would be made. I also met with the headteacher of Indian Queens School on 30th September and I have personally been in contact with the Chief Executive of Ocean Housing about how the new path would link into the Harvenna Heights estate. A site meeting is likely to be held soon with staff from Ocean Housing.

3.1.2 School Travel Plan

Again, as noted previously, I was successful in getting commitments contained within the School’s Travel Plan included within Cornwall Council’s Road Casualty Reduction Strategy. This document was formally published last week.

Leading on from this, I am putting pressure on the unitary authority to deliver some form of road crossing on both Chapel Road and St Francis Road (as noted in the Travel Plan) and an advisory 20mph speed limit on the part of Chapel Road by the Drang.

In order to make sure that this issue is taken seriously, I have raised it at meetings with Chief Executive and the Corporate Director for Neighbourhoods. It has also been discussed on the telephone with the Strategic Director for Economic Growth and Development. I can confirm that a brief has been preparing for council officers to look into what could be provided.

3.2 Summercourt School

My priority for the St Enoder Parish element of the highway monies available through the China Clay Area Community remains improvements outside Summercourt School. Discussions about options are ongoing and I hope to soon be a position to meet with the School itself and the Aspire Academy to discuss the options.

3.3 Double yellow lines along St Francis Road, Indian Queens and St Columb Road

I had received a promise that the lines on St Francis Road would be redone when the lines in the (recently resurfaced) Drang and Suncrest Estate were repainted. This did not happen, but I have been reassured that the repainting will take place in the near-future.

3.4 Patching of Carworgie Way and Halloon Avenue, St Columb Road

CORMAC are timetabled to carry out patching in the most heavily worn sections of Carworgie Way and Halloon Avenue during this coming week (21st – 23rd October).

3.5 St Austell St, Summercourt

It has also been confirmed that CORMAC will be investigating problems with road drains and flooding. These works are presently timetabled for between 18th and 22nd November; and will take place during night-time hours when the road will be closed

4.0 Water problems on Parka Road, Fraddon

I am very pleased to have an update on the problems caused by breaks in the water main in Parka Road, Fraddon. The Parish Clerk and I have been making representations to South West Water.

We have received an email update that “the main water supply pipe in Parka Road has been selected for funding 2019 – 2020, where we will be replacing the pipe.” They added they are waiting on their contractors, Kier, for a start date.

This appears to be very positive news as South West Water had previously stated that they would be progressing this main for capital funding in the next financial year 2020–21.

We will let everyone know when we a start date for the works, and we have also requested further information about the extent of the piping that will be replaced.

5.0 Planning matters

5.1 Two bungalows to rear of Harvenna Close, Fraddon

As noted previously, due to the considerable opposition to the proposals for new properties in the gardens of two properties on Harvenna Close (PA19/03258 and PA19/03266), but which would exit onto Grovewood Court, I have referred the decision to a meeting of the Central Sub-Area Planning Committee. The meeting is likely to take place on 25th November.

5.2 Indian Queens Industrial Estate

There is also been considerable opposition to a proposal to create a new access into Unit 2 of Indian Queens Industrial Estate for an area of additional car parking (PA19/05975). I have challenged the basis for the proposal as the original planning permission (93/06/00192) included a condition (no 7) that "there shall be no direct vehicular access or pedestrian access from the A30 trunk road." This is a specific reference to Moorland Road as the bypass for the village had not been completed at that time.

The case officer has contacted the applicants to suggest that they access the parking area from the Lodge Way road, but they were not willing to modify the application. Highways have also declined to raise an objection to the proposal.

The case officer has indicated that he will be looking to approve the application and I have therefore formally requested that it also be referred to the Central Planning Committee.

6.0 Tree preservation order in Fraddon

It is great news that Cornwall Council has confirmed the Tree Preservation Order (TPO) for the trees on the right-hand side of the road leading up to Higher Fraddon. This means that the TPO is permanent.

Many people may recall that, earlier this year, a developer wished to remove all the trees and build 14 houses up the road, but this was opposed by local residents and the Parish Council. Cornwall Council also told the developers that it could not support such a development. Well done to Charlotte Cowburn for all her hard work on making the TPO a reality.

7.0 Anti-social behaviour and vandalism

I have continued to receive reports of anti-social behaviour and vandalism around the Fraddon, Indian Queens and St Columb Road area, and I am continuing to liaise with the local policing team.

8.0 Electoral Review Panel

As noted above, a lot of my time has been taken up by the Community Governance Review, which has given parish councils and other stakeholders the opportunity to seek changes to parish boundaries.

9.0 Cornish National Minority Working Group

At the last meeting of the working group on 15th October, I was elected as the new Chairman of the group.

10.0 WW1 book

It has been almost a year since our book “Trusting Fully Trusting” (about the servicemen of Fraddon, Indian Queens, St Columb Road and Summercourt who lost their lives in the First World War) was published. We still have quite a few copies and it is probably time that we discussed how we might be able to distribute it to other outlets.

11.0 Inquiries

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

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Levant mining disaster

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the mining disaster at Levant, which I have covered in my article in the most recent edition of the Cornish Guardian. It is as follows:

Cornwall has a very proud mining history, which goes back all the way to the Early Bronze Age (over 4,000 years ago) and still continues with the extraction of china clay in Clay Country.

The physical evidence of this historic industry – the engine houses, shafts, spoil heaps, sky-tips, pan-kilns, miners’ cottages and more – can be seen in and around so many of our communities. Such is the international significance of the remains of historic deep-rock mining, that ten distinct landscapes across Cornwall are protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, “placing Cornish mining heritage on a par with international treasures like Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China.”

There are regular reports about possible new mining enterprises, such as the potential for lithium and other minerals, which would obviously be great for the local economy.

Unlike today, mining activities were the economic bedrock for so many places over the last two or three centuries. Taking my own community as an example, in the early twentieth century, half of local men worked in the clay pits and this underpinned the identity of their very being.

But Cornish mining cannot be viewed simply through a prism of nostalgia and the iconography of derelict mine buildings on our picturesque coast. Life was centred around hard physical and sometimes dangerous work. In some research that I have done, I came across numerous examples of miners who lost their lives in work accidents or bore serious injuries. Many others struggled because of occupational diseases.

At this time, it is important that we mark the centenary of the terrible disaster which occurred at the Levant Mine, near Pendeen and St Just, on 20th October 1919. The “man engine,” a steam-driven system comprising a long rod and attached platforms for transporting men up and down a shaft, collapsed as dozens and dozens of miners were being brought to surface after a day’s work.

A total of 31 men were killed and most left widows behind, along with over eighty children between them.

The contemporary report in the Cornishman and Cornish Telegraph newspaper was particularly powerful:

“The tragedy was the work of an instance. Something snapped – perhaps an iron cap or bolt – and what has been described as a living pillar of men, dropped down the man engine shaft, crushing many to death, mangling more with debris of breaking wood and metal – the beam of the man engine, the ladder ways in the side of the main shaft, and the platforms cut in the side of the shaft.”

Saturday, 12 October 2019

A reconstruction fund?

I recently attended the Annual Conference of one of Mebyon Kernow’s sister parties, Plaid Cymru – the Party of Wales.

At a time when UK politics is in a state of chaos, it was refreshing to be among political activists whose focus is not the pantomime at Westminster, but securing a better deal for Wales.

Plaid’s inspirational leader was certainly on great form. The event took place in Swansea and, at the start of his speech, Adam Price had quite a lot to say about the great industrial traditions in and around Wales’ second largest city.

He reminded delegates how Swansea was historically known as Copperopolis, because of the dominance of the local copper industry from the 18th century onwards. From my perspective, it is worth noting that the fortunes of the city were very much linked to Cornwall in the past. Much of the copper ore transported to Wales for smelting came from west of the Tamar and the first copper works in Swansea were established in 1720 by Dr Lane and Mr Pollard, who had owned copper mines in Cornwall.

Adam did name-check Cornishman Richard Trevithick who in 1804 built a locomotive for the nearby Penydarren Ironworks in Merthyr Tydfil, of which a replica is on display at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea.

Obviously, most of what Adam Price had to say was about the future and many people will recognise his analysis that government from a distant Westminster has failed places such as Wales.

In a very thought-provoking intervention, he called for a Welsh Reconstruction Fund. Describing his homeland as a “resource-rich country,” he argued that the decades-long and disproportionate focus on London and South East England had caused much poverty in Wales, which has blighted thousands and thousands of lives.

He also hit out at how the UK’s centralised system of governance had denied his countrymen “the tools – the levers and pulleys” to combat the failings of the present political system.

There are some pretty obvious parallels with Cornwall, as we too continue to push for fair funding and seek the higher level of investment in our public services that is so desperately needed, as well as greater democratic control in our politics.

The Plaid Cymru leader made it clear that he was not seeking charity, but wanted payback for the “failures and under-investment of the past.”

I wonder if any Cornish MPs will have the courage to make similar demands for the UK Government to prioritise the needs of Cornwall.

[This is my article in the most recent edition of the Cornish Guardian. The above photograph pictures me with Ceredigion MP Ben Lake, who will be speaking at MK’s Conference in Truro on 16th November].