Wednesday, 19 August 2020


The Government has published a White Paper called “Planning for the Future,” which sets out its proposals for a much changed planning system. I think it will be a disaster for Cornwall and I agree with a leading economist that, in many ways, it dismantles the existing system and hands power over to developers.

The document makes numerous claims. It talks about dealing with climate change, supporting “sustainable, beautiful, safe and useful development” and giving communities a “greater say over what gets built” in their areas. But the reality is very different.

It is proposing a top-down “standard method for establishing housing requirement figures,” which will be imposed on councils. A prominent firm of planning consultants has already calculated that Cornwall Council would be expected to promote the delivery of 4,054 new properties each year

This means that the unitary authority’s next twenty-year Local Plan would have to include a ridiculous and unsustainable target of 81,000 housing units over the next two decades – irrespective of what councillors and residents think is appropriate for Cornwall. This would be significantly up from the present housing target of 52,500.

Proposals in the White Paper would centralise the planning process in Whitehall and take decision-making powers away from councils. It states key “development management” policies will be “established at national scale” and the policy development capabilities of local authorities will be greatly reduced.

The Government plans to bring forward zoning. All land will have to be placed in one of three categories in new Local Plans. These are described as “growth areas suitable for substantial development, renewal areas suitable for development, and areas that are protected.” The White Paper adds that growth areas, once identified, “would automatically be granted outline planning permission for the principle of development” while “automatic approvals would also be available for pre-established development types” in other areas suitable for building.” Basically, planning without the need for planning permissions.

There is a second consultation document, which proposes some immediate changes to the planning system. This includes a disastrous proposal that no affordable homes would need to be provided on developments of up to either 40 or 50 new properties, though it would not be applied in some rural areas.

All in all, it looks like there will be far-reaching shift in the planning system, much of which will be bad news for our communities. But not in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – as planning has been devolved to these Celtic nations. Surely, this is another massive reason why we need to secure devolution for Cornwall.

This is my article in this week’s Cornish Guardian.

Thursday, 13 August 2020


Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall has been asked to provide a briefing on Government proposals to change the planning system. This includes the “Planning for the Future” White Paper and associated consultation document, which aims to bring forward some more immediate changes.

Here are some of the key points from the White Paper:

· A “standard method for establishing housing requirement figures” across “England” is proposed. Lichfield Planning Consultants have already reported that the annual target for Cornwall would be calculated at 4,054. This would equate to 81,000 new properties over the lifetime of a twenty-year Local Plan. The present Cornwall Local Plan (2010-2030) has a target of 52,500 new properties – that is 2,625 per annum.

· All land would need to be placed in one of three categories in a Local Plan. The document states that these are “Growth areas suitable for substantial development, Renewal areas suitable for development, and areas that are Protected.” The White Paper adds that “Areas identified as Growth areas (suitable for substantial development) would automatically be granted outline planning permission for the principle of development, while automatic approvals would also be available for pre-established development types in other areas suitable for building.” 

· Proposals in the White Paper would also centralise the planning process in Whitehall and take decision-making powers away from local areas. It wants development management policies “established at national scale” and therefore Local Plans will be weakened as a result. It wants the number of policies in Local Plans to be reduced, and suggests there could be a focus on “design guides and codes” for developments.

· The document expects local authorities to produce a new Local Plan (to a Government template) over a 30-month timetable. This is as follows: Stage 1 [6 months], the local planning authority “calls for” suggestions for areas under the three categories (Growth, Renewal and Protection); Stage 2 [12 months], the local planning authority draws up its proposed Local Plan (to include Growth areas); Stage 3 [6 weeks], consultation on document which has been submitted to the Secretary of State for examination; Stage 4 [9 months], examination of Local Plan by Government-appointed planning inspector; Stage 5 [6 weeks], Local Plan is finalised and comes into force.

· It is suggested that Neighbourhood Plans will continue, though it is extremely likely that they will be significantly undermined by the wider planning reforms.

· Section 106 legal agreements which have traditionally guaranteed affordable housing (and other community benefits prior to the Community Infrastructure Levy) will be ended and a reformed Infrastructure Levy will be put in place. It appears complex and many planning professionals are querying how it will work and, for example, deliver affordable housing as part of developments.

There is also a lack of detail about how the proposed new approach would work and great uncertainty about what it all means.

The White Paper does include numerous references to things such as tackling climate change, protecting green spaces, more building on brownfield land, building beautiful homes and greater community involvement – but these are contradicted by the wider context of the document which is about making it easier for developers to develop!

A second consultation document proposes four more immediate changes to the planning system. These proposals have significantly more detail than those in the White Paper.

· This includes more information on the “standard method for establishing housing requirement figures” also included in the White Paper, which would impose an annual target on Cornwall of over 4,000 new dwellings. It is not fully clear when such a new target would be imposed on Cornwall, though it could be when the Cornwall Local Plan is five years old (November 2021).

· There is also a proposal to promote “First Homes,” as part of the delivery of what the Government terms affordable housing. “First Homes” would be sold on the “open market” at a discount from market price of at least 30%, though Councils could increase this discount to 40% or 50%. The document is unclear whether the discount would be a one-off or there would be a mechanism for the units to be affordable in perpetuity. The Government expects that First Homes should also be delivered on exception sites.

· Affordable housing is presently sought on all developments above ten units, but the Government is planning to “temporarily change this.” The proposal is that no affordable homes would need to be provided on sites of up to either 40 or 50 new properties. It is stated that this will be to support small builders and will be for an initial period of 18 months. The approach will then be reviewed. However, it also states that, in designated rural areas, there can still be a threshold of five units or fewer for the delivery of affordable housing. But this is problematic as many non-urban areas in Cornwall are not “designated rural areas” (from the Housing Order 1981). Such parishes include St Michael Caerhays, Feock, Mevagissey, St Columb, St Goran, St Mewan and the majority of Clay Country.

· The fourth proposal was for an extension of “permission in principle,” which the Government describes as a “faster way of obtaining planning permission for housing-led development, which reduced the need for landowners and developers to incur significant costs to establish the principle of development for housing.” This was introduced in 2017 and the Government is now saying that it should be extended to large developments.

The White Paper consultation (which closes on 29 October) can be viewed at:

The second consultation (which closes on 1 October) can be viewed at:

Monday, 10 August 2020

My monthly councillor report

My latest report will be presented to Tuesday’s meeting of St Enoder Parish Council. It covers the time period of 22nd June – 9th August 2020 and is as follows:

1.0 Covid-19 emergency

Recent weeks have seen the lockdown eased, but many people remain very concerned about the threat of new outbreaks or the economic impact of the crisis on their businesses or employment prospects. I continue to give what advice I can to those local residents who have contacted me.

Strategically, a Local Outbreak Management Plan has been put in place for Cornwall, which seeks to provide a blueprint for managing any future Covid-19 outbreaks to protect residents and support the most vulnerable. A Health Protection Board, made up of professionals from across the public sector, is responsible for the Plan.

I am grateful to have been appointed to the linked Cornwall Local Engagement Board, which receives regular updates about new infections and related matters from partner organisations.

2.0 Prescription deliveries

Since 1st April, I have been working with volunteers to deliver prescriptions from the St Columb Road Surgery to shielding households across St Enoder Parish (and sometimes slightly further afield). Shielding officially ended on 31st July and the volunteer deliveries also ended at the end of July.

It has been a privilege to work with a team of wonderful individuals over the last 17-and-a-half weeks and I would like to say a massive thank you to Michael Bunyan, Steve Curtis, Heather Goodwin, Amanda Kendall, Lara McShee, Dawn Wilkes, Brian and Lynne Young.

It is clear to me that everyone’s efforts have been greatly appreciated by the community.

3.0 Council and other meetings

Over the last six weeks, I have attended a large number of virtual council meetings and briefings via Microsoft Works. These included the Cornwall Local Engagement Board, Full Council (plus an associated agenda briefing), Economic Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee and three briefings, Electoral Review Panel (plus an agenda briefing and two follow-up meetings), a briefing on the Council’s investment programme, Cornish National Minority Working Group (plus an agenda briefing and two follow-up meetings on an associated education project), three meetings of the BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethic) steering group plus an associated roundtable as part of the “Cornwall We Want” consultation, three meetings for councillors from the China Clay Area, and one-to-one meetings with the Chief Executive and the corporate director of Neighbourhoods.

In addition, I have attended three meetings of the China Clay Community Hub, reviewing actions to deal with the present health emergency, plus single meetings of the St Austell Bay Economic Forum and St Enoder Parish Council.

4.0 Ongoing projects

Over the last six weeks, I have continued to liaise with various individuals at the unitary authority about a series of ongoing projects. These include the provision of a new footway from Harvenna Heights estate to Indian Queens School, improvements along the A3058, and following up on the feasibility study about crossing on Chapel Road and St Francis Road, Indian Queens.

Progress is slow, not least because of the present difficulties, but I hope to have good news in the near future.

5.0 Traffic matters

5.1 Mobile vehicle activated sign

I am really pleased that the Parish Council had agreed to purchase a mobile vehicle activated sign which can be moved around the Parish and placed in various areas to record the speed of traffic and to flash to encourage motorists to slow down. Watch out for the sign – it should be “in action” in less than a week.

5.2 Accident at bottom of Fraddon Hill.

There was recently a crash at the bottom of Fraddon Hill, when a car was driven into the front wall of a house. I have met with local residents and I am making representations to Cornwall Council and asking them to investigate what happened and whether safety measures can be considered.

5.3 Kingsley Village

Prior to the lockdown, I was making representations about the parking problems in the vicinity of Kingsley Village, including where New Road meets the roundabout. Since the complex has reopened, I have received a number of further complaints and I am continuing to lobby officers at the unitary authority to address the complaints.

6.0 Local planning matters

6.1 Applications

In my last report, I provided an update on a number of live planning applications. These included the following:

· A new vehicular access from Moorland Road into one of the units on the Indian Queens Industrial Estate (PA19/05975).

· 23 dwellings on land adjacent to Lindsay Fields, Fraddon (PA20/01508).

· Reserved matters for 16 dwellings on the Carvynick Holiday Park, Summercourt (PA20/02147).

· Large storage building to rear of Manor Drive in Fraddon (PA20/02308).

· Fifty dwellings at St Columb Road (PA20/02929).

· Six extra gypsy / traveller pitches at Little Meadows, Toldish (PA20/03553).

These applications are still being considered by the planners and no decisions have been taken as yet.

6.2 Appeal into unauthorised commercial garage

Last year, Cornwall Council refused a retrospective planning application (PA19/04433) for the “retention of building and its continued use for the storage and repair of motor vehicles” at The Stables Holiday Park on Pit Lane, Indian Queens.

The owner has appealed the decision to the Planning Inspectorate and I have produced a detailed written submission in support of the unitary authority’s position on behalf of the Parish Council.

7.0 Planning White Paper

The UK Government has just published a White Paper setting out proposals to completely change the planning system. This includes zoning, which – in some areas – would allow developers to build without even needing to apply for formal planning permission. They are also planning to “temporarily lift the small sites threshold” so that developers will not need to provide affordable housing on sites of less than 40 - 50 units.

The document is confusing and contradictory, and I think it will undermine local democracy and neighbourhood plans. I am campaigning against the changes, which will be out for consultation over the next 12 weeks.

8.0 Small open spaces

Cornwall Council owns a number of small open spaces in estates in St Enoder Parish, some of which have play equipment on them – Hanover Park, Indian Queens; Lindsay Fields, Kingsley Court, Penhale Gardens, St James View – all in Fraddon; Clodan Mews, St Columb Road.

I am lobbying the unitary authority for these areas to have a tidy-up and, where appropriate, for the equipment has a good clean. I would also like to thank residents in Penhale Gardens for taking things into heir own hands and tidying up their own area.

9.0 Black Lives Matter

Following the recent Black Lives Matter protests, Cornwall Council has set up a steering group to consider how best the local authority can work with BAME individuals. As the Chair of the Cornish National Minority Working Group – another important part of the Council’s diversity agenda – I was asked by the Council leadership to sit on the steering group.

10.0 Inquiries

This report has been a summary of my recent activities, but I have helped a wide range of people with localised issues.

Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki - 75 years on

Last week marked the 75th anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. More than 140,000 people died in the initial blasts or lost their lives as a consequence of their injuries, radiation poisoning and other factors.

At this time, I believe it is important that we remember the destructive powers of such weapons and the terrible human cost that follows whenever they are used.

Kate Hudson, the General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, has vividly described the effect of the first bomb, which fell on Hiroshima on 6th August 1945, destroying 13 square kilometres of the city:

“The heart of the explosion reached a temperature of several million degrees centigrade, resulting in a heat flash over a wide area, vapourising all human tissue. Within a radius of half a mile of the centre of the blast, every person was killed. All that was left of people caught out in the open were their shadows burnt into stone. Beyond this central area, people were killed by the heat and blast waves, either out in the open or inside buildings collapsing and bursting into flames.”

Three days later on 9th August 1945, the second bomb fell on Nagasaki. Over the years, I have read many personal recollections from survivors about the awful horrors they experienced. One was from a man called Hirotami Yamada, who was a child at the time. He recalled how “the flash and heat from the detonation felt like the sun had fallen from the sky; then everything went dark. When the light returned, much of Nagasaki had been vaporised in a cloud of smoke and dust that barrelled a mile up into the clouds.”

Most of his family initially survived because they were some distance away from the centre of the blast, but in the coming days he had to watch heartbroken as his siblings succumbed to death.

75 years on, at the annual ceremony at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, the city’s mayor, Kazumi Matsui, called on world leaders to seriously commit to nuclear disarmament. In a moving speech, he said “we must never allow this painful past to repeat itself," adding that “as the only nation to suffer a nuclear attack, Japan must persuade the global public to unite with the spirit of Hiroshima."

The words of Mr Matsui need to be heeded and we must do all in our power to ban nuclear weapons and ensure that they can never be used again.

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