Sunday, 22 October 2017

No to Devonwall!


In this week's Cornish Guardian, my article looks will look at the continued threat of a Devonwall seat and the launch of the latest “Boundary Commission for England” consultation. The article includes material already published on this blog, but the article is here for the sake of completeness. It will be as follows:

Even though there have been reports that the UK Government intends to scrap the ongoing parliamentary review, which would lead to a cross-Tamar Devonwall parliamentary constituency, the “Boundary Commission for England” (BCE) is continuing its work.

Last week, the BCE published revised proposals for new constituency boundaries which still include a Devonwall seat.

This was not a surprise, as the BCE has been working within the rules set down by Westminster that state seats must have electorates of “between 71,031 and 78,507 – that is, 5% either side of the electoral quota of 74,769.”

Indeed, the BCE has reported back: “We noted that the electorate of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly was 393,874 and that if we were to allocate five constituencies, the average electorate of those five constituencies would be 78,775, which is more than 5% above the electoral quota … [this] meant that we had no option but to recommend a constituency that crossed the county boundary between Cornwall and Devon.”

At the Boundary Commission hearings, which took place in Truro about twelve months ago, I argued that the whole process – with regard to Cornwall – was flawed and appealed to the BCE that they should recognise this and join us in making representations to central government to rethink their approach and make sure that a cross-Tamar Devonwall constituency was not created.

I am very disappointed, but not surprised, that the BCE has chosen not to do this. But, in addition, I am saddened at how it glossed over the massive level of opposition to this breach of Cornwall’s historic integrity.

After a further consultation, the final recommendations will be presented to the Westminster Parliament, sometime in 2018, and will need to be endorsed by MPs in a formal vote.

I am therefore perplexed that Theresa May’s Government is allowing the Review to continue, especially as they no longer have a majority in the House of Commons and senior Tories have admitted that their attempt to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 is doomed to failure.

The recommendations of the Boundary Commission will almost certainly not be supported by opposition MPs, or indeed their allies in the Democratic Unionist Party.

Some Conservative MPs are also unlikely to vote through the changes and I commend the MP for St Austell and Newquay, Steve Double, for making it clear that he will use his vote to oppose Devonwall. It is about time that his five parliamentary colleagues in Cornwall made the same pledge.

But most of all, I call on Theresa May to end this farce of a Boundary Review, to repeal the underlying legislation, and think again about how future reviews might be carried out.

My latest monthly report to St Enoder Parish Council

At this Tuesday's Parish Council meeting, I will be presenting my latest monthly report. It will cover the time period 25th September – 22nd October 2017, though I was on holiday for a week during this time. It is as follows:

1. Council meetings

Over the last few weeks, I have attended a range of formal meetings. These included: Electoral Review Panel (and two associated preparatory meetings, plus two sessions seeking the view of local members in Liskeard and Truro); Constitution and Governance Committee; all-member briefing which was attended by the Police Commissioner Alison Hernandez;

“CERC” (incinerator) liaison group; a meeting of members from the China Clay Area plus an additional meeting about gypsy and traveller issues in Mid Cornwall; the national minority working group and an informal briefing as part of the parking review.

In the same period, as well as a number of informal meetings with council officers and others, I have been at one meeting of St Enoder Parish Council, and one meeting of the Neighbourhood Plan working group.

2. “Outreach” Post Office at the Victory Hall


I am pleased that an outreach Post Office is now being run from the ante-room of the Indian Queens Victory Hall for two three-hour sessions each week.

The sessions are held:

Every Tuesday morning: 8.30 – 11.30.
Every Thursday afternoon: 1.00 – 4.00.

As reported last month, the new outreach provision is being run from the existing Post Office at Summercourt, while the cost of hiring the Victory Hall for the next twelve months will be covered by Kingsley Developers.

Unfortunately, the service did not start on Tuesday 3rd October as advertised, due to a technical problem with the phone line, but it did actually commence on October 12th.

3. Newsletter

In advance of the opening of the outreach Post Office provision, I was delivering my six-monthly newsletter around the Parish which, amongst other things, publicised the opening date of the “outreach” Post Office.

However, when the opening date was pushed back, I had to delay the distribution of the newsletters. Now that the Post Office is open and I am back from a week’s holiday, I will be out leafleting again soon.

4. Planning matters

Numerous planning applications in our local parish are being dealt with by Cornwall Council. Listed below are updates on a couple of the more contentious proposals.

- Higher Fraddon biogas plant

As reported in my last monthly report, the owners of the plant have submitted two appeals to the Planning Inspectorate relating to condition 14. The condition states that the types of HGVs accessing the site must be agreed through the condition, but the operators want this to be left very open-ended and not to specify the principal use of the “duoliner” vehicle that they had previously pledged they would use during the planning process. In addition, they have appealed a planning application to modify condition 14 (by increasing the number of small vehicles to the plant).

On behalf of the Parish Council, I have written a detailed planning statement for the two appeals, which was submitted prior to the deadline of 19th October.

I have also contacted the owners of the plant, now known as Fraddon Biogas Ltd, and pointed out that they are not in compliance with condition 16 of their planning permission.

This states that: “Within two months of the date of this permission, the Operator shall submit to the Local Planning Authority for approval in writing and then implement the approved Vehicle Management Policy to deal with deliveries to and from the site” which included “details of the content of a written report which will be provided to St Enoder Parish Council and residents of Higher Fraddon Lane at 4 monthly intervals and will address information regarding deliveries to and from the site...”

Condition 16 was discharged on 19 April 2017 (PA16/11310) but, some six months later, St Enoder Parish Council has yet to receive the first four-monthly written report specified above.

- Unauthorised development on the Kelliers

Members will recall that, about nine months ago, the unauthorised caravan site on the Kelliers failed to secure planning permission through an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. The owners were also told that they had to remove the seven caravans from the site by 18th July 2017. They failed to do meet this deadline but, during the last two-three weeks, the caravans were actually carried off site.

The appeal for the failed application for five traveller pitches on the same site is still outstanding, though no date has been set for this.

A meeting of Clay Country councillors was held in September to discuss issues relating to unlawful activities as described above and, as a result, officers at the unitary authority have started research to assist in its formulation of future actions.

5. Proposed housing scheme near Mitchell

On 3rd October, I attended the consultation event in Mitchell, at which Coastline Housing presented a potential “affordable housing led” scheme for twenty houses on the eastern site of Mitchell at the Fruit Farm.

I will report again, when I am updated on progress with the site.

6. Visit of Police Commissioner

The Police Commissioner Alison Hernandez attended a briefing at Cornwall Council on 29th September. During the meeting, I made representations about the ongoing reduction in PCSOs and she stated that the scale of the cut in such officers was likely to be revisited. Another councillor for Clay Country and I had a further conversation with her after the meeting and she promised to attend a future meeting of the China Clay Area Network.

7. Highway matters

In recent weeks, the local Cormac officer has overseen speed recordings at three locations within the Parish: Parka Road, St Columb Road; Parka Road, Fraddon; and Toldish. I will make available the summary reports for the readings in the near future.

8. Review into parking matters

I attended an informal meeting as part of the “task and finish” group to review the Council’s arrangement for parking (as part of the Economic Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee). This looked at the work needed to explore various charging options for council car parks.

The next meeting will be on 24th October and will address enforcement issues, which is of special interest to our local area.

9. Grass cutting (Cornwall Council)

I have continued to make representations about the cutting of grass in those areas owned by Cornwall Council (such as the small play areas in certain housing estates). I took a senior Council officer around the sites and he acknowledged the grass in these local areas was not being cut quite often enough and he would sort this for next year’s cutting rota.

I have made yet more representations about the fact that there has been no maintenance of the garden area in Clodan Mews, St Columb Road, during this last twelve months; and the green area in Lindsay Fields, Fraddon, was not cut, as it should have been. I have been given promises that this will all be sorted out.

10. Waste Collection and Cleansing Contract

I am making representations about the limited extent of street cleaning in rural communities and the number of public waste bins, as part of the review into the content of the contract for waste collection, street cleaning, beach cleaning, etc, which will be retendered in a couple of years.

Last month, I listed the number of bins in St Enoder Parish (and these are reprised below).

Fraddon / Indian Queens / St Columb Road
Moorland Road (opposite cemetery) (083)
Moorland Road (cemetery layby) (348)
Fraddon Hill (bus stop / layby) (351)
Chapel Road (bus stop / layby) (352)
Fraddon Hill (bottom of) (353)
Parka (St Columb Road end) (354)
Parka (nearer Fraddon end) (082)
St Columb Road junction (by Chopping Block) (355)
Penhale (bus stop / layby) (081)
St Francis Road (bus stop nr Carworgie Way) (356)
Penhale (near Westbourne Terrace) (358)
Moorland Road (east of Gnomeworld) (084)
Not included on official list
Higher Fraddon (near bridge to Pedna Carne) - no number
Newquay Road (899)

Summercourt
School Road (360)
School Road (Thomas Playing Field) (361)
Road to Chapeltown (by car showrooms) (897)
Beacon Road (bus stop) (047)

I will bring maps to the Parish Council meeting to inform our discussions, so that we can consider a formal request to Cornwall Council for enhanced bin coverage in St Enoder Parish.

11. Review into councillor numbers

On 26th September, the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) published its decision to reduce the number of elected members on Cornwall Council from 123 to 87. The change will be implemented at the next set of elections due to take place in 2021.

I did quite a bit of media work about the decision, which I condemned as an “assault on democracy in Cornwall.”

Prior to 2009, Cornwall had 331 councillors on the County Council and the six district councils. The centralisation of local government was then imposed on Cornwall and the number of councillors slashed to 123. And now we are expected to suffer another significant cut in elected members, which will further increase the democratic deficit from which Cornwall already suffers.

It is interesting to note that the LGBCE did not seek a similar reduction in the number of councillors when it carried out an electoral review of the unitary authority in County Durham, which was also created in 2009. Durham County Council was founded with 126 councillors and its review allowed the council to continue with the same number of members.

The next stage of work will involve working up proposals for the new divisional boundaries for Cornwall Council and, as vice-chairman of the Electoral Review Panel, I am heavily involved with the work.

Consultants have prepared some indicative boundaries for each of Cornwall’s nineteen community networks, which are the starting point for the detailed discussions which will follow.

The China Clay Area will have four councillors and the indicative maps that have been produced show the following:

1. St Enoder Parish and St Dennis Parish (minus Enniscaven and Gothers)
2. St Stephen Parish (minus Whitemoor)
3. Treverbyn Parish (minus Bugle)
4. Roche Parish (plus Enniscaven and Gothers, Whitemoor and Bugle)

12. WW1 project

The necessary paperwork for the Heritage Lottery Fund has been completed and we have received official permission to start the project to remember the fallen of the First World War. St Enoder Parish Council will soon be receiving the £7,500 HLF grant towards the project.

The first event to publicise the project will be at Summercourt’s New Memorial Hall on the morning of the 4th November.

13. Helping local community groups
I can also confirm that I have helped the committee of Fraddon Village Hall with a funding application for new chairs.

14. Inquiries

During the couple of months, I have also helped numerous people with guidance on a vast array of issues.

15. Mebyon Kernow

In addition to my local issues, I did generate a considerable amount of coverage in the local press because I have now been the leader of MK for twenty years.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

MK calls on Theresa May to end farce of Boundary Review


MK has just released the following statement concerning the Boundary Review:

The leader of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall has today called on the Prime Minister to make a formal announcement that she will scrap the Boundary Review that would lead to the creation of an unpopular cross-Tamar constituency.

He was speaking after the Boundary Commission announced revised proposals for constituencies for the next General Election – which included a cross-Tamar seat.

Cllr Dick Cole said: “As someone who has campaigned against the imposition of a ‘Devonwall’ parliamentary constituency for a number of years, I was pleased to see numerous recent newspaper reports that the Conservatives intended to scrap the Boundary Review.

“But I am perplexed that that Theresa May’s Government is allowing the Review to continue – especially as they no longer have a majority in the House of Commons and the recommendations of the Boundary Commission will almost certainly not be supported by opposition MPs or their friends in the Democratic Unionist Party.

“Senior Conservatives have already admitted that their attempt to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 is doomed to failure, and I call on Theresa May to end this farce of a Boundary Review and think again.

“We will certainly be continuing with our campaigns to protect the territorial integrity of Cornwall, and for Cornwall to be treated as a distinct entity for the purposes of governance.”

Boundary Commission proposes Devonwall seat ... AGAIN!


The Boundary Commission for England (BCE) has today published revised proposals for new constituency boundaries tomorrow and commenced an eight-week consultation.

The BCE is still recommending a cross-Tamar Devonwall constituency, and has glossed over the massive level of opposition to this breach of Cornwall’s historic integrity.

At the Boundary Commission hearing in Truro in November, I argued that the whole process – with regard to Cornwall was flawed – and appealed to the BCE that they should recognise this and join us in making representations to central government to rethink their approach, to modify the existing legislation and make sure that a cross-Tamar “Devonwall” constituency is not created.

I am very disappointed, but not surprised, that the BCE has chosen not to do this.

Relevant extracts from the document published today are as follows:

“We noted that the electorate of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly was 393,874 and that if we were to allocate five constituencies, the average electorate of those five constituencies would be 78,775, which is more than 5% above the electoral quota, and therefore outside the permitted electorate range. We were aware that there would be opposition to the creation of a constituency that crossed the Cornwall county boundary, but we considered that the ‘Rules for distribution of seats’ in Schedule 2 of the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 (as amended) meant that we had no option but to recommend a constituency that crossed the county boundary between Cornwall and Devon.”

“There was a large amount of support for our proposed sub-regions. The main political parties all submitted counterproposals that adhered to the sub-regions, while acknowledging that there were objections to the creation of a ‘Devonwall’ cross-county boundary constituency. For example, the Liberal Democrat Party (BCE-32821) said ‘We protest at the creation of a “cross-border” seat. We recognise the legal and population requirements. We accept the proposed boundaries and name of the cross-border Revised proposals for new constituency boundaries in the South West 13 seat as “Bideford, Bude and Launceston”.’ There were a number of objections from respondents in Cornwall to the combining of Cornwall and Devon, with many citing Cornwall’s separateness from the rest of England – see the Cornish Nationalist Party (BCE-29305), the Cornish Stannary Parliament (BCE-34907 and BCE-31410) and Mebyon Kernow (BCE-29560).”

“There was support for our proposed constituencies, but also many objections to the creation of a so-called ‘Devonwall’ cross-county constituency, as detailed previously in this report. Many of those who objected to a cross-county constituency did not submit a counter-proposal to create five constituencies wholly within Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, each with an electorate within the permitted electorate range. It was argued that Cornwall was a separate entity to the rest of England and should be treated in the same way as Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in terms of the review. Our assistant commissioners were sympathetic to the arguments against a cross-county constituency between Cornwall and Devon, but accepted that the statutory rules left them with no choice but to recommend such a constituency.”

The consultation website is: www.bce2018.org.uk.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Revised proposals for parliamentary seats to be published tomorrow


Even though there have been numerous reports that the Conservatives intend to scrap the ongoing boundary review, which would otherwise lead to the imposition of a cross-Tamar “Devonwall” parliamentary constituency, the Boundary Commission for England (BCE) is continuing its work.

It will be publishing revised proposals for new constituency boundaries tomorrow (Tuesday 17th October).

There will then be an eight week consultation.

The BCE is stating that this consultation will be the “last chance” for people to have their say before it reports recommendations to central government in September 2018.

The consultation website is:
www.bce2018.org.uk.

I will post more information as soon as I get it.