Sunday, 21 October 2012

Now is the time to cut Trident

Well done to the tens of thousands people have marched in protest at government cuts in London, Glasgow and Belfast on Saturday.

The situation was summed up well by TUC general secretary Brendan Barber. He said: “The evidence is mounting that austerity is failing. More than 2.5 million people are out of work, a further three million are not working enough hours to make ends meet, and wages have been falling every month for the last three years … the huge squeeze on wages and living standards has led to a massive hit on confidence and on demand in the economy.”

It is well-known that I am also opposed to the scale and depth of the Coalition’s cuts to the public sector, but there is one area of government spending that should be cut and that is nuclear weapons.

As a longstanding member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, I was one of hundreds of members who supported a full-page advert in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper (above) entcalling for an end to the Trident nuclear missile programme.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

How many new properties by 2030?

My article in the latest edition of the Cornish Guardian focused on the ongoing debate about housing numbers for the next twenty years. It is as follows:

On Thursday 27th September, the new pressure group “Our Cornwall” was launched in Truro. It is campaigning against the over-development of the Duchy, which it states is leading to “massive estates on green-field sites, soulless car-dependent suburbs, more traffic congestion, more pollution, declining town centres and irreversible environmental damage.”

I have great sympathy with the aims of the group. Over the last two years, 4,450 new housing units were built in Cornwall and, as of April 2012, there were 15,460 extant planning consents. And that does not even include the 1,500 new houses and flats recently granted to the west of Truro.

I believe planning is clearly out of control. Hundreds of planning permissions are being given and yet, because of government policies on housing and a lack of investment, little is happening to reduce the housing costs for local people earning local wages in places like Cornwall.

On Friday 28th September, I chaired the most recent meeting of Cornwall Council’s Planning Policy Advisory Panel, which focused on the housing target for the next two decades.

The officers had tabled a report which recommended that the number of new housing units to be built between 2010 and 2030 should total 49,000. The officers also argued that the housing target was based on population projections from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), an assumed decrease in average household size and a range of other factors.

They were supported by a handful of councillors, who argued that if the target was too much lower it would not get through “inspection” by the Planning Inspectorate. Apparently, under the Coalition’s new “localism” agenda, local councils can make important political decisions as long as they are fully in-line with what central government wants.

But not all councillors agreed with this view. At the meeting, I presented an alternative proposal for a lower housing target of 38,000 with the support of Camborne Councillor Dave Biggs.

We knew that between 1991 and 2010, 42,000 new properties were built in Cornwall. And evidence from the census and other sources is now showing that levels of in-migration are slowing, while household size is not decreasing as previously predicted. So, we could not see how the Council could justify or evidence such an increase in the levels of house construction over previous decades.

We also argued that the priority need was not open-market housing, but delivering genuine local-needs housing, and we will continue to demand that the policies are rejigged to work for ordinary people.

For the record, members of the Panel voted by six votes to three voted to throw out the 49,000 target and to recommend to the ruling Cabinet that the housing target for 2010-2030 should be 38,000.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Skatepark officially opened

The new skatepark at Summercourt was officially opened this week. Printed below is the report from the Cornish Guardian.

An impressive new skatepark at the Thomas Playing Field in Summercourt has got the approval of youngsters.

Pupils from Summercourt Primary School, including members of the school council and head boy and head girl officially opened it on Monday.

The school's pupils wrote to St Enoder Parish Council about a year ago requesting skate facilities.

The project was taken forward by the council and spearheaded by Councillor Dick Cole, who was able to secure more than £30,000 for the project from grant funding toward the overall £35,000 cost of the project, with £5,000 being invested by the parish council. The remaining funds came from the Clay Country Local Action Group (£15,000) and SITA Cornwall Trust (£15,000).

The children of Summercourt School were involved throughout and some helped to design the layout for the skate area.

Parish council chairman Andrew Waters paid tribute to the initiative of the children and also thanked the Clay Country Local Action Group and the SITA Cornwall Trust for financial support.

The ribbon was officially cut by Jake, 5, and Tegan, 5, while the head boy Adam, 10, and head girl Jade, 10, said: "We would like to thank the parish council who helped build our new skatepark and especially Mr Cole who put in the grant for the money as well as the pupils who worked on a wonderful design.

"All the pupils at Summercourt School in the village are already using the skatepark and it looks like they are enjoying it already."