Monday, 23 February 2015

No to the eco-town

In this week’s Cornish Guardian, my column will focus on my opposition to the eco-town. It will be as follows:

It is well-known that I have been a persistent critic of plans for a so-called “eco-town” in the China Clay Area. I am unsurprisingly saddened that Cornwall Council has submitted a planning application for an “eco-community” of 1,500 new properties at “West Carclaze.”

The basis of the proposal stems from 2007, when the Labour Government announced a “competition” for landowners and builders to put forward plans for eco-town developments.

There was much fanfare about “green,” “sustainable,” “zero-carbon” and “exemplar” developments, and Imerys set out a proposal for a 5,000-property scheme (spread over five different sites around St Austell and the China Clay Area).

At the time, I was already angry that central government had recently set a ridiculous housing target for the Restormel area of 15,700 new houses over a twenty-year period. But I was further aghast at the undemocratic and top-down nature of the “eco-town” process, which was undermining what was left of the local planning process.

It was and remains my view that it is wrong for central government to decide development priorities in Cornwall.

I produced a detailed report, which opposed the “eco-town.” It was endorsed by Restormel Borough Council and we even presented it to a Government Minister.

Sadly, these local views were ignored and, in July 2009, central government gave the go-ahead to the scheme.

Many of us have questioned whether the development would happen, especially when the Conservative Party’s housing spokesperson said that: “Eco-towns are now dead and buried ... at no point will they meet their twin objectives of being environmentally friendly and tackling the housing shortage.”

But the Conservative-led Coalition Government, and the unitary authority, have since pushed ahead with the “eco-community” development near Penwithick and Stenalees with former Liberal Democrat MP Matthew Taylor at the head of the board set up to promote the project.

Nothing has changed which would win my backing. I consider the proposed development to be just another large housing estate.

It is advertised as a “brown field” development, but a large amount of the housing would actually be built on green fields and they have a wider masterplan to construct a further 300-plus dwellings on green fields between the development and Penwithick.

Many local residents are concerned about the impact on the local infrastructure and it is also the case that the application refuses to even guarantee the future of the iconic skytip near Carluddon. It does not propose to remove the tip, but states that this is only “until more information and other interests come to light.”

If, like me, you oppose the application – let Cornwall Council know your concerns.

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