Monday, 30 May 2016

My Cornish Guardian article; update on the "Local Plan"

My article in this coming week’s Cornish Guardian updates readers of the paper with progress towards the Cornwall Local Plan. It includes text already featured on this blog, but is hear for the sake of completeness. I hope it is ok, as it was pulled together early this morning after my trip back from Twickenham. It will be as follows:

The second phase of the Examination in Public (EiP) into the Cornwall Local Plan took place over six different sittings in Newquay’s Atlantic Hotel between the 16th and 24th May.

Put simply, an Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State was reviewing Cornwall Council’s blueprint of planning policies for the period to 2030 to check they were “sound” or, in other words, consistent with central government rules and regulations.

The first phase of the EiP had taken place about twelve months ago, when it was suspended by the Inspector who informed the Council that it needed to make a number of changes. The unitary authority reluctantly, but duly, did as instructed, which included increasing the housing target for Cornwall, and the Local Plan was represented to the EiP.

As the Chairman of the Council’s Planning Policy Advisory Committee, I was there for majority of the hearings and, as a councillor for the China Clay, I spoke against the inclusion of the so-called “eco-community” within the Plan.

It was certainly frustrating to see the host of landowners and developers present, along with their planning agents and even QCs, attempting to make all manner of arguments as to why the Plan should be changed to suit their own commercial interests.

On some days, they made what they claimed to “strategic” and “evidenced” arguments as to why the overall housing target should be increased. But then, at the end of the first week, argued against each other about where housing should be built.

It was quite an unedifying spectacle as the speakers all seemed to be pushing for more housing in those areas where they just happened to own, or have options on, land.

The developers and their representatives also argued that the need for affordable housing was a key justification for an uplift in housing numbers. But when the actual affordable housing policies were discussed, some of these same individuals were, with breathtaking double-standards, arguing for lower affordable housing targets and the inevitable delivery of less local-needs housing.

When, on behalf of local objectors, I spoke to oppose the “eco-community” at West Carclaze and Baal, I found that Wainhomes were also making arguments against the principle of this particular proposal. But whereas as I was stating that the amount of house-building in Mid Cornwall should be reduced, they were, in an act of shocking self-interest, making a range of legalistic points in order to push for an alternative 1,300 property development near St Austell.

And it was very different on the final day when discussions focussed on how policies to protect and enhance Cornwall’s environment, both natural and historic, could be improved. It was telling that most the contributions came from bodies such as the National Trust, statutory agencies and parish councils, while the horde of developers and their agents were largely absent.

I do sincerely hope that the Inspector put the needs of local communities ahead of the wishes of the large developers, and I will report more when he makes his views known.