Monday, 26 September 2016

My latest report to St Enoder Parish Council

My latest report will be presented to tomorrow night's meeting of St Enoder Parish Council. It covers the period 25th July to 25th September. It will be as follows:

1. Council meetings

I have attended a range of formal meetings at Cornwall Council over the last two months. These included: Planning Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) plus two associated briefings / pre-agenda sessions, Constitution and Governance Committee and associated informal meeting, Electoral Review Panel (two) and associated informal meeting, Farms Panel and associated pre-agenda session, China Clay Area Network meeting, “peer review” meeting about council communications, heritage forum, meeting of Cornwall councillors from the China Clay Area, national minority working group (and two associated meetings), incinerator liaison group, and three member briefings covering topics such as the outcome of the EU referendum, housing and requests to central government for more devolved responsibilities.

As well as the meetings listed above, I have had numerous informal meetings with council officers.

2. Other meetings

I have attended meetings of ClayTAWC (Chairman), the Indian Queens Pit Committee (trustee) and South & East Cornwall Local Action Group, when its Community Led Local Development programme for submission to central government was agreed. In addition, I have had informal meetings with a number of local groups.



3. New play area in Indian Queens Recreation Ground

Much of my time in the last two weeks has been taken up with the construction of the new play area in the Recreation Ground. It has been quite frustrating, as we were told the construction would take four-five weeks but, because of various delays, it has taken about eleven weeks.

It was very disappointing that we were not able to open in August as planned, but I am relieved that the park is now open and it has been getting some very heavy usage over the few days.

The providers have knocked £400 off the bill – because of the delay – so that we could spend this amount on turf to be laid around the new rubber surface to ensure a better finish to the project. I would like to thank everyone who helped with the laying of the turf on the evening of 8th September – your help was much appreciated.

Three picnic benches have been placed around the play area, and the Parish Clerk and I are presently negotiating with the suppliers about a few small “snags” which have yet to be dealt with.

The Parish Council worked for a number of years to pull together the package of funding for this proposal, and we are grateful to everyone who is providing financial support.

As well as the monies from the Parish Council’s own reserves, additional funding for the project has come from:

- Sun Edison; who built a solar farm at Burthy near Fraddon. As part of their planning permission, the company agreed to provide a one-off community payment to St Enoder Parish Council to put towards improvements in the local area.
- Kingsley Developers; who agreed to provide funding towards play equipment in St Enoder Parish (as part of Section 106 agreements) in lieu of not providing small play areas on two of their developments within the locality.
- Cornwall SITA Trust; who awarded St Enoder Parish a grant, which meant that the project had the full funding to go ahead.

It is my hope that we will soon have a formal opening of the new play area, so that we can celebrate the provision of this wonderful new facility for the local area.

4. New path to play area in Queens


As reported previously, on behalf of the Parish Council I submitted an application to the National Lottery’s Awards for All programme for a grant of £10,000 to construct a tarmac path from the car park area to the new play area in the Recreation Ground. This was because of the need to improve access across the Recreation Ground during the winter months when the field can get quite wet and boggy.

I can report that the National Lottery will be publicising the outcome of our grant application on 11th October.

5. Fraddon Millennium Green

As one of the trustees for the Fraddon Millennium Green, I am pleased that it has had a bit of a “facelift” over the summer.

A new rocker has been put in the play area in the place of the old one that had been removed quite a while ago; some small repairs have been undertaken on the play equipment; gaps in the rubber surfacing around the equipment have also been filled; while contractors have trimmed around the field and cleared vegetation from the path.

Many people probably don’t realise that, unlike the Recreation Ground at Indian Queens and Summercourt’s Thomas Playing Field, the Green is not owned by the Parish Council. The Millennium Green is actually an independent Trust, run by five volunteer trustees, though we are very grateful for the annual grant from the Parish Council towards our running costs.

I can also report that a contractor will be on site during September / October, when all of the play equipment will be repainted.

6. Thomas Playing Field

Now that the longstanding project to construct the new play area in the Indian Queens Recreation Ground has been completed, I can report that it is the intention of St Enoder Parish Council to review what is being provided in the Thomas Playing Field in Summercourt.

Local residents may recall that the last new equipment to be provided were a replacement climbing frame and a replacement roundabout in 2010 and the skate park, which was built in 2012.

I will be circulating a newsletter in the autumn which will seek views from local people about what improvements they would like to see.

7. Planning hearing; Land to east of the Kelliers

On 16th August, I attended the informal hearing into the part-retrospective appeal into the proposal for seventeen caravans on land to the east of the Kelliers (PA15/06186).

Councillors will recall that the landowner placed seven caravans on the site without any form of planning permission in the autumn of 2014. Subsequent applications for 12 and then 17 caravans were refused by Cornwall Council and the landowner went to appeal.

Cornwall Council was represented by two planning officers and an enforcement officer, while I was there with Cllr Michael Bunyan on behalf of the Parish Council. I did however address some of the policy issues relating to Cornwall Council’s position.

In our detailed representations, we made the case that this was an inappropriate location for such a development, that deliberate unlawful development is now a material consideration and the applicant did not even own all of the land on which he wished to build.

The landowner was represented by a planning agent, a consultant on transport matters and, even though this was meant to be an “informal” hearing, a top-level barrister or QC (Queens Counsel).

I had a number of meetings with affected local representatives in advance of the hearing. A number of these residents were present at the hearing and made a series of points against the development.

8. Planning hearing; biogas plant at Higher Fraddon

On 2nd September, I attended the informal hearing relating to the “non-determination” appeal into the “regularisation” application for the biogas plant (PA15/03073) and the associated appeal of Cornwall Council’s decision to refuse the related application (PA15/05220) to modify traffic movements to the site.

Councillors will recall that I had produced a quite comprehensive statement on behalf of St Enoder Parish Council, which ran to over 11,000 words, and this was the basis of the arguments at the hearing which lasted from 10.00 through to around 7.00.

Cornwall Council was represented by a planning officer and an enforcement officer, while Greener for Life (GfL)were represented by one of their members of staff, a legal representative, two transport consultants and a noise consultant.

I had a number of meetings with local representatives in advance of the hearing. A number of these residents were present at the hearing and made a series of points against the development.

Topics covered were wide-ranging, as previously detailed in my updates to the Parish Council, such as the weight to be given to the non-material amendments which allowed the consent to be modified, the extent of traffic movements, the impact on the amenity of local people and more.

GfL did put forward a statement setting out their recent traffic movements, which contradicted what they had claimed in previous documents. Residents meanwhile put forward their records of GfL traffic movements, which showed them to be much more extensive.

9. Pines Tip

I have just been informed that REG Windpower Ltd has appealed the refusal of their application for three wind turbines on Pines Tip (Strategic Planning Committee; 10th March 2016). It is my understanding that they have requested the appeal should be by written representations, and I will update members when I have more information.

10. Other planning matters

There have also been a range of other planning applications or associated matters, where I have been in regular contact with planning officers. These have included the potential changes to the conditions controlling the holiday village at Carvynick near Summercourt, and the discharge of conditions relating to the redevelopment of Kingsley Village, where the issue of surface water drainage is presently being considered.

11. Neighbourhood Plan Working Group

The most recent meeting of the Working Group took place on 2nd August, when the next consultation document was scoped. This is presently being worked on and it is planned that this document will be distributed this autumn.

I am also pleased to report that I have secured a grant of £3,950 towards the cost of this work, which must be spent by the end of this financial year.

12. Road traffic issues in St Enoder Parish

I can further report that two projects have been placed on the unitary authority’s capital programme following requests from me. The first will be the problem area to the east of Queens Garage, where water regularly rises up through the pavement. The second is the road drains through Fraddon, but in this case, the initial work includes further investigation to understand more about how the below-ground pipework is interlinked.

13. South West Water works at Trevarren

I am pleased to report that the main works to realign part of the foul sewer around Trevarren and the construction of an associated attenuation tank, to end flooding problems in the hamlet, have been completed. I ampresently liaising with South West Water about future monitoring and other related issues.

14. Ocean Housing properties in Fraddon

The new properties on Ocean Housing’s Harvenna Heights scheme is Fraddon are nearing completion. The company is presently seeking expressions of interest in the six shared ownership properties (three 2-bed and three 3-bed). For the 15 rental properties, there will be a “coming soon” advert on Homechoice on 29th October while the actual opportunity to bid will open on 12th November. This will be for four 1-bed, seven 2-bed and four 3-bed properties.

An open day was held by Ocean Housing on 21st September, which was attended by many local people.

15. The Kelliers

I have been pushing Cornwall Council to speed up the transfer of the land known as the Kelliers into the ownership of the Parish Council so that it can be improved as a countryside area. This is now happening and I can confirm that, on behalf of the Parish Council, I have requested a grant of £4,950 from the unitary authority’s “devolution fund” for some of the works on the site. I understand this application will be supported at “County Hall.”

16. War memorial at St Enoder

One hundred years on from the First World War, I am very pleased that St Enoder Parish Council has successfully requested that the war memorial in St Enoder Churchtown be Listed. Well done to the Clerk for all her hard work on this.

17. My Community Fund

I can confirm that I will be awarding the £2,000 in my personal Community Fund for 2015-2016 (allocated to all Cornwall Councillors) as follows:

· Fraddon Millennium Green – £500
· Indian Queens Pantomine Society – £500
· St Enoder Age Concern – £500
· Wesley Under-5s – £500

18. Political campaigns

In addition to my local activities, I have been involved in a range of political campaigns. These include the battle against the creation of a cross-Tamar “Devonwall” seat for the 2020 General Election, and I spoke on this topic at the Conference of the Cornish Gorseth in St Keverne on 2nd September.

19. Inquiries

During the last two months, I have also helped numerous people with advice and guidance. Issues have included planning concerns, housing problems, various enforcement matters and so much more.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

AN IMPORTANT DATE FOR YOUR DIARY … MK’s 2016 CONFERENCE

Mebyon Kernow’s Annual Conference will take place on Saturday 19th November 2016 in the Council Chamber at Lys Kernow (“New County Hall”), Truro.

The Conference will be a fully open event and, as well as party members, anyone interested in finding out more about Mebyon Kernow would be very welcome to attend.

There will be a range of speakers and there will be many updates on campaigns such as MK’s call for meaningful devolution to a National Assembly, our opposition to the cross-Tamar “Devonwall” seat, our push for greater investment in Cornwall’s public services, our demand for greater control over planning, and so much more.

In addition, there will be a range of interesting stalls and the chance to meet up with many friends.



Watch out for regular updates about the 2016 Conference on the MK website in the coming weeks.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Advice on how to oppose the Devonwall seat … UPDATED

Earlier this year, the UK Government has commenced a review of parliamentary constituencies and, on Tuesday 13th September, the Boundary Commission (for England) announced recommendations which include a “Devonwall” seat, Known as “Bideford, Bude and Launceston.”

Please join Mebyon Kernow and other Cornish organisations in opposing the creation of such a cross-Tamar constituency. The creation of such a seat would be an unprecedented disaster, breaching the very territorial integrity of the historic nation of Cornwall.


Here is some advice on what you can do:

Please demand an amendment to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act


The Boundary Review process is being driven by the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act, which became law in 2011.

The Act reduces the number of constituencies to 600 and states that, apart from four specific constituencies (Orkney & Shetland, the Western Isles, and two seats for the Isle of Wight), the electorates for individual seats must be within 5% of the United Kingdom average. This equates to between 71,031 and 78,507 votes in each seat.

Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales were protected as entities in the legislation, but sadly Cornwall was not.

The electorate of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (recorded in December) means we would be entitled to about 5.27 MPs and it was therefore a statistical impossibility for the Boundary Commission to propose five seats for Cornwall and Isles of Scilly.

That is why we need to build a massive campaign to put pressure on central government and Members of Parliament to modify the existing legislation to ensure that Cornish constituencies remain whole and lie entirely within the boundaries of Cornwall (and the Isles of Scilly).

Please lobby the UK Government and Cornwall’s six MPs


Please also join us in writing to the UK Government to demand that the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act be amended.

Please send correspondence to:

Chris Skidmore MP, Minister for the Constitution,
Cabinet Office, Whitehall, London, SW1A 2AS and / or chris.skidmore.mp@parliament.uk

Theresa May MP, Prime Minister, 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA and / or via https://email.number10.gov.uk

Your local Cornish MPs
c/o House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA and / or
steve.double.mp@parliament.uk
george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk
scott.mann.mp@parliament.uk
sheryll.murray.mp@parliament.uk
sarah.newton.mp@parliament.uk
derek.thomas.mp@parliament.uk

Please write to the Boundary Commission


Even though the Boundary Commission does not have the power to make recommendations to protect Cornwall’s historic border, we also need to swamp them with letters and other representations showing that a cross-Tamar seat is not appropriate.

Please send correspondence to:

Boundary Commission for England, 35 Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3BQ and / or information@boundarycommissionengland.gov.uk.

The Boundary Commission has also set up a new website through which people can comment on the proposed new constituencies. This can be found at:www.bce2018.org.uk.

There will be plenty of opportunities to make your views known. There will be an initial 12-week consultation, which started on 13th September, and a public hearing will be held in Cornwall on 10th and 11th November in Truro. There will then be a secondary consultation on representations received. Once the Boundary Commission has reviewed the evidence it will produce further reports in advance of a further eight-week consultation on its final proposals.

But the key message must be that we request the Boundary Commission supports our calls for the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act to be amended to Keep Cornwall Whole.

And here are some key arguments that you can use in your letters and emails ...

Cornwall is a Celtic nation with its own distinct identity, culture and language – just like Scotland and Wales. The border between Cornwall and England has been in place since the early tenth century and should have been respected by the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act, just as the borders between England & Scotland and England & Wales are reinforced by the legislation. Cornwall also has a unique constitutional position which sets it apart from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Following the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill becoming an Act in 2011, central government bowed to years of pressure and recognised the Cornish as a national minority (April 2014) through the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Central government stated that: “The decision to recognise the unique identity of the Cornish, now affords them the same status … as the UK’s other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.” But the Act is in conflict with the Framework Convention which, as well as protecting the culture and identity of national minorities, also seeks to protect the political integrity of territories associated with such groups.

In the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act, the territories of other national minorities within the United Kingdom (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) are not breached and it is therefore illogical that the same safeguards should not be applied to Cornwall.

Cornwall is not seeking to be over-represented in the Westminster Parliament. In December 2015, Cornwall’s electorate was 392,223, while that of the Isles of Scilly was 1,651, making a total of 393,874. If Cornwall had five seats, the average electorate would be about 78,775, which is extremely close to the top end of the Government's own range of between 71,031 and 78,507 electors per seat.

It would also be relatively simple for central government to do amend the Act. Only a few months ago, the Government agreed “emergency” legislation to extend the deadline for people seeking to register to vote in the referendum on the European Union following the failure of the Government’s registration website. The Government could likewise deliver a simple amendment to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act, to respect the Framework Convention and Keep Cornwall Whole.

And watch out for the protest coming up on 30 October ...

Thursday, 22 September 2016

My latest letter to Chris Skidmore on Devonwall

Last Saturday, I received a letter from the Minister for the Constitution, Chris Skidmore, following representations I made on the likely imposition of a Devonwall seat. I have today responded with a further letter to him.

The letter was as follows.

The Parliamentary Boundary Review; Cornwall and the implications of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
Thank you for your response, dated 15th September, to my letter, dated 18 August, about the present review into parliamentary boundaries and the proposed creation of a cross-Tamar "Devonwall" seat. You will recall that (i) I requested central government amend the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act (The Act) in order ensure that all Cornish constituencies would lie entirely within the boundaries of Cornwall (and the Isles of Scilly), and (ii) brought your attention to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, through which the Cornish have been recognised since April 2014.

I have to say that I was very disappointed with the nature of the reply and your assertion that “the Government does not believe it should now seek to change the rules that the Boundary Commissions must apply when proposing new constituency boundaries.”

I would request that you look again at the issues raised in my original letter and, in addition, I would ask that you also consider the following:

Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities


I note that in your response to my original letter, you stated that “this matter was debated at length by Parliament in its consideration of the legislation.” But there has been a significant shift since the Act was agreed in 2011.

This was, of course, the landmark decision of central government to recognise the Cornish people through the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, when the official governmental press release stated that “the decision to recognise the unique identity of the Cornish, now affords them the same status … as the UK’s other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.”

As well as protecting the culture and identity of national minorities, the Framework Convention also seeks to protect the political integrity of territories associated with such groups.

It remains our view, therefore, that the legislation which guides the Boundary Review is in conflict with the spirit and intent of the Framework Convention, and the Act should be revisited in order to address that conflict.

In the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act, the territories of other national minorities within the United Kingdom (namely the Scots, the Welsh and Northern Irish) are safeguarded and no seats can be proposed which would cross the land borders between England and Scotland or England and Wales. It is therefore illogical that Cornwall – the territory of the fourth national minority – is not treated in the same manner.

It concerns us that, having recognised that the Cornish through the Framework Convention, the UK Government is failing to meet its obligations with regard to the various articles in the document. Indeed, the likely imposition of a Devonwall seat is a stark manifestation of this neglect

Please take the time to review the significance of the Framework Convention, how it should impact on government policy and, in particular, how it relates to the Boundary Review. We are confident that you will come to the conclusion that the Act needs to be amended to safeguard the territorial integrity of Cornwall, and we would formally request that you promote this course of action.

Fair and equal representation

In your reply to my original letter, you stated that the Government was “committed to fair and equal representation" and wanted to "make sure that everyone's vote carries more equal value."

But with respect, the decision to except four constituencies from the ruling that "all constituencies are to be within 95 per cent to 105% of a single United Kingdom electoral quota" (71,031 and 78,507 electors) does somewhat undermine the central tenet of this argument and the original legislation.

From our perspective, we do not understand how central government can allow the Isle of Wight to have two seats with 52,180 and 52,268 voters respectively but, at the same time, choose not to protect the historic nation of Cornwall.

We would consider it fair and equitable for Cornwall to be treated in the same manner as Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, befitting of the Framework Convention.

It is also the case that we are not arguing that Cornwall should be over-represented in the Westminster Parliament – only that our political representatives should serve whole Cornish constituencies. The Boundary Commission has confirmed Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly would be entitled to approximately 5.27 MPs based on an electorate of “just under 394,000” (as recorded in December 2015).

The reality is that the statistics show Cornwall’s electorate was 392,223, while that of the Isles of Scilly is 1,651, making a total of 393,874. If Cornwall had five seats, the average electorate would be about 78,775. This is ridiculously close to the top end of the Government's own range of between 71,031 and 78,507 electors.

We cannot fathom why central government – for the sake of such a slight numerical difference – would seek to breach Cornwall's thousand-year-old border, erase Cornwall from the political map, and go against its own commitment to the Framework Convention.

Please think again and act to keep Cornwall Whole.

The Boundary Commission

We are also disappointed that, in your letter, you stated: “The Boundary Commission for England has published its initial proposals for the new parliamentary constituencies and there is now a public consultation on them, which will provide an opportunity for representations to be submitted on the proposed boundaries."

The recommendations include a Devonwall seat, but in correspondence with Cornwall Council the Boundary Commission has made it clear that, while they sympathise with the concerns of the residents of Cornwall, they are bound by the Act and cannot propose Cornwall-only seats.

In particular, they told the unitary authority that: “The decision on the rules under which the BCE operates is for the legislature to make … We have no power, nor discretion, to act otherwise. The Commission is not an advocate or critic of the rules Parliament has set, nor a lobbying body that will take a view on those rules as they exist now. You will understand that the Commission has been tasked with a statutory role and it will complete that within the rules Parliament has set."

The reality is that you, as the Minister, have the power to intervene to prevent the creation of a Devonwall seat by modifying the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act. Please do what is right for Cornwall.

“We are stronger when we recognise our different regional and cultural differences and celebrate them”

When the announcement was made in 2014 that the Cornish were to be protected by the Framework Convention, David Cameron stated that the United Kingdom was "stronger" when its different regional identities were recognised.

The former Prime Minister told the media that: “There is a distinctive, history, culture and language in Cornwall which we should celebrate and make sure is properly looked after and protected. It is a very special part of our country and I think we are stronger when we recognise our different regional and cultural differences and celebrate them."

It is our hope that you will look to live up to the fine words of David Cameron and deliver a simple amendment to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act, in order to respect the Framework Convention and Keep Cornwall Whole.

We look forward to hearing from you and would welcome the opportunity to make further representations if that would be helpful.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

The Boundary Commission view on the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Act 2011

Cornwall Council received a letter from the Boundary Commission for England in July, which clearly sets out why the priority from the campaign against Devonwall must be representations to central government seeking modifications to the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Act 2011.

For everyone's information, the relevant section in the letter is as follows:

"The Boundary Commission for England (BCE) is an independent and impartial advisory non-departmental public body. It is bound by statute (the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986, as amended (the Act)) to conduct a review of all Parliamentary boundaries in England every five years. The current review, which began in February 2016, will be reported to Parliament (through the Secretary of State) in September 2018 - it is therefore known as the 2018 Review of Parliamentary boundaries.

"In conducting the review and making recommendations to Parliament, the Commission is statutorily obliged to adhere to the rules set out in the Act. One of these rules - a non-discretionary one - states that the number of electors in every constituency we recommend (with two exceptions - see below) must be within 5% of the average number of electors across the UK (for the 2018 Review, this means every constituency must contain between 71,031 and 78,507 electors). As you acknowledge in your letter... one consequence of this statutory rule is that the electorate of the County of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is such that one cannot allocate a whole number of constituencies to it; you rightly state that it is therefore inevitable that at least one constituency will combine parts of Cornwall with parts of Devon.

"The decision on the rules under which the BCE operates is for the legislature to make. When passing the most recent legislation that amended the Act and its rules (in 2011), Parliament decided to exempt two English constituencies from the statutory rule relating to the number of electors in each constituency - those covering the Isle of Wight. The Commission is therefore not bound by this rule when making recommendations for the Isle of Wight. This is the only area in England where the Commission can legally make recommendations for constituencies that contain more or fewer electors than those figures set out above. We have no power, nor discretion, to act otherwise. The Commission is not an advocate or critic of the rules Parliament has set, nor a lobbying body that will take a view on those rules as they exist now. You will understand that the Commission has been tasked with a statutory role and it will complete that within the rules Parliament has set."