Monday, 22 December 2008

Cornwall's GVA is only 63% of average

Figures released by the Office of National Statistics show that Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is still the poorest part of the United Kingdom.

Cornwall’s economic performance or GVA for 2006 (the latest year for which figures are available) is only 63% of the UK average. By contrast, Inner London’s GVA is 279% of the average.

A few weeks ago, Harriet Harman, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, visited Cornwall. She publicly stated that the economic downturn will hit ‘peripheral’ areas like Cornwall the hardest. This is not news to anyone who understands how an over-centralised state, such as the UK, operates or has experienced a past recession in the far west.

Gordon Brown states that his government is committed to expanding government spending as a way of stimulating the economy to ‘help people through difficult times.’

We have no issue with this, except that it is my very real concern that, as so often in the past, the main investment in public projects could be in areas other than Cornwall. If Labour is serious about helping Cornish communities through these difficult times, it needs to guarantee sizeable investment in projects to deliver real employment-led regeneration where it is needed in Cornwall.

I was a member of the Taskforce set up following the announcement of job losses in the china clay industry in 2006/2007 and consider the response of central government response to these cuts was “inadequate and unhelpful.” Such a response in the coming months could be a disaster for Cornwall’s prospects.

We have written to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer calling on them to do more to assist Cornish communities now that the recession is really starting to bite.

Monday, 15 December 2008

What a week!

I do feel somewhat guilty for not having updated my blog for three weeks or so. It is not because nothing has been happenning … perhaps the reverse. So, I thought I’d give a quick report on another average week (8th-12th December) for MK’s Party Leader/PPC for St Austell and Newquay.

I did attempt to carry out a full week’s paid employment to pay the bills but also found the time to go to a large number of meetings and events.

On Monday, I gave an evening lecture on the 2005 excavation at St Piran’s Church, Perranzabuloe to St Columb’s Old Cornwall Society.

On Tuesday, it was an evening meeting for the Parish Council’s Finance Committee.

Wednesday was awful – I was invited to four different ‘One Cornwall’-related meetings and managed to attend three. The first of these was a ‘visioning’ session at Roche Victory Hall from 10.00. As you might guess, we had a lot to say about the unitary project. Next was a 3.00 meeting at County Hall where I was in attendance as an employee. There was a presentation on the future of the ‘Environment’ section in the new single tier council. All I will say is that there are a lot of very worried staff members. At 5.30, it was Restormel’s Ceremonial Assets Panel – set up to discuss what happens to robes, trinkets and things after the creation of the unitary council.

I was also able to get to Summercourt for our Parish Council’s monthly Planning Meeting – only ten minutes late. But this meant that I could not get to the County Council’s meeting about the new electoral boundaries – which was actually held in our own Parish at Fraddon. I finished the day off by attending a social event organised by the Truro and Falmouth constituency party of MK – I arrived at 9.40.

Thursday night, there was aa evening meeting at Indian Queens Victory Hall to discuss improvements to the building.

On Friday, I went to the meeting of the Implementation Executive in the morning - not for the faint-hearted. Between 1.00 and 3.00, I took part in a BBC Radio Cornwall debate on Cornish Nationalism with John Angarrack and Philip Payton. So far, this has been very well-received. In the evening, I attended an anti-incinerator meeting in St Dennis before putting in an appearance at the Stannary Parliament’s Christmas meal.

Arrived home at past 11.30 – knackered. Had a restful weekend, though. Had to!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Party Conference

Mebyon Kernow’s Annual General Meeting and Conference took place yesterday at the Shire Hall Suite in Bodmin.

Much of the focus was on the prospect of unitary council elections in (perhaps) October 2009. My own comment was that we should take on the representatives of the London-parties at the ballot box, defeat them and put Cornish Nationalists at the heart of local government in Cornwall.

Following the decision to impose a unitary authority on Cornwall, we debated our policies for self-government and the future of local government in Cornwall. The policy statement agreed at the Conference will be officially published in a few days.

We also agreed to support the Cornish Fighting Fund with a pledge considered and debated the economy, environmental protection, housing, taxation and matter other matters.

The Conference was also attend by five representatives from Plaid Cymru including Steffan Lewis from Plaid Cymru (PPC for Islwyn) and Gwendal Rioual from the Union Démocratique Bretonne in Brittany.

We are very grateful that they attended and pleased that they enjoyed out hospitality at the event.

Group photograph of speakers at the Conference (left to right): Steffan Lewis (Plaid Cymru), yours truly, Cllr Loveday Jenkin (PPC for Camborne and Redruth), Cllr Conan Jenkin (PPC for Truro and Falmouth), Cllr Andrew Long (Chairman of South East Cornwall constituency party) and Gwendal Rioual (Union Démocratique Bretonne).

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Commenting on Matthew Taylor's views

Following Peter Tatchell’s article on the Guardian website, Matthew Taylor MP has posted a riposte. It is titled “Cornwall needs a revolution, not a divorce” with the strapline “Cornwall doesn't need a separate parliament, just genuine local autonomy and fair funding to go with it.”

I have responded to his posting. My comments are posted below:

Hello Matthew

As you would expect, I am in agreement with many of the points you make in your article. However, I fundamentally disagree with your views on the campaign for greater powers to Cornwall.

One failing in Peter Tatchell’s original article was that it used the term “independence” when the reality is that in Cornwall the campaigns have primarily always been about devolution.

I was therefore disappointed that you did not address this – preferring instead to use language like “going it alone,” “divorce” and stating that “we don't need a separate parliament, we simply need genuine local autonomy over the things that matter locally …”

I was also saddened that you continue to state that the planned single tier council for Cornwall could “evolve” into “an assembly.” With respect, I believe you are mixing up local government with aspirations for regional/national government for Cornwall. They are two separate things.

And within the British Context, the difference between a Parliament and an Assembly comes down simply to the extent of powers of the body, while the existence of a Parliament (as in Scotland) does not equal separation.

That is why Mebyon Kernow is campaigning for a National Assembly for Cornwall with powers similar to those of the Scottish Parliament.I also would like to remind you of a few things:

1. In November 2001, Liberal Democrats held a Cornwall Conference which agreed to campaign for a Regional Assembly for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

2. In December 2001, you were happy to stand with me and other campaigners on the doorstep of 10 Downing Street to hand over 50,000 declarations for a Cornish Assembly.

3. The Lib Dems contested the 2005 General Election and Cornwall County Council elections with a Cornish Manifesto which included a commitment to a Cornish Assembly.

4. Upon winning control of the Council that year, the Lib Dems published a list of priorities that included a pledge to “establish detailed plans for a Cornish Assembly” within their first year of office. This pledge was not acted upon.

5. At another conference in November 2005, Cornish Liberal Democrats re-affirmed their commitment to the campaign for a Cornish Assembly. The motion specifically stated that devolution was NOT local government reform. Your colleague Andrew George MP said: “… the Government will not get away with their belief that they can fob us off with a rearrangement of deckchairs on the Titanic of local government.”

6. However when Ruth Kelly launched a Local Government White Paper in October 2006, the Liberal Democrat County Council immediately jettisoned their commitment to an Assembly and began to prepare a bid for a single council.

7. The Lib Dems have continued making the claim that local government reorganisation would lead to devolution – even after Local Government Minister John Healey MP (speaking in the House of Commons) confirmed that there were “no specific additional powers” for Cornwall in February.

I believe it is about time that Cornwall’s Liberal Democrats came clean and admitted that they have let Cornwall down by abandoning their commitment to a Cornish Assembly and imposing an unwanted unitary authority upon us.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Self-rule for Cornwall

This week, Peter Tatchell posted an article on the “Comment is Free” part of the Guardian newspaper’s website. Entitled “Self-rule for Cornwall,” it was a straight-forward and sympathetic appraisal of the many aspects of the Cornish movement – ranging from the many battles for the greater recognition of our nation, to the campaign for the Cornish to be recognised as a National Minority and the long-standing campaign for a Cornish Assembly.

I applaud Peter for taking the time to publicise what is going on in Cornwall.

However, for the sake of accuracy, I would like to point out a couple of things. The Cornish Constitutional Convention did not launch the declaration campaign for a Cornish Assembly. It was launched by MK in March 2000, the Convention was founded in the following July and, soon after, MK took the pragmatic decision to pass a large degree of the responsibility for the campaign to the cross-party organisation in order to better garner widespread support.

It is also a little unfortunate that the article uses the term “independence” when the reality is that in Cornwall the campaigns have primarily always been about devolution – not separation.

Over 1,500 comments were added to the site and, like many others, it disappointed me to see so many negative, inaccurate and offensive posts.

To quote just one correspondent as an example: “The Cornish wurzels deserve nothing but contempt and should be sent back to where they belong, labouring down the bottom of a deep hole, the deeper the better … heads full of pasties and rotten clotted cream … inbreds all.” Not a particularly nice thing to say.

Peter himself has described many of the comments as “anti-Cornish vitriol” and “bigoted stereotyped anti-Cornish posts” though, to be fair, quite a number of the comments from the Cornish side have also been unwise.

Many posters have decried what Cornish nationalism is all about. From a personal perspective, it is quite simple. Cornwall is a historic entity with its own distinct identity, language and heritage – it is a nation. Every person who seeks the greater recognition of the nation of Cornwall or campaigns for self-government for Cornwall is therefore a Cornish nationalist.

What is important to me is that the nationalism of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall is inclusive and outward-looking. I am particularly proud that we campaign for a better deal for ALL the people of Cornwall and are never afraid to make a stand on global issues with significance far beyond our borders.

While I do not have the time to comment on all the issues raised I do feel it is appropriate, that as the Leader of Mebyon Kernow, I comment on a couple of the specific mentions of MK.

Some people clearly wish to perpetuate the myth that MK is only concerned with things such as the Cornish Language. “Kegs,” for example, states that: “Issues like housing, jobs and development are what most of the people I know are concerned about, not historical grievances and Cornish language promotion.”

Now I am proud of the work that MK members and others have done to protect and promote Cornish and to bolster local identity but this is most certainly not MK’s only focus. We are a modern political party committed to self government and our core values are prosperity for all, social justice and environmental protection.

I have looked back over the MK press releases that have been released over the last twelve months and here is a representative sample – support for South Crofty tin mine, opposition to the loss of 24 hour fire cover in Camborne and Falmouth, Liberal Democrat double standards, unitary authority chaos, supermarkets, climate change, opposition to 70,000 houses in the Regional Spatial Strategy, no to an incinerator at St Dennis, affordable housing, criticism of eco-town proposal, condemnation of racist attack on Quenchwell Chapel, call for rail improvements, arms trade, no to Post Office closures, energy costs, waste, and the list goes on.

In fact MK councillors have been extremely active on the issues of “housing, jobs and development.” Speaking for myself, I am one of the two MK councillors on Restormel Borough Council and I serve as the chairman of the Planning Policy Committee. Through this, I have worked extremely hard to help develop the Borough’s affordable housing plans, regeneration policies for the China Clay Area/St Austell and Newquay, while opposing the plan for an eco-town (spread over six sites) near St Austell. This is what being in MK means to me.

I would suggest that some of the critics of Mebyon Kernow need take time to see what the Party does stand for.

One last thing ‘Kegs.’ You also said that “when the Party Leader’s own (Welsh) wife takes the mick out of the cause you know you have a bit of a credibility problem.” With respect – what are you talking about? My wife is very supportive of the campaigns of MK, helps out in many ways, often gets very angry on my behalf when MK and Cornish campaigns are unfairly criticised and she is English – not Welsh!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

The Chagossians

I am disgusted by the actions of House of Lords, this week, over-turning a 2006 High Court ruling which would have allowed the Chaggosians home.

For those who are not aware of the case, the Chaggosians were forcibly evicted from their island homes in the Indian Ocean between 1967 and 1973 by the British Government so that they could lease the largest of their islands, known as Diego Garcia, to the United States for the construction of one of the biggest military bases in the world.

Over the last thirty years, the islanders have campaigned hard to regain access to their original homes. Led by Olivier Bancoult and lawyer Richard Gifford, they won a historic victory in the High Court in 2000, which ruled their expulsion illegal. They had to deal with Blair’s decision to invoke an archaic royal prerogative in order to dismiss the 2000 High Court judgment.

The islanders refused to give up and went back to the High Court in 2006 and once again won the right to return home. In a damning verdict, the High Court even condemned the actions of the British government as “repugnant.” In May 2007, the government lost again at appeal.

But the House of Lords has overturned the islanders' earlier victory in a three-two majority. Lord Hoffmann ruled that the government was entitled to legislate for a colony in the security interests of the United Kingdom. The US state department had argued that the islands might be useful to terrorists and Lord Hoffmann even said: "Some of these scenarios might be regarded as fanciful speculations, but in the current state of uncertainty the Government is entitled to take the concerns of its ally into account."

The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, had the nerve to welcome the most recent judgement as a vindication of the government's decision to appeal, saying that: "We do not seek to excuse the conduct of an earlier generation … It was about decisions taken in the international context of 2004.”

These actions make me truly ashamed of the British Government.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

There is still time to comment on RSS

Like many others, I have just received the official government response to my epetition concerning the South West Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS), the proposal to build over 68,000 houses in Cornwall over the next 20 years and MK’s assertion that Cornwall’s democratically elected representatives should be empowered to deliver a housing strategy which focuses on providing affordable homes to meet local needs.

The response was as follows:

The latest Proposed Changes from the Secretary of State were prepared by the Government Office for the South West (GOSW). Government Offices are not a quango but an integral part of central government; bringing central government closer to local partners and ensuring that policies and programmes are informed by local knowledge. Ultimate accountability for decision making at the regional level remains with Ministers.

The Regional Assembly is a partnership of elected councillors from all local authorities in the region and representatives of various sectors with a role in the region’s economic, social and environmental well-being. Each Member is accountable to their own home organisation or to the sector which they represent. Local Authority Members are elected Councillors and are therefore accountable to their own constituencies as well. The Assembly is accountable to all its Member organisations and to the Department of Communities and Local Government.

In developing the draft RSS for the South West, the Regional Assembly worked closely with the region’s local authorities to develop its proposals and undertook extensive consultation with regional partners on the draft. The detailed evidence underpinning the strategy and the results of the consultation were reviewed in detail at the Examination in Public by the Independent Panel of Inspectors.

Evidence on the housing needed to address the acute issues of housing affordability in Cornwall and to meet the needs of Cornwall’s growing population has been key to determining Cornwall’s housing allocation. This evidence was fundamental both to the development of the draft South West RSS by the Regional Assembly and to the Secretary of State’s Proposed Changes to the RSS.

Housing figures are not derived from one model or set of projections. They are the result of the range of evidence and debate that has been considered through the process of preparing the Strategy and latest evidence about household growth in the region including:

· household projection

· the needs of the regional economy
· evidence about the affordability of housing
· the findings of the Sustainability Appraisal, Appropriate Assessment and other information about environmental capacity
· the likely impact on transport and other infrastructure, and
· evidence about the availability of suitable land.

The comments made in this petition will be considered along with all other representations made during the consultation process, before the final Regional Spatial Strategy for the South West is finalized for publication.

What a load of nonsense.

There is still time to make your feelings known. The ‘consultation’ continues until 24th October. Views can be sent through the link found on the Government Office for the South West website, by email to or in writing addressed to the RSS Team, GOSW, 2 Rivergate, Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6EH.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Lib Dem antics at County Hall

At a meeting today, the Liberal Democrat Executive of Cornwall County Council agreed their comments on the Secretary of State’s draft of the Regional Spatial Strategy.

They backed officer recommendations that they should object to the policy “relating to the provision and spatial distribution of waste sites and facilities” and to make representations to central government to get the policy changed.

In particular, they want to see changes to Policy W2 which states that ‘strategic’ waste management or disposal facilities should be sited within, on the edge of, or in close proximity to Strategically Significant Cities and Towns (SSCTs). The China Clay Area, where an incinerator is proposed, is not within a SSCT and the only areas covered by the designation in Cornwall are Truro-Falmouth/Penryn-Camborne/Pool/Redruth.

In advance of the meeting, I made representations to the Executive along with my fellow Restormel councillors Fred Greenslade (Liberal Democrat) and John Wood (Independent).

We noted that many people are already concerned about the fact that the County Council will be making the decision as to whether their own contractor SITA should be allowed to build an incinerator in St Dennis.

We were adamant that it was not appropriate for the ruling Lib Dem administration to seek blatant changes to the Regional Spatial Strategy in order to make it easier to grant themselves planning permission for an incinerator in Mid Cornwall.

Unsurprisingly, they did not listen to us!

Monday, 29 September 2008

Yet more unitary chaos!

Mebyon Kernow has condemned the manner of the decision by the Liberal Democrat dominated Implementation Executive to call for elections to the unitary council to be delayed until the autumn of 2009.

This follows the ridiculous announcement by the Boundary Committee for England that it will “not be able to complete the work” necessary to decide the new ward boundaries (123 councillors) for elections to the new unitary council by May or June next year and suggests that the elections should proceed on the basis of 82 Councillors on the same electoral divisions as the current County Council.

The present proposal for a delay in the elections would mean that all six district councils (elected in 2007) would be abolished as of the 1st April, but the appointed Implementation Executive would continue along with the 82 sitting county councillors who were elected in 2005 to serve until only May 2009.

Cornwall would therefore be governed for up to six months by councillors with no democratic mandate to serve beyond May next year.

I have already stated that a slight delay in the date of the election, perhaps two-three months, would not be unacceptable to MK but only if the existence of both Cornwall County Council and the district councils was extended until the democratic arrangements are in place for the new Council.

We do not consider it acceptable that David Whalley and the existing Liberal Democrat administration of the County Council should be able to take control of the new Council without an election.

At tonight’s meeting of Restormel Borough Council, there was widespread agreement on this across the chamber. I helped to draft a proposal which was supported by all councillors present – bar the abstention of a couple of Lib Dems. We voted to support a delay in the date of the election until the boundaries for the 123 seats were agreed, but only if the ‘vesting day’ of the new authority was pushed back and the lives of Cornwall County Council and the districts extended until that time.

Friday, 19 September 2008


St Dennis was the place to be on Wednesday night at the County Council-sponsored Public Meeting to discuss the proposed waste incinerator. Over 800 people attended the meeting and crowded into a massive marquee in the village.

The county councillors certainly found out the views of local people and many from further afield – there was a range of fantastic speeches which, one after another, nailed the lie that Cornwall needs a single massive incinerator to be imposed on the people of St Dennis and the China Clay Area. Not in line with up-to-date planning policies … not an environmental solution … unsafe … a carbuncle … expensive … likely to undermine recycling … the list of reasons to refuse the application was endless.

The representatives from SITA really had no answers.

I was pleased to be able to present the democratically agreed view of Restormel Borough Council to the meeting as part of a double-act with Deputy Mayor Jenny Mason. It was a privilege to be able to speak up and be part of the fight against this inappropriate proposal.

Now must be the time that Cornwall Cornwall Council finally sees sense and looks to come up with a more decentralised and sustainable way to deal with Cornwall’s waste.

Well done St Dennis.

Thanks to Joanie Willett for the photo.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

The RSS and Taunton School

Last week, I found myself at Taunton School as a representative of Restormel Borough Council – attending a meeting of the South West Regional Assembly’s Regional Planning Forum.

It was not an enjoyable experience – most of the speakers peppered almost every single sentence with the phrase ‘the region’ and it got to be pretty grating!

The issue up for discussion was the Secretary of State’s version of the Regional Spatial Strategy which is currently out for consultation. A number of topics were covered and raised local concerns about the extent of the house building (68,200 new properties over 20 years) being planned for Cornwall.

To a small degree they has already recognised that some of the targets were too high for rural Cornwall – in particular, North Cornwall and Penwith – and said they would be making representations. They seemed less concerned about elsewhere in Cornwall, such as Restormel, which is being expected to cope with the greatest increase of all.

I wonder why this is and whether it is anything to do with the undemocratic imposition of an ‘eco-town’ on Mid Cornwall.

Friday, 29 August 2008

The election result

I have just had the result of the Camborne Town Council by-election phoned through to me. MK has missed out by only 15 votes - with the Tories taking the seat. The full result is as follows:

Conservative 304
Zoe Fox (MK) 289
Liberal Democrat 263
Labour 162

While we are very disappointed at the moment, it is a very creditable vote for our Party. Congratulations to Zoe, her agent Stuart Cullimore and the team for running a very good campaign.

Monday, 25 August 2008

On the campaign trail

As an elected politician, life does sometimes seem like an endless round of meetings. This last week, I therefore delighted to get out on the campaign trail and to do a few hours leafleting in a by-election for a seat on Camborne Town Council (28th August 2008).

Our candidate is MK’s environmental protection spokesman Zoe Fox. She served on the Council between 2005 and 2007, but lost her seat at the last election by only 22 votes to a Liberal Democrat. Zoe had a near-100% attendance record on the Council, but the new Lib Dem has since failed to turn up for a single meeting in six months – hence the reason for the by-election.

The election is a four-way fight also involving representatives of the three main London parties and it is my hope that we will succeed in getting Zoe Fox back on the town council.

Monday, 18 August 2008

What a unitary carry on!

Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall has condemned the announcement from the Boundary Committee for England that it will “not be able to complete the work” necessary to create new seats for elections to the new unitary council by May or June 2009 and that the elections will have to proceed on the basis of 82 Councillors with the same electoral divisions as the current County Council.

The Boundary Committee has however stated that it is minded to accept the number of 123 councillors for the new unitary authority and will begin a 12-week consultation in November. The Electoral Commission could decide to bring their proposals into effect before the end of the normal four year cycle, which would mean further elections, or alternatively the whole of Cornwall will have to make do with just 82 councillors for the next four years.

It is simply unacceptable for the Boundary Committee for England to say that it cannot find the time to carry out the electoral review and yet does not intend to start the consultation on the numbers until November. They just need to get on with the review and stop prevaricating!

The proposals for the new council include twenty area networks which respect the boundaries of the proposed electoral divisions. If elections are held on the County Council’s old divisions, it will completely undermine the local arrangements for the new council.

What is more, it is ridiculous to expect local people to take part in a consultation on a 123 member council, only for them to then have to vote for new councillors on different boundaries.

Mebyon Kernow has never been in favour of the Liberal Democrat’s unitary council experiment. The arrangements are now descending into farce and we would hope that central government will admit that it has got it wrong and pull the plug on the whole debacle.

If they unwilling to do this, central government needs to ensure that the electoral review is speeded up and, if necessary, the existence of Cornwall County Council and the district councils is extended for three-four months until the democratic arrangements are in place for the new council.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Are all consultations a sham?

Yesterday, I posted a message on this blog about the consultation on the Regional Spatial Strategy. I stand by what I wrote but have been thinking a lot about government ‘consultations’ during the last 24 hours.

I had to ask myself: are they all a sham?

I remember Labour’s plans for regional government (‘Your Region, Your Choice’) in 2002, when they ignored 50,000 declarations for a Cornish Assembly and more representations from Cornwall than the whole of England combined.

By contrast, the go-ahead was given for the Lib Dem’s scheme for a single unitary authority in spite of 80% opposition from the people of Cornwall.

A few days ago in my capacity as a Restormel councillor, I was part of a delegation that met with representatives of the Post Office to discuss their closure programme. We were told bluntly that 20% of Post Offices will close. And if we are successful in saving one outlet, another Post Office (presently not even under threat) will close instead! Madness.

I also remember so many ‘consultations’ where the views of local people have been ignored, such as plans for the centralisation of the Health Service or the loss of Cornwall’s Fire Service control room.

While such thoughts may be chastening, we must never stop making the representations, lobbying and just downright making a nuisance of ourselves.

You never know … one day, ‘they’ might actually listen to us and do the right thing.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

No to 70,000 new houses by 2026

The Secretary of State has released the latest version of the South West Regional Spatial Strategy for formal consultation. In it, there are proposals for 68,200 new houses for Cornwall to 2026.

Produced by the unelected SW Regional Assembly, the original document projected the construction of 45,000 new houses in Cornwall between 2006 and 2026. An ‘Examination in Public’ by an unelected and unaccountable panel contained the bombshell that 68,700 houses should be built in Cornwall which has been largely endorsed by the same Secretary of State that imposed a unitary authority on Cornwall.

I have condemned the announcement and made the point that these unsustainable proposals would have a disastrous effect on Cornwall, our local environment and infrastructure.

These ridiculous proposals are not about tackling the affordable housing crisis in Cornwall but promoting unsustainable house-building for its own sake.

Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall is calling on local people to respond to the consultation in great numbers.

Comments can be made through an online consultation portal at:

A paper response form is also available and can be downloaded from the GOSW website or requested from the Government Office Regional Spatial Team (0117 900 1705; email

Forms can be sent: by email to; by fax to 0117 900 1914 or by post to: Regional Planning Team, Government Office for the South West, 2 Rivergate, Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6ED

The closing date for the consultation is 5.00pm on 17th October 2008.

Monday, 28 July 2008

The meeting at Restormel

I was privileged to be able to play my part in last Tuesday's meeting of Restormel's Full Council, when councillors voted to unanimously object to the proposal to build an incinerator near St Dennis.

The Planning Officers' report had recommended objection on three grounds (i) that the 'site selection process had failed to consider more appropriate sites,' (ii) that 'the proposal would harm the countryside through the loss of agricultural land and hedgerows' and (iii) 'the scale, massing and height' of the development would harm the setting of St Dennis and Treviscoe.' An update sheet presented at the meeting added a fourth reason for objection that the development would 'harm the landscape character and wider setting of both Grade II listed buildings in the vicinity.'

The first two hours of the meeting were taken up with representations from members of the public and a single statement delivered on behalf of the applicant, which was followed by statements from councillors who had to lodge prejuducial interests (for representing their local communities!) and could not take part in the actual debate such as Fred Greenslade and John Wood.

All councillors who then spoke backed the protestors and raised a number of concerns about the application. St Columb councillor Pat Harvey proposed the officers' recommendation for objection, with the additions that a copy of the objection be sent to the Government Office of the South West and that Restormel lobbies Cornwall County Council to allow their local Restormel councillors to speak directly to the Planning Committee meeting that will make the decision later this year.

Other councillors made it clear that Restormel needed to re-affirm its long-standing commitment to a public inquiry should the County Council be minded to approve the application.

When I spoke I urged the Council to go much further and persuaded the councillors to agree a much more comprehensive set of objections. My objections included traffic concerns; worries about emissions and the impact on local health and the local environment; the adverse impact on local communities through noise, smell, dust and light pollution as well as the adverse effect on the nearby Special Areas of Conservation.

I also proposed that Restormel reaffirm its opposition to a centralised approach to waste management and a single incinerator in Mid Cornwall, stating that waste should be dealt with as close as possible to where it arises, and adding that the proposal did not comply with a wide range of policies such as the Waste Hierarchy, the National Waste Strategy and Planning Policy Statement 1 and its supplement on Climate Change.

It is clear to me that we need a well-thought-out and sustainable approach to waste management - not a massive waste-hungry incinerator in the heart of the China Clay Area.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Site meeting for incinerator application

Last night, I attended a site meeting close to the site of the proposed incinerator near St Dennis. It was in advance of a meeting on 22nd July, when Restormel councillors will make their views known to Cornwall County Council who will actually decide the application.

There was a good attendance of over 40 local people at the meeting with banners who peacefully made their views known.

Restormel Borough Council has long opposed the principle of a single waste incinerator in Mid Cornwall, while the committee report to be debated next week contains a recommendation to object to the proposal.

Watch this space for more news.

Charter of Pardon event

Last weekend, I was delighted to see members of the Cornish Stannary Parliament descend on my home patch of Fraddon to mark the 500th anniversary of the Charter of Pardon.

The well-attended event was held at Kingsley Village and started with a procession, which was followed by Anthony Richards (see right) reading out an abridged version of the document. An afternoon of traditional Cornish entertainment followed which was enjoyed by one and all.

This event is one of many activities this year to commemorate the signing of the Charter which restored the Stannaries following the 1497 rebellion and gave the historic Stannary Parliament the right to allow or disallow "any statue, act, ordinance, provision, restraint or proclamation ... made by the King, his heirs, successors, or the Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, or their Council ... to the prejudice of any tinner ..."

This document forms an important part of Cornwall's special constitutional position, especially as in 1977 Dafydd Wigley in Parliament asked the Attorney General if he would provide the date when the Charter of Pardon of 1508 was rescinded. The reply stated that the right to veto Westminster legislation had never been formally withdrawn.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

The launch of the Plan

The Parish Plan was officially launched last night at Fraddon Village Hall. Pictured above are the majority of the steering celebrating the completion of our work.

The St Enoder Parish Plan

Over the last two years, I have been in the very fortunate position of being the chairman of a steering group which has produced a Parish Plan for my home patch of St Enoder.

This week marks the publication of the Plan, which is primarily based on the findings of a questionnaire distributed around the whole of the Parish.

A total of 75 actions have been identified which need to be taken forward by the Parish Council or other bodies such as Restormel Borough Council, Cornwall County Council, the new unitary authority or the local Police.

St Enoder Parish Council has already adopted the document and I am looking forward to seeing a range of new initiatives and projects in my local area for the benefit of one and all.

It has been a real privilege to take a leading role in such an important project for my area.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Incinerator at St Dennis?

Mebyon Kernow has formally objected to the SITA planning application to construct a waste incinerator near St Dennis.

The objection covers a wide range of issues including the fact that a centralised waste strategy is inappropriate for Cornwall and that it is absurd to transport hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste to a single site from areas as far away as Bude, Saltash and St Just-in-Penwith.

The Party has pointed out that a large ‘waste hungry’ incinerator would be a retrograde step and would undermine efforts to radically reduce local waste and to re-use and recycle the local waste that is created. MK added that the massive 240,000 tonne annual capacity of the plant implies that SITA has little desire to actively promote waste minimisation.

MK has also expressed concern that incineration is not an environmentally friendly technology, that other methods of dealing with waste should be considered as alternatives and that it is not satisfied with the assurances given that the incinerator would not have a negative impact on health in the locality.

MK has also supported the objections made by local parish councils and hundreds of ordinary people in and around the China Clay Area and objected to the proposed location of the incinerator between St Dennis and Treviscoe.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Cllr Glenn Renshaw joins MK

It gives me great pleasure to announce that Glenn Renshaw (above), a district councillor from Saltash, has joined Mebyon Kernow.

Glenn was elected onto Caradon District Council last May as a Liberal Democrat to represent the ward of Saltash Essa, but has become disillusioned with the direction of that Party.

He has formally submitted his resignation and crossed the floor to join MK and sit with Cllr Andrew Long.

Welcome to Mebyon Kernow, Glenn. I look forward to working with you for many years to come in order to win a better deal for Cornwall.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Restormel's view of the eco-town

As the Chairman of Restormel’s Policy and Scrutiny Committee 4, I wrote a draft response to the Government’s document ‘Eco-towns – Living a Greener Future’ with the support of my Vice-Chairman Tim Jones. It was modified, and in some ways improved, with the support of the officers of the Council.

It was then presented to the Council’s cabinet on Monday evening.

Five pages long, it is quite a hard-hitting document. It criticises the likely imposition of yet more unsustainable housing on the district, it raises concerns about the impact of the proposals on existing communities, it objects to the ‘top-down’ and undemocratic manner in which central government has handled the whole process, it notes how the eco-town proposal may conflict with local economic regeneration strategies and how the Council has seen no evidence that the development will be an exemplar of environmental technologies. It also raises a considerable number of more detailed concerns and site-specific issues.

In the document, we clearly wrote that the “Borough Council is committed to employment-led regeneration and does not support the current targets for house-building in the panel report into the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) or the housing-led proposal for an eco-town around St Austell and the China Clay Area.”

Sadly, the Liberal Democrat dominated cabinet and officers decided that they wished to ‘water down’ this one section of the document.

Instead of clearly objecting to the proposal, they preferred to say that the “Council must be satisfied that the proposed eco-town does not commit the Borough Council or prejudice its position in respect of the objection to the higher levels of housing growth in the panel report … and will only accept the proposition for an eco-town if it helps deliver the employment-led regeneration and all of our other objectives for the area set out in our emerging strategies.”

I argued strongly, with some support from other members, that the imposition of an eco-town of 5,000 houses would make it more difficult to stop high house-figures on Mid Cornwall and that the IMERYS proposal was out-of-step with other strategies.

It was not to be. The cabinet voted 5-1 to weaken the thrust of the document – five Liberal Democrats versus one independent councillor.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

For the 'heart and soul' of St Austell and Clay Country

I have just released a press release stating that I believe we have a real fight for the very ‘heart and soul’ of St Austell and the China Clay Area.

The area could be facing yet more change in the coming years following the recent job losses in the clay industry, the upcoming and unwanted reforms to local government, a possible further massive increase in house-building (with perhaps 10,000 new housing units over the next twenty years including an eco-town) and the need to provide create good-quality jobs for local people.

I have called on local people to make their opinions known by responding to a wide range of consultation opportunities.


1. Economic strategies for the St Austell/St Blazey and China Clay Area

Restormel Borough Council is presently out to consultation on economic strategies for the area – copies of which are still available from the regeneration team at Restormel Borough Council, 39 Penwinnick Road, St Austell, PL25 5DR or via 01726 223300. The closing date is the end of June.

2. The eco-town bid

You can have your say on the IMERYS eco-town bid by sending your comments to Eco-towns team, Housing and Growth, Communities and Local Government, 2/H9 Eland House, Bressenden Place, London SW1E 5DU or via email

The Department of Communities and Local Government has a consultation paper which is available at: The closing date for the consultation is the end of June.

3. The incinerator application at St Dennis

To comment on the planning application, views should be put in writing and sent to:-

The Assistant Director: Spatial Planning, Planning, Transportation and Estates Department, Cornwall County Council, County Hall, Truro TR1 3AY (quoting reference 08/00203/WAS). The closing date is 27th June.

Copies of the letters should also be sent to the Plannng Department of Restormel Borough Council at 39 Penwinnick Road, St Austell, PL25 5DR.

4. For a Public Inquiry into the incinerator

If you would like to demand a Public Inquiry into the SITA / Cornwall County Council planning application,you should write to the following address:

Mrs. M. Peart, Government Office for the South West, Mast House, Shepherds Wharf, 24 Sutton Road, Plymouth, PL4 0HJ .

Thursday, 5 June 2008

The attack on Quenchwell Chapel

Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall has condemned the recent racist attack on the former Methodist Chapel at Quenchwell, near Carnon Downs, where an Asian community centre is planned.

The new owner of the chapel has stated that he hopes to develop the building into a multi-faith centre where people of all faiths can go to celebrate family occasions and practise their religion.

In the recent attack, the head of a pig was nailed to the door and graffiti of a racist and ‘nationalist’ nature daubed on the walls.

On behalf of MK, I made the following statement:

“MK is saddened and appalled at the attack on the former chapel at Quenchwell. Such racist behaviour has no place in Cornish society and we condemn it without reservation.

“The attack is a crude attempt to foster division and intolerance in Cornwall and this must be resisted at all costs. It is unacceptable that any individual or group should have to put up with such harassment.

“We believe it is important that everyone works hard to help build an inclusive society that respects and celebrates the cultural background and faiths of minority groups in Cornwall today.

“We also welcome the statement of Police Inspector Mark Richards that the graffiti was offensive ‘not only to Asians, Asian religions, but also to Christians and Cornish nationalists whose name is taken in vain.’

“It is our hope that the Police will be able to catch those responsible for this crime and take the appropriate action.”

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Cornwall at Twickenham

Along with many other Cornish people, I was away from Cornwall this weekend. I made the long trek to Twickenham to watch the County Shield final between Cornwall and Northumberland.

In spite of the 10.00 kick-off, there was a very good and noisy contingent from the Duchy. It was great to be part of such a wonderful display of Cornish identity and to see a large amount of black and gold on display.

Sadly, we were beaten 25-11 but the important thing is that we have been promoted back to the top tier of ‘county’ rugby and I am looking forward to next year’s games against Devon, Gloucestershire and Somerset. Well done lads!

As well as being a fervent rugby supporter, I am fully aware that a successful Cornish rugby team does wonders for local self-confidence and encourages people to promote and support Cornish causes.

The above photograph is the best that I could do. I left my camera at home and this came via my mobile phone.

Comments of Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg was in Cornwall a few days ago and a few local newspapers printed his views on a number of issues. Here is my letter in response to his statements about the proposed unitary council. You may have heard these views from me before.

I was very disappointed with the response of Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg to readers’ questions in the Cornish Guardian, Cornishman and West Briton newspapers. It was particularly galling to hear him to trot out the falsehood that a unitary authority will lead to greater powers for Cornwall.

I would like to remind Mr Clegg of a few points.

1. In November 2001, Liberal Democrats held a Cornwall Conference which agreed to campaign for a Regional Assembly for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

2. The Lib Dems contested the 2005 General Election and Cornwall County Council elections with a Cornish Manifesto which included a commitment to a Cornish Assembly.

3. Upon winning control of Cornwall County Council that year, they published a list of priorities that included a pledge to “establish detailed plans for a Cornish Assembly” within their first year of office. The Lib Dems did not take this pledge forward.

4. At another conference of Cornish Liberal Democrats in November 2005, they re-affirmed their commitment to the campaign for a Cornish Assembly. The motion specifically stated that “devolution to a Cornish tier of strategic regional government” was needed in advance of any reform to local government structures. In their press material to publicise the event, Andrew George MP said: “… the Government will not get away with their belief that they can fob us off with a rearrangement of deckchairs on the Titanic of local government.”

5. However in October 2006, when Ruth Kelly launched a Local Government White Paper, which included measures to allow “a small number of councils to seek unitary status,” the Liberal Democrat County Council immediately jettisoned their commitment to a Cornish Assembly and began to prepare a bid for a single council.

6. In spite of the Liberal Democrat resolution from November 2005 and earlier commitments to a Cornish Assembly, Lib Dem MPs suddenly starting making claims that this was a “golden opportunity” to “get some powers back to Cornwall.”

7. They even carried on making the claim that local government reorganisation would lead to devolution after a senior director at the Department for Communities and Local Government visited Cornwall and confirmed that a unitary authority would not be able to draw down greater powers from regional and central government.

8. The Liberal Democrats on Cornwall County Council continued with their bid for unitary status even when it was apparent that 80% of local people were opposed to the move as shown by the postal polls carried out by four district councils.

9. In February this year, the majority of Liberal Democrat MPs refused to use their position in parliament to oppose the Order to set up the unitary authority. And this was even after the Local Government Minister John Healey MP confirmed that “no specific additional powers” would be devolved to Cornwall.

I believe it is about time that Cornwall’s Liberal Democrats came clean and admitted that there is no evidence that their proposals for a unitary authority will lead to Cornish devolution. They have let Cornwall down by abandoning their commitment to a Cornish Assembly.

Monday, 26 May 2008

A break from politics ...

It has been a quiet few days for me and my wife Ann. We have taken an early summer holiday and spent the last week on the west coast of Scotland. We were based just outside Oban for most of that time but spent the last night of the break on the Isle of Mull which allowed us to visit Iona (see above).

I really needed the break and even managed to work my way through four novels.

That said, it was great to be in Scotland under the control of the SNP’s minority administration and to see the ongoing public debate around the independence or greater powers for Scotland. Even the Conservatives were making positive noises about building on the last devolution settlement.

How different from Cornwall! It was certainly depressing to come home to hear about the latest undemocratic shambles surrounding the unitary authority experiment.

The latest news has it that the ‘Boundary Committee for England’ has decided that they need more evidence about how many councillors the new council should have. And because of this they state that it is unlikely there will be enough time to implement new electoral arrangements – meaning that the elections would have to take place on the present County Council wards leaving the whole of Cornwall with only 82 principal councillors.

And we also have central government suggesting that next year’s local elections should be pushed back to June to coincide with the European elections. If this did happen, it would mean that with the present principal councils being abolished on April 1, Cornwall would have no councillors for over two months. Almost unbelievable ...

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Strategic Investment Frameworks!

On Monday, through my position as Chairman of Restormel's Policy & Scrutiny 4 Committee, I had the pleasure of launching, with Annette Egerton the leader of the Borough Council, economic strategies for the China Clay Area and St Austell/St Blazey.

As well as focussing on how the economy of the area can be strengthened over the next twenty years with the creation of more and better-paid jobs, the documents will double up as a Strategic Investment Framework (SIF) and determine how the area can make the best use of the new European funds potentially available from now until 2015.

These economic strategies are vitally important documents and should underpin much of the investment in the China Clay area and St Austell / St Blazey over the next ten to twenty years.

I do sincerely hope that local people to take part in the consultation to help us deliver for local people and these wonderful communities in Mid Cornwall.

Mr Brown in Cornwall

It is no wonder that people are so disillusioned with the political process.

The Prime Minister was in Cornwall, last Friday. He didn’t come to meet with local people to discuss their concerns and their problems face-to-face or even to meet with representatives of the local district council to consider regeneration issues.

Instead, he came and visited the Eden Project for a photo opportunity.

Reading the papers this week, I am more than a little annoyed. In the Cornish Guardian, Mr Brown claimed that, concerning the eco-town proposal, “we are listening to local people and what they have to say on the plans.” Do you believe him – I do not!

Labour ignored Cornwall when 50,000 people demanded a Cornish Assembly. It has imposed a unitary authority when 80% of people made it clear that they were opposed. And now it has short-listed the IMERYS eco-town proposal without even talking to the local Council, undermining some of the local regeneration policies that the Council was developing.

Mr Brown, I would invite you to come back to Cornwall and visit real working people in our local communities and learn about what Cornwall really needs.

Friday, 2 May 2008

The Celtic Connection

Robin Field is a local film maker who has made a number of quite short documentaries, which he has uploaded onto the web. He did an interview with me in my home and if you would like to see the end result, titled ‘The Celtic Connection,’ you can view it at:

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Outed as a 'Panda'

I recently did an interview for the St Austell Voice which appeared in this week’s edition of the newspaper.

When my photograph was being taken, comment was made about the dark bags under my eyes and the fact that I looked really tired. Obviously I explained this was due to the hectic nature of my life, but I then made the mistake of letting them know that some people at work call me ‘Panda’ because of my ‘black eyes.’

The paper has now made this revelation public and I am looking forward to much 'humour' from colleagues in the coming days.

Radio St Austell Bay

Today, I was invited onto Radio St Austell Bay to discuss local issues and choose some music.

RSAB is a new community radio station run on a not-for-profit basis by a voluntary management committee with extensive experience of local radio and community development.

Many volunteers are involved and they are from a range of age groups and all sorts of backgrounds. All types of music are catered for and, as well as presenting programmes, volunteers are involved in producing, researching and administration.

I thought the whole set-up was tremendous and the enthusiasm of the volunteers was really impressive.

I normally go on about politics too much, so for those who might be interested - the music I selected was Crocodile Rock by Elton John (happy memories of college), Devil in Disguise by Elvis (growing up), What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye (political music), City of New Orleans by Willie Nelson (just great music) and a track from Cornwall’s very own Dalla.

For those who are interested, RSAB broadcast on 105.6FM and more information can be found at

Sunday, 6 April 2008

What future for Clay Country?

This week, I have commented on the Government decision to place IMERYS’ proposal for an eco-town on a shortlist of fifteen – of which ten may be taken forward. The proposal includes 5,000 new homes and about 35 hectares of employment land on six sites in and around the China Clay Area.

Unelected SW quangos expect the district of Restormel to accommodate 15,700 houses over the next twenty years, which equals a 35% increase in housing stock across the Borough. With the eco-town proposal, it is clear that the level of development would be even higher in the St Austell Area.

I have also pointed out that the amount of housing planned for the St Austell Area is clearly not about meeting local needs and is unsustainable, and that support for the eco-town proposal could impact on attempts to construct a cohesive economic strategy for St Austell/St Blazey and the Clay Area.

The statement from central government claims that the proposal ‘forms part of a major regeneration programme which is being taken forward with extensive involvement between IMERYS and Restormel BC, Cornwall CC and South West RDA.’

The truth is that, in advance of the short-listing, the Government never sought Restormel Borough Council’s view about the eco-town proposal, in terms of its scale, location or appropriateness. The Imerys proposal has simply bypassed the democratic process thus far.

I am Chairman of Restormel’s Planning Policy Committee and with many others at Restormel, I have been working hard to produce regeneration strategies for St Austell/St Blazey and the China Clay Area, which will soon be going out to consultation.

This work has focussed on identifying what is best for this area in terms of economic development and identifying the best schemes for employment land. But now we are being told by central government that we may have to support all of IMERYS’ proposals and, as far as I am concerned, this means the work on the Council’s strategy for the area may be undermined as a result.

It remains my view that local politicians, elected here in Cornwall should be making the decisions about how Cornwall is developed in the future. Local politicians should decide how much housing is built, where it is built and what sites are redeveloped for employment land.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Cornwall 17 Durham 3 (1908)

This weekend marks an important anniversary that I could not let pass without comment on my blog.

One hundred years ago, over 17,000 people crammed into the Recreation Ground at Redruth to watch Cornwall beat Durham by 17 points to 3 to win the rugby county championship (28th March 1908). As champions, the Cornwall team was then invited to represent Britain in the 1908 Olympics – losing to Australia in the final.

It is my understanding that the Barbarians have invited the Australian rugby team, who will be touring Britain this Autumn, to play a game at Wembley to mark the anniversary of the Olympic final in December.

The successes of Cornwall’s team in their black and gold have always been an important part of Cornwall’s national identity, but sadly the opportunities for representative rugby in Cornwall are now very limited following the advent of professionalism in the sport.

As a Cornish nationalist and keen rugby follower however, it remains my hope that we will win greater political recognition for the historic nation of Cornwall and our national team in black and gold will be able to represent Cornwall on a greater stage.

That said, if the Barbarians game does get the go-ahead this year, I see no reason why the team should not be made up of the best rugby players that Cornwall has produced to properly mark the Olympic anniversary.

For information, the above photograph is from the recent Tamar Cup (Cornwall v Devon) game at Polson Bridge which we won 10-7.

Monday, 17 March 2008

A week in my life

Many newspapers and magazines run features in which they allow individuals to recount 24 hours or a week in their lives. It is something I have been contemplating for this blog for a while now and I thought – why not do it for the period around the St Piran celebrations (5th – 12th March).

This year, I did not get to attend the traditional St Piran’s Day march in Truro because, as is so often the norm, I was at Restormel Borough Council attending a series of meetings on planning-related matters. I did get to work in the afternoon and spent much of the evening on the telephone and catching up with paperwork.

On Thursday, I managed a full day at work and spent the evening at more meetings. At 5 o’clock, I attended a meeting of Governors at Summercourt Primary School before moving onto a meeting at St Dennis where local residents had got together with a small number of councillors to discuss the County Council’s forthcoming application for an incinerator to be built in their area.

Friday was also hectic. It was work in the morning, followed by the first meeting of the ‘Local Development Framework (LDF) – Member Group.’ Due to the forthcoming imposition of a unitary authority on Cornwall, the six district councils are unable to progress new planning policies and this new panel has been set up to ‘advise’ the Implementation Executive and take forward aspects of the work necessary to produce a Core Strategy for a Cornwall-wide LDF. I am Restormel’s representative on this group and found the first meeting to be quite frustrating. I was even on the losing side of a vote when we suggested that the meeting be held in public. A single Lib Dem and I voted for open meetings which was opposed by two Liberal Democrats and three Conservatives. One independent abstained.

In the evening, I attended a gathering at Truro Museum where a group of Truro College students had prepared an exhibition of artefacts from the excavation at Glasney College, Penryn, which I had carried out in 2003. The presentation is still there in the Museum and is worth viewing. Entrance to the Museum is free.

By this point, I was very glad to get home and light the fire and then share a bottle of wine with my wife Ann.

The weekend

On those Saturdays when Redruth RFC are playing at home Ann and I always go to shout for the boys in red. As there was no game this Saturday, and we had been away in London the previous weekend, I spent most of the day catching up with correspondence relating to MK and my council work, while working on some MK press statements. I did however treat myself to watching the Wales-Ireland game on the television.

On Sunday morning, I visited a number of parishioners to give help and advice on a range of local issues and concerns. In the afternoon, I took a break and Ann and I joined several hundred people to process across the dunes near Perranporth to celebrate St Piran and mark Cornwall’s wonderful and distinctive heritage.

After a visit to my parents, I spent the evening doing some detailed preparation for a meeting of Restormel’s planning policy committee which I chair and would be meeting on Wednesday night to consider the latest draft of economic strategies for the China Clay Area and St Austell.

Two strategies and an eco-town meeting

The new week began with a briefing for the local media at Restormel offices on Monday morning in advance of Wednesday’s meeting. A full and uncomplicated day’s work followed with an evening once again spent staring at a computer screen.

On Tuesday it was an early start (7.30) as I set off for a seminar on housing growth and eco-towns at Exeter. Individuals addressing the seminar included Richard Omerod of Government Office South West and I could not help but have my say.

I questioned him on a number of points. One was about the recent suggested increase in housing numbers which equated to an increase of 23% on the figures contained in the 2006 Regional Spatial Strategy – but would be an increase of 53% in Cornwall and 83% in my district of Restormel. I asked him about whether the suggested plan for an eco-town of 5,000 properties in and around St Austell would be included within the Restormel allocation of 15,700 properties or would mean even more housing on top of that figure. I also moaned about the fact that the government is putting together a shortlist for eco-town proposals at the present time, but has not even asked the democratically-elected local council for its views.

It will surprise no-one that the questions were not really answered. What did surprise me though was the number of people who sought me out in the break to agree with me. This even including the Chair of the Board of the SW Regional Development Agency!

Back in Cornwall for the evening, I attended a meeting of the Trustees of Indian Queens Pit (a non-conformist preaching pit). It is a wonderful asset for my local area, but much of the meeting sadly had to focus on the consequences of recent vandalism in and around the monument.

My priority for Wednesday was obviously the meeting to consider the regeneration strategies for the China Clay Area and St Austell. I was quite pleased to get through a very positive meeting in around two and a half hours, as it followed a rather busy day’s work.

So there it is – an average week in my life. I hope this latest blog entry gives a balance of what it is like to be a local councillor whilst holding down a full-time job and also leading a political party!

Sunday, 9 March 2008

E-petition launched on St Piran's Day

To mark this year’s St Piran’s Day, Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall has launched an online version of its petition against proposals to massively increase house-building in Cornwall.

The petition has been placed on the Downing Street website and reads as follows:

“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to reject the plan from unelected South West quangos to construct 68,700 new properties in Cornwall over the next twenty years and agree that Cornwall's housing strategy should be determined exclusively by democratically elected Cornish politicians, responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people whom they are elected to serve.”

It can be accessed at:

Do join us in opposing this ridiculously unsustainable proposal and also the undemocratic way in which it is being promoted.

Sign the petition today.

The original paper petition is also available from MK at Lanhainsworth, Fraddon Hill, Fraddon, St Columb TR9 6PQ and can be downloaded from the Mebyon Kernow website at:

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Lib Dem MPs fail Cornwall

The Draft Cornwall (Structural Change) Order 2008 to set up a single unitary authority was debated in the House of Commons (Delegated Legislation Committee) on 7th February.

All five of Cornwall’s MPs were present and four spoke in favour of the Order – even after the Government’s Local Government Minister John Healey MP clarified that “no specific additional powers are attached to this restructuring to establish a single unitary council.”

Andrew George meanwhile used the debate to describe the Order as “technically, legally and politically defective” and a botched job. He also accused the Minister of producing a ‘minimalist’ regulation which “failed to meet the ambitions of the people of Cornwall.” However, the two MPs representing Cornish constituencies on the Delegated Legislation Committee (Julia Goldsworthy and Dan Rogerson) both voted for the proposal following the debate.

The Order actually passed through the House of Commons on 18th February by 287 votes to 116. Andrew George voted against the order but the other MPs did not vote.

Throughout the debate around Cornwall County Council's bid for a unitary authority, the Liberal Democrat leadership of the Council and Cornwall’s five MPs made claim after claim that a single unitary authority would lead to the devolution.

They even continued with this misinformation after a leading government civil servant visited Cornwall and rubbished their statements that a unitary authority for Cornwall would be given greater powers.

And now we have ridiculous situation of four Cornish MPs continuing to speak in favour of the proposals during a House of Commons debate - even after the Local Government Minister confirmed that the creation of a single unitary authority for Cornwall was about local government reform and nothing more – while Andrew George tries desperately to distance himself from his colleagues.

It is about time that Cornwall’s Liberal Democrats came clean and admitted that they have let Cornwall down by abandoning their commitment to a Cornish Assembly and that their half-baked proposals for a unitary authority will not lead to the devolution of greater powers.

I think that supporters of the campaign for a Cornish Assembly will be greatly interested in the following time-line of promises and pledges.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Fiftieth birthday for CND

This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

As a CND member and the leader of a political party that has supported complete nuclear disarmament for over 25 years, I believe it is vital we continue to push campaigns to outlaw nuclear weapons further and further up the political agenda.

CND is as relevant now as it was back in 1958. And it remains total madness that the British Government wishes to replace their Trident missile system at a cost of £75 billion-plus over the next 20 years or so.

Just think how we could better spend £75 billion on piblic services - on hospitals, schools, education and so much more.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Sign the MK petition

Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall has launched a petition against proposals in the ‘Regional Spatial Strategy for the South West’ to massively increase house-building in Cornwall.

I hope that you will join us in making sure that thousands of people sign the petition in order to leave the various authorities (both elected and unelected) in no doubt about the strength of feeling in Cornish communities.

The petition states the following:

The SW Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) aims to massively increase house-building in Cornwall.

· We object to the construction of 68,700 new properties in the next twenty years which would mean the equivalent of one new house for every four existing properties in Cornwall.

· This will have an unacceptable impact on our environment, Cornwall’s communities and infrastructure.

· We, the undersigned, call on central government to allow Cornwall’s democratically elected representatives to decide what is right for our area and to deliver a housing strategy that focuses on providing affordable homes to meet local needs, instead of promoting unsustainable house-building for its own sake.


Sunday, 3 February 2008

Objecting to the RSS

I am pleased to be able to report that, this week, a leading committee of Restormel Borough Council has hit out at plans to massively increase house-building in Mid Cornwall as set out in the latest draft of the Regional Spatial Strategy.

At Wednesday’s meeting of the planning policy committee (Policy and Scrutiny 4), of which I am the chairman, councillors supported my proposal to make immediate representations to the Government stating that the “Council does not support the proposed increases which it is considered are excessive and inappropriate to the needs of local communities.” It was also agreed to contact the other principal councils in Cornwall to make similar representations.

As I stated in a previous post on this blog, the original RSS produced by the unelected SW Regional Assembly in 2006 proposed that 45,000 houses should be built in Cornwall up to 2026, but an ‘Examination in Public’ has upped that figure to 68,700. Of these, it expects 15,700 properties to be built within the Restormel area.

In advance of this week’s meeting, I looked closely at the figures. The overall increase in house-building for the ‘South West region’ is 23%, while for Cornwall it is 53%. In Restormel however, it is an even unsustainable and unwarranted 83%. This equates to a 35% increase in Restormel’s housing stock in only two decades.

The full motion passed by the meeting was as follows:

“Policy and Scrutiny Committee 4 recommends that Restormel Borough Council sends immediate representations to the Department of Communities and Local Government on the figures for house-building in the Regional Spatial Strategy stating that the Council does not support the proposed increases which is considered are excessive and inappropriate to the needs of local communities; contact Cornwall County Council and the other five district councils to request that they make similar representations; note the remainder of the document and start work on a detailed response to the panel report in advance of the official consultation.”

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Public Inquiry needed on incinerator plans

This week, I was one of three councillors from Restormel Borough Council who publicly re-stated calls for a Public Inquiry into the construction of a large waste to energy plant (incinerator) in Mid Cornwall.

At a Full Council meeting in 2006, Cllr Fred Greenslade (Lib Dem – Rock Ward), John Wood (Independent - Rock Ward) and I successfully persuaded Restormel councillors to overwhelmingly back our calls for a Public Inquiry, when the waste management contract was being agreed between the County Council and SITA.

Though the Government has, so far, failed to act on the calls of the Borough Council and others, this remains the view of Restormel.

On Wednesday and Thursday, we viewed the display organised by SITA at St Dennis Working Mens’ Club which set out more detail on the incinerator that they wish to construct near the village of St Dennis.

We saw nothing at the display which allayed our concerns about the consequences of how Cornwall County Council and SITA plan to deal with Cornwall’s waste and issued the following statement:

“We do not accept that a single centralised incinerator is the appropriate way to deal with Cornwall’s domestic waste or the manner in which the China Clay Area was identified as the site for the incinerator.

“It remains our view that waste should be dealt with as close as possible to where it arises and should not be transported over very long distances to a single site in the Clay Area.

“The people of St Dennis and the Clay Area as a whole deserve the right to put their concerns at a Public Inquiry.”

Thursday, 10 January 2008

68,700 new houses for Cornwall?

The findings of the ‘Examination in Public’ into the ‘Regional Spatial Strategy for the South West’ (RSS), produced by the unelected SW Regional Assembly, were released on Wednesday (9th January).

It contains the bombshell that the RSS plans to massively increase house-building and proposes that 68,700 houses be built in Cornwall over the next 20 years.

The original Draft RSS was published in 2006 and proposed that a hefty 45,000 houses be built in Cornwall over the next two decades. The new figures represents a further increase of 53% which equates to an extra 23,700 properties.

The document outlines that the housing should be spread across Cornwall as follows:

· Caradon – 6,500 housing units (an increase of 700 on the original document)
· Carrick - 10,900 housing units (an increase of 900)
· Kerrier – 14,400 housing units (an increase of 6,200)
· North Cornwall – 13,400 housing units (an increase of 5,800)
· Penwith - 7,800 housing units (an increase of 3,000)
· Restormel - 15,700 housing units (an increase of 7,100)

I am very shocked by the news at the moment and consider it mind-boggling that a mere handful of people in unelected and unaccountable SW quango-and can come up with such ridiculous proposals which, if allowed to proceed, will have such a disastrous impact on Cornish communities, our local environment and infrastructure.

I will post more on this as and when I receive it.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Government responds to MK e-petition

Like many other people, I have just received the Government’s response to an e-petition posted on the Downing Street website by MK councillor Richard Clark which called on them to “reject Cornwall County Council's bid for unitary status” and to instead introduce legislation for a Cornish Assembly.

The Government response is not in any way surprising. It was as follows:

“The Government issued an Invitation to Councils in October 2006 to come forward with proposals for a single-tier of local government in their areas. Following a process of careful assessment, which included a twelve week consultation on shortlisted proposals, the Government announced on 5 December 2007 that Cornwall County Council's proposal for a single unitary council for Cornwall will be implemented.

"It was judged to have met all of the five criteria as specified in the original Invitation to Councils. The order creating the unitary authority will be debated in Parliament in the New Year. It is intended that the new unitary council will be up and running on 1 April 2009.

"The Government's view on the idea of a separate assembly for Cornwall is well known and remains unchanged. It is not easy to see advantage in an 'assembly' that would duplicate an existing unit of local government over a coterminous area.

"The Government's approach on devolving powers from central Government to the sub-region was set out in the Local Government White Paper published on 26 October 2006 and in the Review of sub-national economic development and regeneration published on 17 July 2007. The Review builds on the White Paper by proposing increased powers and stronger incentives for all local authorities, including those in Cornwall, to improve the prosperity of their communities.

"On 17 July 2007, the Government also announced that 'Regional Assemblies in their current form and function will not continue'. Regional Assembly planning and housing responsibilities will transfer to the existing Regional Development Agencies (RDAs).”

The Government statement is very disappointing, but clearly shows that the creation of a single council for Cornwall is about local government reform and nothing more.

The statement demolishes those ridiculous Liberal Democrat claims that a unitary council for Cornwall will lead to the devolution of greater powers.

The response notes that there may be some ‘increased powers’ for all local authorities. In other words, if the Government does finally get around to devolving a few more powers to local authorities, it will not just be to unitary councils. Indeed, bodies such as Somerset County Council will get just as much a Cornish unitary council.