Monday, 31 October 2016

Cornwall Council to consider Devonwall proposal

The members of the unitary authority will be considering their position on the parliamentary Boundary Review tomorrow.

Back in May, councillors voted to oppose the creation of a Devonwall seat after I had tabled a motion to that effect. In particular, it was resolved that:

“1. that the Government be urged to respect the spirit of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and take all necessary steps to amend the Act [Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011] prior to completion of the said parliamentary constituency review to specifically protect the parliamentary constituencies of Cornwall so that they remain fully within the boundary of Cornwall;
2. to write to all the Members of Parliament for Cornwall to seek their urgent and active support for the proposed amendment as set out under paragraph (1) above; and
3. that the Leader seek an urgent meeting with the Boundary Commission for England to raise the fundamental constitutional issue of the integrity of Cornwall’s boundary and the impact of the said Framework Convention that is critical to the effective implementation of the said parliamentary constituency review.”

The recommendation in the report for tomorrow’s meeting does not deviate from this. It sets out the nature of the representations to be made to the Boundary Commission, but also sets out that the Council will continue to lobby central government to change the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act.

I am optimistic that councillors will support the recommendation that has been prepared.

One point of particular note is that Cornwall Council has sought legal advice on whether it would be possible to launch some form of judicial challenge. The answer, from two prominent QCs, is not helpful in that regard.

The view is summarised as follows in the report: 

“The legislation governing the boundary review does not breach the rights of Cornish people under the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. The Framework Convention is not part of UK law and so it cannot be used to mount a direct challenge to an Act of Parliament and any further change to the 1986 Act Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 [as amended by the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011] is a matter for Parliament.”

But this does not stop us from continuing to lobby central government to respect the spirit of the Framework Convention. Indeed, this must still be our priority.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Polson Bridge protest says no to Devonwall

Polson Bridge was the place to be today, when campaigners congregated to protest against Government plans for a cross-Tamar “Devonwall” parliamentary seat. 

I was proud to represent Mebyon Kernow at the rally and I would like to say a massive thank you to Esther Johns, her family and friends, who worked so hard to organise this important event.

We were there because the “Boundary Commission for England” is recommending a Bideford, Bude and Launceston seat, which would breach the thousand-year-old border of the Tamar and undermine the very territorial integrity of the historic nation of Cornwall.

And this has not come about by accident. It has happened because of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act, which was agreed in 2011. This does not protect Cornwall (and the Isles of Scilly) as a political unit and states that the electorates for individual seats must be within 5% of the average seat size.

Put simply, the number of voters mean it was a statistical impossibility for the Boundary Commission to propose five whole seats for Cornwall and Isles of Scilly.

To stop Devonwall, we need a simple amendment to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act to ensure parliamentary seats lie entirely within Cornwall (and the Isles of Scilly), and that is why many people are working hard to put pressure on local MPs and the Minister in charge of constitutional matters, Chris Skidmore.

Please join with us in this campaign. Please lobby Mr Skidmore who can be contacted at the Cabinet Office, Whitehall, London, SW1A 2AS or via

But we really do need to swamp the Conservatives with correspondence. Our local MPs, who were not present at Polson Bridge, are not listening at the moment.

On October 10th, Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons, on behalf of Mebyon Kernow, which set out opposition to the creation of a cross-Tamar parliamentary constituency. Not one Cornish MP has supported the EDM, and only two from outside of Scotland and Wales.

And just over a week later, SNP MP Pete Wishart tabled a motion which called for the Boundary Review to be abandoned and, instead, the number of unelected peers in the House of Lords to be slashed. Cornwall’s Tory MPs all voted with the Government and against this proposal. And unforgivably, they did not even use the opportunity of the debate to speak out against the proposed Devonwall seat.

In addition, the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act is shamefully in conflict with the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, through which the UK Government accepted that the Cornish should be treated with the same status as the “UK’s other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.”

Please don’t delay. Put pressure on your local MP to Keep Cornwall Whole.

[This will be my article in this week's Cornish Guardian].

Thursday, 27 October 2016


Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall will be holding its Annual Conference on Saturday 19th November 2016.

It will take place in the Council Chamber at Lys Kernow (“New County Hall”), Truro.

The Conference is an open event, and we would like to formally extend an invitation to anyone who would like to join us on the day. All are welcome.

The doors will open at 9.30 and the event will commence at around 10.00. In the morning, there will presentations on topics such as how central government is failing to respect the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, the impact of cuts to funding for the Cornish language, the ongoing campaign for a Cornish Assembly and much more.

There will also be guidance on how to make representations against the threatened cross-Tamar Devonwall constituency.

In the afternoon, there will be a number of speeches. In addition to Cllr Dick Cole’s traditional keynote address as party leader, other speakers already confirmed include Steffan Lewis (Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales East), Natalia Pinkowska (Vice-President of the European Free Alliance) and Dr Joseph Toms, who will be speaking about the National Health Service.

There will also be an opportunity to participate in a number of discussions and a chance to find out more about next year’s important elections to the unitary authority and the many town and parish councils across Cornwall.

We would love to see you at the Conference.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Next MK meeting in St Austell and Newquay Constituency

The next meeting for Mebyon Kernow members in the St Austell & Newquay Constituency has been arranged to take place this Friday (28th October).

The meeting will take place at ClayTAWC in St Dennis and start at 7.30.

We will be discussing a range of issues including the threat of a Devonwall constituency and we will giving guidance as to how people can object to a cross-Tamar seat. We will also will be reviewing local planning matters and also the upcoming 2017 elections to the unitary authority.

Anyone from the St Austell & Newquay Constituency, who would be interested in attending the meeting and / or finding out more about MK and its local campaigns, can call me on 07791 876607 or email me on

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

My latest monthly report to St Enoder Parish Council

At tonight’s Parish Council, I will be tabling the following report, which covers the period 26th September to 23rd October 2016. Some of the content has already been featured on this blog, but the report is here for the sake of completeness.

1. Council meetings

I have attended a range of formal meetings at Cornwall Council over the last month. These included: Full Council, Constitution and Governance, a meeting for Cornwall Councillors in the China Clay Area, a meeting of Group Leaders, a meeting between the leadership of the Council and the Chairs of the various Policy Advisory Committees, a member briefing, and an all-day Planning Conference which was held in the parish of St Enoder at Kingsley Village

As well as the meetings listed above, I have had a large number of informal meetings with council officers.

2. New play area in Indian Queens Recreation Ground

In the last few weeks, I have continued to work with the Parish Clerk in negotiating with the suppliers about some “snags” which have now mostly been dealt with.

In my last monthly report, I did write about the grant application I had submitted to the National Lottery’s Awards for All programme on behalf of the Parish Council. It was 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, to make it easier to access the new facilities during the winter months when the field can get quite wet and boggy.

I can report that, on the 11th October, the National Lottery publicised that we had been successful

Local contactors T Julian and Son have already started work on site and the path will probably be completed by the end of this week.

3. Planning hearing; Land to east of the Kelliers

As I reported previously, on 16th August I attended and spoke at the informal appeal hearing into the part-retrospective 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.

The Inspector has dismissed the appeal and upheld the Council’s enforcement notice, which means the site must be cleared within nine months.

In her conclusion, the Inspector wrote: “The developments fail to protect or enhance the natural environment and are of a poor design that has little regard to the characteristics of the area. I recognise that the caravans are occupied for residential purposes and that compliance with the notice will therefore result in the loss of accommodation for those tenants. However, in light of the harm that I have identified, I consider the refusal of planning permission is necessary and that a period of nine months in which to comply with the notice is a proportionate response when balancing the harm against the loss of accommodation for the current tenants … to conclude, I find that, the adverse impacts of granting planning permission would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in the National Planning Policy Framework taken as a whole.”

4. Planning hearing; biogas plant at Higher Fraddon

As I reported previously, on 2nd September, I attended and spoke at 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.

The Inspector has issued a planning permission for the site and consented the number of vehicle movements requested by the applicant (Greener for Life), though he has also strengthened some of the 21 conditions attached to the planning permission, as suggested by myself, the Parish Council and local residents.

The Inspector also showed some sympathy for local residents and the tone of his ruling was clearly critical of both Cornwall Council and Greener for Life.

The decision notes that I had “argued that because the tanks had not been built in the exact location and to the height of the approved plans in PA12/01700” and made the case that the development was unauthorised and no planning permission therefore existed “for the biogas plant as built.” The Inspector acknowledges we argued that little weight should be given to planning permission PA12/01700 and the associated non-material amendments (NMAs), but the Inspector took a different view. He has decreed that “permission PA12/01700 and the NMAs constitute the appellant’s fall-back position and as such are relevant material considerations that must be afforded significant weight.”

The Inspector did say that: “I have read the numerous objections from neighbouring residents and have considerable sympathy for these neighbours in terms of the way the biogas plant has adversely affected their living conditions, in part as a result of the NMAs.” But, in spite of this, he went on to say that “in view of the fact that PA12/01700 has been lawfully implemented I must assess these appeals by comparing the development as permitted, including the amendments in the NMAs, with what the appellant now proposes.”

Because of this, in considering Appeal A (PA15/03073) which related to the regularisation of the site as built and reduction of the digester closest to residents, he focussed his attention on the height of the digester and came to the view that Appeal A should be allowed.

In terms of Appeal B (PA15/05220), which related to traffic movements, he was critical of the nature of the access road, stating: “I agree that the access road is manifestly unsuitable to accommodate any increase in HGV numbers due to its blind bends, narrow width and lack of any footway or central white line.”

But he went onto state that he needed to assess “whether the appeal proposal would lead to any increase above the number and type of movements that have already been permitted,” adding that “I am concerned to minimise the impacts of HGV traffic to the AD plant on residents living on the access road. But it would be unreasonable to impose a condition limiting such movements to less than that already permitted and implemented.”

He therefore decided that the 35 HGVs per week requested by the application were “less than in the implemented permission,” which “the Council saw fit in 2013 to grant permission for the NMA allowing this.” I fundamentally disagree with his ruling on this, as the first NMA was unworkable and should never have been agreed. I am not sure that the Inspector grasped the significance of the evidence relating to traffic movements presented at the hearing, and he came to the view that Appeal B should also be allowed.

The Inspector issued a single consent for the two appeals with a single set of 21 conditions. Those of particular interest to local residents are as follows:

Condition 14
The Inspector has detailed that: “The weekly number and types of vehicles visiting the AD Plant site shall not exceed the following: 35 Heavy Goods Vehicle movements, 7 Staff/Other Vehicle movements (Light Goods Vehicles) - Total number of movements per week for the Anaerobic Digester Plant: 42.” He also agreed that: “The operators shall keep contemporaneous records of all vehicles visiting the site and shall provide written details of such vehicle movements at the request of the LPA, in order to show compliance with this condition”

One addition he made was that: “The definition of Heavy Goods Vehicles shall be agreed between the applicant and the Local Planning Authority (LPA) by the appellant submitting to the LPA within one month of this decision a list of vehicles types (including dimensions) of this class that will service the plant.” He also stated that once these had been agreed, only such vehicles would be able to be used to “import material for the digesters and remove the digestate.”

I am very disappointed that he did not reduce the number of HGVs in this condition, as I do not believe that the plant would be able to operate with only seven non-HGV movements per week. Indeed, the Inspector himself noted that residents had provided “compelling evidence” that vehicle movements, particularly of smaller vehicles, were consistently are “in excess of those permitted;” but simply concluded that the Council could take enforcement action or allow more (smaller) vehicle movements.

Condition 15
The Inspector sided with local residents in terms of delivery times for the plant. He did not consider that Greener for Life should be able to undertake deliveries from 7am to 7pm, and imposed the following condition:

“During school term times, vehicles delivering to and from the site shall operate only between the hours of 9am to 3pm and 4.15pm to 6pm Monday to Friday and between 8am–1pm on Saturday. There shall be no deliveries on Sundays or Bank/Public Holidays. Outside of school term times, vehicles delivering to and from the site shall operate only between the hours of 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday and between 8am–1pm on Saturday. There shall be no deliveries on Sundays or Bank/Public Holidays.”

Condition 20

The Inspector agreed with the unitary authority that “within two months of the date of this permission” the operators had to submit a revised Odour Management Plan to the Council for approval, which had to include “covered storage on site for all imported material.” He further defined “covered storage” as meaning “all waste and biocrops imported by lorry shall be stored either inside the main reception building or that the outside storage bays where the biocrops are currently stored shall be roofed and walled via a scheme to be submitted as part of this revised Odour Management Plan.”

Other conditions
It is the case that Greener for Life has much work to do in the coming few weeks. As well as agreeing the detail of HGVs entering the site with the Council (within one month) and submitting the Odour Management Plan within two months, Greener for Life will have to supply further information to meet three other conditions. These are as follows: (i) details of surface water drainage, (ii) the company’s vehicle management policy and (iii) the proposed scheme of planting; and must all be submitted within two months. It is also stated that the planting must be carried out within six months.

Costs ...
At the appeal, Greener for Life also attempted to persuade the Inspector that an award of costs should be made against Cornwall Council, but failed.

Greener for Life argued that the actions of Cornwall Council were “unreasonable” and resulted in “unnecessary costs” to their company. In particular, they moaned about the fact that councillors took a different view to planning officers and even criticised elected members for deferring both appeals on 19th November in order to consider the possibility of an alternative access off the A30 and deferring Appeal A on 11th February to look at the detail of specific conditions.

The Inspector did not agree with Greener for Life and his ruling was very critical of them.

He wrote: “The deferral from the November 2015 Committee was sensible so that the Council could explore with Highways England whether an access could be created directly off the A30, which would have overcome most of the residents’ problems with the plant … in view of the breach of several of the conditions attached to the original permission it was not unreasonable of the Council to defer the application from the February 2016 Committee in order to carefully consider the precise wording of the conditions, given the issues raised by neighbouring residents at that Committee meeting.”

It was also quite telling that he added: “The appellant’s response at the hearing to Cllr Cole’s assertion that it had declined to discuss the wording of the proposed conditions following that deferral was unconvincing. The evidence presented by the Council, residents and Cllr Cole points to a lack of urgency on the applicant’s part in seeking to resolve problems to residential neighbours arising from the plant. The Council was obliged to relook at the conditions carefully in view of the significant number and serious nature of residents’ continuing objections.”

And in another part of the ruling, he made clear his view that Greener for Life should have been “more focussed” in trying to resolve problems they had caused.

5. Biogas plant at Higher Fraddon

As noted above, the biogas plant now has planning permission and Cornwall Council has already written to Greener for Life to inform them what is expected from them from this point onwards.

Sadly, a number of complaints have already been made that lodged that Greener for Life are failing to meet certain conditions (such as the number of vehicle movements). I am monitoring the situation.

6. Pines Tip

The timetable for the appeal into the refusal of the application for three wind turbines on Pines Tip (Strategic Planning Committee; 10th March 2016) has not yet been published. I have formally requested a meeting with planning officers to consider how the authority will approach the appeal.

7. Cornwall Local Plan

The Inspector into Cornwall’s Local Plan published his final report at the beginning of October. Following his Examination in Public (EiP), which took place between two inquiry sessions in May 2015 and May 2016, he has ruled that the Plan can be made “sound” – or, in other words, consistent with central government regulations – if a range of changes are made to the document.

This includes an increase in the overall housing target from 47,500 to 52,500 for the period 2010 to 2030 – which I know will disappoint many people, myself included. He has also inserted an additional target for 2,550 bed-spaces in communal facilities for older people, and revised the affordable housing policy to make it less ambitious but consistent with the Government policy – which is sadly a backward step.

The attempt of local MK councillors to get the so-called eco-community removed from the document has also failed.

The Local Plan will now be re-presented to the Council’s Planning Policy Advisory Committee (which I chair) on Wednesday 26th October, before going forward for adoption at a meeting of the Full Council on Tuesday 22nd November.

8. Devonwall

In addition to my local activities, I have been heavily involved in the campaign against the creation of a cross-Tamar “Devonwall” seat for the 2020 General Election.

I have been informed that all Parish Councils have been written to by a local campaign group asking them to write to the Minister for the Constitution and the Boundary Commission in support of the campaign.

It is my hope that St Enoder Parish Council will be keen to do this.

9. Inquiries
During the last month, I have also helped numerous people with advice and guidance. These issues have been very varied, though there has been a significant rise in housing queries, many of which relate to new rental properties which will soon become available on Ocean Housing’s Harvenna Heights estate.

Monday, 24 October 2016

K for Kernow

Following the much-heralded recognition of the Cornish people as a “national minority” through the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, radio amateurs from Cornwall contacted Ofcom to request that the new status be reflected in their call signs.

In their representation to the “independent regulator and competition authority,” the Poldhu Amateur Radio Club and various individuals pointed out that radio hams in the other Celtic parts of the United Kingdom had their own Regional Secondary Locators or RSLs.

Many people were delighted when Ofcom initially agreed to permit radio amateurs with a main station address in Cornwall to use their own distinctive RSL of “K” as part of their call signs.

Obviously, the symbolic “K” comes from the initial letter of Kernow.

But we were all extremely disappointed when the regulator changed its mind and the original offer of a permanent RSL was downgraded to a one-year temporary RSL for the calendar year of 2016.

That said, the use of the temporary RSL was well-received by radio hams in Cornwall and, earlier this month, Poldhu Amateur Radio Club sent a detailed submission to Ofcom.

This set out how the RSL had delivered a significant boost to their endeavours, while causing no problems whatsoever. The representation also appealed to Ofcom to review its previous decision and to make the Cornish RSL permanent.

I was pleased to be able to support this initiative and, with the Leader of Cornwall Council John Pollard, drafted a letter of support for the Poldhu Amateur Radio Club which was also signed by all the group leaders on the unitary authority; Adam Paynter (Liberal Democrat), Andrew Mitchell (Independent), John Keeling (Conservative), Tim Dwelly (Labour) and Bob Egerton (non-aligned group).

The response from Ofcom came extremely quickly – in about a week – and declined to agree to the extension to the Cornish RSL.

Their response is obviously discriminatory and it is clear that they had given little or no consideration to the Framework Convention. And it is my view that, following on from the “national minority” recognition, it would be unjust for Cornwall to be the only Celtic part of the UK not to have its identity respected with a bespoke RSL.

If you agree with me that this decision makes no sense at all, you might like to join radio amateurs throughout Cornwall who will be continuing to lobby Ofcom. The address to send letters to is Riverside House, 2a Southwark Bridge Road, London, SE1 9HA.

[This will be my article in this week’s Cornish Guardian].

Sunday, 23 October 2016

I have been re-elected leader of Mebyon Kernow …

In recent months, a number of political parties have been caught up in leadership battles, but I can report that I have been re-elected leader of Mebyon Kernow without a formal contest.

MK has annual elections to fill the four posts in its leadership team and nominations for the position of leader closed on 5th October.

It was confirmed at our National Executive meeting on Friday (21st October) that I was the only nominee and thereby re-elected unopposed.

I believe that I am one of the longest serving political leaders in Britain, having been first elected the leader of Party for Cornwall in 1997.

And as you will see from the above photograph, I looked a lot different back then – dark hair and all!

The other three members of the MK leadership team were also elected unopposed. These were as follows:

Deputy Leader – Cllr Loveday Jenkin
Treasurer - Cllr Andrew Long
Party Development Officer - Cllr Michael Bunney

Conservative double-speak on devolution

When the UK Government “agreed” its so-called “devolution deal” for Cornwall in 2015, it claimed that it was a “major step” in their commitment to “extend opportunity to every corner of our country” and that Cornwall would be gaining “historic new powers.”

The Prime Minister David Cameron said the “deal” would put power in the hands of local people and talked about the “fantastic potential that Cornwall holds.”

At that time, Mebyon Kernow criticized the “deal” for lacking ambition and hit out at the growing influence of unelected and unaccountable entities – such as the Local Enterprise Partnership – which do not have democratic legitimacy.

And, of course, the utterances from senior Tories were indeed "spin."

On Friday, a leading Conservative admitted that MK were correct.

At the “South West Growth Summit” and, in the context of a potential “devolution deal” for the 17 local authorities in Devon and Somerset, the words of Communities Minister Sajid Javid were reported as follows:

“He argued that Cornwall’s Devolution Deal without an elected mayor was not ambitious and did not involve any hand over of money. ‘What’s the point of going down that route?’ he said.”

There were clearly additional discussions about the Cornwall as part of a wider south west once again, which would see our distinct needs marginalised – just as the UK Government is pushing forward with a boundary review which disrespects Cornwall’s historic border.

It all shows that we need all politicians in Cornwall to coalesce around our calls for a Cornish Assembly with meaningful political powers.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Plaid Cymru supports funding for Cornish language

It is fantastic to see the Plaid Cymru Conference (taking place at Llangollen) unanimously backing a motion in support of funding for the Cornish language. As a long-standing member of Plaid - going back to my college days in Lampeter - I am once again delighted to see the Party of Wales support for Cornwall and its culture.

What a massive contrast to the MPs which represent Cornwall at Westminster and have failed to oppose cuts to the language funding or battle against the imposition of a Devonwall seat.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Opposing Devonwall on Radio Cornwall

Following on from yesterday’s debate in the House of Commons on the parliamentary boundary review, I did an interview on Radio Cornwall setting out my opposition to Devonwall. I followed and commented an interview by Scott Mann MP.

If you want to listen, you can go to

The interview is on just after the 2.00 o'clock mark.

I have also done a very short interview for the “south west” segment of Sunday’s Politics Show. It is my understanding they intend to broadcast a few seconds in their “sixty second round-up” for the week.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Conservative MPs fail to stand up against Devonwall

In the House of Commons today, Cornwall's Conservative MPs voted against a motion from the Scottish National Party to abandon the parliamentary boundary review.

The motion was tabled by Pete Wishart MP. It called for a reduction in the number of unelected peers in the House of Lords and also for plans to reduce the MPs to be abandoned. But it was defeated by 245 votes to 278, with Steve Double, Scott Mann, Sheryll Murray, Sarah Newton and Derek Thomas all voting with the Government.

I find it especially shocking that the MPs failed to even use the opportunity to speak out against the proposed Devonwall seat.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Back in circulation ...

Regular viewers of this blog will have noticed it has been quite quiet over the last few days. That is because I have been enjoying a week's holiday in North Wales, but I am now back in Cornwall and ploughing through a mass of phone messages and emails. 

If you have left me a message, please bear with me ... I will soon be in contact.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Plaid Cymru AM to speak at MK Conference

I am pleased to be able to report that the Plaid Cymru Assembly Member Steffan Lewis will be attending and speaking at MK's upcoming Annual Conference.

Steffan was elected to the National Assembly of Wales, earlier this year, for the South Wales East region. He is a long-standing supporter of a range of Cornish causes and I am looking forward to hear what he will have to say about Plaid's recent progress.

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.

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

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.

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

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Plaid Cymru MP tables parliamentary motion against Devonwall

I am very please to be able to report that, at the request of Mebyon Kernow, Plaid Cymru's Jonathan Edwards MP has tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons which sets out opposition to the creation of a cross-Tamar parliamentary constituency.

Image result for jonathan edwards mp

I am very grateful to Jonathan for his continuing support for Cornwall.

The EDM, numbered 487, reads as follows:

"That this House notes that the Boundary Commission for England's Review of Parliamentary Constituencies has recommended the creation of a cross-Tamar Devonwall seat which would link parts of Cornwall with land in the neighbouring English county of Devon; recalls that the Boundary Commission has made this recommendation because the review is being guided by the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act (the Act), which was agreed in 2011 and did not recognise Cornwall as a distinct political unit; further notes that in 2014 the Government recognised the Cornish as a national minority through the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and announced 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;' believes that the Act and the creation of a Devonwall seat are in conflict with the Framework Convention; and therefore calls for an amendment to the Act so that future parliamentary constituencies for Cornwall lie entirely within the historic boundaries of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly."

MPs from all political parties represented in London now have the opportunity to show their opposition to Devonwall. Please feel free to put pressure on Cornwall's six MPs to sign the EDM.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Cornwall already has fewer democratically-elected public representatives than most places!

In November 2015, the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) informed Cornwall Council that it had to undertake a boundary review (into the number of councillors and boundaries of local divisions) and, over the last few months, this work has been progressed by an Electoral Review Panel.

The first stage of the work is to define how many councillors are needed to properly represent local people on the unitary authority (from 2021 onwards), and the Panel has produced its initial report to the LGBCE. This states that the number of elected members should probably be somewhere in the range of 105 and 115, though there is still considerable work to be done to test this recommendation. This was reported to the most recent meeting of the Council.

This issue was covered in last week’s Cornish Guardian, but the journalist fell into the trap of bemoaning the high number of councillors on the unitary authority, though the reality is that Cornwall has less elected representatives on principal authorities (unitary, county and district councils) than most other areas.

Indeed, prior to the creation of the unitary authority, Cornwall had 331 councillors on the County Council and the six districts, while now there are only 123 members on the remaining principal authority.

Yet it was reported that “critics have pointed out that” Cornwall Council is “more than double the size of the Welsh Assembly and only three members short of those who serve in the Scottish Parliament.”

This is frankly an inappropriate comparison as the unitary authority is most certainly not a parliament or an assembly. Scotland does have its own Parliament, but it also has 1,222 councillors on 32 unitary authorities, while in Wales there are 1,254 representatives on 22 unitary authorities beneath the Welsh Assembly.

As part of its research, the Electoral Review Panel has also compared the level of local representation in Cornwall with the 44 ceremonial county areas across England (based on electorates from December 2015).

The statistics showed that Cornwall had the sixth lowest number of councillors in relation to electorate, with one councillor to serve every 3,215 voters.

By comparison, at the top of the table, West Yorkshire (with 372 councillors) had one elected member for every 4,162 people in the county, while Cumbria (with 368 councillors) had one elected member for every 1,025 people. In Devon, the 482 councillors represented an average of 1,792 voters.

All this evidence really does contradict those individuals who claim that Cornwall is over-represented in terms of democratically-elected public representatives. And yet, at the most recent meeting of the unitary authority, we had people arguing we should slash the number of councillors to 70 – which, if agreed, would leave Cornwall with the lowest level of political representation in the whole of the United Kingdom.

As a democrat and a Cornishman, I consider such arguments to make no sense at all.

[This will be my article in this coming week’s Cornish Guardian].

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Good coverage on Devonwall in Mid Cornwall papers

MK members have generated a significant amount of publicity in today’s local papers. Matt Luke, as Chairman of the St Austell and Newquay Constituency Party, had letters in both the Newquay Voice and the St Austell Voice challenging Steve Double MP; while Michael Bunney also had one in the St Austell Voice.

The Cornish Guardian ran a significant piece, which featured MK leader Cllr Dick Cole, and condemned the cross-Tamar Devonwall proposal that it described as Cornwall’s nightmare.

To stop Devonwall, we need a simple amendment to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act. If you haven’t already done so, please join me in lobbying Chris Skidmore MP, the Minister for the Constitution, at the Cabinet Office, Whitehall, London, SW1A 2AS or via

Update on the so-called "eco-community" at West Carclaze

It unlikely to surprise anyone that the attempt by local MK councillors to get the "eco-community" removed from the Cornwall Local Plan has failed. The Planning Inspector has published his final report and ruled that the eco-community should go ahead, confirming statements he made after the second session of his Examination in Public (EiP).

Policy 2 of the documents will therefore set out support for a “mixed use development to deliver the eco-community at West Carclaze / Baal and Par Docks, to help deliver an exemplar development that provides a showcase for sustainable, greener, low carbon living.” The principle of development on the site will therefore be established when the Plan is formally adopted.

However the document also states that the “eco-communities at West Carclaze, Baal and Par Docks will be identified in the Cornwall Site Allocations Development Plan Document and Neighbourhood Plans. The standards expected for the proposed eco communities are set out in Policy 3 and guidance will be provided in the Site Allocations DPD” but “the Council will monitor the delivery of the eco-community sites to ensure delivery. If proposals have failed to progress sufficiently towards delivery within two years of adoption of the Local Plan this area of the Plan will be reviewed to consider redistribution of the housing apportionment for the area.”

The “Site Allocations Development Plan Document” referred to above has just been published for consultation and gives local people the ability to comment on the proposed detail for the development. Copies of the document and the supporting evidence can be viewed on where documents can be downloaded and representations can be made.

Consultation on the document runs between Monday 3rd October and 5.00pm on Monday 14th November 2016. Please make your views known on the detail.

Eco-bos have also released a statement following the Inspector's decision, along with a "survey" which claims that 73% of local people support the proposal. The statement is as follows:

Eco-bas: Eco-community proposals win backing of Planning Inspector and 73% of local people in new Mid-Cornwall survey 

Proposals to reuse former china clay land north of St Austell to create a vibrant and sustainable new Eco-community have been backed by a planning inspector as ‘ambitious’, ‘deliverable’ and having ‘transformational potential’.

The Inspector’s report follows an extensive review process at an Examination in Public earlier this year into Cornwall’s Local Plan and confirms the Ecocommunity as an important part of Cornwall Council’s strategy for the regeneration of the Mid Cornwall area.

It comes as Eco-Bos today announced the results of its latest research showing a high level of awareness of the Eco-communities project and widespread support for the proposals from local people - with 73% of those who expressed a preference saying they were in favour.

The results put into context the often-quoted 1,000-plus objections to the Ecocommunity plans on Cornwall Council’s website, the majority of which date back to earlier proposals for the Eco-community.

Earlier this year Eco-Bos took over the planning application for the scheme and submitted revised proposals, addressing the concerns people raised, to Cornwall Council. These plans would see 1,500 new homes built, hundreds of new jobs created, extensive areas of green space opened up to the public and an estimated £1 billion pumped into the local economy over the next 20 years.

Following the Planning Inspector’s report Cornwall Council is now expected to formally adopt the Cornwall Local Plan, which will put in place a framework to help determine planning applications across the county including the West Carclaze scheme.

John Hodkin, Eco-Bos Managing Director, said: “We are pleased that the Inspector’s final report acknowledges the potential for the Eco-communities project and its goals in terms of environmental and economic benefits and that the Inspector has found it is a sound component of the Local Plan.”

As part of its on-going consultation process Eco-Bos commissioned Cornwall-based independent research company PFA Research to carry out face-to-face doorstep interviews with 400 people in the St Austell area and surrounding clay villages. “We are also very encouraged by the survey results which we are announcing today and which correlate well with a similar survey carried out in 2010 and demonstrate continued strong support for the Eco-community proposals,” John Hodkin added.

The survey was carried out following the updated submission of the planning application for West Carclaze and three days of exhibitions and tours organised by Eco-Bos at the West Carclaze site and in St Austell town centre earlier in the year. John Hodkin said: “Much has been made of the objections to the planning application but many of these were lodged before significant changes were made to the plans, precisely to address the concerns being raised. “Our own experience, supported by surveys in 2010 and now 2016 is that there is widespread understanding and support in the community for using redundant china clay land as a way to regenerate the area, delivering economic, housing and wider community benefits as a result. It is clear that people see our proposals not as ‘just another housing estate’ but as a huge opportunity to create something special for Mid-Cornwall.”

Support was even stronger among those who visited the exhibitions and tours, with feedback forms showing 80% of those who expressed a preference agreeing the proposals were a good use of the land. Mr Hodkin said: “The face-to-face feedback we received from the public exhibitions and the enthusiasm from visitors who took the time to take a tour of the site was excellent. Many arrived feeling quite sceptical about the plans but left with a much greater understanding and a supportive viewpoint having had the opportunity to ask questions, tour the site and in particular see the extent of green space which would be opened up.”

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Update on the Cornwall Local Plan

The Inspector into Cornwall’s Local Plan has published his final report. Following his Examination in Public (EiP), which took place between two inquiry sessions in May 2015 and May 2016, he has ruled that the Plan can be made “sound” – or, in other words, consistent with central government regulations – if a range of changes are made to the document.

This includes an increase in the overall housing target from 47,500 to 52,500 for the period 2010 to 2030 – which I know will disappoint many people, myself included. He has also inserted an additional target for 2,550 bed-spaces in communal facilities for older people, and revised the affordable housing policy to make it less ambitious but consistent with the Government policy – which is sadly a backward step.

The attempt of local MK councillors to get the so-called eco-community removed from the document has also failed. I will cover this in more detail in a separate blog entry.

The Local Plan will now be re-presented to the Council’s Planning Policy Advisory Committee (which I chair) in October, before going forward for adoption at a meeting of the Full Council in November.

In addition, Cornwall Council has just published its “Site Allocations Development Plan Document” for consultation.

This sets out the main allocations in the key towns to 'deliver' their share of the 52,500 houses and employment land, as well as information about the two “eco-community” sites.

Copies of the document and the supporting evidence can be viewed on where documents can be downloaded and representations can be made.

Consultation on the document runs between Monday 3rd October and 5.00pm on Monday 14th November 2016.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

MK challenges exclusion from Party Election Broadcasts

As the leader of Mebyon Kernow, I have formally responded to a consultation from the Broadcasters’ Liaison Group concerning the process for Party Election Broadcasts (PEBs).

Of specific relevance to MK, they will be reviewing the guidelines for a PEB for the 2017 local elections. These presently state that, to qualify for a PEB, a political party would need to “stand candidates in a minimum of one sixth of the seats being contested in the English local government elections …”

This obviously excludes Mebyon Kernow which, somewhat logically, only contests seats in Cornwall.

We have not been told the total number of local government seats being contested in “England” in 2017, but when we responded to a similar consultation, about four years ago, we were then told that one-sixth of the total number of seats being contested would be 394 – though that figure could be different now because of boundary reviews.

However, assuming that this actual figure is about right, how can it be just that in order to get a broadcast, Mebyon Kernow - the Party for Cornwall would need to fight every council seat in Cornwall (122) plus an additional 272 easts to the east of the Tamar.

It is fair to say that the Broadcasters’ Liaison Group has been less than sympathetic in the past and decreed that for MK to be allowed a broadcast in the 2015 General Election, it would need to stand in one sixth of all seats in “England” – ie. all Cornish seats as well as a further 83 outside of Cornwall.

These recommendations, which deny Mebyon Kernow airtime, continue to be absurd and undemocratic.

I will be making further forceful representations, with particular reference to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.