Tuesday, 24 January 2017

My latest report to St Enoder Parish Council

At tonight’s meeting of St Enoder Parish Council, I presented my latest monthly report. It covered the time period 12th December 2016 to 15th January 2017 and was as follows.

1. Council meetings

I have attended a range of formal meetings at Cornwall Council in the last month.

These included: Central Sub-Area Planning Committee, China Clay Network meeting, Constitution and Governance (2) and an associated informal meeting, Electoral Review Panel workshop, workshop on future approach to policy development and scrutiny, pre-agenda meeting for Planning Policy Advisory Committee, a meeting relating to the “allocations” development plan document and inclusion of the so-called eco-community, and planning briefings on the (a) Cornwall Local Plan, (b) Neighbourhood Planning and the (c) Community Infrastructure Levy.

As well as the meetings listed above, I had some informal meetings with council officers at the unitary authority, and I have attended one meeting of St Enoder Parish Council and gave evidence to an Inquiry Day run by the Cornwall Association of Local Councils.

And, of course, I did take a few days off over the Christmas period and into the New Year.

2. Other meetings

I have also attended a number of formal and informal meetings of the Board of ClayTAWC at St Dennis, of which I am Chairman. This is because we are presently having to restructure how this social enterprise operates.

3. St Enoder Neighbourhood Plan

My priority in the last few weeks of 2016 was the completion of the second consultation document. It has now been printed, along with a response sheet and freepost envelopes. Thanks to everyone on the Parish Council who has contributed to the project and who is or soon will be delivering the paperwork around St Enoder Parish.

In addition, three consultation events have been organised for members of the public to meet with members of St Enoder Parish Council to discuss issues relating to the Plan. These will be held at:

- Indian Queens Victory Hall (Tuesday 31st January)
- Fraddon Village Hall (Tuesday 7th February)
- Summercourt New Memorial Hall (Thursday 9th February).

All will take place between 3.00 and 7.00.

4. Central Sub-Area Planning Committee: 18th December 2016

I attended this meeting of the Central Sub-Area Planning Committee. Two planning applications from St Enoder Parish had been referred to the committee as the local view was different to the officer recommendation.

PA16/06903: Land SW of Pen Y Thon, Chapel Town, Summercourt

The main debate about the proposed construction of a new dwelling at Chapel Town focussed on whether it equated to the “rounding off” of the settlement. It was my view and that of the Parish Council that it was not rounding off. I raised my concerns and the views of the Parish Council were presented by the Clerk, Amanda Kendall. The councillors took the decision to refuse the application. The actual vote was ten to one.

PA16/08833: Land to rear of Ymir House, St Francis Road, St Columb Road.

The second application was for a new dwelling in garden areas to the rear of two properties fronting onto St Francis Road. Cllr Michael Hopkins raised objections on behalf of the Parish Council, which I backed in my speech. I also suggested to the members of the Planning Committee that, if they were minded to support the application, they should add additional conditions.

As it was an outline application, I suggested that the size of the building be specified. I also argued that the new car parking areas be provided before the construction of the house was allowed to commence, and that there be a construction management plan. The councillors showed some sympathy but the planning officer argued against the extra conditions and planning permission was then granted (without any new controls) by eight votes to two.

5. Other planning applications
As usual, there are many smaller applications that have been going through the planning system for St Enoder Parish. A number of applications have yet to be decided. For some of these proposals, the applicants are claiming that they are “infill” plots, consistent with the new policies in the Local Plan. But this interpretation does not necessarily tally with the view of officers and councillors within the authority.

Detailed guidance on how the new policies on “infill” and “rounding off” will be applied is presently being drafted and will be presented to a meeting of the Planning Policy Advisory Committee, which I chair, on 20th February.

6. Carvynick

The application to lift the holiday use conditions on the properties at Carvynick, near Summercourt, is another application which the unitary authority has yet to make a decision on.

The applicants state that they want to lift the conditions in order to aid them to invest in the complex, which they have stated they wish to continue to run as a holiday camp.

There are a number of such applications that have been submitted across Cornwall and it is fair to say that the unitary authority is struggling with these proposals, which are very varied in nature and quite different in terms of scale and location. Council’s “guidance note” on how to deal with such applications has not yet been finalised, and this will also be presented to the Council’s Planning Policy Advisory Committee on 20th February.

7. Pines Tip

As reported at the Parish Council’s Planning Meeting on 10th January 2017, the appeal into three proposed wind turbines on Pines Tip near Fraddon has commenced. The appeal will be by “written representations” and submissions have to be sent to the Planning Inspectorate by the beginning of February.

I have started the production of a detailed representation from the Parish Council in objection to this scheme which has been strongly opposed by local people and was unanimously turned down by the unitary authority’s Strategic Planning Committee.

8. Biogas plant and pig farm, Penare Farm

There are still ongoing issues relating to the planning consents for the redevelopment of the pig farm and the biogas plant at Higher Fraddon.

There has been a delay at the pig farm with regard to the installation of biofilters on some of the livestock buildings. The Council has been in communication with the owner of the farm and I understand that the works are likely to be carried out in February. Works on their surface water management scheme is also due to be completed by March.

Greener for Life have submitted information to discharge (ie. comply with) a number of planning conditions. The Council is not satisfied with the information that has been submitted and discussions with the owners of the plant continue. An enforcement notice has been served on the plant because the site is failing to keep within its traffic movements as agreed at the appeal, in terms of smaller vehicles. Greener for Life have informed the unitary authority that it ends to submit a further application to modify the condition controlling the traffic and increase the number of smaller vehicles allowed to access the site!

9. Double yellow lines

Concern has been raised at a number of Parish Council about the condition of the double yellow lines along St Francis Road. I have looked back at previous representations sent in by the Parish Council and myself, and I have sent further detailed representations to the unitary authority.

I will have copies of the letter available at the Parish Council meeting.

10. Indian Queens School

When the extra classrooms were consented for Indian Queens School, a school travel plan was agreed between consultants and Cornwall Council. I have made frequent requests that the unitary authority act on suggestions contained within the document.

I met with the headteacher of the School, Jane Scown, on 2nd December 2016 to discuss a number of issues and then had a further meeting with the appropriate officers at Cornwall Council on 9th January 2017.

Specific proposals in the travel plan included a new footway between the School and the Harvenna Heights housing estate that will soon be completed, and a further path from the School through the Mowie to the Carworgie Way / Halloon Avenue estate.

The project had also promised local residents on Ocean View that the pine trees on the edge of the School grounds would be taken down. They have had ongoing problems with the amount of pine needles that end up in their guttering and on their gardens. That has yet to happen and, on their behalf, I sought assurances that the work will be done.

I will report again when I have had feedback from Cornwall Council.

11. Small green areas

In recent years, the Parish Council has taken on responsibility for a number of areas at prominent places within the Parish which would otherwise remain rough and unkempt. This has included land at the entrances to Fairview Park, St Columb Road, and Heather Meadow, Fraddon.

I have been approached by a resident from Hanover Parc, Indian Queens, with a request that we also maintain the grassed area at the entrance to their estate.

I have asked that this be discussed at this Parish Council meeting.

12. Loss of grit bins near Pedna Carne

For a significant time, there have been three bins on the access road to Pedna Carne, but CORMAC has removed two of the three bins which they said were no longer fit-for-purpose. Because of budget cuts, they do not replace such removed bins. I nonetheless formally requested that, because of the nature of the road, the bins be replaced and CORMAC said they would see if they could find one replacement. They have since told that they have not been able to do this.

Once again, Cornwall Council has suggested that St Enoder Parish Council could buy new bins for our area.

I have also asked that this be discussed at this Parish Council meeting.

13. Indian Queens Recreation Ground

I have received an “end of project” form from SITA Cornwall Trust which provided a £35,000 grant towards the new play equipment. On behalf of the Parish Council, I have completed the form and sent it back.

I can further add that, on December 13th 2016, I was the guest speaker at the AGM of the Cornwall County Playing Fields Association (CCPFA) and spoke about the project. The Cornwall Rural Community Council has meanwhile produced a short video about the new play area for the CCPFA.

It can be viewed at https://youtu.be/4V0mEOeMB7A

14. Newsletter

In the lead-up to Christmas, I also spent a significant amount of time out and about in St Enoder Parish delivering my latest six-monthly newsletter. It wasn’t possible to get everywhere before the festivities fully kicked in, but it was great to be able to catch-up with a lot of people and check out progress on a number of issues.

Some examples of issues I am presently following up include:

- Condition of road through Trevarren, and mud on drains on the old road to St Columb (which have been cleared).

- Rough road surfaces on Carworgie Way, St Columb Road; Moorland Road, Indian Queens (east of roundabout by industrial estate), Pocohontas Crescent, Indian Queens; and Carvynick near Summercourt.

- Some blocked drains or silted up ditches, including one ditch on St Austell Street, Summercourt, which I have just had confirmed will be cleared.

- Very poor condition of garden area in Clodan Mews, St Columb Road.

15. Cornwall and its Sustainability and Transformation Plan

I chaired a meeting of the China Clay Area Network Panel in December, which had a presentation about the NHS in Cornwall and its Sustainability and Transformation Plan. At this stage, there is a consultation which is asking people about their ideas and priorities for the health service and adult social care but meaningful proposals have yet to be brought forward.

But the key is that central government expects Cornwall’s NHS to “save” £264 million by 2020/21, and it is clear that this issue will be a dominant one across Cornwall – and in the unitary authority – in the coming months.

16. Eco-community near Penwithick

My first political act of 2017 was to be interviewed by Radio Cornwall about the Government’s decision to rebrand the so-called eco-community of 1,500 properties, proposed for near Penwithick, as a “garden village.”

I have continued to help residents across the China Clay Area to express their concerns about this inappropriate development.

17. Review of councillor numbers

I continue to attend a lot of meetings about the review into the number of councillors on the unitary authority in 2021. It is being driven by an external Local Government Boundary Commission and I have to say that I am feeling disappointed by the whole process, through which there seems to be an undemocratic and inexorable rush to significantly reduce Cornwall’s elected representatives.

This was the topic of the Inquiry Day held by CALC, at which I spoke on 4th January 2017.

18. Inquiries

During the last month, I have also helped numerous people with advice and guidance on a range of problems which have included housing and traffic concerns.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Fair funding for NHS and social care

My article in this coming week’s Cornish Guardian is on health and social care. It will be as follows:

The future of the National Health Service and the crisis in social care continues to dominate both British and Cornish politics – and rightly so.

Theresa May has come in for considerable criticism for some ill-advised comments, in which she attempted to downplay problems in the NHS.

Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS, has slammed the Prime Minister for claiming that the health service “had been given more money than it asked for,” while many others condemned the UK Government for failing to live up to its pre-election pledge to “give the NHS what it needs.”

Anyone in Cornwall following the debate around the local NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) can see the hollowness of the PM’s claims, with the pressure to cut £264 million from the Cornish health service.

In addition, Mr Stevens also hit out at another statement from Mrs May that suggested elements of the present crisis had been “caused by the poor management of hospitals.”

Significantly, Dr Sarah Woolaston, who chairs the Health Select Committee, declined to support her own government for its attempts to blame GPs for pressures on accident & emergency departments, adding that it was unacceptable to scapegoat family doctors.

Conservative-run Surrey County Council has meanwhile announced plans to increase council tax by 15% to specifically fund social care – which will be presented to local voters in a referendum.

The council leader has laid the blame for the proposed tax hike at the door of central government cuts. He told the media that: “Government has cut our annual grant by £170m since 2010 – leaving a huge gap in our budget. Demand for adult social care, learning disabilities and children’s services is increasing every year. So … we have no choice but to propose this increase in council tax."

All in all, it was a move which was embarrassing for the UK Government and particularly uncomfortable for a number of prominent Tories who represent Surrey constituencies, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

I was disappointed that opposition groups in Surrey did not use the opportunity to join the Conservative councillors in putting pressure on central government on this issue, but preferred to seek some local political advantage from impact of such a “huge” proposed council tax increase.

From my perspective, I share the view expressed in the editorial in last week’s Cornish Guardian, that a political consensus is needed to safeguard the NHS and to properly fund social care.

All political parties need to rise above their own short-term self-interest and come together to do what is in the best interests of local communities.

Proper action needed on "second homes"

My article in last week’s Cornish Guardian (published on 18th January) focused on central government announcements on housing. It was as follows:

At the very end of 2016, the Government announced that it would be making £60 million available to help “tackle the problem of high levels of second homeownership” in certain communities across the United Kingdom.

Cornwall Council has been awarded over £5 million pounds – a very significant proportion of the overall “Community Housing Fund” – because of the number of properties occupied on a part-time basis in our area.

The announcement also made it clear that the money should go towards the provision of affordable housing, which would be provided in partnership with “community-led” organisations such as the Cornwall Community Land Trust (CCLT).

This initiative has been widely welcomed, with the CCLT praising central government for recognising this “long standing problem” and prioritising Cornwall with its funding.

And it is, of course, refreshing to finally see representatives of the Government acknowledging that second homes are a significant issue in many coastal and rural communities.

The press release from the Department of Communities and Local Government states that “second home ownership is at an all-time high” and is “crowding out first time buyers and causing a shortage of available properties.”

It added that: “Often second homes stand empty for a large proportion of the time which can also affect community cohesion, affect the demographics of an area and distort local housing markets.”

The Housing Minister Gavin Barwell was reported as saying that the “high number of second homes can be a frustration for many who struggle to find an affordable home in their community.”

Mr Barwell’s comment about “frustration” is certainly a massive “under-statement” as far as I am concerned.

It is also my view that this new investment in affordable housing does not go far enough and will do little to combat the truly dysfunctional nature of the present housing market.

It would be manifestly wrong to blame all housing problems on second homes.

Indeed, in the context of local-needs housing, it needs to be pointed out that the UK Government has massively slashed funding for affordable homes; it has pushed for publicly-owned rental properties to be lost through right-to-buy; it has forced Housing Associations to charge higher rents for their properties, making them less affordable; and it has changed planning rules so that developers provide less affordable homes on their developments.

If the UK Government was truly serious about combating second homes, it would introduce planning restrictions to stop and then reverse the spread of such properties. It is my view that planning permission should be needed to turn a family home into a second home and if more than 5% of the housing stock in a particular settlement and/or parish were second homes, no more would be allowed at all.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

A short film about the Indian Queens Play Area

The Cornwall Rural Community Council (Perran Tremewan and Diane Taylor) has just produced a short film on behalf of the Cornwall County Playing Fields Association. It looks at how we managed to get the new play area in the Indian Queens Recreation Ground.

If you would like to have a look, it can be found at:

I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The crisis in the NHS

My first article in the Cornish Guardian since my Christmas break looks at the problems being reported in the National Health Service. The article will be in Wednesday’s paper and will be as follows:

It was truly shocking to hear the British Red Cross claim that the NHS is facing a “humanitarian crisis.” Chief Executive, Mike Adamson, said his organisation was “on the front line,” and they had been “called in to support the NHS and help get people home from hospital and free up much needed beds.”

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has somewhat predictably rejected the claims. She preferred to acknowledge there were “huge pressures” on the health service, while arguing that funding had been increased.

But the Nuffield Trust thinktank has found that, in the period leading up to Christmas, “fifty of the 152 English trusts were at the highest or second-highest level of pressure.” The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) has meanwhile expressed its concern that “emergency care in the NHS is at crisis point with the worst performance across the country's hospitals in almost 15 years.”

Here in Cornwall, a Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) for the local NHS is being prepared – one of 44 STPs across the “NHS England” area.

A number of consultation events have – and are being – held. There was a presentation at the recent meeting of the China Clay Area Network which I chaired and I was impressed with the medical professionals who were present. But it is extremely concerning that the whole process is essentially budget driven and central government has set the NHS in Cornwall a ridiculous target of “saving” £264 million in the period to 2020/21.

One former MP has warned that STPs will “merely rearrange the diminishing deckchairs of the NHS” and are a “largely irrelevant diversion into the challenges NHS managers face … and mask the covert political intentions of the Government; a Government which knows full well that it is both starving the NHS of the cash it needs and is recklessly forging ahead with ‘reforms’ which risk undermining patient safety.”

One telling contribution I saw last week came from columnist Steve Richards. He has argued that we should have a referendum on the level of state funding those goes into the funding of health and social care.

He described the present situation as perverse, adding that “nearly all voters recognise that modern health provision is worth paying for … the government needs to raise additional revenue … .yet the obvious cannot be delivered. The government – any government – cannot deliver because it is too scared to raise taxation or is not trusted to do so. With the UK’s uniquely hysterical pre-election tax-and-spend debates no party can win a mandate to raise taxes in order to provide the necessary levels of investment. Before a general election there is pressure on parties to show how they will cut taxes and reduce public spending.” He has a point.

For me, the question is not whether we increase funding for health and social care – it is how we do it!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Next MK meeting in St Austell & Newquay Constituency

The next meeting for Mebyon Kernow members in the St Austell & Newquay Constituency has been arranged to take place this Friday (13th January).

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

It is the first branch meeting of 2017 and we will planning our approach to the upcoming elections to the unitary authority, and local town and parish councils.

In addition, we will giving updates on a range of issues that local activists have been involved with.

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 dickcole@btinternet.com.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Charter for Cornwall campaign - launched today

A new campaign has been launched today about Cornwall’s “excessive housing targets,” the need for “genuinely affordable housing,” the need to “reduce the number of second homes” and secure the “devolution of strategic planning to Cornwall.”

It principally seeks to influence people standing for election to Cornwall Council in May 2017 and advise voters about the views of sitting and prospective councillors.

Full details can be found on the website:

In launching the campaign, the group has stated the following:

“The Cornish countryside is disappearing at an alarming rate. Our landscapes are being degraded and urbanised and the character of our towns and villages is changing forever. Tranquility, the environment and our heritage are ruthlessly ignored. Our young people are finding it more and more difficult to find an affordable home yet, meanwhile, housing continues to be sold off as second 'homes.' Our hospitals and schools cannot cope and our roads are ever more congested. Unfortunately, Cornwall Council seems determined to ramp up housing and population growth even more.

“There has to be a better way. But to change the actions of the Council, we have to change the actions of the councillors. We will be calling on candidates seeking election to Cornwall Council in May 2017 to sign up to the four pledges of a Charter for Cornwall.

- reduce Cornwall Council's excessive housing targets and put local needs first
- restore social rented housing and increase genuinely affordable housing
- reduce the number of second homes
- support the devolution of strategic planning to Cornwall

“We will then see who best to vote for to obtain a council more committed to Cornwall, its countryside and its culture.”

As the leader of Mebyon Kernow and a long-standing campaigner on these issues, I welcome this campaign and I sincerely hope that it has the effect that the organisers desire.

Monday, 2 January 2017

“Eco-town” / “Eco-community” in Clay Country rebranded as “Garden Village”

The UK Government has today announced that it has given their stamp of approval to 14 new Garden Villages, which would each contain between 1,500 and 10,000 new properties.

The official press release states that these “Garden Villages” will “have access to a £6 million fund over the next two financial years to support the delivery of these new projects.”

Included on the list is the so-called “eco-town” or “eco-community” at West Carclaze.

The following statements were also included on the press release.

Apparently this announcement would “continue the government's commitment to support locally-led development …”

The money would also be used to “unlock the full capacity of sites, providing funding for additional resources and expertise to accelerate development and avoid delays.”

And “in addition to funding, the Government will provide support in terms of expertise, brokerage and offer of new planning freedoms.”

As someone who has opposed the top-down imposition of the “eco-town” for the best part of a decade, I have already done an interview for Radio Cornwall and set out my continuing opposition to the development. I have been featured in an article in The Guardian.

Make no mistake, this latest announcement simply confirms, once again, that central government and various vested interests are determined to make this development happen.

And they couldn’t care less what the people of the China Clay Area think.