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Unsustainable increase in housing target does not have my support!
[First published on 27th March 2018] Cornwall Council’s ten-strong Cabinet will be considering a range of important items at their next meeting at County Hall (Wednesday 28th March). These include adult social care and a stadium for Cornwall, as well as a document entitled “New Frontiers,” which I wish to comment on.
The blurb in an accompanying report states that “New Frontiers” is a proposition from the Cornwall Leadership Board (which brings together people from across the public sector). It adds that it is looking to build on the so-called “Cornwall Devolution Deal” from 2015 and wishes to increase our “economic, environmental and social resilience.”

In addition, it claims that the document represents the “starting point” for negotiations with central government. In fact, it is often referred to as “Devo 2” – but there is no proposal within its pages for meaningful devolution as presently enjoyed in Wales and Scotland.

It would nonetheless be churlish to say that there is not some very reasonable stuff in the document, and much thought has gone into how Cornwall’s best interests might be safeguarded in a post-Brexit UK.

But there is also much within “New Frontiers” which I fundamentally disagree with, and when it was discussed at last week’s (excitingly-named) Customer and Support Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee, I had quite a few things to say.

First off, I raised concerns about the democratic legitimacy of the proposals, as the majority of Cornwall Councillors had had little opportunity to be involved with what was being drafted.

I have also queried why the document did not contain a single reference to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, but I focused most of my feedback on planning and housing matters.

“New Frontiers” does not seek the devolution of planning but sets out an “offer” to build housing at a faster rate than set out in the Cornwall Local Plan, and it asks for the ability to build wholly new settlements. To my knowledge, such proposals have not been endorsed by councillors on the unitary authority.

The document further requests financial support (£60 million) for developments such as the so-called “eco-town” or “garden village” near Penwithick – which, as most people will be aware, I opposed for a decade!

It is my view that if we are able to secure a large amount of funding from central government for housing, it should be spent on proper local-needs housing where it is most needed.

Those people at the recent Scrutiny meeting were left under no illusion about my views on the planning aspects of the document, and that it most certainly does not have my support.
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By Dick Cole. Published on 17th April 2018.

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