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Some thoughts on planning following recent demonstration at County Hall
At last week’s meeting of the unitary authority, a considerable number of campaigners joined together to protest at the level of housing growth across Cornwall. A number of local groups were also present at the demonstration to raise concerns about specific developments which they consider will have an adverse impact on their local area.
A large number of people continue to be angry at the housing target of 52,500 new housing units, for the period 2010-2030, which is included in the Cornwall Local Plan.

I share many of these concerns and I understand people’s frustrations. Not least, this is because, as a local councillor, I have been on the losing side in many planning battles where, I strongly believe, the wrong decisions were taken.

In terms of local planning policy, I was heavily involved in the production of the Local Plan document and argued for a lower housing target of 38,000-40,000, with a stronger focus on the provision of proper local-needs affordable housing. In addition, I recall arguing for less growth in areas such as Bodmin and Newquay, and I was among the small number of members who opposed the so-called “eco-town” in Clay Country.

But overall, I was pretty unsuccessful in my representations and I would describe the process of agreeing the housing target as a “charade.” So much of the debate was not about what would be right for Cornwall, but what might be acceptable to central government.

The final housing target, submitted to the Government, was 47,500 but even this was deemed inadequate by a government-appointed inspector who, following an “Examination in Public,” pushed up the figure to the 52,500.

The reality is that the top-down National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) does largely dictate how local councils deal with planning matters.

In terms of housing targets, I remember the most recent consultation into revisions to the NPPF when the UK Government stated that they expected housing targets for council areas to be calculated using a top-down “standard method.” They even included an appendix in the document showing that if Cornwall’s housing target was recalculated, using their method, it would go up to 58,000.

In all this “toing and froing,” Cornwall Council has come in for significant criticism and I believe it really does need to be much more robust in challenging the diktats of central government.

It is my strong view that we should be uniting around a strong campaign to ensure that all decisions over planning and housing should be taken here in Cornwall, democratically, through a Cornish NPPF, without interference from Whitehall and their inspectors.
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By Dick Cole. Published on 25th July 2019.

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