Two Cornwall Councillors from Clay Country have described themselves as “very saddened” at the outcome of the latest Strategic Planning Committee (Thursday 30th March), which saw the 1,500 property “eco-community“ secure a planning permission.
Cllrs Matt Luke (Penwithick & Boscoppa) and Dick Cole (St Enoder) from Mebyon Kernow, who have both opposed the “eco-community” for ten years, spoke at the meeting to give voice to the one thousand-plus local objections.
The councillors told the Committee that the vast majority of local people opposed the scheme and that there were over 1,180 letter of objection, but only a handful of letters of support.
They also raised a number of concerns which included the fact much of the housing was on green-fields and the development would have an adverse impact on the infrastructure of the local area.
In particular, Cllr Luke hit out at the uncertainty about how any proposed sewerage system would work, while Cllr Cole argued that the level of housing in the China Clay Area was excessive and unsustainable.
Sadly for the MK councillors, the members of the Strategic Planning Committee voted by 17 votes to three to approve the planning application. The scheme was backed by seven Liberal Democrats, five Conservatives, four independents and one Labour councillor. The “eco-community” was opposed by Andrew Long (MK), one Conservative and one independent.
Many councillors on the Committee claimed that they had to support the scheme as the “eco-commuity” was “allocated” in the Cornwall Local Plan, but these same councillors had failed to support an earlier attempt by MK councillors to have it removed from the document.
The UK Government produced a PPS (planning policy statement) which stated that an “eco-town” had to be built in the China Clay Area. As a consequence, Cornwall included the proposal for the “eco-community” within its draft Local Plan.
When the PPS was abolished in May 2015, MK councillors moved an amendment at Full Council that the “eco-community” should not go forward and that it should be removed from the Plan. This amendment was only supported by eight councillors – all four Mebyon Kernow councillors plus four independents. Not one Conservative, Labour or Lib Dem councillor opposed the “eco-town.”
The Cornwall Local Plan was also assessed by a Government Inspector and an “Examination in Public” and MK made further verbal representations at this hearing along with Treverbyn Parish Council. But the Inspector ignored the views of local people and confirmed that the “eco-community” at West Carclaze should stay in the document.
It should also be pointed out that, between 1991 and 2010, the China Clay Area experienced faster housing growth than any other part of Cornwall. According to Cornwall Council’s own figures, housing growth was a very significant 47%. If the level of housing presently proposed for the China Clay Area in the Cornwall Local Plan (including the eco-community) was allowed to go forward, it would mean that the housing stock of Clay Country would increase by 82% over four decades (from 1991 to 2030).