In January of this year Cornwall Council declared a ‘climate
emergency’. In doing so it committed itself to work towards zero carbon
emissions by 2030. To achieve this, as its Climate Change Plan points out, will
be ‘incredibly challenging’ and involve major changes to our consumption-oriented
and wasteful lifestyles. Nonetheless, the Council has declared it has a ‘responsibility
to lead’ and ‘play a leading role in meeting the challenge to reduce our impact’
on dangerous climate change. ‘Urgency’ is, it tells us, is ‘important’.
Moreover, its Climate Change Plan contains the promise that ‘the impacts of plans we have been developing for future delivery’ will be ‘reviewed’. All present policies will be reconsidered in the light of their impact on the environment. However, sceptics will have noted the Council’s refusal to bin its pet spaceport project, claiming that it will ‘only’ add another few thousand kilotons of carbon to the atmosphere. They’ll also point to its refusal so far to reconsider its plans for massive housing and population growth, which will add considerably more carbon to Cornwall’s greenhouse gas budget. They might be aware of the Council’s continued support for more road building, out of town fast food gateways or park and rides, all of which attract even more traffic, rather than less.
There seems to be a growing list of exceptions to its intentions
to ‘review’ its current plans or consider the impact of its own actions. This
comes as the Council calls on the rest of us to make radical changes to our lifestyles.
The suspicion is that the Council’s actions are nowhere near matching its rhetoric.
These suspicions are amply confirmed when we consider the following data,
revealed after a freedom of information request.
Rather than reducing their use of flying, which is the costliest mode of transport in greenhouse gas terms, the Council’s officers have increased it by more than four-fold in the last three years! The figures are even worse than they look as those for 2019 are just for eight months, from August 2018 to March 2019. This is a very odd way of ‘demonstrating leadership’ in tackling climate change. It means that every working day on average six council officers are using the plane to fly off to some meeting or conference somewhere. As the data end in March this year, presumably since then there has been a dramatic reduction in such flights.
Or has there? If Council officers cannot set an example then
why should the rest of the population make the necessary changes?
Cornwall Council could save hundreds of thousands of £s in
When the Council was sent an FOI request in April asking what the greenhouse gas emissions were from flights to and from Newquay airport it claimed it had no idea as no data were available. I stated at the time that that this was a clear dereliction of duty in the light of the Council’s declaration of a ‘climate emergency’ in February.
I also pointed out that current greenhouse gas emissions from aviation could quite easily be estimated from publicly available reports and was probably now around 60,000 kilotons a year. I repeated this in a blog a month later.
What a coincidence! On Tuesday local action groups and individuals
concerned about Cornwall Council’s mass housebuilding and high population
growth strategy mounted a protest to demand a change in direction. But it seems
that the Council is now re-inventing itself as a ‘listening’ Council.
Councillors want a ‘dialogue’. They’re desperate to discuss things. They
eagerly seek a compromise. Of course, there are some unavoidable limits to what
they can actually do to assuage the growing anger at what they’ve already done.
Apparently, they’re hamstrung by central government which forces them to do all
sorts of horrible things which they don’t really want to do.
Unfortunately, while central government’s planning framework
is most certainly biased in favour of developers and even more so since the
changes made by the Tory/Lib Dem Government after 2010, Cornwall Councillors’ pleas
of ‘it isn’t me guv’ lack credibility. In reality, such claims are better
viewed as part of the propaganda war the Council wages, confusing people with
deceptions, distractions and downright duplicity. It’s yet another example of
the favoured ploy of our elected representatives – passing the buck.
Councillors claim that they can’t do anything about a
housebuilding rate that is the highest pro rata in the UK. It’s forced on them
by central government; it’s not something they really want to do. So protestors
are told they ought to ‘be targeting … central government’ rather than poor old
councillors who are powerless and forced to collude in policies they detest.
It comes as a surprise to see even MK councillors repeating this same hoary old myth (West Briton 11 July, page 28). For myth it certainly is.
If Cornwall Council really was the innocent victim bullied
by central government you would have thought it would have been loudly
explaining its position to the people of Cornwall and building support from
local communities to demand a change in government policy well before now. It
hasn’t. You might think it would have argued forcefully for a lower housing
target during the examination of its Local Plan and worked with local campaigners
to construct the strongest case possible. It didn’t. You would definitely be
congratulating it on taking on board the implications of the spirit of Article
16 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and
using that to demand central government reverse its unfair treatment of Cornish
communities. It isn’t.
Instead of swallowing the hype, let’s study the facts.
The ugly truth is that, far from being forced to accept a housing
target much higher than it wanted, Cornwall Council’s leadership clique has for
a long time been pushing for an equally high target. Some – a minority – of
individual councillors may have an honourable record of opposing its
hyper-growth policy. However, the Council’s leadership and senior officers have
been assiduously seeking rates of growth as high, if not even higher, than
central government targets.
There is nothing new in this. It merely continues the
Council’s long-standing policy of encouraging high population growth. As far
back as 1970 the former County Council was aiming ‘to accelerate the rate of
growth of population’. The concluding words of Cornwall at the Crossroads,
published in 1988, read ‘most planning documents … take a rapid and continuing
population growth for granted’.
To claim that the council doesn’t want a high housing growth is at best disingenuous, at worst deliberately misleading. Both current and past Councils and councillors must take their share of responsibility for setting us on the catastrophic road which threatens to eradicate the lingering vestiges of Cornish distinctiveness. Before their excuses are accepted, councillors need to recognise this and publicly admit that the Council’s high growth policies are mistaken and outmoded. Instead, they need to commit themselves to a more consistent objective of gradually reducing excessive speculative housebuilding, in line with their declaration of a climate emergency and with the aim of building a genuinely sustainable Cornwall.
As well as ‘listening’, councillors need to do more to
educate themselves, stop making feeble excuses, show some leadership by reining
in their out of control senior officers and Cabinet and then ACT.
In the early days of the making of Cornwall Council’s Local
Plan, its planners were keen to emphasise that population growth was a result
not just of net in-migration, but also natural change (the excess of births
over deaths). The implication was that a higher rate of urbanisation was
required to house an increase in population among those already resident in
In fact, the main factors driving population growth in
Cornwall are demand from in-migrants, for second homes and for holiday lets
combined with the attractions of Cornwall for speculative developers seeking
easy profits. But these were played down. Instead, Council documents implied
that a greater level of housebuilding was needed merely to meet demand from the
resident population. This is made easier by the technical language surrounding
the local Plan, where ‘local need’ actually means demand from residents together
with that from potential in-migrants.
Moreover, they were fortunate as their task of massaging
reality was made easier as a historic excess of deaths over births had
gradually reversed during the 2000s.
This allowed the planners to state confidently that ‘natural
change is predicted to remain positive through the next ten years (Cornwall
Council, Population briefing note, 2013). At the time CoSERG was arguing that
the rise in natural change was a temporary phenomenon, the result of a sudden
influx of younger migrants from eastern Europe. Citing the Office for National Statistics
(ONS), we pointed out that even the Government’s own statisticians were
suggesting that this would reverse again after a few years.
In 2014 I wrote the following in a report originally
commissioned by the CPRE. ‘During 2010-11 the trend of the previous decade
reversed and we now again have a demographic regime with an excess of deaths
over births’. My analysis had convinced me that the temporary trend to natural
increase had peaked during 2010-11.
Yet, a year later, Lib Dem Cornwall Councillor Edwina Hannaford,
then portfolio holder for planning, went on Radio Cornwall and repeated the
falsehood that ‘the birth rate is outstripping the death rate’ (Radio Cornwall,
6th February 2015).
However, we now have the mid-year estimates through to 2018.
Here’s what they show. Who was right?
Clearly the trend back to a large excess of deaths over
births was already well-established in Cornwall in 2015, despite Cornwall Council’s
planners stubborn denials and blatant refusal to accept the evidence in front
of their own eyes. Instead they persisted in giving gullible elected representatives
false information. Clearly there should be some internal investigation into
this and heads should roll.
Keep this in mind when you next read some apparently authoritative
statement from Cornwall’s planners. The squalid reality is that they are fully
prepared to manipulate and distort the statistics in order to defend the
Council leadership’s agenda of hyper-growth and continuing colonisation. In
short, when it suits them, they lie.
Welcome to Bobsworld, Cornwall’s latest tourist attraction. Experience
a world you never imagined could exist even in your wildest dreams.
Bobsworld is a fantasy world, a paradise, a place like
nowhere else on earth. Everyone’s welcome in Bobsworld. The more the merrier,
because the more people that come to Bobsworld, the less congested it becomes.
In Bobsworld all new houses are sold or rented to the existing
residents. ‘Affordable’ houses are affordable even if no-one can actually
afford them. Record house construction levels have no connection at all with
record in-migration levels. Not in Bobsworld. Entirely separate.
In Bobsworld there’s no trash like boring old fields, hedges
or woodlands. They’ve all been replaced by ecological enhancement spaces.
There’s no need for a car either in Bobsworld. Because every
resident cycles or walks everywhere and roads are not roads but boulevards.
Residents are given two car parking spaces each just so that they can display
their skills converting them back to gardens. After all, in Bobsworld a housing
estate is not a housing estate; it’s a ‘garden village’.
In Bobsworld the answer to poor air quality is to build more
roads and then more houses. Because no-one will be driving along those new roads
anyway as they’re all walking or cycling.
In Bobsworld tourist numbers have no limits. New beaches are
created each week just to cater for the rapidly rising crowds. And, as the
weather forecast is provided by Visit Cornwall, it goes without saying it’s
always sunny and everyone has a welcoming smile on their faces. And no-one
mentions second homes.
In Bobsworld more and more people mean less and less pressure
on services. More people trigger lots of lovely lolly for local hospitals. In
any case, in Bobsworld migrants never get old, so they won’t need the health
service. And of course they’re all super-fit from all that walking and cycling.
Just like Bob himself who walks or cycles to his theme park every single day.
In Bobsworld there’s absolutely no contradiction at all
between supporting airport expansion and being concerned about the climate
emergency. In Bobsworld there’ll be so many trees and ecological enhancement
spaces that they’ll soak up all those naughty greenhouse gases in a jiffy. Not
that they know how much to soak up because in Bobsworld no-one collects
greenhouse gas statistics from the airport they own. V tedious.
And where do you find Bobsworld? Head for Truro, find the A390 community road, look out for the award-winning block opposite Sainsbury’s with pretty flags flying, known affectionately by locals as Kremlin Kernow. Just go in and ask at reception how you can visit Bobsworld. It’s probably the best fantasy world on the planet. And all free because it’s funded with taxpayers’ money and borrowing on an exciting scale.
P.S. And while you’re there, make sure you see Cornwall’s
famously frightening Chamber of Horrors, containing creepy waxworks galore, aka
Cornwall Council debating chamber.
Following Cornwall Councillors’ recognition of a climate emergency back in January the Council has begun work on its ‘Climate Change Programme Plan’, preparing a report for Cabinet due in late July. Tomorrow, a report on progress is being discussed at the Council’s Neighbourhoods Overview and Scrutiny Committee where members will note it and help identify how Cornwall can become carbon neutral by 2030
Council officers clearly haven’t been idle since January.
They’ve come up with an approach that contains a ‘discovery’ phase followed by
a ‘define’ phase and established a framework for delivery. The report also
includes some preliminary data.
What is the precise challenge the Council faces? Let’s look at the position as recorded by the UK Government’s ‘Local authority CO2 emissions estimates 2005-16’. This only includes CO2, as do the Council’s figures. Carbon dioxide contributes around 80% of greenhouse gases. (Although the overall headline figures in the Council’s interim report look similar there are some unexplained differences between Council and Government data. Moreover, the presentation of the Council’s data in bar chart form does not make for easy or direct comparison with the actual numbers in the Government dataset.)
What are central and local government telling us? First, the good news. In Cornwall CO2 emissions fell from around 4,200 kilotons a year in 2006 to 3,000 in 2016, a near 30% fall in a decade. This is movement in the right direction.
However, we have to factor in three bits of bad news.
First, the maths. While the fall in ten years looks
impressive, in order to achieve zero emissions by 2030 that rate of change has
to speed up. On current trends even assuming the absolute fall in CO2 emissions
can be maintained, we’re on track for zero emissions no earlier than the early
2040s. Even this will require a rising proportional decline each and every
year, which looks a lot more challenging, just in terms of the maths.
Speeding up the rate of decline of CO2 emissions seems over-optimistic
in the light of the second piece of bad news. The low-hanging fruit has already
been plucked. Almost all of the fall in CO2 emissions in the past decade came
from two sectors, industry and domestic. This was caused by a switch to
renewable energy sources and more efficient heating of houses. Conservative
Government policy has now jammed the brakes on the switch to renewables.
Third, there a number of elephants in the room about which
at this stage the Council’s interim report chooses to be rather coy. The first,
and most troubling, is the Council’s own obsession with hyper-housing and
population growth. This is akin to trying to put out a fire with petrol. The
report admits that another 44,000 houses by 2030 (houses it mysteriously prefers
to describe as ‘Cornish homes’) will add another 25 kilotons of CO2 a year. It
also notes that new houses are still being built with an EPC rating of only C.
Meanwhile, carbon emissions from road transport have hardly
fallen at all in the last decade (just 4%). This is now the biggest greenhouse
gas producing sector. Only Cornwall Council planners and councillors can seriously
believe that all those extra people will walk and cycle everywhere.
These rather major caveats aside, the Council has made a promising start to its climate emergency plan. The difficulties arise when it begins to identify the radical actions needed and councillors and other local elites wake up to what the implications are. The necessary remedies require a major re-think of the Council’s own growth strategy. But will the Council’s leadership be capable of doing that?
The submission below will be sent to the Minister for the Constitution and copied to my MP. Anyone also wishing to write to them is welcome to adopt, adapt, plagiarise, support any of the arguments here as they see fit. More factual background can be found at Dick Cole’s blog.
The Government White Paper Help Shape our Future: The 2021 Census of Population and Housingin England and Wales again fails to support the inclusion of a tick-box for people to express a Cornish national identity. I am writing to add my support to those who are demanding this oversight be rectified when the statutory order for the Census is laid before Parliament in the autumn. I also refer you to a submission I made to the ONS in August 2015.
It is tiresome in the extreme to have to repeat arguments that have been rehearsed since the late 1990s when a well-supported campaign was launched for the Cornish to be recognised as a national minority within the UK. It is frankly disgraceful to be still making those arguments 20 years later and five years after that campaign belatedly achieved success.
In 2014 the Cornish were recognised as a national minority
under the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National
Minorities. This was supposed to have led to the same status as ‘the Scots, the
Welsh and the Irish’. So why do these other minorities have a tick-box option
while the Cornish do not? Why do we continue to be discriminated against in
this manner even after 2014?
Article 4.2 of the
Convention clearly states the responsibility of states to “undertake
to adopt, where necessary, adequate measures in order to promote, in all areas
of economic, social, political and cultural life, full and effective equality
between persons belonging to a national minority and those belonging to the
majority. In this respect, they shall take due account of the specific
conditions of the persons belonging to national minorities.”
This can only be done if comprehensive and accurate data on the
socio-economic conditions of the Cornish are collected. The Census is the
obvious best means to achieve this. The Office for National Statistics states
in the White Paper that it “fully recognises the need of the Cornish
community for data on the socio-economic, educational, health and housing
conditions of those who identify as Cornish”. Yet, bizarrely, by illogically
denying the right to a tick-box option it also prevents the collection and
analysis of such data.
The need for robust statistics and therefore a Cornish tick-box is
increasingly pressing as a two-tier Cornwall emerges and growing levels of
inequality blight our land. This is a result of central and local government
planning policy and a local government high population growth strategy which
indirectly breaches Article 16 of the FCPNM: “The Parties shall refrain from
measures which alter the proportions of the population in areas inhabited by
persons belonging to national minorities …”. Continuing this strategy also
conveniently further marginalises the Cornish by exacerbating our minority
status even within the historic territory which we have inhabited since a time
before the English arrived and before the English state existed.
The existing write-in option is clearly unfit for the purpose of
collecting good quality data. This can be illustrated from the case of Wales.
There, in 2001 when only a write-in option was offered, only 14% of the
population took that opportunity. In 2011 a tick-box was provided and this
proportion leapt to 66%. This proves that the write-in option is useless in
terms of identifying the Cornish as a group. In Cornwall almost 14% wrote in
their national identity as Cornish in 2011. It is likely that with an explicit
tick-box this proportion would, as in Wales, be much higher.
Article 4.1 of the Framework Convention states that the parties “undertake
to guarantee to persons belonging to national minorities the right of equality
before the law and of equal protection of the law. In this respect, any
discrimination based on belonging to a national minority shall be prohibited.”
By denying the Cornish a tick-box and granting that right to the Scots, Welsh
and Irish the Cornish are plainly not enjoying the same rights as those other
national minorities or the majority, as was promised in 2014. The Government
will therefore be discriminating against the Cornish on the basis of belonging
to a national minority and thus in breach of article 4.1.
Unfortunately, despite the Framework Convention, there is little sign that either the central or local state are accepting the responsibilities that were signed up to. The snub delivered by this White Paper is only the latest in a long line of similar insults. It’s time to move beyond lamenting the failure of government to take the Cornish seriously and begging for equality and ask why this discrimination, at times amounting to institutional racism, proceeds unchecked.
In recent years academics have been increasingly prone to describe
Cornwall and the Cornish as being subject to colonialism, especially of the
cultural kind, as Cornwall fulfils a function of being a leisure periphery and
retirement zone for better-off permanent and temporary migrants from England.
This analysis might be extended to the economic and the political fields.
For some the refusal to provide a Cornish tick-box is clear
evidence of a long-term de-facto project finally to eliminate the embarrassing
issue of the Cornish, embarrassing as we are the only case of an indigenous
national minority living within the political boundaries of ‘England’. This
cannot entirely be left to processes of demographic change engineered through
the planning system and by the agents of central government in the local state.
This is being pursued in parallel with that of de-democratisation. Since 2009 and the imposition of a unitary local authority on Cornwall the voters of Cornwall have been among the worst represented in quantitative terms anywhere in western Europe. This is now being made even worse by the proposed cut of 29% in the number of Cornwall Councillors, from 123 to 87. Let’s compare this with the boundary reviews of other unitary authorities carried out by the Local Government Boundary Commissionfor England (LGBCE) since 2015.
The mean reduction in councillors across these authorities has
been 5.6%. Yet in Cornwall it is 29%. Why was Cornwall treated so differently? Look
particularly at the numbers for the rural unitary authorities of Wiltshire (established
at the same time as Cornwall UA) and the new unitary authority of Dorset. Both
of these have far more councillors in proportion to population than does Cornwall
and the people of Wiltshire, despite their fewer numbers, now have 11 more
There is also a massive difference between the way Cornwall is
being treated and the decision of the LGBCE in 2012 to maintain the number of
councillors in the County of Durham unitary authority at 126. At the time the
LGBCE rejected calls in Durham to reduce the Council’s size to 85 members in
order to provide ‘efficient and convenient local government’. The LGBCE
disgracefully failed to answer a letter sent in September 2017 asking for their
views on this differential treatment and have offered no reason to justify this
strikingly differential treatment.
Moreover, whereas so-called devolution deals with other regions in
England have resulted in an elected mayor and an extra layer of democratic government,
this has also not occurred in Cornwall. It’s necessary to repeat that the
Cornish are the least well represented community in the UK in quantitative
terms. De-democratisation is resulting in an atrophying political culture in
Cornwall, a democratic deficit and a poverty of civic debate about what is
happening to our land. It must be assumed that this outcome is a convenient one
that suits certain interests.
The absence of a tick-box is merely the latest small but critical
step in a long line of actions (or inactions) that the UK Government and its agents
have undertaken to guarantee the continuation of their plans for Cornwall. As part
of that they have little choice but to engage in what can only be described as
institutional racism and discriminatory policies against the Cornish.
A tick-box is no magic answer to counteract centuries of colonial subjection or to end the post-democratic experiment being carried out in Cornwall. There is a growing sense that the Cornish left in Cornwall are the last generation of an ethnicity that has inhabited these islands since at least the time of the Romans. If even the small concession of a tick-box to express our identity is not forthcoming then, sadly, those fears will be entirely confirmed.