Revealed: massive increase in flights by Cornwall Council officers despite ‘climate emergency’

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?

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New Council data support conclusions of this website

Cornwall Council could save hundreds of thousands of £s in consultancy fees.

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.

The Council has now belatedly released data on the annual greenhouse gas footprint in Cornwall over the ten years to 2016 (the last available year of data). These tell us that emissions from aviation in 2016 were running at … 55,000 kilotons a year.

I hate to say I told you so, but I just have. The credibility of the statistics on this website is again reinforced.

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Don’t blame us; councillors nothing to do with hyper-growth crisis

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.

Campaigners begin to gather at County Hall/Lys Kernow

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.

Cornwall has the UK’s highest housebuilding rate per resident

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.

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Basic innumeracy? Or deliberate mendacity? Why Cornwall Council’s planners cannot be trusted.

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 Cornwall.

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).

I wrote to her showing how ONS statistics were by then clearly telling us that this was no longer the case. She took advice from her planning officers, who had obviously been feeding her the fake news soundbite about the birth and death rates. They insisted that ‘we are seeing a greater balance (my emphasis) of births to deaths than we have traditionally’ and that even though the trend had plateaued ‘it is dangerous to assume this is a “new” trend’.

Unwilling or unable to challenge her officers or to understand my data, Councillor Hannaford dutifully stated that ‘one year does not indicate a trend’ and ‘one swallow doesn’t make a summer’.

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.

Posted in Cornwall Council;, Local Plan, official statistics, planning system, population growth, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Bobsworld: Cornwall’s answer to Disney World

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. Magic.

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.

Bobsworld

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’.

Real world

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.

Bobsworld
Real world

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.

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Cornwall Council and the climate emergency

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.

And some elephants are completely invisible. For example, emissions from aviation are not included at all in the official figures at either level. In fact, as I have already shown, emissions from flights to and from Newquay airport have grown around four-fold in the past decade to 55-60 kilotons a year. While this is from a low base its growth is also exponential. It’s more worrying that Cornwall Council has not been bothering to collect data on the greenhouse gasses emitted from its own airport and claims to have no forecasts for future growth.

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?

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A tick-box for the Cornish? Surely not too much to ask for?

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 Housing in 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 Commission for 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 councillors. Why?

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.

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