What’s the Council’s Local Plan got in store for Liskeard? Like Saltash, the population has already more than doubled since the 1960s. Oddly enough, rapid population growth doesn’t seem to have delivered the prosperity that it was supposed to. By 2013 Liskeard town centre was so far gone it was in need of emergency resuscitation by a TV celebrity.
Because of the palpable failure of its population growth strategy we might expect the Council to give the good folk of Liskeard a breathing space to rebuild their community and rediscover their sense of place. Not a bit of it. For the Council the answer is obvious. If the medicine hasn’t worked so far then the patient needs to take more of it. A lot more of it. In fact, how about a hefty 29% growth in the housing stock in just 20 years, adding 1,250 houses to the 4,323 there in 2010. Proper job. It’s cure or kill time.
A good proportion of this cancerous growth will be to the east of the town. Persimmons of York got the green light in 2011 to build 450 houses, plus a ‘local centre’ and public open spaces on what to most people is a classic east Cornish rural landscape. Here is a harmonious, intricate landscape with woods, hedgerows alive with birds, steep fields, country lanes, and the former site of the old Liskeard Agricultural Show.
Or was. It’s all now destined to disappear under lovely Persimmons houses, marketed to those who want the Cornwall lifestyle (just as the Cornish lifestyle bites the dust). Because of Liskeard’s historic link with some tourist called Charles Dickens, who stayed for a weekend in 1860, all the new suburban streets will have twee Dickensian names – Nickleby Court, Copperfield Drive, Scrooge Pavilions and the like.
Despite evidence to the contrary, Persimmons insists that ‘increased accommodation of population … will help to sustain the vitality and viability of this settlement and aid the creation of sustainable communities’. Although they admit it will ‘not in itself generate significant new employment opportunities’. You what … ?? At a stroke this undermines one of the key elements councillors wheel out in support of their high population growth strategy. Instead Persimmions makes a rare admission: it ‘will boost the resident workforce’.
Cornwall Council’s Strategic Planning Committee gave this desecration of Liskeard’s environment approval in 2011 by 12 votes to three. Unfortunately, because votes are hardly ever recorded in this apology for transparent procedure stuck somewhere in the 18th century, we don’t know which brave souls opposed it. But we do know that it was proposed and seconded by Cllrs Jim Flashman (Con, St Dominick) and Andrew Long (MK, Callington). Liskeard Town Council had also supported it, after being fobbed off by some meaningless changes. Meanwhile, the land wept.
Persimmons works closely with Cornwall’s planners. They’re members of the Council’s Private Developers Forum, a ‘partnership’ that gives developers even greater access to councillors and planners. They’re also members of the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment Panel. This was tasked to identify which plots of land are the most ripe for suburbanisation.
Despite this inside track, Persimmons were busy in 2012 lobbying Cornwall Council to ramp up its housing target even higher, calling for at least 57,000 houses. For added measure, its planning agents, Turley Associates of Bristol, echoed this plea for more support for the hard-pressed housing sector. Persimmons profits rose by 57% in the first half of 2014.