Crossing over the neck of West Penwith, the faithful Morris Minor rattles its way down into St Ives. St Ives itself has managed to avoid the worst of the Council’s building frenzy, even though its population has only grown by 22% since the 1960s. This is less than half the rate for Cornwall. Although such a low rate of growth must mean that the good citizens of St Ives are now walking around in rags, given the consensus in Lys Kernow that the only answer to all our ills is ‘growth’.
The planners are presumably willing to put up with this extremely poor performance because ruining the place wouldn’t do much for tourism or its status as an iconic place for English hartists. Or is it because of the strength of community resistance to housing expansion here?
The town hit the news recently when its draft neighbourhood plan had the temerity to propose placing limits on second homes. Even pro-developer Labour councillors promptly jumped on the populist bandwagon and began to petition for a second home levy. All very odd, as their party’s MPs had refused to join calls from the local Lib Dem MP to do something about second homes.
Cornwall Council’s response was, as usual, utterly feeble, merely parroting that ‘1,000 homes have to be built’. Have to be? In early drafts of the Local Plan the planners were admitting that in the St Ives area there was a ‘great deal of competition from second home owners’. New housing would ‘need to accommodate this aspect of need’. So is this why 1,000 houses ‘have to be’ built, a target incidentally pushed up from the original proposed 750? In the ten years from 2001 to 2011 an additional 700 houses in St Ives were transferred from permanent residents to second and holiday home use. So how does Cornwall Council intend to stop this happening again over the next 20 years and all those net 1,000 additions suffering the same fate?
A fifth of the 1,000 houses that ‘have to be built’ have been proposed for the land between the cliffs east of Carbis Bay and Lelant village. Immediately to the west of this area – in Carbis Bay – the proportion of houses with no permanent resident hits 40%+. In Lelant, to the south east, it’s almost 20%. Not surprisingly, a vigorous campaign emerged to stop the development at Gonwin Farm (by a local developer for once). Hundreds of objections forced the Council to call a public meeting and on September 25th the plan was rejected by 12 votes to eight. Unusually the vote was recorded. Even though the minutes are extremely garbled it looks like the vote was as follows …
|For refusal||Against refusal|
|M.Brown (LD)||Batters (LD)|
|Bull (LD)||Candy (LD)|
|Chamberlain (Con)||Fitter (Con)|
|Coombe (Ind)||Greenslade (Ind)|
|Curnow (Ind)||Kaczmarek (Ind)|
|Dyer (Con)||Kenny (LD)|
|Elliott (Ukip)||May (Ind)|
|Ellis (Con)||Webber (Labr)|
Cue celebrations. Which were short-lived. Just over a month later the developers shoved in another outline application. The new application was completely different. The refused one had been for shops, pubs, a restaurant, offices, light industrial land, gardens, a village square (importing an alien concept into Cornwall) and 235 houses (21% social rented, 14% ‘intermediate’ and 65% open market). The new one is for shops, pubs, a restaurant, offices, light industrial land, gardens, a village square (still importing an alien concept into Cornwall) and 235 houses (31% social rented, 20% ‘intermediate’ and 50% open market).
The planning officers had been working with the developers in a Planning Performance Agreement on their first application and had produced a ‘supportive report’. Presumably, they’ve been working behind the scenes to help with the second application as well. Ominously, this has been ‘agreed with Cornwall Council’s affordable housing team’. It remains to be seen whether councillors will cave in. Or, if they don’t, if the developers will appeal or come back for third time lucky. Except that there’s not much luck involved these days.
Meanwhile, even if there’s a little local difficulty at St Ives, over at Hayle the planners must have been confident they could impose their project easily enough. They were certain ‘the area has aspirations to grow in terms of housing and employment’. Yet they ought to have been a little less sanguine. The previous Hayle Area Plan had actually included the aim of ‘satisfactory housing for all our residents’ and ‘innovative solutions to affordable housing schemes’. These sensible aims were very different from the blanket calls for 1,400 extra houses and a 34% growth in 20 years that the planners intend to saddle Hayle with.
Sure enough, when Linden Homes came up with their plan for 225 houses off St George’s Road, there was a flurry of complaints about a lack of consultation. And again when Hayle School proposed selling off part of their land to developers.
From the point of view of Linden Homes, their scheme was ‘an excellent opportunity to deliver much-needed new open market and affordable housing in Hayle’. That’s ‘much-needed’ by companies like Linden Homes and local estate agents. Linden had had ‘discussions with council officers’ but had unaccountably forgotten to get any feedback from the local community first. Which might just be telling us something about the priorities of both developers and planners and the lip service they’re both paying to ‘localism’.