The fundamental insanity of the unsustainable housing and population spiral that we are locked into in Cornwall seems to be filtering into the wider consciousness of wider society. Even Radio Cornwall is now picking up on it, organising an open event at Liskeard on February 3rd.
This would be a lot more convincing if it were clearer what exactly was on offer at Liskeard, a town that’s seen some of the highest rates of population growth since the 1960s. Radio Cornwall describes the event on Facebook as a ‘Hot seat: Planning and development in Cornwall‘, not beginning to realise that using the word ‘development’ in this way already neatly co-opts us into the ‘developers” discourse and moves the playing field to suit their interests. But I digress. They also imply that it’s a debate, as there’ll be a ‘panel, including Cornwall Council, developers and campaigners’.
Make that ‘campaigner’ as there seems to be just one. Moreover, if the intention is to grill those who call for excessive house-building and support population growth via mass in-migration then why are ‘campaigners’ being invited to join the panel in the first place? And if it’s a debate, then why is the composition of the panel so utterly biased? It’s reported to include Phil Mason, head of planning at Cornwall Council, Cllr Edwina Hannaford, Lib Dem councillor in charge of planning, Cllr Rob Nolan, Lib Dem chairman of the Strategic Planning Committee, and someone from Commercial Estates Group (CEG) of London, the ‘developers’ doing such a grand job at Crinnis Beach and about to start work on 1,000 houses at Saltash. Oh, and that lone ‘campaigner’ – from the Campaign to Protect Rural England [sic] (CPRE).
Is this really dear old Radio Pasty’s notion of ‘balance’?! Basically, we have three who want to boost the current level of population growth even higher, another who ended up, albeit presumably reluctantly, voting for the 47,500 house target and the continuation of current rates of growth, a development company that’s on record as lobbying for up to 68,000 houses and just one extremely isolated ‘campaigner’. Moreover, with the latter from the very respectable CPRE, whose opposition tends to be on environmentalist and aesthetic rather than economic and cultural grounds.
For any semblance of balance, there should be at least one more ‘campaigner’ present to offset Mason, Hannaford and the CEG, if not two.
And it gets worse, I’ve heard that Radio Cornwall had originally invited Orlando Kimber to represent the CPRE but then discovered that he’s now parliamentary candidate in North Cornwall for MK. You can imagine the panic at Phoenix Wharf …
‘What! The CPRE guy’s an MK candidate?’
‘Oh, for chrissake, we can’t let them anywhere near the radio. Quick, better come up with a reason to withdraw the invite or you can kiss goodbye to your career with the beeb’
So they’ve decided not to allow Orlando onto the panel, on the spurious grounds that, as he’s a parliamentary candidate, it would be inappropriate and they would need some ‘balance’. And this after coming up with a panel so ludicrously unbalanced in the first place.
Someone really needs to inform them that rules on broadcasting balance usually only apply to the ‘election period’, which is being defined this year as from March 30th onwards. At the moment, there’s certainly no evidence of the UK-wide media applying the toothless rules on ‘impartiality’. Radio Cornwall’s horror at the prospect of someone from MK appearing and the way it’s quickly moved to bar them is more about excluding certain arguments from the airwaves and an early warning of what MK can expect as it’s effectively squeezed out of the BBC’s election ‘debate’ over the next few months.
If Orlando Kimber is excluded because of his association with MK, then surely the two Lib Dem councillors should also be banned as they’ll presumably be repeating de-facto Lib Dem policy on housing and planning in Cornwall. Although, as they disagree on this, and as the Lib Dems seem to have no coherent policy on this important matter, we’ll continue either to be left in the dark about their stance or remain totally confused. Which is probably what they want.
Were Radio Cornwall genuinely serious about having a proper debate about Cornwall’s unsustainable growth cycle then it surely can’t be beyond their wit to organise a one to one debate between Cllr Hannaford and someone from the campaign for a more rational planning policy in Cornwall? Or between a planning officer and Cllr Hannaford on the one hand and a campaigner and a politician who’s explicitly on record as calling for a lower housing target on the other. That would be real balance.
Such a debate might begin by granting each participant five minutes to put the nub of their case and then proceed to clarify the issues, in the process investigating the various claims of Council and campaigners, for example
- is the housing target driven by local need or external market demand?
- what does it mean to say that less than 1% of Cornwall ‘has development’?
- is population rising because of natural change, as the Council claims, or because of net migration, as the campaigners argue?
- is the Home Choice Register a good surrogate measure for the number who need new housing, or is it being used to facilitate proposals for housing projects?
- why do the planners believe the official population and household projections are ‘objective’ and always ‘right’ when they appear recently to have been always wrong?
- why did Cornwall Council refuse to use the past three years to work up a special case for a lower housing target or lobby the DCLG about their inaccurate official projections?
- how close is the relationship between Cornwall Council’s planning officers and ‘developers’? Are the Council’s planning officers colluding with developers and feeding them arguments for higher growth targets?
- and finally, when and how will this endless growth end?
Who knows, if it started acting impartially, Radio Cornwall might even begin to turn into Radio Kernow.