By any account the Lanson Community Network Area (CNA), fourth in the current 20 year Cornish growth league, the same position it held last time, should be a prosperous, vibrant, contented place. That’s if you believe the assumptions of Cornwall Council’s planners, the bulk of the councillors and the vast majority of the parliamentary neo-liberal axis. Because one thing Lanson has got is growth. Lots and lots of lovely growth in fact. And, as we are constantly reminded, growth and more growth is all we need and yearn for.
Most of the growth in this large, rural CNA has been channelled into the town. Lanson’s housing stock grew by an eye-watering 47% from 1990 to 2010. Not content with more than doubling the size of the place since the 1960s, the planners now want to see another 1,800 houses added to the town, producing another mammoth growth of 43% in the two decades between 2010 and 2030.
To ‘accommodate’ this, huge chunks of agricultural land, including quiet valleys, coppices and bits of woodland, are earmarked for housing, mainly to the south of the town. But what are the social consequences? Is Lanson now the happy ‘community’ of the developers’ drawings, a place where the sun is always shining and there’s barely a car in sight as everyone walks or cycles to work or the shops whistling a merry little tune?
At the 2011 census the town, once proud to be the Cornish capital, was one of those – along with Saltash and Torpoint – with the lowest proportion of people prepared to declare a Cornish national identity. Whatever growth has done to the place, it’s hardly enhanced its Cornishness.
This is odd however, as Cornwall Council’s planners assure us that new housing brings no in-migrants to Cornwall. None. Zero. Instead, all new houses go to locals. In which case Lanson must be full to the brim with ‘locals’. One or two slight doubts about this assertion might arise if we consider the way estate agents and developers market new properties to upcountry buyers. One wonders why they chuck away wads of their cash in this way if it really has no effect.
Or could it be that Cornwall Council and its chief planner Phil Mason are talking nonsense and spouting a convenient factoid (a usually fictitious claim or assertion offered as a fact but with no supporting evidence). In 2012 the planners and the then portfolio holder for planning Mark Kazcmarek were asked to produce evidence to back up a similar claim made at that time and explain why the situation had changed so dramatically since the last properly conducted research in 1986/87. That request was met with a deafening silence, so we have to assume no evidence exists that can possibly support their ludicrous claim.