As 2013 began the Planning Policy Advisory Panel (PPAP) had re-affirmed its advice for a target of 38,000 houses. As the full council meeting began on 12 February 2013 the chances of a less unsustainable 38,000 house target in the Local Plan looked at their rosiest. While still far too high, here was the chance to kick-start a virtuous circle during which excessive population growth rates could begin to be encouraged to fall back to more manageable levels. But it was not to be.
The Head of Planning sombrely warned the assembled councillors of the risks of going for 38,000 and ignoring his advice for 45,400. Cllr Kaczmarek (Ind, Carharrack) reinforced this, adding that ‘senior planning officers were professionals and should be listened to if they said that the current plan for housing numbers could not be defended with robust evidence’. He didn’t add that the advice of those same senior planning officers on demographic change had been proved to be seriously flawed by the 2011 Census.
Cllr Cole (MK, St Enoder) and Cllr Biggs (Con, Camborne West) moved the PPAP recommendation of 38,000. An amendment supported by Cllr Dolley (Ind, Redruth North) for 45,400 was lost by 42 votes to 60. As the Council leadership and senior officers began to sweat, Plan B was wheeled out. Some councillors wanted more housing for their communities, some under the mistaken impression this would solve the affordability crisis. A bizarre interlude of horse trading then took place.
First, Cllr Rogerson (LD, Bodmin St Leonard) moved for 1,900 more houses for Bodmin, taking the overall total to 39,900. Councillors from Falmouth (since departed) then pitched in with an amendment for 41,000, in order to add in another 1,100 houses for Falmouth/Penryn. They were followed by Cllr Lambshead (Con, Newquay Tretherras) who moved 1,300 more for Newquay. The amendment now totalled 42,250. Meanwhile, Cllr Biscoe (Ind, Truro Boscawen) and Cllr Nolan (LD, Truro Redannick) had moved an amendment for 29,000 houses.
Cllrs Biscoe and Nolan’s amendment for 29,000 was lost ‘overwhelmingly’. Sadly, we’re not told who voted for this. Then, the amendment for 42,250 houses was passed by 58 votes to 33. As many as 42 councillors either abstained or were ab
sent from this important vote. Disgracefully, again there was no record of the vote although the following councillors (who are still sitting members in 2017) asked for their names to be recorded against the resolution containing a 42,250 target – Cllr Biscoe, Cllr Bull (LD, St Austell Poltair), Cllr Dolphin (LD, Grenville), Cllr Eddowes (Con, Redruth Central), Cllr Fitter (Con, St Mawgan), Cllr George (LD, Liskeard West), Cllr Hannaford (LD, Looe West), Cllr Jenkin (MK, Crowan), Cllr Maddern (Con, St Buryan), Cllr Nolan, Cllr Pascoe (Con, Gwinear-Gwithian). It’s not known whether they felt the numbers were too high or too low, although from other evidence most were clearly of the opinion it was too high.
The Plan then went out for consultation once again, with a headline target of 42,250 houses. While failing to take advantage of the opportunity to present a case for a lower figure, councillors were at least not endorsing the increase in population growth implied by the Cabinet’s option of 48-49,000 houses or the officers’ preference for something over 50,000. But that state of affairs was not to survive the new Council elected in May 2013.