The Council’s pathetic failure to act to defend Cornwall from hyper-development pressures and a high housing and population growth regime is illustrated in some technical correspondence with Council Leader John Pollard last month last month. This was based on a report on the demographic projections published by the CPRE. In my response to the planners I explain why they are wrong. But I haven’t explained why they have ignored the obvious for so long and continue to do so.
Here’s the background. Cornwall Council and its planners claim that it has little choice in its strategic Local Plan but to continue its de-facto policies that lock us into developer-led population growth. But it does, the infatuation of the Conservative/Lib Dem Government with ‘growth’, narrowly defined as more stuff, and an over- centralised planning system make it difficult. But not impossible.
Even the National Planning Policy Framework, with its presumption in favour of builders, provides a get-out clause in its paragraph 14. This says that ‘objectively assessed needs’ have to be met, unless ‘adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits’. One might have thought that the impact on our environment and culture of more population growth on top of 50 years of rapid growth might be ‘adverse’. This is not to mention the fact that Cornwall is home to one of the UK’s national minorities and therefore qualitatively different from English planning authorities. And then there are the special problems that very high second home ownership causes and the way the market is distorted in Cornwall by the demands of tourism and the ‘Cornwall lifestyle’. Surely, here are ample resources for constructing a strong case that the ‘benefits’ of continuing this path were ‘demonstrably outweighed’ by the adverse effects?
In addition, the so-called ‘objectivity’ of the population and household projections on which ‘objectively assessed needs’ were calculated could also easily be challenged if there had been a will to do so. A robust case could have been made that these projections have not been fit for purpose in the Cornish case. Cornwall’s planners and Council leadership have known that these projections have been faulty for at least 18 months but have done nothing about it. There has been no discernible lobbying of government, no working up a critique based on the inaccuracy of official projections. Why not?
The failure to to do this amounts to a clear dereliction of duty. This absence of action must raise serious questions about the ability and/or willingness of Cornwall Council and its planners to defend Cornish communities from the pressures of never-ending population growth. Planning officers need to be brought to account and explain why they have persistently resisted calls to construct a case for Cornwall. Councillors who supported the excessively high housing targets in the Local Plan and spurned the opportunity to challenge them should do the honourable thing and resign.