Friday, 19 April 2013

Getting planning right

One of the things that communities find most frustrating is the sense that they are unable to change the decisions that affect them and, a few years ago, these concerns reached their peak after the last government introduced “Regional Spatial Strategies” which sought to second guess the views of local authorities when it came to planning policy. Here in the Camborne and Redruth area, it had been proposed to build some 11,000 new homes by 2030 when there are only about 18,000 homes now. It represented a huge increase in housing stock and would have required extensive building on green field sites.

The first thing that the coalition government did on coming to power was to abolish these Regional Spatial Strategies and shut down the regional quangos that were devising them. In 2010, power was immediately returned to local councils. The result has been that the number of new homes proposed for our area has been almost cut in half by Cornwall Council to a much more sustainable level which is more in line with the historic trend and what the old Kerrier Council had mooted in the first place.

However, while some important changes have been made there is still more to do and the current local elections provide a good opportunity to have a debate about planning policy in Cornwall. Firstly, we need to strengthen the planning guidance when it comes to wind turbines and field scale solar farms. The sudden proliferation of random, single turbines is starting to blight the Cornish countryside. There is no uniformity. Some turbines are tall, some short. Some have two blades, some three. Some are black, some are white. And they are everywhere. I raised this issue last summer and, to be fair to Cornwall Council, they did introduce some planning guidance last July and have used this guidance as a basis to refuse permission on a number of applications. However, there are still too many getting through and we need to toughen that guidance so that the cumulative impact of these things on the landscape is considered. The same goes for solar farms which are popping up like industrial developments.

When it comes to Cornwall Council’s planning guidance on house building, while I welcome the cut in numbers, I would also like to see a policy that favoured brown field development over green field development. We have some important schemes for house building proposed at places like Tuckingmill in Camborne, Heartlands in Pool and the old brewery site in Redruth and we should bring these schemes forward first. We should not be making it easy for developers to build on the outskirts of town while leaving the more difficult parts of our urban landscape derelict.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.