There is no doubt that nationally we have a housing shortage. A combination of population growth and issues like family breakdown means that many families are struggling to find a home that delivers their needs. In Cornwall, the issue is exacerbated in some areas by second home owners. So we do need to build more housing.
However, I have always said that there should be a principle of building on brownfield sites before greenfield sites, especially around our towns.
When Cornwall Council were developing their local plan, I argued that we should make clear that brownfield sites in places like Tuckingmill and around South Crofty should be developed first. There should then be a delay in developing greenfield, urban extension sites around areas like Treswithian until we have completed a mid-term review in ten years’ time where we could take stock and reassess local housing need. This would ensure that developers didn’t simply cherry pick easy greenfield sites.
There are some good examples of successful housing developments on brownfield sites which are designed to be consistent with, and to celebrate, our industrial heritage. Coastline regenerated the old Holmans site at Trevu Road next to Camborne Train Station and saved the beautiful Holmans building at the same time. Linden Homes have done some excellent work at Pool on the site opposite Cornwall College. I was a strong supporter of the regeneration work started through the Heartlands project, and I was pleased that many homes there were offered through the “help to buy” scheme for first time buyers.
However, I have also opposed other large scale developments where they have been on greenfield sites. Back in 2015, I asked the Secretary of State to consider calling in a planning appeal being considered for over 220 houses on St George’s Road in Hayle because I think we should develop housing on North Quay first, as planned. The scheme was blocked on that occasion.
Planning decisions will always be contentious and there are difficult balances to be struck. However, I am still convinced that the basic principle of prioritising brownfield before greenfield development is the right approach.