Whilst much of the country continues to endure a heat wave, it has been nice to be back home in Cornwall where it has been much cooler and fresher with the Cornish mist that is a regular feature at this time of year. Over the past week I have been visiting some of my favourite spots in Cornwall such as Godrevy, Zennor, Mounts Bay and the gardens at Trebah, Trelisick and Heligan. Many of these areas are part of the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and are part of what makes Cornwall such a special place to live and work.
Last year the government commissioned a review into National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The conclusion was that more should be done to strengthen them and improve cohesion between them. Cornwall has a rather unique AONB in that it is a composite site with multiple areas predominantly around our beautiful coastline. At the time of designation there was serious consideration to designating it a National Park but in the end they settled for the AONB. Later this year I will be giving a response to that review and will be looking at how we can strengthen the AONBs.
Ever since I was elected in 2010, I have always maintained that developments should be done with local communities not to them, and that there should always be developments on brownfield sites rather than greenfield. Last week, the Government released its White Paper on its reforms of the planning system. As things stand our planning system is complex and slow. It is a barrier to building homes which are affordable, where families want to raise children and build their lives. It takes an average of seven years to make a housing plan for an area and five years to get permission to build, often followed by the slow delivery of homes and the roads, schools, hospitals and other community infrastructure needed to support them.
The White Paper will consult on a number of proposals ranging from new roles for local authorities with more accessible map-based local plans and quicker timetables in the development of these plans. Crucially, there will also be a new emphasis on building beautiful architecture that is in keeping with the surroundings. Too often in the past here in Cornwall we have seen large scale developments that are not consistent with our historic built environment and which end up looking tired. We need to put more emphasis on the quality of what we allow to be built. If we protect our most beautiful and unique areas and then when we do build, build things that look the part, we can deliver the homes we need and protect the natural beauty of Cornwall.