Since being elected I have worked hard to enable planning decisions to be made in Cornwall not Westminster. I believe that this is the best way to ensure that development meets the needs of local people. Too many young people growing up in Truro & Falmouth cannot afford to live here. Making sure people have a decent, really affordable home has always been a top priority for me.
The Coalition Government from 2010 – 2015 returned decisions about planning and homes from Westminster to Cornwall Council. I supported these plans to better enable local people to shape the future of our communities.
I have written before about my disappointment with the leadership of Cornwall Council who have persistently not used these powers for the benefit of local people. Cornwall Council was amongst the last planning authorities to agree a Local Plan, only submitting Cornwall’s housing allocations to the Planning Inspector in October.
Sadly, despite the hard work of many local people we still don’t have an agreed Falmouth Neighbourhood Plan.
So as a result of the delayed Cornwall Plan and the yet to be agreed Falmouth Neighbourhood Plan, we are left without a proper plan for the growth of our town. This is particularly worrying as Cornwall Council has supported lifting of the cap on the number of students in our universities while not addressing the pressure on local housing and services that inevitably follows.
There is no doubt that Falmouth is a great place to work, study and live. Together with the vast majority of residents, I have been concerned by the approval of a number of unpopular and unsuitable planning applications.
The impact of this is clearly being felt. I read the letter from the Planning Inspector who approved the application to build new student accommodation on the site of the The Ocean Bowl. He acknowledged the strength of local feeling against the development and drew attention to the lack of an effective reason not to grant permission. Cornwall Council should and could have done more to prevent Falmouth being in this situation.
I wrote to the Secretary of State to ask that he call in the planning applications at Ocean Bowl, Fish Strand Hill and the former Rosslyn Hotel site.
In his response the former Secretary of State pointed to the fact that Cornwall Council did not seek to challenge the Inspector’s decision, which meant that it was not expedient for him to revoke the approvals.
In light of this information and following the approval of a further appeal by a Planning Inspector on the Old Coachworks site, I wrote to Cornwall Council to ask that they challenge the decision. The Council said that they would not be opposing the decision in this instance but did acknowledge that the Council had been criticised “for continuing with an argument after an appeal decision had concluded that little weight could be given to emerging plans. This is a lesson that we must learn for our future decisions.”
It is my hope that Cornwall Council will now work urgently with local Councillors to ensure that future development better meets the town’s needs.
First published in the Falmouth Packet 30/05/18