To the Cornwall Local Plan Examination
Held 09:30 Tuesday 17th May, 2016
Atlantic Hotel, Dane Road, Newquay TR7 1EN
An Open Submission – the basis of Mike Chappel’s evidence for the Inquiry Hearing
I open by alleging that the way in which this process is being conducted is highly unsatisfactory.
I submit on behalf of many that Mr Emerson is not a fit and proper person to conduct such a hearing on the basis of his obvious bias in favour of developers and their representatives clearly evidenced by his refusal to take views, comment and opinion from all objectors. I will also suggest that through his conduct he has shown arrogance and disdain amounting to bigotry towards the Cornish National Minority and as such cannot be relied upon to fairly represent any other than the developers themselves.
The way objectors are being treated is nothing short of a disgrace. Why are our representations dismissed as ‘near identical’ by this arrogant Planning Inspector yet the posse of Bristol-based hired planning agent mercenaries are allowed to separately make what are also essentially identical calls to push the housing target even higher, after having already done so once?
The people of Cornwall are awakening. A record number of anti development protest groups forming and a magnificent victory in St Ives where a huge majority have said no to more second homes in a local referendum. I congratulate them for their foresight.
In the name of democracy, something which we the Cornish people have been long denied, I call for a transparent public inquiry, a genuinely independent inquiry into this whole tawdry affair and I want that call recorded in the records today and answered by someone in a position higher than that held by the Planning Inspector present here.
I contend that the management of the Cornwall Local Plan as imposed forcibly upon us is unsatisfactory and of dubious legality as the wishes of elected representatives in Cornwall at all levels as well as the will and concerns of the people of Cornwall are being over ruled.
More and more campaigns are occurring across the Duchy, more and more Councillors speaking out and the wonderful referendum results in St Ives are sending out a clear message.
This whole process conveniently timed to concur with a so called ‘Peer Review’ of 7th January, 2016, where the elected representatives of the people of Cornwall who are bound to reflect the will of our populace are accused by a sundry collection of blow ins who tell our Councillors they are standing in the way of development.
On reading this peer review you might be forgiven for thinking you had fallen asleep and woken up in a parallel universe. This is a universe where the six external reviewers conclude that Cornwall is ‘closed for business’. It’s a place which has had ‘low building rates in the past’, where developers go in fear, their advice ignored by a council where planning officers are regularly bullied by councillors who are overwhelmingly ‘anti-development’. This bizarre caricature is so ludicrously out of kilter with the facts of housing and population growth in Cornwall it’s difficult to believe it’s not some bad taste joke or a spoof. Very convenient indeed and highly suspect in both timing and content.
And again we see elected representatives cast to one side, their views and those of the electorate of Cornwall blatantly ignored by an unelected planning inspector and a financially voracious pack of ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ property developers, the former knowing nothing about Cornwall, its people, its distinctive history and heritage or its environment and the latter quite simply not caring.
These people with not a concern about that which many of us indigenous folks hold dear choose to forget that the housing stock and population of Cornwall grew at three times the rate of that of England in the half century between 1961 and 2011, four times that of Wales and 28 times that of Scotland.
They cast aside the reality that more houses are being built in relation to the resident population in Cornwall than anywhere else in the UK.
They refuse to recognise that the 52,500 house target of the Local Plan is a 16% increase on recent historic building rates. Even in its original 47,500 target the Council adopted a figure closer to developers’ proposals than those submitted by local residents groups and parish and town councils.
And even more sinister perhaps is that developers have an inside route to planners, involved closely in writing Local Plan documents such as the Strategic Land Availability Assessment and meeting regularly at shadowy Developers Forums.
Yes, this is democracy their way, democracy conducted in the name of the public but not for the good of the public. It is alien to us but cosy and familiar to these people with their high handed ways.
The Cornish people of which I am but one example, are a National Minority recognised and incorporated into the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities since the UK Government statement of 24th April, 2014.
People gave years of their lives to achieve this recognition, years of tough campaigning and we will not stand by and watch our hard won rights cast to one side in the way some in this room would see our elected representatives and the wishes of the people ignored and discarded.
The top down imposition of an unreasonable volume of unaffordable and speculative sub standard housing is not only against the wishes of the people of Cornwall but more specifically the Cornish people and is in direct contravention of article 16 FCPNM which states:
“The Parties shall refrain from measures which alter the proportions of the population in areas inhabited by persons belonging to national minorities and are aimed at restricting the rights and freedoms flowing from the principles enshrined in the present framework Convention.”
Other articles are also close to being infringed.
From 1961 to 2011 the population of Cornwall rose by 57%. This compares with a 14% rise in England, 11% in Wales and 2% in Scotland over the same half-century. The increase in Cornwall is entirely the result of in-migration. Natural change has been and continues to be negative, with deaths exceeding births. While some returning Cornish will be among the in-migrants, the bulk, perhaps two thirds, are not members of the Cornish national minority.
As a result of this demographic change, the proportion of native-born, a proxy for the Cornish, has declined from 75% in the 1950s to somewhere between 40-50% now.
The proportion of the Cornish in the population of Cornwall has reduced and is being deliberately reduced. This has had a negative impact on a sense of residual Cornishness, which academic research concludes has been devalued and ignored.
I and many others have been in direct communication with the Council of Europe regarding the treatment of the Cornish people by unelected officials and less than transparent hearings.
I and many others have also recently met three representatives of the Council of Europe and submitted written evidence to them and their written response to the UK Government is awaited.
Let there be no doubt here, this free for all in housing development will alter the proportions of the population in this area occupied by the Cornish people, a protected National Minority and is unlawful. I tell this hearing now, you are being watched and watched very carefully indeed. This blatant manipulation of the population is treading very close to a line.
This massed housing will damage Cornwall’s natural environment. The concreting over of our countryside is already affecting our green and pleasant land.
Professor Kevin Gaston of Exeter University has only just announced that Cornwall ‘not heading in a good direction’ as breeding birds habitat has been reduced by a third over 40 years and no less than 350 species of animal, bird and wild life has been lost.
We need a breathing space. Since 1961, the population of Cornwall has grown over twice as fast as England and three times faster than Wales. Mid and west Cornwall’s population density is now higher than two thirds of the EU’s Level 2 regions. We are already relatively over-populated.
Cornwall’s ability to accommodate an ever larger population is finite. Continuing present growth rates will produce a population of over 850,000 by the end of the century. That’s twice the level that Cornwall’s planners back in 1976 considered compatible with maintaining the physical character of Cornwall. These days, the planners refuse to accept there is a capacity problem any more, asserting that undefined ‘technological change’ makes this somehow irrelevant.
Even before these houses are built and the new migrants settle in, a report in 2010 from the Council’s own Community Intelligence Unit concluded that the ‘ecological footprint of Cornwall is well above a level of resource considered to be sustainable’. The report went on to pinpoint the causes: ‘population growth and the associated growth in housing and development are likely to increase pressure on the environment’.
Yet the planners complacently ignore this timely warning and falsely parrot that only 6% of Cornwall is built up. To them, it matters not a jot that the built-up area has doubled since the 1960s. And it appears to be of no concern that cherished landscapes are disappearing under the bulldozer. Our sacred sites are of no interest to these people. The fact that housing estates are infringing on our ancient places and monuments being moved to allow for wooden clad and out of character shacks doesn’t enter their minds.
And not that this inquiry or the developers care, but Cornwall’s public services are crumbling. Our major hospital in a state of current crisis, alerts and stasis, sewers overflowing, children being bused miles to school because local schools are full to overflowing. No, these people don’t care. Fortunately, an increasing number of us do.
Why us? Because we have been too soft. Treated as second rate citizens by those from the other side of the Tamar, our ancient and time honoured boundary.
We do not need 52,500 houses. In the last 20 year period, from 1991-2011, if population had been stable, no surplus of in-migration over out, and no excess of births over deaths, we would have needed around 15,000 more houses because of new household formation and falling household size. In fact, there were a lot more deaths than births, which entirely cancelled out new household formation.
So the already resident population of 1991 required NO new houses at all. Instead, 89% of the houses went to meet the demand from people moving to or back to Cornwall. The other 11% ended up as second homes, holiday lets or stand empty. Around one in eight houses in Cornwall have no permanent occupier.
Our country of Cornwall’s special character is being threatened by such a high rate of housing growth. Continuing the present building rate means that, in relation to our population, we are consuming our countryside at up to twice the rate up in England. Traffic will grow at a faster rate than elsewhere. This will add to congestion and air pollution. Meanwhile, even more pressure will be placed on our countryside, while population growth will exacerbate the growing problem of litter and waste disposal.
Indeed, doubling the housing stock in Cornwall since the 1960s has seen the problem of affordability get worse, not better. The housing market has not solved and cannot solve the issue of affordability in Cornwall. As houses are built, they are aggressively marketed upcountry by their builders. Supply creates its own demand. This is worsened by the role of tourism and dominant media representations of Cornwall and its ‘lifestyle’, which generate a demand to move here.
As a result, despite building more houses in relation to population than anywhere else, Cornish house prices have steadily converged with the south-east. The idea that we can build our way out of the affordability crisis is a ludicrous pipe dream and entails unacceptable environmental costs. The only solution is to change policy to fund investment in social rented housing, rather than rely on a private sector geared to making profits from selling unaffordable for locals houses.
We know these people. We know their promises. I recall well the words of the late, great David Penhaligon MP when he said ‘You need more in an economy than just tourism, ice cream and deckchairs.’ Faced with decades of false promises from tourism we are now faced with decades of urbanisation against our wishes.
The result? More poverty for the indigenous people. I recall with horror reading a short story many years ago where the Cornish people were eventually confined to reservations. A story that is slowly about to happen as we are excluded from what is rightfully ours by these people.
In summary, and I thank our colleague that great Cornishman and academic Dr Bernard Deacon here:
1. We need a breathing space.
2. This target increases the rate of building.
3. We do not need 52,500 houses.
4. Cornwall’s ability to accommodate an ever larger population is finite.
5. Cornwall’s special character is being threatened by such a high rate of housing growth.
6. The housing target infringes the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities by altering the ethnic mix of Cornwall.
7. Doubling the housing stock in Cornwall since the 1960s has seen the problem of affordability get worse, not better.
8. Cornwall Council’s planners have been captured by the developers.
Take your inquiry and be gone Mr Emerson. You and your ilk have no place in our land. We call for transparency and democracy.
An open and inclusive bottom up public inquiry not a top down, Anglo centric rule bound excuse. You don’t represent me or the Cornish people.
Michael Chappel Newquay 17 May, 2016