Thursday, 23 June 2016

Meeting with Premier Inn about proposed Branwell's Mill development

As many of you will have read online and in the local papers. Premier Inn are interested in setting up a hotel in Branwell's Mill in Penzance. Last night members of the Town Council were invited to a presentation by the agents from the hotel chain in St John's Hall. The Town Council rightly has a clear position that it is neutral on this development. Due to Code of Conduct rules and particularly Section 25 of the Localism Act, councillors must not enter debates with a closed mind. Or to put in plain terms the council and councillors can not be seen to have made a decision before the meeting and before they see the facts before them of that meeting. As with any planning application in the parish of Penzance it will be reviewed, debated and voted on by Penzance Town Council  Added to the fact that I've seen a presentation for the developers but not been able to speak to hear other sides of the story. This post is primarily to inform yourselves of what is happening rather than give an opinion or discuss and analyse the case for or against.

To give the facts and figures as presented last night. They are looking to present a planning application in July, with the hope of finishing construction and opening in last 2017 or early 2018. The plan (at this stage at least) is to have a 61 bedroom hotel with a 55 cover restaurant. Construction works, over all seem to be to keep the existing structure with internal modifications. The timber window bays are to be removed and there will be a small single floor foyer/ lobby constructed at the existing entrance pictured right. They did assure the meeting that they are working with Conservation Officers at Cornwall Council on plans.


The hotel's agents told us that the development would represent a £6 million investment. That the site would probably employ 16 full time equivalent posts. They seem confident that there is adequate demand in the town for another hotel and point to their research that shows that nearly 17,000 searches were made for Penzance on the Premier Inn website in the last 12 months. They claim that the knock on effect of having the hotel for the town would equal £1.95 million a year.

Obviously a great deal of this is early stages and it is in the pre-application stage. Obviously more will be known then. Although as I stated above the Town Council does not formally have a position there were a number of concerns raised by members about issues such as the knock on effect to existing businesses, parking (as the hotel is not planning on providing any) the poor pedestrian access to the site and the fact the building is both prominent and in a conservation area amongst other things. This is a significant development for the town and in a very significant area definitely one to watch with interest. Any thoughts or views please don't hesitate to get in contact.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Why I'm voting to stay in the EU and why I think you should too

I haven't interacted much with the European Referendum campaign much. Perhaps it's because I'm too much of a political nerd and would love to see people debating the policies of the European Parliament rather than various name calling and scare mongering but anyway...
There's a great deal to not like about the European Union. I'm not a defender of everything it does and the way it conducts itself. But I can say the same about a whole host of institutions and authorities. Which is why this post focuses  on a few of the things I think are important.
I think the European Union is fundamentally a good idea. For 2 principle reasons, 1 the formation of the EU and greater European cooperation and understanding has led to the longest period of European peace in recorded history. If the history of Europe tells us anything then we are better off working with each other than we are fighting each other. I know that the EU will continue to exist if the UK votes to leave on thursday and I know that this peace will remain either way. Nevertheless the UK is better putting its weight behind the EU and not turning our backs on it and its members.
Secondly one of the driving force behind the formation of the EU was to work together and have a bigger voice in the world. The context decades ago was the Cold War and the desire to not be underlings of the 2 superpowers. But it still has great relevance today. As the course of history unfolds and we move further from the times in which European states held great empires and great influence over the world, it is clear that Europe is not the political powerhouse it once was. With the rise of places like China, India and Brazil it is clear to see that there is strength in numbers. That the EU is more influential in the world than the sum of its parts.
There is, perhaps predictably, a lot of uncertainty about the economic effects of leaving the EU. Like everyone else I don't have a crystal ball. I can't say for certain that the UK will be better of worse off with staying or leaving. However I do know that the economic benefits of the European Union, such as free trade and free movement of goods and services are a good thing. The fact is we trade most with our neighbours and doing so without the bureaucratic hindrances of import and export taxes, visas and work permits etc that the EU allows us, is good for business. One of the great uncertainties about leaving is how will international trade and its administration, look after Brexit?
For Cornwall though, the situation is very very clear, we will be worse off after Brexit. The fundamental nature of the UK is a centralised state and as such spending is prioritised from the centre and outwards. However EU funding has counteracted this pattern. Which is why it was the EU that stepped up and funded the Goss Moor A30 improvements, Superfast Broadband, the University and whole host of other spending items that elsewhere would naturally be seen as central government's duty to fund but aren't.  I've read all sorts of promises that Cornwall's EU funding could be replaced by Westminster in the event of Brexit. Frankly I don't believe them for a minute and fear that like so much Cornwall's voice would be drowned out by everywhere else lobbying for crucial funding.
I must confess that I get the concept of the EU, I understand the fundamental principles that underpin it. I do believe that Europe can work together and this is for the good of all. I'm proud to be voting in, not because I agree with everything the EU has ever done but because I believe in a better Europe and the UK leaving the EU will not help to make this happen.
Thanks for reading and please remember to vote on thursday.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Golowan is saved?


Last night was the Penzance Town Council meeting that decided upon the future of Golowan. Now Golowan has a different future, to recap 7 weeks ago the festival was presumably going to be run under the auspices of the town council. 6 weeks ago the council decided to put the core functions of Golowan out to a private management company. Last night all this was rescinded and we now have a new future for Golowan.


Personally I found myself in broad agreement with the principles that were stated at friday's public meeting at the Ritz. Which were to quote from my earlier blog: "That the budget cuts were unacceptable. That the new organisation must be bound by the original aims of Golowan. That the town council and councillors continues to fully support the festival whatever happens in the future (i.e. not cut it loose). That setting up a new organisation would take too long and not be able to run the 2016 festival."

As I agreed with all of these I would've been delighted if last nights decision reflected all of those points. However it did not, but from from glass half full to glass half empty, the mayors recommendations as set out in the paperwork did not come into place. The incremental budget cuts of 5 thousand per year for Golowan were refused (plan was from the 15k this year to, 19,250 2016 and 14,250 2017 and 2018). There was no mention of the original aims of Golowan and there was no mention of Town Council support for the festival in the recommendations. It could have been much worse.

On the point of a new organisation being set up for next year this was not listened to. Apparently it was impossible in the time-frame for the Town Council to hire a director and getting everything set for next year. (Planning a large event involves a lot of paperwork and jumping through hoops, often months in advance.) It was voted that an interim organisation will be appointed to do this very task for next year and somehow be able to do what the council can not!! It was explained that public concerns about the time-frame were addressed and now the council has moved the dates for deciding and handing over to a new organisation from the 18th of November to the 25th of November. I don't think this did address the anxieties people have one bit.

The full motion passed by council is that: 


This Council acknowledges the vital role the Golowan Festival plays both in life of the community we represent and the local economy.
The Council will continue to actively support Golowan and any future organisation that manages it. 
The Council recognises the importance of Golowan's original charitable aims and will ensure any future management organisation will abide by these.
The Council believes a successful future for Golowan is most likely to be achieved through a not-for-profit community organisation.
Immediately after the conclusion of the 2016 festival, the Council will invite bids from as wide a range as possible of appropriate interested parties to take responsibility for Golowan from 2017.
For at least the first 3 years of operation, the successful bidder will receive financial support from the Council of 25,000 pounds per year.
The Council will facilitate the creation of a Golowan supporters group, on the model of the 'Friends of Penlee House' with the intention of providing a vehicle for consultation on and community engagement with the future of the Golowan Festival.
This Council acknowledges the importance of Golowan 2016 as a transitional year.
This Council recognises that an era of increased responsibilities for town councils requires a higher standard of adherence to administrative and financial regulations than has been the case and that therefore the Council cannot manage Golowan in the way it has done previously.
This Council will therefore appoint an appropriate community organisation to deliver to deliver the 2016 Golowan festival ONLY, according to the timetable laid out below.

2 November – Committee decision. 
3 November – Firm expressions of interest to run the 2016 festival will be sought from the community. Advertised on Town Council’s website. 
20 November – Submissions from Community Interest Companies (or equivalents) returned to Town Council office. 
24 November – Chairs’ Committee meet to review the submissions, decision taken. 
25 November – Successful company informed and transference to begin immediately, to enable an event notification notice to go from the successful company to Cornwall Council before Christmas. Followed by the first SAG meeting In January to present the event management plan to Cornwall Council.

So this is to be the future, quite what it all means remains to be seen....