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Showing posts from February, 2014

The St Ives constituency low pay capital of Cornwall

One of the positive steps forward among councillors in Penzance at the moment is the push to have a greater say in the economy. To looks at ways we can secure European funding and investment in the area. There is a great desire to use the Neighbourhood Plan process to facilitate this. As a starting point it was decided to look at existing plans. I have been looking over the strategic document Penzance Futures, the Community Strategic Plan for Penzance Area, which was developed under the Market and Coastal Town Initiative and is available here.

The document covers a number of areas and is ground breaking in its scope. Especially considering that it involved a credible and impressive amount of consultation and was worked up in the local area.  It's a shining example of how things should be done, unfortunately though it never got implemented and has largely sat gathering dust. So it's great personally to look over it and draw inspiration from it. Generally there is a great deal t…

Some pictures and thoughts from the Gulval West presentation

Yesterday I attended the presentation of the proposed Gulval West development. I thought after seeing the community meeting the week before (firmly opposed to doubling the size of the village), I'd see what the developer's (Terrace Hill) PR firm had to offer (Creatix PR). I went in the evening shunning the Councillor invite only session, for three reasons, 1 it was more convenient for me, 2 I don't like the idea of behind closed doors meetings, 3 I was interested in what people had to say. When I went along about 5:45 there was approximately 20 people there. Which was good to see people interested, lots of filling in forms, talking to PR people and conversely talking against the development. Whether the 150 or so that packed the hall the week before attended is hard to tell as the public event was from 3-7.Some thoughts: It's clear from the boards with resident's priorities marked with spots that affordable housing is wanted and needed, it's also clear transpor…

An open letter to the PM, on the help we need for our rail line and Jubilee Pool

Dear Prime Minister, 

I am writing to highlight the damage done by the recent storms in West Cornwall. I urge your government to do more to help and prove that we are Open For Business. As well as the significant damage at Dawlish, there has also been damage to the Penzance - St Erth part of the train line resulting in a temporary closure. There has been no compensation offered to travellers and no sign that government is aware of the problem nor signs it is working to increase future resilience.

Penzance’s iconic Jubilee Pool, has also suffered damage from the storms. Unfortunately there are fears that this will not be reopened in the summer season. Having such a prominent seafront feature closed will no doubt be detrimental to both the life of the town and tourism.
If government will indeed ‘pick up the tab’ can the government: Include West Cornwall in this?Keep our train line secure from flooding?Fast track money promised to repair things     like the Jubilee Pool? Yours faithfull…

The fallacy of the Lib Dems tax cuts

There are various Lib Dem leaflets and bold website pronouncements going around, for example: Liberal Democrats deliver £700 tax cut for working people. Referring to the raising of the income tax threshold. The inference is that the Lib Dems are a low tax party. That their support of the Conservative dream of a small state means they are saving you money. As we come to expect this is nothing but spin and bluster and taxes are in fact going up, when we consider regressive vat rises and council tax 'hikes'.Elsewhere in the Cornishman I see that Marazion Town Council are doubling their precept to pay for public toilets. After Cornwall Council (ruled partly by Liberal Democrats) is not funding that facility any more.  Similarly Penzance Town Council is raising council tax, partly due to Cornwall Council passing cctv to the town without funding a pattern due to continue for all towns and parishes. Helston ratepayers are facing a 17% rise again to pay for services such as toilets, c…

The public meeting about the developments at Gulval and the disregarding of planning policy

On monday just gone I attended a packed community meeting in Gulval to discuss, and indeed oppose, plans being drawn up by Cornwall Council to massively increase the size of the village. Here's a picture of the land allocated for development in the Strategic Land Assessment, the parts in red are proposed development.

There's a great feeling of anxiety among villagers about this and I was frankly a little surprised that there seemed to be no voices of objection against the dominant theme that Gulval couldn't support this much housing. Speakers concerns and residents questions/ comments revolved around a number of issues, the poor and narrow road network in and around Gulval, the lack of pavements on these routes. The loss of grade 1 and 2 farmland. The lack of opportunities, public services, major hospital in West Cornwall, the list does go on!

There were also 2 major themes that occour time and time again throughout Cornwall in regards to development. The big one of course…

Me on Channel 4 news, Cornwall Council's sandbag u turn and government help for fishermen

Following on from a series of blogs by myself about the storms and the lacklustre government response here in Cornwall (and elsewhere). I was interviewed yesterday by Channel 4 news in Newlyn. They were keen to hear my views about the response here and the hardship caused by this extreme weather. Understandably a lot of my interview was cut to make way to talk to fishermen and Nick Clegg.

Watch it here if you're interested:

I'm really glad that Channel Four took the time to come to Cornwall and highlight the damages by the storm. It certainly helps us to put pressure on government to take storm damage as seriously here as they do elsewhere. It must also be welcomed that Cornwall Council has done a u turn and rather than offering no sand bags at all will now offer them to residents for free, great news.

I also welcome Nick Clegg's half promise (interviewed after me) that fishermen will get or could get hardship payments. This would only be fair and I'm slightly puzzled …

The small print of Cameron's I'll pick up the tab comments

Here's a leaked email of what David Cameron actually means. Seems like a climb down from the blank cheque policy. The small print now is emerging and it looks like Cameron meant the existing Bellwin scheme not actually anything new, more political spin from the pr man. The key factor for us here in West Cornwall is the long term, it looks like after significant expenditure by Cornwall Council the relief effort will be reimbursed for most of that cost (assuming that the money is found).  Here things like the promenade at Newlyn Green, Penzance harbour's South Pier. The damages to the baulks at Mousehole harbour, complete replacement baulks at Porthleven among other things look in doubt.  This is before we consider flood defences that are needed, for example the problems at Loe Bar with the overflow not clearing water and risking backing up the Cober to Helston. Or the amount of damage to the road surfaces with the recent bad weather. I've already reported the large pothol…

New statistics on Culdrose Search and Rescue raise doubts over privatisation

The Ministry of Defence has just released statistics on the Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopters maintained by the military, they detail the call outs for 2013. They confirm that Cornwall and the surrounding area is a hotspot for SAR activities and re-impresses the vital work the current Royal Navy crews at RNAS Culdrose and Royal Air Force crews at RMB Chivenor do. Again they raise cause for concern and the introduction of the privatised SAR provision which will soon be provided by just 2 aircraft by Bristow from Newquay airport.

The latest MOD/ data release reveals that Culdrose is the third busiest SAR station in terms of call outs in the last year. Totalling 257, this includes searchs and rescues on both land and sea, as well 'medtransfers' mostly from the Isles of Scilly. Close behind Culdrose was the North Devon base of Chivenor with 238 call outs which covers much of Cornwall (as well as South West England, Wales, the Channel and the Celtic Sea).

There's a great arti…

Time to think hard about Penzance's sea defences

The news has been rife with damage and flooding to Penzance and other areaa in Mount's Bay, particularly NewlynPorthleven and other areas of West Cornwall.  Although it must be said that this is an extreme weather event, we need to consider the effect this is having on homes, businesses and people's lives. There is a great cost to this all and I think we need to weigh up how spending money on sea defences would save money in the long run.

Small wave hitting Penzance Prom at Wherrytown end
— Dick Straughan (@DickStraughan) February 5, 2014
In particular there is damage to Penzance Harbour and I think for the long term the time has come to seriously consider the benefits of an off shore breakwater. Preferable to rock armour as it would dissipate the force of the sea further out. The problem with rock armour is that it could only be built so high and then waves above that height still impact with full force into the quay (or more properly quays). Is i…

Penzance's high street is not dead, whatever the 'experts' say

A prominent Labour adviser has declared the high street dead. On a mission to give judgement on the high street, Bill Grimsey has now cast his weary gaze to Penzance town center for a BBC Inside Out special. Such talk of high street death is dangerous, perception and confidence are key to selling. This is something that should be taken on board, we need to address the real problems of the high street don't get me wrong but turning people off town centers with such negative talk is counter productive.  There are challenges to the high street. High business rates, high rents, the negative impact of out of the way and expensive parking, poor public transport and of course out of town retail. These things do need addressing and I welcome Grimsey's call that government ought to freeze business rates and review them. Unfortunately they're raising them by 2% (democracy dodging anyone?), a real step in the wrong direction. I don't agree however that the high street needs to ad…

My nomination as Mebyon Kernow's General Election candidate for St Ives

Hopefully with the agreement of MK's National Executive Committee I will be the party's candidate in the 2015 General Election for the St Ives Constituency. It's taken a while to sink in and I've taken the weekend off to consider it (and to enjoy the 6 Nations of course). It's something I have thought about for a long while, thanks to the support of the constituency branch and I must say my family, I have taken this step.
Assuming the NEC does ratify my candidacy, I have a lot of work ahead of me. I've had many offers from people within the branch and hoping to get more from friends and family (get in contact if you can help

Stay tuned for more, regular readers will have an inside track of what I can offer the people of West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, the kind of things I believe in. In the near future I will be outlining, the kind of changes I think we need from politicians and government. But for now, I'll just say we ne…

Flooding: Does the government realise they're in charge?

I've been watching with increasing incredulity the lacklustre Downing Street response to the flooding. As homes, businesses, roads and railtracks are swamped in water and people's lives are ruined, why does the government twiddle it's thumbs? We have a really peculiar centralised state in the United Kingdom whereby the majority of taxation and decision making is withheld by central government. Local authorities and emergency services have had higher levels of cuts than government departments. Local authorities are criticised and bemoaned for raising council tax by Westminster. Thus the real arbiters of power, decision making,  borrowing and funding are still where they've always been 10 and 11 Downing Street. Yet there are floods everywhere and who do we see time and again dealing with them? local authorities and emergency services, not the powerful and well funded Whitehall offices. The government's response in general has been shoddy.  Lots of talk of meetings …