Wednesday, 19 February 2014

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 is the need for affordable housing, how development does not address this situation. How developers time and again manage to squirm out of providing the affordable housing in the original plans. I've often said that we need to look to alternative ways of providing affordable housing, we currently rely upon developers who have a duty you could call it to make profit. Providing low cost housing runs counter to this.

The other major theme is the lack of democracy in developments. No one is asked before these things happen where developments should go. Cornwall Council speaks to landowners and developers finds sites for developments and then as an afterthought the public are informed. For as much as the Conservative and Liberal Democrat government talk of localism and giving local people a greater say, in this key facet they are summarily ignored. Both by central government and Cornwall Council. This needs to change.

As a side thought, I can't figure it out and I've spoken to senior planning officers about it and senior councilors. How this development can run counter to current planning policy. That is the Penwith Local Plan, (link to pdf) which continues in force until the Cornwall Local Plan is finished. The policies in that are unequivocal in their defence of the character of Gulval and the desire to maintain the green wedge between Gulval and Penzance. To quote:


As an explanation of how this applies:

This predominantly agricultural landscape provides a strong contrast between the
urban edge of Penzance and the countryside and effectively retains the break in
development between the town and Gulval, safeguarding their separate identities.
To the north of the Distributor road the land rises steeply providing a prominent
local landmark, from a wide area especially the eastern approach to the town. To
the south of the Distributor Road is Chyandour Coombe which forms part of the
green wedge which separates Penzance from built development to the east.
Lescudjack Hill rises steeply above the Coombe and provides an important local
landmark from both within the town and beyond."

From Penzance how the green fields currently look

This open, undeveloped gap forms important breaks in development between
Gulval Churchtown and the commercial development at Eastern Green,
maintaining the distinct identity of Gulval Churchtown, and forms a green finger
which extends into the Trevarrack area of Gulval."

Quite why these are not being regarded is a big question for me. The official position is that they will be extinguished soon, quite what the Penzance Neighbourhood Development Plan will impact on this seems to be little considered. The plan could of course with public backing reaffirm these policies...

It was interesting to not which politicians turned up at the meeting, both the Liberal Democrat for St Ives MP Andrew George and Cornwall Councillor for Gulval and Heamoor Mario Fonk spoke. They both expressed their sympathies with Gulval and the unfair practices of the government and Cornwall Council. With no mention of the fact their parties are a ruling element in both. Unfortunately no one asked the killer question of what these representatives could do to help Gulval in the corridors of power. The Penzance's mayor Phil Rendle (also like me Mebyon Kernow) was there. As was Roy Mann the Conservative councillor for Ludgvan and the Independent Penzance Town Councillor for Gulval. I also spotted Lib Dems Ruth Lewarne and Jack Dixon and the Independent Fiona Thomas- Lambourn both from the Town Council. As far as I was aware these were the only town councillors. But the most obvious absence was Cornelius Olivier and Tim Dwelly the major proponents of building in the area and who tried to increase the house building which no doubt would have decreased the green space around Gulval. It would have been interesting to see what they had to say to the community about these developments.

Next week is the presentation by the PR Creatix at the same venue Gulval Village Hall from 3-7. I'm planning on going and keen to hear what the developers Terrace Hill have to say about the villages concerns. Also very keen to see which politicians turn up.

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