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Thursday, 8 March 2012

Democratic Process Back On Track?

Tonight saw Camborne Town Council (CTC) vote on whether or not to maintain their objection to Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO) and Side Road Orders (SRO) that are required to allow the East West Link Road project to move forward.

Previously CTC planning committee had written to the Secreatry of State raising objections on the basis of the increased traffic that will be directed through Wesley Street as a result of the new road and the accompanying housing that it facilitates.

Over the last week the CTC councillors have been bombarded with lobbying to vote to withdraw CTC's objections to the CPOs and SROs.

Alledgedly telephone calls from Cllr Odgers (the Conservative group leader) have been received by councillors on the matter, accompanied by two rather revealing emails from the Conservative led Cornwall Council and Conservative MP George Eustice.

The emails are presented below:

From: Swain Peter

Subject: CPR Major Highway Scheme - Orders Objection by Camborne Town Council

Dear Member,

You will be aware that after several years of development, numerous public consultations, bids to government for funding, two planning approvals and local liaison, the Cornwall Council promoted major highways project for a new link road from Dudnance Lane to Dolcoath development has reached the point where the scheme details have largely been finalised and the necessary Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) and Side Road Orders (SROs) have been advertised. This followed the granting of a planning consent for the proposals some time ago.

I am informed by the Secretary of State that the Camborne Town Council (CTC) has written to the Secretary of State objecting to the advertised Orders in regard to the effects of the scheme at the Camborne end of the project. It appears that the CTC planning committee considered the proposals at their meeting of 9th January and resolved to write to the Secretary of State expressing concerns over the detailed layouts proposed for the Dolcoath Avenue and Dolcoath Road junctions, on the basis of the effects of traffic on Wesley Street.

These proposals are fully in line with the approved strategies and plans for the CPR area, consistent and integral with the Dolcoath Development proposals in both the short and long term, and the environmental and traffic effects of the scheme have been considered fully as part of the planning approval processes.

I don’t know if this matter has been reported to the full CTC, through their receipt and consideration of the 9th Jan planning meeting minutes, as yet.

The effect of the letter sent to the Secretary of State is that CTC are now considered to be a statutory objector to the Orders, and will be offered the opportunity to appear at the forthcoming public inquiry into the Orders unless the objection is withdrawn beforehand. It is important to note that this is NOT a planning inquiry but a CPO and SRO inquiry.

I do not know if the CTC were aware, when making this objection to the Secretary of State, that the planning application at the time proposals do in fact have valid detailed planning consent and all the issues regarding the detailed layouts would have been considered at the planning stage. Indeed, I don't recall if CTC supported or opposed the planning application at the time.

The stage we are at currently is the making of the legal Orders to acquire land (CPO) and to make changes to public and private rights (Side Road Order). Thus, I would suggest that, objections really ought to be based on the validity/extent/making of the Orders rather than the detail of the proposals that has already received planning consent.

Clearly, with Cornwall Council promoting a scheme in front of an inspector it would be unfortunate to have another elected council objecting to the orders, not least as the scheme is part of a much wider initiative to drive forward regeneration in the area.

As Cornwall Council members on the Town Council, I am seeking your advice and assistance in identifying a way to enable the CTC to withdraw its objection to the Orders. Would a presentation by the design team, to key members of the CTC be useful?

I look forward to receiving your advice and enclose a plan of the western end of the scheme for your information.



Peter Swain
Highway Projects Manager
Environment, Planning and Economy Directorate
Transportation Service
Cornwall Council

From: EUSTICE, George

Dear Jeff

I know that the Town Council is discussing the issue of the new East West Link Road tomorrow and I wanted to set out my views on this project which I hoped you might circulate for councillors to consider.

I have spent a lot of time over the last eighteen months winning support from the government in order to secure this £29 million investment in to our town. At the end of last year, the government did its part, came up with the money and gave the project the green light.

The reason I think we need to get behind this project is that it will create 6000 new and kick start the much needed economic revival of Camborne. I also believe passionately that, when it comes to housing growth, we should build on brownfield sites before greenfield sites and this new road enables the development of derelict land at Dolcoath and Tuckingmill and will therefore prevent the mass building of houses around villages like Penponds.

The consequence of not building this road is that the Highways Agency will block the development of many brownfield sites. That in turn will mean that Cornwall Council will need to revert to the old plans set out in the Regional Spatial Strategy to build more houses on greenfield sites around Penponds and Illogan instead because these do not require the road infrastructure. Some of us have fought hard to get rid of the old Regional Spatial Strategy and inject some common sense with a “brownfield before greenfield” principle which has widespread support within the town. I therefore think it would be an own goal to block the construction of the road at this stage, especially since it already has planning permission.

I know that some people say that you cannot create jobs just by building quality business space and industrial units but the evidence shows it is an important factor. The new business units at Tolvaddon are fully occupied and have created many new jobs in new industries. Last week I visited the Pool Innovation Centre which now has 180 people working in it and is approaching capacity. There are companies that want to locate in Camborne because it is at the heart of Cornwall. If we want to help the next generation in Camborne, we should make it easier for businesses to create jobs here, not harder and I think that the new road scheme is a crucial element in improving our town’s future.

I would like to thank you for taking these thoughts on board ahead of what will be a very important decision for the council.

George Eustice MP

The first observation I have is that several people (all of whom were in favour of the East West Road development) made the point that lobbying is quite a normal aspect of political procedure.

However, it seems strange that there was no lobbying of CTC members by individuals or groups in favour of maintaining their objections. In fact, Cllr Cullimore stated (or words to the same effect) during the meeting that the level of lobbying on this matter was unprecedented. It seems that pro-development organisations and bodies take every opportunity to lobby for continued unsustainable hyper-development - while the ordinary members of the public, opposed to unsuitable development, are left without a voice.

Mr Swain was present at the meeting and defended his action saying that he was unaware of the best way to approach a town council to offer advice. His email clearly indicates that his preferred method was to present to 'key' members of the CTC. Are some members more equal than others?

For me, Mr Swain's letter reads as though Cornwall Council was attempting to place pressure on CTC to reverse their democratically reached decision to contest the CPOs and SROs in order to avoid an embarassing situation for Cornwall Council Mr Swain denied this.

The text of the email is above - I'm sure people will disagree with my interpretation - most of the members of the public present at the meeting agreed with me.

More worrying in many ways is the email from George Eustice, Conservative MP for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle.

To me it seems that Mr Eustice was also trying to avoid an embarassing personal situation - having campaigned so hard with central government to obtain £29 million only to find that the people of Camborne might actually reject his scheme.

Mr Eustice also makes claims about jobs that don't seem to add up.

Exactly how does building a road create 6,000 new jobs - it dosn't. You might create space to build new industrial units but you can't create jobs by building. Succesful businesses create jobs.

Certainly, businesses may move to bright, shiny new premises but they will have moved from elsewhere and the proportion of newly created jobs will be negligible as a result of simply building a new home for existing jobs.

George Eustice also makes a great deal of noise about building on brownfield sites. The basic idea of building on brownfield sites in order to preserve green, open spaces is an excellent one. The problem that I have with Mr Eustice's take on this is that he has never defined what he sees as a brownfield site. Cornwall Council defines as brownfield many open green spaces that people enjoy as such. It is, at the very least, disingenuous of Mr Eustice to talk about developing brownfield sites first - unless he is prepared to define what he believes makes a brownfield.

Mr Eustice also seems to be an expert professional planner when he is not being kept busy as an MP. I am afraid that I can't see how stopping this road development will lead to greenfield sites being developed and the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) being brought back into play. The plan for Cornwall is the Core Strategy and that is what will be followed - not the RSS.

We pay Cornwall Council planning officers an awful lot of money to provide planning solutions. If this road is stopped then they need to earn their money by producing a scheme acceptable to the people of Cornwall.

We do not need to be emotionally blackmailed by our MP!

Mr Eustice claims that the 'new business units at Tolvaddon are fully occupied'. If he means Tolvaddon Energy park then a quick phone call to Goldring Yates (on 01209 610111) will reveal that at least 8 of the 19 units are currently unoccupied - hardly fully occupied!

At the same time the Pool Innovation Centre was recently the subject of a survey undertaken by the Combined Universities of Cornwall. they discovered that less than 33 new jobs have created as a direct result of the opening of the centre (see here) - hardly the 180 jobs that our illustrious MP implies.

Back to the meeting.

To its credit CTC voted to allow the opportunity for the 50 plus members of the public to participate when it came to the crucial agenda item. (Although it might be noted here that Conservative Cllr Odgers was one of just two members that wanted to refuse the public the opportunity to participate in a very important community decision.) Following some robust statements in favour of CTC continuing its objection from members of the public and statements from CTC members on both sides of the debate a recorded vote was taken.

CTC voted by 8 votes to 7 to continue with the objection to the CPOs and SROs. The Conservative group voted in block against the proposal. [Edited to make more clear - The Conservative group voted in block against the motion to continue with the objections.]

Despite being given a hard ride it would appear that local democracy has prevailed - for the time being.

Finally it might be mentioned that if ordinary people are concerned about the concreting of Cornwall, then they need to act now. All too often people allow planning decisons to be made on their behalf without getting involved at the appropriate time. Quite often only when the decison has been made and presented in black and white (or more likely black and grey - tarmac and bricks) do people realise what has happened. By then it is too late!


  1. When you say "The Conservative group voted in block against the proposal." do you mean that they voted to continue with the objection?

  2. Nope - the opposite. They wanted to withdraw opposition to the CPOs and CROs.


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