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Wednesday 4 December 2013

What is our Local Plan for?

Increasingly it is becoming clear that the Cornwall Local Development Plan is not about delivering local solutions for local needs but more about delivering a Cornish solution to UK need.

Why should Cornwall provide solutions for the problems of the South East of England? Or are we just NIMBYs here and we should all pull together in the UK to solve problems everywhere? I guess the answer to that depends on which side of the Tamar your heart lies.

Whether it's top down imposition of Westminster policy or selective misuse of statistics to prove why the Westminster driven policy is correct we are told that we have to develop a plan for Cornwall which will mean us building houses that local people can't afford and don't actually need.

All the time we are thrown the odd crumb of comfort and told that Westminster truly believes in localism.

After all, it is our democratically elected councillors that are driving the plan and there are lots of mechanisms that allow small communities to drill down into the detail of the plan and shape their own living places.

Except this isn't quite true is it?

Nearly a year ago our democratically elected councillors decided on housing numbers after months of deliberation and debate. The only trouble is our unelected officers have decided that we will never get our plan past London unless we up the numbers dramatically. And so the numbers are endlessly debated and revised until we get the right answer. Very clever because ultimately it will be us that have produced the plan and so how can we blame anyone else?

Those crumbs of comfort? Well there are always Neighbourhood Development Plans. Remember these? NDPs are where we can do our own plan at town or parish level and - as long as we build the number of houses we are told to - we can at least decide where to put all the development that is being imposed on us.

Somehow I don't think that even this minimal local say was acceptable to the profit seeking developers. We now have an 'Allocations Development Plan' which will sit beneath the Local Plan and dictate areas that are to be allocated for development. So much for NDPs. So much for Westminster localism.

I hope that I am wrong and that I have read the 'scoping' consultation wrong - not too optimistic on that though.