The clock is ticking. Time is running out. Time, that is, before we’re granted our four-yearly chance to have our ‘democratic say’ on Cornwall Council in next May’s elections.
Since the last election in 2013 our elected representatives have shown little ability or desire to confront the developers who flock to the developers’ paradise Cornwall has become. On the contrary, with some honourable exceptions the majority of councillors seem paralysed into inaction. Or willingly acquiesce in the Council leadership’s strategy.
Relative population growth since the 1960s: time for a fair deal?
What does that strategy boil down to? Cornwall’s population, having grown three times faster in relative terms than that of England since the 1960s, is in their view not expanding fast enough. So they’ve decided to up the house building rate by at least 15-20%, even though that rate is already 50% higher pro rata than places across the Tamar. While quietly working hand in glove with the big upcountry developers, our Lib Dem/Independent controlled Cornwall Council hides behind the Tory Government’s National Planning Policy Framework. Instead of challenging it at any and every turn, they use it as a convenient excuse. Bucks are rapidly and regularly passed to distract and confuse.
More people, more congestion, more pressure on care services, the NHS and the schools, more countryside sacrificed to urban sprawl and the developers’ profit margins. This is the extent of their ‘vision’ as they cross their fingers and pray that this time it’ll bring that elusive utopia that always lies just around the next corner but strangely never arrives. The same strategy – relying on boosting in-migration – didn’t work in the past, but we’re assured it’ll work in the future. What was it Einstein said? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?
Who gains? Who loses?
Meanwhile, Cornwall Council’s planners cosy up to developers well beyond democratic control. Most major plans are stitched up well before councillors are allowed their say. Statistical data are shamelessly manipulated. Community opposition is cynically and ruthlessly steamrollered. Meanwhile, estate agents sell off our housing stock as second homes. Local people watch, unable to afford the prices and rents inflated by asset speculation.
Next May we have a chance to replace the current councillors with a more active set who can challenge this agenda and come up with a genuinely sustainable future for Cornwall. But why are we not organising to produce this outcome? Who do we vote for? Which candidates and which parties will be calling for
◾genuinely affordable housing for local people
◾action on second homes
◾an end to the steady destruction of our countryside, landscape and heritage
These are issues that could potentially galvanise the electorate to demand real change. But will they even be mentioned as the future of Cornwall gets drowned in the personality contests of tweedledum/tweedledee Westminster-centric politics?