Developers lobby captures Cornwall Council policy

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Topics: Your Views

Who are the people keen to see Cornwall’s population double before the end of this century? Who is pressing the Council to build thousands of houses to accommodate so many in-migrants and second home owners?

To recap – the Council’s planners are proposing to boost in-migration from its current level. The low and medium options for the next 20 years of 38,000 and 48,000 houses (already far more than the 14,000 minimum required to meet local needs) have both been rejected. Instead, the planners want a minimum of 54,000 (very close to their original ‘high’ option) but with the possibility of adding another 13,600 houses on top.

And yet the responses to the Core Strategy ‘consultation’ expressed the following preferences …

So over two thirds of those responding favoured a figure lower than the one being proposed. How strange then that the planners have gone higher.

But when we break down this an interesting pattern emerges.

All the parish councils, the voluntary organisations and 81% of individuals wanted a lower figure than the proposed 54,000. But 87% of businesses wanted more. So who exactly are these businesses?

These are the organisations that called for more than 57,000 to be built, demanding a large increase in the current unsustainable building rate of around 45,000 …

  • Bell Cornwell, town planning consultants based in Exeter
  • Catesby Property Group: residential and commercial developers from Stratford on Avon
  • Cranford Developments Ltd, a land and development company from Staffordshire
  • Drivers Jonas Deloitte, commercial property consultants with offices in London, Slough, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Scotland
  • Hawkstone SW Ltd, property developers with their registered office at Coalville in Leicestershire
  • Linden Homes SW: offices in Saltash but part of the UK-wide Galliford Try building group, which includes Midas Homes, Stanford Homes, Rosemullion Homes and Gerald Wood Homes
  • Persimmons Homes SW, a UK-wide building firm with its HQ in York
  • Strongvox Homes, a regional housebuilding company based in Taunton
  • Taylor Wimpey, the UK’s largest housebuilder with its head office in High Wycombe
  • Tetlow King Planning, a planning and development consultancy from Bristol which on its website boasts of overturning a rejection of 67 houses at Padstow on appeal
  • Wain Homes, based in Okehampton
  • Willow Green Farm Ltd and Newham Farm Ltd – local developers who want to build lots of houses on greenfield sites on the edges of Truro

And finally

  • Cornwall Development Company – Cornwall Council’s own economic development service!

And the following businesses were a little less greedy, plumping for 57,000 more houses and increasing the current suburbanisation rate by just 27%

  • Ainscough Strategic Land, a development company from Wigan
  • Barratt Homes, a housing developer whose registered office is in the same small Leicestershire town as Hawkstone (see above)
  • Boyer Planning, town planning consultancy with offices in Cardiff, Twickenham, Colchester, Wokingham and London but not Cornwall
  • Chaddlewood Investments Ltd, based in Devon?
  • Coastline Housing, a a not-for profit housing association in West Cornwall with some interesting characters on its board
  • Eco-Bos, a partnership of Orescom, Imerys and the Eden Project to build ‘eco-villages’ in mid-Cornwall
  • First Devon and Cornwall, a bus company
  • Garden Centre Group, which operates 119 garden centres across the UK but just two in Cornwall – Wyevale at Lelant and Par Garden Centre. Interestingly, its chairman is Andrew Sells who was also chair of Linden Homes (see above) from 1991-2007
  • Imerys Minerals, French
  • Indigo Planning, a London company that specialises in securing planning permission
  • Lowena Homes, property developers from Threemilestone
  • Ludgvan Leaze Developments, Crowlas property developers
  • Mccarthy and Stone (Developments) Ltd, property developers from Bournemouth
  • Mark Buddle planning consultant. I can’t find any Mark Buddle operating in Cornwall
  • MBL Developments Ltd. And ditto for this one, nothing found at present
  • Porthia, property developers from St Ives
  • Savills, a global real estate services provider which is London based
  • Trago Mills, Ukip funders and xenophobic merchants at Trago near Liskeard and Falmouth
  • Turley Associates, a planning and urban design company from Manchester

That’s it. Noticed anything? Surprisingly few of these firms appear to be based in Cornwall yet they seem to carry a lot of weight with the Council. And what a shock! Most if not all of them are set to make money out of higher housing targets. They are therefore vested interests. It’s like asking someone if they’d like to have more money. Yes, please.

Such vested interests ought reasonably to be excluded from the consultation process as they are potential financial beneficiaries. Their opinions are by their very nature biased towards their own private short-term interests rather than the public long-term interests of Cornwall or its people.

Furthermore, when reading the responses from the developers’ lobby one gets a terrible sense of déjà vu as the same phrases keep popping up. Take this phrase for instance.

It also requires housing strategies to be informed by a robust and shared evidence base. This has been brought into sharp focus by the recent Written Ministerial Statement: Planning for Growth (23 March 2011) from The Minister of State for Decentralisation

This and a lot more appears word for word in five different submissions – from Hawskstone, Linden Homes, Persimmon Homes, Strongvox Homes, and Taylor Wimpey.

This is clear evidence for the concerted effort undertaken to lobby the Core Strategy process in favour of private interests. These particular submissions should therefore be rejected out of hand by councillors.

What we are seeing here is nothing short of a political coup by a small number of housebuilders, property developers and planning consultants, most of whom have no connection with Cornwall other than exploiting it. They have succeeded in reshaping and co-opting the planning process to serve their own narrow interests.

Tomorrow Cornwall Council’s Planning Policy Advisory Panel meet to discuss/rubber stamp the Council’s approach to its Core Strategy. Will they knowingly aid and abet this take-over by the developers’ lobby or will they begin the overdue fight back?

Cornish Zetetics


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