Monday, 22 December 2014

Councillor Folkes; Inquiry or review?

The negotiated terms of reference for a review into the processes relating to the resignation of  Councillor Folkes from the cabinet have been agreed between Cornwall Council and the Local Government Association.

It is important that this is now conducted quickly so that we can be assured that we have processes in place to protect children, adults, councillors and staff whilst being fully compliant with the requirements of the law.

It will be interesting to see the timeline of actions and statements but as this is to be a review restricted to processes and procedural failures it looks like the only name to appear in the report will be that of Councillor Folkes.

The original source document I was shown included large sections of redacted text - the white sections above and below the visible text - which were not made available to me.
I hope the results will be comprehensive, informative and totally open.  I am trying not to be sceptical and I  will await the outcome of the review.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Stadium amendment to Local Plan

My amendment this week to the Local Plan to include the aspiration for a Stadium was ruled out because it would need another period of public consultation.   The council were not prepared to countenance another delay in the Plan and so it was not included.

The last I heard the INOX application for West Langarth is likely to be considered with the other three supermarket applications on 12th March. This assumes it will not be derailed by Truro City Club site application.

To have a chance of success INOX need to supply viability information to convince the Committee that the Stadium can and will get built and the legal case to compel this should be robust. Stadium fans have been disappointed before.

This would be needed to justify the risk to the Council of turning down the other applications which have technically better sites (in planning terms) for the supermarket as they are nearer to Truro.

I acknowledge that this will be difficult with no signed up tenant for the supermarket.  INOX are relying on at least one supermarket still wanting to come to Truro and on INOX being in a monopoly position to 'dictate' terms to that supermarket.

It would be really helpful to the INOX case if it was able to get a letter of intent from one or more supermarkets that they are interested in the INOX site.  It would also be interesting to know at what stage the supermarkets' commitments (if any) to other developer sites fall through.  Otherwise, to get built a Stadium will need a Plan B.

I still do not understand why Truro College can only put in £2m.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Stadium Amendment to Local Plan

I have submitted an amendment to the (draft) Local Plan for Cornwall, to be considered by Council on Tuesday. This needs to be pre cleared by officers as procedurally acceptable.

There may be a perceived difficulty with including it in the Plan as it was not included in a consultation draft. Many more people have expressed a view on the Stadium than on any aspect of the Local Plan.  So let us hope it is not disallowed because they have failed to 'tick the right box'.

The  inclusion of the Stadium in the Plan would not commit the Council to approve any particular planning application or to spend any money. However, it would, at least, recognise this as a strong aspiration of many people in Cornwall.

If the amendment is pre cleared I would hope that it would gain cross party support.

Proposed Amendment as an additional paragraph to Policy 4 (Community Facilities)
"It is an aspiration of Cornwall to have a Stadium for Cornwall, which also may be used by the community and for education."

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Speeding on Kenwyn Hill: Truro Heights

This morning I received a petition signed by101 people living near the top of Kenwyn Hill about the continuing problem of speeding, especially by motorists arriving from Shortlanesend.

The police say they do not think the issue is a significant one but local people disagree. I have asked the Council for a traffic calming scheme and have discussed the possibility of something similar to the traffic calming at the entrance to Goonhavern from Newquay. However, the Council has not so far come up with any money to deal with the issue.

I have been asked how the Council could find money for the skatepark but not for this. This issue has been raised by members. But a decision was made that members could not spend their community projects budget (currently £2195 per year) on highways improvements. It would not go very far due to the cost of highways schemes and the community would lose the use of this money which is worth more than it seems because if is used to lever in money from other sources.

I shall do my best to get something done. It is terrible that people feel they simply cannot safely cross the road on foot.

Threemilestone and beyond

How do the other big three applications at Threemilestone stack up?

A six month delay allows more light to be shone on the other three big applications at Threemilestone. So how do they stack up?
All of them are in the area covered by the Council's Development Brief and are relatively close to Truro/ Threemilestone.

 Is an application for a supermarket next to the Park and Ride on land already consented for a hotel and other uses. So far I do not think it has any supermarket tenant signed up. It offers no significant planning contribution to the wider area (and is not obliged to because it is just a supermarket).

Maiden Green
On paper this ticks a lot of boxes in terms of its contribution to the wider development. However, if it has no tenant signed up for the supermarket (which appears to be the case), these contributions may be unviable.
It seems that the contours of the site and the need to use more than one level make this a less attractive site for a supermarket and the proposed new primary school.
This application is said to have the worst traffic impact.

Willow Green
This application apparently has Asda signed up and will contribute, assuming all goes to plan, a new primary school, affordable housing and a significant chunk of the northern access road to the hospital.

"Assuming all goes to plan" is a very real caveat based on our experience elsewhere. Unless there is a mechanism for tying together the housing delivery with the supermarket, there must be a strong likelihood that the supermarket and the bit of road will be built. Then, the other chunks of land will be sold off for housing. At that stage the Living Villages concept in the outline application may go out the window and the percentage of affordable housing may come down.

As the Government are providing money for new school places will the Council need the new school money?

All the applications, including INOX's application at West Langarth, provide money for open space on a per home built basis rather than the open space itself. The amounts provided in all cases are wholly inadequate to buy  land for open space in Truro,  as I have blogged before on the Council's Open Space Strategy.

As a local member I have always said that I have major concerns about the impact of traffic congestion and pollution on the Highertown corridor. However, if there is to be further development then it seems to me that the Council must take responsibility for delivery of the northern access road. It would also stop the potential for developers to hold each other to ransom.

The Council needs to get Government funding and use compulsory purchase powers to build the road as soon as possible.   I have received no answer yet as to why that has not been done.

With these and other applications likely to be decided on the same day in March next year it is beginning to look like planning on the A390 is out of the control of Cornwall Council.   Another application which turns up shortly before the planning meeting (such as the redevelopment and relocation of Truro City Football Club) could lead to a demand for a further deferment to allow more considerations.  On the basis of past actions that may be hard to resist.

I wonder what the odds would be on a Secretary of State intervention and subsequent actions in the High Court?

Higher Newham; Forever Green?

This 'Living Village' application goes to Strategic Planning on 18th December. It has been sold to the public on the basis that much of the land will remain green in perpetuity.

If they are minded to approve it (despite the ghastly access onto Morlaix Avenue) I hope the Committee will satisfy themselves that the structure to ensure this is legally robust.

It is easy for a development to start out looking green and then to be redesigned or infilled later - the problem of creeping density.

One particular issue arises with the large swathes of green land to be let to the charitable trust. It is proposed that the freehold of this land will remain with the developer.  I have questioned whether this land would be better safeguarded in perpetuity if the freehold were transferred to Truro City Council.  It has an interest in safeguarding the land.   With the best will in the world the developers, in the long term, may not.

Duty of Kerr: what is holding up the independent review on Cllr Folkes resignation?

On 25th November the Leader told Full Council that the decisions relating to Cllr Folkes were correct and would not be changed but the Council would consider if lessons could be learned. On 28th November I understood that there would be an independent review. The  Leader repeated this on Radio Cornwall on Monday.

But the review is still not underway. In the meantime Nick Clegg on his trip to Cornwall last week, has weighed in on Cllr Folkes' behalf, according to yesterday's Cornish Guardian. 

In the edition of Private Eye just out Andrew Kerr, the Council's Chief Executive, is criticised in 'Rotten Boroughs' for Cllr Folkes' treatment.

None of this is good for the reputation of the Council.

If all the decisions had been made by 25th November. (and probably earlier, as the Council was writing to clubs about Cllr Folkes on 18th November) why is the Council not able to get on with an independent review.

 I wonder whether it is possible that the check that threw up information that was not acted on in 2009/10 would have been made at all had Cllr Folkes been elected for the first time in 2013.

 I still do not know what is the Council's current DBS/CRB checking process.

Cornwall Council must act to protect children and individuals fairly and within the law.  Not only must the Council act in that way but it must also demonstrate it.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Why is INOX application receiving particular scrutiny now?

There is much that can and will be said on each of the (other) three applications for supermarkets etc on the A390 west of Truro.

It now looks as if the other applications (two of which have been appealed for non determination by the applicants) will be considered by the inspector next August.  Also, the Strategic Planning Committee will consider duplicate applications from the same developers, probably on 12th March, together with the INOX application for West Langarth.

But why look now at the INOX application in particular? Three reasons:-

1. The intervention of INOX caused decisions on the other three applications to be delayed and put the Council at risk of paying the developers' costs for failing to make decisions on them;

2. INOX is campaigning not only for its application to succeed but for all the other three to be turned down. In fact, it says its cannot succeed unless all the others are turned down; and

3. INOX says it can deliver the Stadium for Cornwall, a long held dream of many in Cornwall. It is only sensible to ask if the offer is legally robust and economically viable.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Higher Newham Village access

Traffic lights proposed to cut in two Truro's bypass near the junction at the top of Arch Hill. What a pity that would be.

Threemilestone and Truro Development Plan

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Cabinet shuffle

Finally, four weeks after Cllr Folkes' shock resignation, the Council's cabinet has been reshuffled.  I understand that the shuffle is designed to ensure that there are jobs which best suit the strengths of the councillors who have been chosen by their political groups to be Cabinet members.

This has meant, it seems, that it has been necessary to cancel all Portfolio advisory meetings for December. I have questioned the value of many of these meetings in the past and been ignored. So it is ironic indeed that we can now manage without them all.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

New Stadium Plans are a Legal Minefield

Following the helpful explanation by developers Henry Boot Developments of their plans for 'enabling development' to build a Stadium for Cornwall, I have had the opportunity to read the various documents to which they have referred me. This is a legal minefield.

Some questions that arise:

1.  It must be highly questionable as to whether this is enabling development so that the provision of money for the Stadium can properly be taken into account. The QC representing the developer in this case took the other side of the argument in the Supreme Court recently on behalf of Sainsburys and won. The connection between the two sites looks a bit contrived.  So, the Council will need to be sure of their legal ground here.

2. If the Planning Committee are allowed to take account of the contribution to the Stadium then they will want to be assured that this Development is viable. This will be difficult to judge without any tenant signed up for the supermarket. If  the site at West Langarth ends up getting developed for something other than a supermarket, this whole deal would fall away.

3. The Memorandum of Understanding signed today is good PR but is not legally binding as it states any party can pull out.

4. We better not end up swapping the Stadium site, to which the Council is now entitled, for the prospect of open space at West Langarth and ending up with nothing. So, if the Committee goes down this route, all the legal paperwork will need to be in good order!

Inox Breakfast Meeting

INOX have been briefing today at the Alverton Manor in Truro on their latest plans for a development which they believe will help fund the Stadium for Cornwall. They persuaded (by one vote) the Strategic Planning Committee to defer 3 other supermarket applications to allow their application to catch up so that all applications could be considered together.

Everybody seems to agree that there will be only one more supermarket in Truro and INOX want theirs to be the one.

At least 2 out of 3 of the other developers have now appealed. At the same time those developers have re-submitted their applications in the hope that the Council will think the better of their decision to defer.

Last week, the Council decided to slash spending, for example, on libraries and leisure centres, to reduce the road maintenance budget and cut school crossing patrols. No service avoided the chop.

So the Strategic Planning Committee need to know:

1. Is the INOX scheme (with the contribution to the Stadium) viable?
2. Can the Council ensure that INOX will keep its part of the bargain to help fund the Stadium?
3. Will INOX's Stadium contribution reduce the ability of INOX to meet its normal Planning obligations (contribution to roads etc)?
4. What is the likely amount of costs the Council has at risk (its own and the developers') in fighting the appeals in respect of the other 3 supermarket application?

Asking these very obvious questions seems to me to be the least due diligence that Cornwall Council should undertake  when risking taxpayers' money.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Truro Parking Crisis

What a difference 40 years makes !!!!!!

If you thought parking for residents in Truro was bad already, then it is about to get even worse. The Council plan:

1. to raise parking revenues in each of the next 4 years by 1% above the rate of inflation.
2. to introduce charges for on street parking (meters or similar); and
3. to charge staff to park, which will likely mean they park on the street instead.

I have recently surveyed 4 areas of my division as to whether residents would support a residents' parking scheme.

These were the results (see maps below):

Hendra 1

81% in favour based on a response rate of 47%.

Hendra 2

66% in favour but only 22% response rate. The problem is less bad here as it is further away from the City Centre.

There are some roads, such as Comprigney Close which are definitely against based on this survey.

Trehaverne, Rosedale

Views overall were about the same number for as against. The overall response rate was 22%.
However, there is clear support in the area around Trehaverne Terrace but insufficient support in Rosedale. Even at £25 per vehicle per year most respondents in Rosedale did not want to pay to park.


72% in favour but only 33%  response rate.

I submitted these results to the Council. The latest I have heard is that they want to delay taking action until after the Eastern Park and Ride is up and running. This is just not going to wash with
many people, especially with the worsening factors mentioned above.

In the meantime local residents are submitting applications to rip out front gardens or other features in the Conservation area to secure their own parking space.