Parliamentary sketch – Remembering to remember
It’s easily done. And it’s not necessarily a sign of the onset of dementia, but there are things we forget to remember.
One of these, which I find I often have to remind myself (and others) of, is the old “Cornish housing conundrum”.
Every decade or so when Cornwall has had to review its grand plan – variously called Development Plan, Structure Plan, Local Plan, etc – we have the opportunity to learn from the mistakes (and successes) of the past. But most times it’s written by new people with no memory of the past. So there’s a high risk of repeating past mistakes.
It’s like inviting an expert (David Penhaligon once said “the definition of an expert is someone from at least 150 miles away!”) to come and look at Cornwall with a ‘fresh eye’. There’s the same problem – lack of affordable homes for local people – and the same light bulb goes off as before – answer: build more houses.
But there’s a big problem with that. For the past half century Cornwall has grown faster than almost anywhere else in the country. In the last 40 years alone the housing stock has more than doubled. And yet the housing problems of local people have got dramatically worse.
We’re about to go around the houses again and present the same simplistic solution that has failed for decades.
I’m delighted to see that St Ives Town Council is now well on the way to producing its own Neighbourhood Plan. That’s what I hope all Town and Parish Councils will do (either individually or collectively) – i.e. the local people able to plan the future of their community, rather than having the plans lovingly written for them in Truro or Whitehall.
I know it sounds counter intuitive, but the best way of meeting the desperate local need for affordable homes is to stop or constrain as much development as possible. The Government then needs to expand its established policy of allowing local authorities to grant planning permission for “homes for locals” as an ‘exception’ to the rule of constraint.
The planning system is fuelled by greed rather than need and, when local authorities commit themselves to high levels of development, land values (and the hope values that go with them) soar. And when land prices increase the prospect of building affordable homes diminishes.
Local communities should be given powers to better use the planning system to control the price of land (after all those who benefit from the megabuck prices on development land haven’t worked for their windfall).
The Government has given (admittedly limited) tools to local communities, including Community Rights provisions introduced through the recent Localism Act. I hope more local communities will explore their rights, bring forward neighbourhood plans, take over community assets and build homes for locals – as the Community Land Trust in St Just are doing.
You can contact Andrew George by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. His constituency office can be contacted at Trewella, 18 Mennaye Road, Penzance, Cornwall, TR18 4NG. Telephone: 01736 360020.
Andrew George MP
Kernow a’n West ha Syllan
West Cornwall and the Scillies
Constituency of St Ives
Tel: 01736 360020
Fax: 01736 332866
15th October 2013