Yesterday a group of councillors took a bus trip around North Cornwall. The point was to try to find a new venue for local meetings, especially planning meetings and, crucially, to keep these meetings as close to the people they affect as possible.
I've complained in the past about the centralisation of Cornwall council in Truro. In particular, when there was a big planning application for Launceston, the meeting was held in Truro making it inaccessible to local people who wanted to find out what was going on.
For smaller planning applications, the decisions are made by the 'Planning Committee East', a group that makes decisions for the former North Cornwall and Caradon district areas. They alternate their meetings between Liskeard and Camelford, but this situation will have to change because of the council's plans to co-locate Police services to the Camelford offices and therefore lose the facility to hold public meetings.
A number of us were concerned that this would mean the centralisation of all meetings in Liskeard and therefore make them far less accessible to people in North Cornwall. So we were trying to find an alternative venue.
Our trip took us to Bodmin, Wadebridge and another venue in Camelford. One of the requirements of any Council meeting held in public is that local residents can hear what is being said - so we want a decent public address system, microphones and a hearing loop. There also needs to be a large enough room, plenty of parking and all at a reasonable cost. Regrettably, none of the venues had everything we needed.
In my view, the best solution would be to stay in the current Camelford location. It is, of course, a good idea to work with other public bodies where possible. But this should not come at the cost of proper local decision making. We'll keep on looking for a good venue but in the meantime I hope that the Council reconsiders their decision to prevent the use of the current venue.