Today has been mainly about planning issues in and around our town. I met this morning with officers to get fully briefed on the application submitted for around 300 homes and a new school at Hay Common to the south west of Launceston.
At the moment this is an outline plan in that the actual design of the scheme has to come back in another application. What is being asked for at this time is approval for the principle of this size of development.
A key issue will be the decision to build a new school in place of any affordable housing. Only a scheme of this sort of size can provide enough developer contributions to enable a school to be built, but the loss of the affordable housing is clearly a big price to be paid. As a community, we have known for some time that we will struggle with the three primary schools in town and the current growth is simply adding more pressure. Hence the decision to consider the school in this case.
There are undoubtedly arguments in favour and against the application but on balance, I believe it is the right sort of development in the right place and, as well as the school, it brings the right mix of community benefits. I do not have a vote on the strategic planning committee (if I did, I would have to stay silent until the decision) and the application will be decided on 30th June in Truro.
If you have views, please contact me and I would be happy to discuss them.
A group of town and parish representatives and the local Cornwall Councillors went later in the day to look at some other sites around our town which might be considered suitable for development in the future - both for employment land and for housing. I can't discuss the precise areas yet, but there will be a major public consultation on the possibilities over the summer. Launceston has always been considered one of the towns in Cornwall suitable for growth, but we have to make sure that any development is balanced (we need jobs as well as houses) and in the right place.
The two comments below have reminded me that I had meant to write a post about the Core Strategy process last week but couldn't because Blogger went down.
The Core Strategy seeks to set the sustainable and achievable growth target for Cornwall for the coming years. In the past we have had the Regional Spatial Strategy, in which the Government imposed numbers on us, but now we have the ability to decide for ourselves.
The major problem, as far as I am concerned, is that the plan wants to have a uniform solution for Cornwall. I simply do not think that will work. I know that there are many parts of Cornwall which do not want significant further growth and do not have the infrastructure to cope. On the other hand, there are areas which would welcome more housing.
There are other problems too. The core strategy is fixated with housing, but there are other types of growth. Somewhere like Launceston could cope with many more houses (providing the infrastructure came along with them too) but also needs the employers to provide skilled jobs. Our debates on the development framework have sought to ensure that key areas of land are reserved for employment use and we have insisted that large scale infratructure requirements are also written into the plan.
And the Core Strategy proposes not simply a uniform growth, but also a uniform dispersal strategy for new housing - with options of town, economy or village led growth.
In short, I cannot possibly say what is right for a town like Helston or Falmouth in terms of housing growth. Having talked with many local residents and with the town and parish councils in this area, I think I've got a pretty good handle on what we want here though. The core strategy, for all the advantage of being locally determined, has the failing of being one size fits all.