Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Are you concerned about dog fouling in Launceston? UPDATED

Cornwall Council is set to run a free evening workshop in Launceston to show local residents how to effectively report dog fouling incidents.

This morning my fellow councillor Jade Farrington and I met with dog wardens and other council staff to discuss additional ways of tackling the problem in Launceston as it is an issue we receive a lot of complaints about. As well as recruiting volunteers and conducting extra high visibility patrols the council is keen to teach people how to effectively report incidents so that action can be taken. This can range from writing letters (which works in some instances) to issuing fixed penalty notices or prosecuting where necessary.

The workshop will be arranged for an evening in Launceston at a time to suit those who would like to come. If you are concerned by dog fouling and you want to see more action taken then I would encourage you to come along. You will be able to learn more about what dog wardens do, how they operate and what the law is. You'll also find out exactly what information to submit to the council to ensure prompt action can be taken against those who fail to pick up after their pets and it can be cleaned up as quickly as possible.

To express your interest please email me (alexfolkes@gmail.com) with your phone number, email address and postal address.

UPDATE - The workshop will be held on 16th July at 6pm. The venue is to be confirmed.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Major South West Water works proposed for Launceston

Launceston will see major works by contractors on behalf of South West Water over the coming months. The half million pound package of works will result in significant road closures.

The works are needed to repair parts of the sewer network in the town. South West Water are currently undertaking an extensive consultation exercise with businesses, residents and town organisations in order to make sure that the disruption will do as little harm as possible.

The most significant works will be at the junction of Madford Lane, Windmill Hill, Westgate Street and Dockey where a road closure will be needed for between three and five weeks and traffic light controls will be needed for a period of time around that.

Other significant works will include Pennygillam Way, the Chapel area, Newport Industrial Estate, Kensey Hill and the Exeter Street/Dockacre Road/Tavistock Road junction. All of these works are likely to require traffic lights and may result in delays. There will be many further works taking place around the town which will require less obvious traffic measures.

Overall the works will take place over a period from August through to February, but South West Water is keen to make sure that individual components take place at the least disruptive times and key events such as the carnival and late night shopping will be avoided. They are also keen to make sure that all businesses will remain open throughout.

As soon as the final works package has been agreed and timings decided, South West Water will make these public and I will put them here.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Costa Coffee seek permission to open in Launceston town square

Costa Coffee have applied for planning permission to open a shop in Launceston town square. They are seeking to take over the currently empty building last occupied by Day Lewis and before that by Boots - 24 Broad Street.

The building is listed, but Costa are only proposing to make substantial changes to the ground floor - currently a pretty ugly aluminium framed shopfront. They would replace this with a wood and glass frontage. The proposal would also mean a change of use.

Costa say that they would create 10-12 full time equivalent jobs with the new shop as well as bringing an empty shop back into use.

This is going to be a controversial application as the community must judge whether a national chain coffee shop a reasonable use for this property and what effect would it have on other similar businesses in the town.

There is nothing in this application with regard to the rumours about Costa seeking to use part of the town square for outdoor seating. Any such plans (if they even exist) would be part of a separate discussion and cannot be considered as part of this application.

If you want to have your say on this application, please go to the planning portal on Cornwall Council's website to view the details and fill in a comment form.

Andrew George's Private Members Bill

West Cornwall Lib Dem MP Andrew George came top of the ballot for a Private Members Bill last week. That allows him to propose a new piece of legislation and guarantees him some parliamentary time to give a chance of making it happen.

Andrew is asking people what they want to see him take forward. He has written a letter setting out how he has made his choice and what his remaining options are. If you want to have your say, please read the following and let him know:

Dear Friend,

A week may be "a long time in politics", but since my good fortune in coming top in the ballot for a Private Members' Bill last Thursday, this Harold Wilson's adage feels especially true...

Heading the list of Private Members' Bills is the MPs equivalent of winning the jackpot in the National Lottery. It is one of those great opportunities that can only come along once in a political lifetime.

But, you can only have one Bill not a whole raft of legislation in your own Queen’s Speech. As such, I want the Bill to reflect the priorities of the constituency and, I hope, will be crafted to benefit not just Cornwall and Scilly but the whole country.

So, since my name came out of the hat at the end of last week, I have been sifting through scores of policy proposals.

I’ve also discovered that I have thousands of new ‘friends’, all beating a path to my door, with new plans and proposals.

However, I have resisted the temptation to take someone else’s already carefully drafted ‘off the peg’ Bill – to support Mesothelioma sufferers, a new Forestry Bill, a Nature Protection Bill, Electoral Reform proposals, the banning of Wild Animals in the Circus, a Food Security Bill, a bill to prevent parking on the pavements and many other proposals – worthy as they all are – and have narrowed my proposals to just three.  I am encouraging local people to help me decide. So, I would appreciate your comments and responses in the coming days.

They are:

An Affordable Homes Bill

To help meet the desperate need of local families for affordable homes.  It would introduce new tools:

A fund to support families trying to get on to the housing ladder – by helping them buy a ‘share’ in a new home of their own.

Combatting the ‘spare room subsidy’/‘bedroom tax’.  Poor families are as entitled to a stable family home as better off families.  I would limit the impact of the ‘bedroom tax’ to exclude those who have been living at an address for more than three years and also where disabled adaptations have been completed.

A new planning rule to restrict the number of second homes.

Powers of compulsory purchase for local authorities where developers ‘land bank’ to drive up prices or refuse to release land to meet the need for affordable homes.

A Cornish Assembly Bill

This would introduce new powers (subject to a Cornwall and Isles of Scilly referendum) - equivalent to the Welsh Assembly - which could be drawn down, over time it would build on the powers of Cornwall Council – and the Council of the Isles of Scilly – should the Islands choose to be involved in such devolution.

Health Care Standards Bill

This would strengthen safe standards in healthcare through:

A new mandatory safe staffing level on hospital wards; ‘never more than eight’ patients to each registered nurse (excluding the nurse in charge) on hospital wards.

Support for home care workers – a living wage, payment for travel time, travel reimbursement and the setting of minimum limits on the amount of time that home care workers are expected to complete tasks.

Extending NHS registered nurses into the community, including in private nursing homes where the NHS is paying for nursing care.

The Private Members' Bill gives me the opportunity to be Prime Minister for a day - so, what would you do? We only have a few days, I would appreciate your response by Wednesday 25th June.  Please let me know what you think.

I welcome your suggestions on your own preferred option from my shortlisted proposals.
All the best,
Andrew George MP
Kernow a'n West ha Syllan
West Cornwall and the Scillies
Kwartron Porthia
Constituency of St Ives
Tel:  01736 360020
Fax:  01736 332866

Road works to close Ridgegrove Hill for two weeks

Ridgegrove Hill will be closed for up to two weeks at the end of July and beginning of August for ducting works. Diversions will be in place via Ridgegrove Lane.

The application has been made by Carillion Telent who need to repair their cable ducts with works starting on 22nd July and continuing until 4th August.

If you have any questions, call the company on 0800 526015.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Eagle House Hotel

Cornwall Council has received a planning application to allow the change of use of the Eagle House Hotel to a private residential dwelling.

The Eagle House Hotel is a much loved institution in the town, both as a hotel which serves the business and visitor industry and as a venue for functions ranging from weddings to awards events to birthday parties. Many people have been in touch with me to express their concern that it might be lost to the town as a hotel. This is particularly the case for those who have booked to hold functions there in the months and indeed years ahead. I am sure that they would get any deposits back if the hotel was no longer available, but that is little comfort if they have to find another venue at short notice.

As the Cornwall councillor for the area, I have the power to request that the decision on this planning application is taken by a committee of councillors rather than being delegated to officers. Based on the arguments that have been put to me, I think that is the right course of action as it gives further opportunities for the public and local community to express their opinions one way or the other.

I would urge anyone who has a view on this issue to make them known through the formal planning channels. You can complete the form on the council website or send them in by email or by post. It goes without saying that commenting on a facebook page or emailing the Eagle House does not count as a formal submission.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Clegg promises Lib Dem action on second homes

Nick Clegg has today promised that the Lib Dems will continue to take action to limit the number of second homes in Cornwall and the damage thatthey can do to local communities.

Speaking to the Western Morning News, Nick said that we don’t want have this problem of:
"the whole community being filleted. Gutted. With no prospect of youngsters finding a home they can call their own."
Nick went on to say that part of the resolution would be for more homes to be built and that is what Liberal Democrats, both nationally and locally want to see - appropriate numbers of new homes targeted at housing local people in housing need.

Lib Dems in Cornwall have long called for two new measures to protect communities from the adverse impact of too many second homes:
  • requiring planning permission for the change of use of any main family home into a second or holiday home;
  • the ability for councils to charge a premium level of council tax to second or holiday homes in order to be able to continue to afford to provide the full range of services to rural communities with a predominance of second homes.
It is good that the Lib Dems nationally recognise that the problem is still an acute one in many areas of the country and remain committed to action.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

New 20mph zones proposed for Launceston

Cornwall Council is asking for local opinions on plans to introduce 20mph zones in various areas around Launceston.

Key areas affected include:

- St Johns/Moorland/Meadowside
- St Stephens Hill

There are also proposals to change parking restrictions around Tavistock Road and upgrade two pedestrian crossings on Roydon Road.

In St Johns Road, Moorland Road and Meadowside, the plan is to formally extend the 20mph zone and to introduce two new chicanes to slow traffic on Meadowside.

In the St Stephens Hill area, the plan is to introduce a 20mph zone and to add speed cushions in order to slow traffic.

The detailed proposals are shown on the diagrams.

Responses can be supportive, opposition or suggested alternatives and are required by 3rd July and can be made:

- by email to traffic@cormacltd.co.uk
- online at www.cornwall.gov.uk/TrafficConsult
- by postusing the consultation form available from the One Stop Shop at Launceston Library.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Cornwall to lose police officers over summer - UPDATED

Local papers are reporting that Devon and Cornwall will be losing police officers over the summer to help out in other parts of the UK. Local officers will be helping out with such things as a NATO summit in Wales and the Northern Ireland marching season.

Cornwall is a low crime area, but accordingly we have comparatively low police numbers. The Conservative Police Commissioner, Tony Hogg, has made a lot of his aim of keeping police officer numbers above the 3000 mark, but it seems this level will be breached for the first time over the summer as up to 200 officers at a time will be out of the area.

And although we are a low crime area, the population of Cornwall rises massively over the summer and the holiday months are when we tend to have more incidents. This is precisely the time when we need local officers on home ground.


Originally this blogpost criticised the Police Commissioner for apparently making no comment on the issue. I had relied on the newspaper story and checking the Commissioner's own website which was silent on the issue (at least at the time of writing). I'm happy to stand corrected as the WMN version of the story features the Commissioner's comments as their lead. My apologies to the Commissioner for briefly carrying an incorrect claim here.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Cornwall Conservatives propose Plymouth base

Cornwall's Conservative leader today made the extraordinary claim that the best way to deliver Cornwall Council services is from offices in Plymouth.

At a briefing to discuss the authority's long term strategy, Cllr Fiona Ferguson said that the council should consider renting office space in the city and requiring Cornish residents in South East Cornwall to travel there to access council services.

The hostility of Cllr Ferguson to the new offices in Bodmin is well known. She has opposed the plan despite the fact that it will save money and could bring new jobs to Cornwall. But abandoning Cornwall to base council services in Devon is a new tack.

Of course this isn't the first time that Cornwall's Conservatives have suggested supporting the economy of Plymouth in preference to Cornwall. Back in 2009, the then Council Leader Alec Robertson authorised the use of £50,000 of Cornwall taxpayers' money to support Plymouth's bid to host the football world cup.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Police Commissioner replies on Launceston front counter worries

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the threat to the police front counter in Launceston. It is scheduled for closure under a plan revealed by the Conservative Police Commissioner.

I wrote to the commissioner, Mr Hogg, asking a number of questions about the plan. I wanted to know how access to police services would be maintained and, in particular, what would be done to publicise the 101 non-emergency number and to make that service better.

I've had a reply from Mr Hogg which I reproduce in full below. But I remain concerned that this appears to be a foregone conclusion and the alternatives have not been properly considered. I quite understand that police station front counters might no longer represent good value for money and that alternatives might be better. But with such alternatives still being substandard, I think the commissioner is in danger of getting rid of a good service before a suitable replacement is ready.

I would ask him to reconsider this approach. Certainly he and the police force need to do more to give the public confidence in the alternative 101 service. I also think that the commissioner needs to do more to lead by example and should be slimming down his bloated personal office and expenses.

New Cornwall scheme to boost town and parish finances

Cornwall Council has launched a new scheme to give a greater return to town and parish councils on money that they hold. Our aim is to pass on some of the benefits of our size to others in Cornwall.

As with many organisations, there are times during the year when towns and parishes have lots of money that they will spend as the year progresses. They need to have this money instantly available and the return they can get from their bank is very low, typically about 0.1%.

On the other hand, Cornwall Council can get a much higher return because of our size and credit rating (we hold the highest possible credit rating for a UK council). At the moment we can get around 1% on money to which we retain instant access.

So Cornwall Council is using its position in order to help towns and parishes. The council will hold money for local councils in our bank account and give them back a much higher return than they could get on their own. Cornwall Council will charge an administration fee but not make a profit and so the return we give will be about seven and a half times as much as they could get on their own - around 0.75%.

I launched this scheme at the end of last week, signing an agreement with St Austell Town Council Deputy Mayor Brian Palmer. Launceston Town Council has also agreed to take part and we are talking to all other towns and parishes in Cornwall to offer them the same facility.