Housing and Planning Bill

Written evidence submitted by Cllr Armorel J Carlyon, Truro City Council (HPB 139)

I have this week learned from Cornwall Council that the closing date for submissions to the above Bill is the 10th December, 2015.

I am writing in response to the publication of the Housing and Planning Bill.

I was first elected to Cornwall County Council as an Independent Councillor in l973. I am at present the senior member of Truro City Council having been a member for 40 years. I have been Chairman of the former Carrick District Council and Mayor of the City on two occasions. I am an avid follower of bbc parliament live and regularly attend Cornwall Council meetings - asking public questions as and when the opportunity arises.

I have attended all the Cornwall Plan Examinations in Public since l987.

The present situation in the world of ‘planning’ at the present time is total confusion. The 50 pages of the NPPF seem to receive various interpretations and can only be clarified in the long term by Case Law. Now with the Government only having been in office for 5 months, the ground rules change yet again.

I can only speak from the Cornish perspective.

CORNWALL is a place where people come to spend a few weeks to recharge their batteries. The reasons they come are mainly the landscape and the coastal areas. It has acres of protected landscape, SSSIs, archaeological remains, Listed Buildings, medieval churches and crosses - miles of small narrow lanes and thousands of SECOND HOMES!!

The Cornwall Council has been struggling for what seems like years to agree the Cornwall Local Plan. Hours of debate have taken place defining AFFORDABLE HOUSING. The majority of our local young people who have not left the County have no way of even finding a deposit to buy a HOUSE even under the Starter Home discount.

The majority of Parishes want to see LOCAL NEEDS HOUSING provided BEFORE we build any further housing.

AND SO TO THE PLAN ITSELF.

At the outset the Government declared it would kickstart a "national crusade to get 1 million homes built by 2020" and "transform "generation rent into generation buy".

In PART 1 of the Bill the Government is committed to provide Starter Homes.

Local Authorities will be obliged to permit a certain number of Starter Homes on site.

*The house prices in Cornwall are some of the highest in the country.

*Cornwall has already some 28,000 people waiting to be housed - some more urgently than others. It is unlikely that many of these people will be able to find the deposit.

*Cornwall is an area which receives European monies (this year totaling some 500 million euros) because of its poverty.

*For many years inflation has been low or non-existent BUT I have lived through the time when interest rates and inflation were out of hand.

Encouraging people on low incomes to commit themselves to buying a house which should the interest rates increase(even 1% would be too much) it would mean that their house would likely to be re-possessed.

*I also understand that the s.106 agreement in respect of Starter Homes only has a shelf life of 5 years when the house can be sold on the open market.

I would therefore OPPOSE the new emphasis on STARTER HOMES at the expense of AFFORDABLE HOMES/ RENTED PROPERTY.

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When I read the content of the proposed Bill I realise that it has been written by people who have no "roots" - people who do not understand the concept of "town" or "village" life. There has been much discussion about the "Big Society" but such a concept does not just happen ... it is the product of countless generations. I have witnessed villages where the building of too many houses at one time has destroyed the community. People arrive with different values - they "love" where they are but want to impose their "values" on the rest of the community which in turn creates hostility.

It is my opinion that the Bill in its present form is alien to the way we live our lives in Britain. It is completely UNDEMOCRATIC ... in fact the present Government appears to hold democracy in contempt.

Every Local Plan has to be totally compliant with the NPPF -

Every Neighbourhood Plan has to totally compliant with the Local Plan.

There is no "Localism"

There is no longer any Democracy.

The present Planning system is NOT WORKING

There are reasons for this -

FIRSTLY -the Government Grant to Local Authorities is being severely reduced.

This in turn means that there is no money to fight off unwanted developments at Appeal.

There is now a new factor in the equation and that is that COSTS ARE NOW BEING AWARDED AGAINST COUNCILS.

The cumulative effect of this on the annual budget is astronomical.

This in turn means that the members of the Strategic Planning Committee are encouraged to vote for every application in order to avoid COSTS - the philosophy being that the "developers" can fight it out among themselves and economic forces will come into play.

SECONDLY - When planning permission has been granted there are sites that will never be developed because they are being used as "land banking" investing company monies in land to avoid losses when the economic collapse occurs. This in turn creates yet another problem of being able to prove a five year land supply.

THIRDLY - The Prime Minister+ Mr Osborne appear to have decided that there is only one way to avoid deep recession and that is to BUILD our way out of it.

This is where we have a HUGE PROBLEM.

I wish to state that the building of houses on the scale stated in the Bill WITHOUT THE PROVISION OF ADEQUATE INFRASTRUCTURE IS TOTALLY IRRESPONSIBLE.

PEOPLE LIVE IN HOUSES AND EXPECT SERVICES TO BE PROVIDED. DUE TO THE SEVERE CUTS IN THE GOVERNMENT GRANT THIS WILL NO LONGER BE POSSIBLE.

It is my opinion that CORNWALL DOES NOT HAVE A HOUSING CRISIS BUT RATHER A HOUSING PRICE CRISIS.

Last month there were over 10,000 houses for sale on the Estate Agents books in Cornwall

What we need more than anything at the moment is SOCIAL HOUSING - COUNCIL HOUSING call it what you will. Housing which can be rented at reasonable rents. I would concur with the LGA’s response to the Bill in this respect.

THE CONSTRAINTS IN CORNWALL ARE ENDLESS. Cornwall is expected to build a further 52,500 HOUSES by 2030 and it was stated at the Cornwall Council Cabinet meeting of the 3rd December, 2015 that the HOUSES WILL HAVE TO BE BUILT FIRST and then hopefully the infrastructure will follow.

No amount of Developer contributions (or CILs) are going to build and run a new HOSPITAL (We only have ONE District Hospital in Cornwall and it has been on BLACK ALERT on two occasions this year.)

ROAD and highway maintenance is struggling

SCHOOLS are full and an inordinate amount of staff time is being taken up allocating children to schools which are often miles away from their homes.

The SOCIAL CARE BILL is escalating due to many people coming to live in Cornwall for their retirement.

The provision for DRAINAGE AND SEWAGE is causing great concern throughout the County as is the outpouring of RAW SEWAGE on to our beaches.

RECREATIONAL FACILITIES which are currently being closed down or sold off due to cuts in the Government Grants.

These are only some of the issues of concern which are constantly raised.

BUT OVER AND ABOVE THESE ISSUES IS THE REAL DANGER OF THIS MANUFACTURED HOUSING BOOM TURNING INTO a "BOOM AND BUST" situation. I have witnessed and experienced many developers becoming bankrupt and walking away from unfinished developments before any contributions had been made and it is ALWAYS the COUNCIL TAX PAYER who has to pick up the Bill.

...........................................................................................................................Having considered the above you will realise that the Housing and Planning Bill will not solve any of our problems in CORNWALL but worsen the present situation for the indigenous population and make the already difficult problems experienced by the Planning Department an almost impossible task.

What this Bill is doing to Cornwall is "killing the goose that laid the golden egg".

Fishing is in decline, farming is in decline and once a further 52,500 houses are built plus the employment land - TOURISM will also be in decline.

It is not a case of "one size fits all". I am sure there are other parts of the country which will agree with the concerns I have mentioned.

I find little in the proposed Bill which is going to enhance CORNWALL.

In closing I would suggest that this Bill is a VIOLATION of the FRAMEWORK CONVENTION FOR THE PROTECTION OF NATIONAL MINORITIES UNDER WHICH THE CORNISH were RECOGNISED in 2014.

December 2015

Prepared 14th December 2015