As I am sure we are all aware, planning is often a controversial issue that can polarise opinion. Although MPs have no role in local planning decisions and little influence over the decisions planning committees make, I believe we still have a role to play in ensuring the views of local people are heard.
There is no doubt in my mind that St Austell has been badly let down in the past as we have seen more and more housing approved without the necessary investment in our local infrastructure to support it.
I am not opposed to all development. I recognise there is a clear need for more housing in the area. Those of us with adult children know how difficult it is for them to get on the housing ladder. However, I am also clear, this housing needs to be appropriately sited, with investment in local infrastructure such as roads, schools and health services to support the increase in population. New development should also support the local economy by creating jobs and business growth.
This brings us to the recent application by Wainhomes to build 300 houses on the controversial site behind Poltair School and the College. This is the fourth application they have submitted for this site, having been refused three times previously.
I have always opposed applications for housing on this site, which I believe to be wholly unsuitable for development. When I was a Cornwall and Town Councillor in Poltair, I fought against previous similar applications on this site, including at an Appeal, and was pleased to see them rejected. I remain opposed to the current application.
I have worked closely with St Austell Town Council on the St Austell part of the Cornwall Site Allocations Development Plan Document (Allocations DPD). The DPD was written with public consultation. 95% of local people who responded did not want this land included in the DPD.
Subsequently the land in question was excluded from the town framework which identifies land for development. It is therefore disappointing that Wainhomes have chosen to ignore the views of local people and once again apply for permission to develop this site.
I recently wrote to the Head of Planning at Cornwall Council along these lines when the most recent plans surfaced and expressed my surprise and disappointment at the way this application was being progressed.
Last week I had the opportunity to raise this issue in the House of Commons when I questioned the Minister for Housing and Planning in Parliament on the application, saying that while I appreciate he cannot comment on individual planning applications, did he agree with me that if permissions are granted on sites that have been excluded for development after consultation and a democratic process it will do little to promote the public’s confidence in the planning system.
In reply the Minister reiterated how important it is to have a plan in place and congratulated Cornwall Council on finally passing its Local Plan. I too am pleased that after too many years of discussion, Cornwall Council has finally voted to adopt the Cornwall Plan.
I will continue to monitor this application closely and do all I can to ensure that the clearly expressed views of local people are respected and urge Cornwall Council to do the right thing here and reject this completely unsuitable application.