European Capital of Culture bid is passed by Cabinet, but I did not support it

Being the lone voice in a Cabinet is sometimes difficult, but when you cannot support an item you need to make sure your voice is heard and standby those views. The case in question is the European Capital of Culture bid (ECoC). My previous post on this issue is HERE.

Prior to today’s meeting, there was enough concern about the original decision by Cabinet. This resulted in the decision being ‘called-in’ by scrutiny who felt the process getting to the Cabinet decision was flawed. As Scrutiny felt there was a ‘flaw’ in the process of the decision – and as per the Constitution – sent the decision back to Cabinet for further consideration, and to consider if it made the right decision in the first place. For those who do not want to read on, the Cabinet voted 8-1 in favour of the bid (I voted against it). For those who want to know why, please read on.

I believe the process of getting to the shortlist phase is flawed for many of the same reasons as Scrutiny. Originally, the amount to get to the shortlist phase, was £536k, but now, on ‘relooking’ at the amount, this is now £336k. However, whilst this money is already in a budget (£60m) of EU match-funding, the costs most people seem to be missing is the estimated £10m that Cornwall Council will need to commit for this bid to work. This is not in the Council’s budget plan, and there is no clear way how this could be funded.

There is one thing of using existing budgets for something, but how do you square it when you really need a lot more for this to work. At today’s Cabinet meeting I commented how projects like the ECoC will find the money. Yet, corporately, money cannot be found for vital services in Cornwall. In reference to my point today, I talked about Post-16 transport funding.  Whilst this is a discretionary service of the Council, and it is important to note, the Council receives no support from Government to pay for it; even though they have made it mandatory for young people to stay in education (or training) till 18 years old.

If I had £10m, I could fund Post-16 transport for around eight-years. This is just one case of how money could be spent rather than on this bid. My point is we must fund for the most vulnerable and concentrate on our key services as highlighted in my previous blog.

Much has been made of this is a Cornwall-wide bid and not just Truro. Yet, Truro City Council was not really consulted prior to the bid paperwork going public. Furthermore, the City Council has only supported the ECoC bid by a narrow margin of 9-8. Hardly a ringing endorsement, but a democratic decision nonetheless.

A puzzling question that needs to be answered is how in reality will a Cornwall-wide bid work? Will it just concentrate on the existing sites like Eden and other large tourist attractions? If so, how will those who do not have a site like this near to them feel the ‘benefit’ of the ECOC? If commercial businesses are to benefit, it is a must they have to contribute, rather than the taxpayer footing the bill.

If town and villages are to be involved why haven’t they been asked?  Will it be left to the town and parish councils to find funding? A of example on costs is Helston Town Council made a decision not to have the Man Engine due to the costs of this one day event. If it is Cornwall-wide, then serious consideration needs to be made how these town and parish council will fund it, or will it be only the ones with the precepts large enough to contribute?

Another point I made today was on political support for the ECoC. Cabinet is made up of two group/party, Independent and Lib Dem. Yet the Council is made up of eight groups/party/standalone. I made an amendment for this decision to be made by full council as all 123 members can have a say, especially on the commitment of further funding like the £10m. This was not supported, but I am hopeful when there is money assigned, this can be debated via the capital programme which has to come to full council at a later date. A long-winded route to a simple debate on a yes/no option on the bid.

It is should be noted, the bid rule makes it clear any bid needs to be grassroots and supported from there. No reference has been made of this, or asked the public about their views.

In short, I voted against this because the bid is flawed on the timeline needed, monies could be spent on the most vulnerable, and there is not full political support for the ECoC. Not to mention post Brexit, there is little chance of winning the bid. As I said before, I was the lone voice, and the other eight members of Cabinet voted in favour for a bid and the £336k to proceed.

 

 

Helston College rebuild work to start in September

It has been a long time coming, but the much needed building work for Helston College is due to start this September – yes really this September! Helston College was part of the successful bid to the Government by Cornwall Council to get much needed money for C-Block and other works. The many posts on this subject can be found HERE.

With the project moving forward, the school will undertake a series of engagement meetings with companies hoping to gain the contract for the new build. This contract will be hopefully awarded in April. At the end of April or early May, there will be public consultation as part of the planning process.

This is really exciting, and something I have pushed for since the previous disappointments. Details on what will be built are still being finalised, but a start date is fantastic.  Huge credit to the College Head, Governors and staff at Cornwall Council for never losing faith in getting this money.

The deputy PM, Head of Helston School, the former MP and me at the official announcement of the rebuild back in the day

New Goals installed on the Moors

Last week the prep work for installing two new goals on the Moors playing field was started. From this, Porthleven Town Council’s handyman, Phil and his apprentice (me) fitted and installed the goal posts today.

It was good to be able to use my community fund for this, as I know many will have fun and appreciate these new goal posts. Thank to Phil and the town council for paying for the extra materials needed for the installation. Thanks also to the group of parents who helped Phil and I lift the goals in place.

No sooner than we had finished, a group of boys started to play football using the goals.

Phil and his apprentice

Shipyard application turned down by Porthleven Town Council

Thursday’s Porthleven Town Council planning meeting was likely to be a busy one, and it was, with standing room only. The item residents came to voice their concern over as you can expect was the shipyard application.

These public objections were on the size and impact of the building; not in keeping with the historic fabric of Porthleven; highways; loss of boat yard facilities; parking and access on and from the slipway. The Porthleven Fishermen’s Association also made comment at the meeting about the negative impact on the boat owner and fishing community this building would have.

This application was never going to be an easy-one, as changes to an area on this scale never run smoothly. But change can and does happen. It just not at the expensive of other important areas.

For me, I very much welcome jobs in Porthleven and those which are different to the tourism sector. However it is important to understand how many job, the type of jobs and will they be new jobs or jobs that have been relocated from existing buildings. In answering my question, Trevor Osborne and his architect suggested between 50 and 100 jobs. Though there was no confirmation as to whether these were new jobs or relocated.

I am sure many would agree there could be much more use made out of the shipyard, but this has to be in balance with other aspects of Porthleven and this building should not harm those other important aspects of Porthleven including heritage, the landscape and existing jobs.

This application comes down to need against harm. Yes we need jobs in Porthleven and it is good someone actually wants to invest in Porthleven. However, as the plans stand, I am not yet satisfied this proposal would in fact be totally positive for Porthleven.

This size, scale and impact on the area is of huge importance as this building would in effect dominate this area and would also impact on the surrounding area, including many important historical views. You only have to look at this site from different position like Peverell Terrace, Breageside, Fore Street corner and Church Row to see this building would fundamentally change those views.

There is a total lack of parking provision for the building of this size and for the number of jobs. It is no more than 10 from the plans. Parking is important, and adequate parking must be provided. Without decent levels of parking, this building would just create problems elsewhere. It was suggested by the application that parking could be provided past Tolponds. This option is flawed as the site is far away and there is no footpath. The area is also in a 60 mph zone, and you really cannot have people walking on this road without a footpath. Of course a footpath could be built, but this is not simple due to the sheer costs of putting in a footpath and this footpath would have to cross land in multiple ownerships.

A really important issue is the loss of the bus stop as this current plan removes the well used bus stop and has not been replaced with any dedicated provision in the plans for a bus stop. There is  somewhat of a ‘waiting area’ but this is not a protective shelter. It would also conflict with possible use as a café as this space would leave people confused, and unsure if they could use it whilst waiting for a bus. This current bus stop is well-used, and therefore, it would have a negative effect on those using public transport if it was removed and not replaced.

This application raises some really serious highways concerns I do raise serious concerns. There is no turning space not only for large vehicles, but those with trailers/and boats. The road on Methleigh bottoms is narrow in this location, and the field of vision looking towards the harbour with a sharp bend is not clear. If large goods vehicles, boat trailers cannot access the yard, then there would be a temptation to back on the harbour head road. If this happens, this would cause congestion in the area and will have a knock-on up Fore Street. The proposed access in and out of the shipyard is also of major concern.

The impact to the boat owners and fishermen has to be taken into serious consideration; this includes access on to and from the slip. There will also be a lack of boat repair and storage facilities if this plan was approved in its current format. Porthleven is a harbour and ‘safe haven’ and it would be totally unacceptable for a harbour not to have these facilities.

I also very much dislike the ‘company blue’

The matter is this application has to be decided on what are the current plan, and not any further amendments which may come forward. As there is no guarantee any of these changes will be made if support is given. Therefore, in light of the concerns raised, Porthleven Town Council felt it could not support this application and voted unanimously to refuse the application.

From the town council’s decision, the application can be decided by Cornwall Council as it stands, or as I am hopeful, updated plans will be submitted for the town council and the public to make further comment on.

Amended plans submitted for the Shipyard application

At the 11th hour, there has been amended plans submitted for the Shipyard application. From what I can see of the new plan, the only thing to change is the ‘lookout’ which has been removed.

This new plan will be the one discussed at Porthleven TC tonight.

Amended plan

Old plan

 

Coronation Park and the Swans

I am doing this blog as I need to clarify a few points to make sure the correct information is in the public domain. This is reference to Coronation Park; security of the swan nests on Flora Day; and both the small and large island for nesting purposes. I need to also qualify, I am the local Cornwall Council which this area resides, but direct day-to-day management of this area is not in my responsibilities.

The following is my email to all those who are running or involved in the ‘Security for nest swans on Flora Day 2017’. My email is as follows:

“I have now asked every connected department about this (as this takes a while to make sure everyone has been asked) and from the emails I have received that on Thursday 9 February CORMAC operatives were instructed to leaf blow some paths in Coronation Park, no further works were performed by the operatives.

As for your litter pick/clean-up, I will repeat that no-one said there cannot be one taking place. However, Community groups are asked to register their litter pick with Clean Cornwall, www.cleancornwall.org, this not only avoids duplication of works but also allows the community groups to borrow equipment or to request a waste collection. When I emailed you, I asked for this to be merely postponed until the permission had been given both by the leaseholder and Cornwall Council. This had not been given, which is why I raised the point with you.

On this occasion the litter pick was not registered with Clean Cornwall. I very much welcome individuals or groups helping to keep our open spaces looking good, but processes must be followed to ensure the safety of those volunteers and the public. For instance, I run Pride in Porthleven (PIP) and before any clean-up/litter pick, I make sure I have permission from the landowner/leasehold prior to the work being carried out.

Furthermore, all parties including myself want to make sure the swans are safe. This was the original request was you wanted to protect them on Flora Day. This security has been arranged for Flora Day.

As for placing bales on the large island, this has to be part of a conversation with the leaseholder who in the past has offered help, and suggested the use of the small island – as the small island cannot be accessed by members of the public. The leaseholder and SKA have also offered to set up a public meeting, with bird experts to look into a dedicated care plan for all the birds. As for the size the lake, the bird population is far too great. At a count this morning, there were 16 swans on the lake.

Previous advice from RSPB, have said this area should only support one breeding pair. The RSPB have suggested feeding is discouraged, but this is hard to do, as many families enjoy doing this. Even by stopping the sale of the food in the area, people will bring their own. I know I did when I had a small child.

We are totally supportive of a sign saying which food stuffs can be given to the birds. This helps educate people on the natural food for the different birds. The birds are overfed and much of the food given to them isn’t eaten. I also like the idea of a floating island for the birds. However, this has to be done in conjunction with the leaseholder of the café, the current owners of the area and the new owners, SKA.

I will reiterate, I am very supportive of protecting the swans and making the whole area habitable for them. As I am for the ducks and other birds.  I also as the local member have to balance the requests of other people who have complained about the state of the island and want to use it. It is about being fair to everyone.

Furthermore, The SKA, have said: we are pleased that there is such great community support for protecting the swans around Flora Day. However we would not wish to see the creation of a habitat which would encourage an increase the swan numbers as this would have a negative effect on the diversity of other species in the Park and affect the wider public enjoyment of the area. Once the Park is transferred to SKA we will, in coordination with the Lakeside Cafe, take advice from wildfowl experts as part of a balanced plan to encourage the diversity of species. We will consult the wider public and define a policy for the management of all wildfowl in the area which will then set the ground rules for interventions such as Flora Day swan protection.”

I am happy for this entire email to be made public. My aim is for everyone to work together, as we all appreciate Coronation Park as a great place for all ages”.

Cornwall Council goes for the Mr Whippy option for the number of Councillors

As part of Cornwall Council’s Devolution deal, there was a requirement for the Council to look at how it is governed. This includes the number of Councillors who serve at the Council. For those who do not know, there are 123 Councillors.  It is easy to say there are too many, but this is often from a viewpoint of not knowing the role. In Cornwall we also have the difficulty of rurality where we have any small settlements. So too big of an area, makes it difficult to cover.

The Boundary Commission – who ultimately will set the number of Councillors – wanted the review to take place in time for the May 2017 elections. This was impossible to do, and the Council successfully argued for the review to take place, but not implemented till the 2021 elections. This is not about turkeys voting for Christmas, but making sure there is fair representation, and electoral boundaries reflect Cornwall’s settlements.

A lot of work has been undertaken with engagement from lots of different areas including town and parish councils, businesses and other public sector bodies. In gathering evidence, it is clear there are some divisions that have a low number of electors – some too many. These are not in-line with the Boundary Commission own rules, and the Commission is right in asking for a review.

Today, at the full meeting of Cornwall Council the debated and voted on its recommendation for the new size of the Council. This number is for 99 Councillors. This overcomes many of the issues raised by the Commission. The Tory’s want a lower number of 85, but this was resoundingly defeated.

A vote was taken (recorded) and it was approved that Cornwall Council would submitted its recommendation for 99 Councillors by 66 in favour, 13 against and one Abstention.

For those who want to read and understand the whole process and documentation by clicking HERE. There is a lot of documentation.

At the end of the day, it will be the Boundary Commission we set the numbers using their own methods and evidence.

 

Coronation Park transferred to South Kerrier Alliance with over £120k worth of funding

Coronation Park is a much-loved and well used facility not only from residents of Helston, but from the surrounding towns and villages too. For me, my ambition has always been about securing the long term future of this area, including much needed investment to bring it back to its former glory; and giving the community more control over how this area is operated. I cannot convey enough how important the park and facilities are to Helston, and the wider community

Sadly, Cornwall Council is not able to fully fund the restoration of the area due to budget pressures and the difficulty of going to other funding sources as most will not give grants to a local authority such as Cornwall Council.

Members of the SKA, Helston Mayor and me!

This is why for the last few years I have been working on securing the future of this area and the much needed investment. To achieve this, it is about bringing people together for a common goal. Therefore, I am very happy to support South Kerrier Alliance’s aims of taking control of Coronation Park as they have a proven record of delivering and running projects.

South Kerrier Alliance (SKA) has agreed terms with Cornwall Council to take over the running of the entire area with a 99 year lease. This includes the lake, car park (not Fairground), skate park and play park. The cafe will still be run by the current leaseholder, but the landlord will now be the SKA. By transferring the running of Coronation Park brings more local control over this area.

Funding has always been key in bringing this site back to its former glory and therefore, I am very pleased to have helped secure over £120k worth of funding from Cornwall Council as part of the transfer. This large amount of money will be used with other matched funding to do the required work on the area. This is not the only pot of funding that has been secured as the Helston Downsland Trust has agreed to contribute a further £55k.

I believe this is a great result for Coronation Park as the future is secure and has a large amount of funding to start the regeneration of the area. It also allows the SKA to go to funders will a large amount of funding than can be matched to other pots.

Thanks should also be given to Cornwall Council and officers in devolution and open spaces teams who understood the wishes of the community and agreed this devolution deal. Thanks to the support from my fellow Cornwall Councillors in the Community Network Area in bring about this transfer. I look forward to working with this new local partnership.

Just how big is Porthleven’s Shipyard application

When it comes to planning drawings it is sometimes hard to see how big a building is when is comes to size and scale and how it impacts on an area using just the standard 2D planning application drawings. In trying to understand just how big the building would be, and how it would sit in the shipyard, today I paced out the building size using the scale plans. In doing this it really did give me an insight on how big this building is not just on the proposed building footprint, but the ridge-height too.

I took the picture below from near the wall on the entrance to the Shipyard to give a scale of length. The two red lines is the width of the building.  In trying to understand the length of the building you just need to compare the three current blue Shipyard buildings as they are roughly the same length as the proposed building.   As for the ridge-height of the proposed building, it is easy to visualize this by looking at the Kota sign and imagining the height of the proposed building to be between that and the ridge-line of Kota.

When you take into then take into consideration all the measurements, you really see the scale of the proposed building. It is huge. For anyone interesting in seeing the scale of the building, I have marked out the length and width of the building with yellow paint at the key points. These measurements are not inch perfect, but as good a I can get.

Width of the proposed Shipyard building.

 

It is important anyone with a view on this application make their feelings known in writing. Porthleven Town Council will be meeting to discuss this application on Thursday 23rd Feb at the town council offices at 7pm. This is a public meetings, and all are welcome.

Porthleven Town Band moves a step closer to having a permanent Bandroom

Porthleven Town Band has wanted to have its own bandroom for many a year. Its current location in the shipyard is not ideal for their needs. The problem has always been where could bandroom go, as the Band owns no land.

Over the last several years – in my Cornwall Councillor – role I have been trying to help solve their problem. There has been a few options for a permanent home, but until now, those options have not amounted to anything.

This got me thinking as I knew the Porthleven Gig Club wanted a more permanent home for its gigs, but funding was always an issue of how to pay for it, and the Cricket Club wanted electric power to their club house. I thought of one option that would solve everyone’s want. That option is to use the Amenity Area. However, there was another option of using part of Moors which was put forward by the Harbour and Dock Company.

For those who do not know, the vast majority of the Moors playing field is owned (held in Trust) by Porthleven Town Council, with a small part owned by the Harbour and Dock Company (from the river to the upright stones for net drying). The Harbour and Dock Company wanted to use its part of the Moors to build a building for the band, however, it would need the town council’s permission to use its part of the land as the building requires a large area.

My problem with using the Moors to build on is this is a well used play area. Whilst the band do need a home, I think it would be wrong to place a building on this area. It also would totally change the feel of the area as the proposed building for the Moors is rather large.

A further problem with the Moors and placing any type of building in this area is it is in a high-risk floodplain with a high water-table. To mitigate against this would require the building being raised high off the ground. This would result in any proposed building looking more like a three-story building. Again, the size and scale of this would have a negative impact on the playing area. There is also no parking. The following picture is the building concept for the Moors.

Concept design of a band-room on the Moors

As I said beforehand the solution to everyone’s problem is to use the land which is commonly known as the Amenity Area along Methleigh Bottom. This sits between the Cricket Club and Methleigh Meadow. I had this area transferred from Cornwall Council to the Town Council  a few years ago a for £1. This site fits the bill on many fronts as it is out of the flood plain, it has a footpath leading to it and has ample parking. It is also in the ownership of the Town Council.

Both options were put to the town council as both require council consent for the land to be used in this way. I am very happy to report the Town Council unanimously granted permission for Porthleven Town Band to take their option for the Amenity Area forward and start the process of planning that will enable the plan to move from a concept to a design that can be submitted to the planning authority. It was taken on board that the new building will have something for the Gig Club.

Concept design of the building for Porthleven Band at the Amenity Area

The Town Council did not support the idea to build on the Moors playing field. Therefore, this does not go further than a concept. Even though another party might want this to happen.

It is a good choice to use the Amenity Area as I believe this is the best option as it will not only benefit the Band who find a permanent home, but also Porthleven Gig Club who gets proper storage for their gigs and will be able to use the facilities in the new building (subject to agreements between the parties). The Cricket Club will also benefit, as the band will bring electric power into the site which means the Cricket Club can connect to it. As previous to this, the costs of putting in electricity was several thousands of pounds.

It is a win, win, win for three community groups.

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