The curious unwillingness of Konsel Kernow (also known as Cornwall Council) to affirm the legality of its own activities is truly bizarre. You might have thought that a publicly-funded body with a turn-over of millions and a large staff of lawyers, handling a multi-million-pound planning application to plant ostentatious and luxurious housing in a protected wildlife corridor, would be able to put its hand up – perhaps somewhere near its heart – and proudly state that their activities were at least legal!
But this is Cornwall, and apparently Cornwall Council doesn’t feel the need to act within the law; or that’s the strong impression that they have created with their evasive and unresponsive approach to the people of Cornwall.
Is Kernow’s green and pleasant land merely a ‘developer’s paradise’, to be treenuded, tamed, comodified, parceled up and sold off to the highest bidder? Is the character and beauty of our land an object to be priced and turned into a profit-margin? No, emphatically not; which is why we have things like Local Plans, the Aarhus Convention, and volumes of environmental protection regulations – without them we would soon be living in a concrete jungle. The people whom we entrust to conduct our planning, our environmental business for us carry a grave responsibility, though one that is not always recognized – they decide what kind of land our children will inherit, how green it will be, how pleasant.
The Treloyhan case deserves much deeper scrutiny. Wheal Margery was a large, deep and ancient mine on the cliffs of Carbis Bay. When it closed in the 19th century, some shafts were capped and spoil-heaps shaped into what would become a beautiful formal garden and area of woodland, surrounding a mansion. In the 20th century, the house was acquired by a Christian-capitalist cartel who used it for a holiday-business investment. The ‘Christian Guild’ decided in the early years of the 21st century that they could only survive and continue making profits if they sold a large chunk of their woodlands to ‘property developers’ for around £4,500,000. Thereby providing themselves with one or two extra loaves and fishes. The plot was hatched and the ‘object’ put up for planning permission.
Enter Cornwall Council.
As plans were announced, there was a public outcry and a campaign group was formed and went into action. After a year and a half of letters flying back and forth, street demonstrations and much work and emotion, a date was set for the planning meeting.
Those who attended the meeting can testify to a catalogue of irregularities. The area was described cynically as ‘brown-field’ when its true designation is ‘green-field’. The environmental surveys were, in short, a pack of lies, with wildly inaccurate projections of the number of trees to be felled. There was no archaeological survey, despite a formal request from the campaign group. As someone who has already lost one house due to subsistence and as anyone from Cornwall can tell you – you do not build on the site of a major mine without meticulous surveying of the land. The council took the opposing view and granted permission without a survey. There are three issues here. As mining experts have pointed out, preparing the ground for these large dwellings and associated roads, would involve removing many tons of atal or mine spoilings. This waste material will contain pitchblend and radon – a nice radioactive cocktail for someone to deal with. Subsidence (the mine is 900 feet deep) will likely be problematic, as early mines like Wheal Margery were not always surveyed with the thoroughness of the modern age and there could be any number of unrecorded holes in the ground. From a cultural point of view, Wheal Margery is part of a World Heritage Site, and this supports the argument for its preservation.
From the point of view of nature, the proposed ‘development’ would be nothing short of disastrous.
Treloyhan woods were set aside as a ‘wildlife corridor’, whereby badgers and other wild animals can connect with the larger wild areas nearby. Take away this corridor and you are left with an isolated island of nature, surrounded by tarmac and concrete, engulfed by man’s vulgar kingdom of selfishness and ugliness. The council’s paid ‘environmental experts’ did not even bother to conduct a survey of the endangered species at the site! What are they paid for? The Local Policies and the St.Ives Neighbourhood Plan were treated with contempt and blatantly ignored. Rules that are not enforced do not really rule, do they? These regulations are agreed by the ‘democracy’ and officials are appointed and paid to uphold them, to protect our land from rapacious exploitation. Our planners were presented with a case that, in short, stunk. They passed it. Their approval was based on false information. They appeared to know that it was false. They will not even state to the best of their knowledge that it was legal! When challenged, not a single person at Cornwall Councill was willing to affirm the legality of procedure under oath to tell the truth.
Meanwhile a group of concerned citizens is working extremely hard – and, or course, unpaid – to desperately try to raise £30,000, the cost of a Judicial Review, or an appeal to be heard in the High Court of the land. Sadly, it is looking unlikely that the money for Justice will be raised in time. Despite the high-sounding clauses of old Magna Carta, Justice IS for sale in Britain circa 2015 – the property development lobby can certainly afford some, but can the people?
So I ask you again, Roger, John, Ben, are you willing to raise your right hands and say that your treatment of the planning application that will destroy some Cornish woodlands is all legal, proper and correct? Or are you going to hide away from the electorate and hope we just go away?
To Contribute to the Fund for Justice
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Facebook page for Save Treloyhan campaign:
The 'Christian Guild', sellers of the land:
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Feel free to take responsibility for this yourself, approach whichever ombudsmen, regulatory bodies, press outlets, media networks, and channels of communication you consider effective. Tell your friends about this and spread the news via your social media. It's up to you.
To see the correspondance with Roger Harding, John Pollard and Ben Curnow, follow this link:
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