As a planning nerd, I welcome the new Government starting early with its proposals for (what they call) “planning reform”.     But what has been announced so far looks to have little impact on Cornwall building and particularly not in the St Austell & Newquay constituency.     We do not have ‘greenbelt’ land and we are still monitored against the Local Plan housing targets (even though the Tory government allowed elsewhere to drop them).

For 2023/4, in the Newquay area there were a record number of completions (279) and the town has already achieved 73% of the massive target of 4,400 units of accommodation by 2030 - flats count!     Current estimates have Newquay overachieving the 2030 target by over 40% at 6,200 plus.    

Development in St Austell with a target of 2,900 units is slower but they are estimated to  comfortably meet the target with years to spare.    As is Cornwall as a whole.

But nothing announced yet solves the problems of the lack of infrastructure (Doctors, Dentists, etc) to support this huge growth in population.   It’s true that our local GPs have done some ground-breaking work in reorganising themselves to do more with less but with more houses being built and the promised health centres that are part of new developments not coming on stream, we all often experience long delays in getting GPs appointments and long waits at local pharmacies. And as for getting an NHS dentist, well, you can forget about it.

And neither does the announcements resolve the question is whether what is being developed here really what our local population and what our young people need?    Particularly in Newquay where luxury flats, with or without those internal greenhouses at Narrowcliff, count towards development numbers but may more be aimed at the profitable holiday market rather than providing much needed homes.  

The clear difference between the Labour and Lib Dem manifestos was that we believed we needed 150,000 social or council homes should be built a year, a lot more affordable than “Affordable”.

The immediate effect may be from the proposed revision of the NPPF – again. This document is the building block for all lower-level policies and the proposed revision may well put back the scheduling of the new Cornwall Local Plan and consequently any revision of Neighbourhood Plans or other local development documents, putting off the problems or any resolution of them for the foreseeable future.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) reported in mid May that 11 million people in the UK are battling to keep up with bills and credit repayments; that's a 40% increase on a year ago.  5.6 million people have missed loan or bill payments over the same period.

Cornwall has suffered disproportionately according to Liberal Democrat surveys in the St Austell and Newquay Constituency.

Liberal Democrat PPC (Proposed Parliamentary Candidate) Joanna Kenny reviewed the surveys the local Lib Dem team undertook across the Constituency over the last year.

Joanna said “60% of those surveyed had suffered over £20 increase in weekly food costs and 80% had cut back on food purchases.  We all know how poor public transport is in Cornwall and how we have to rely on our cars to get about.   Only 24% of those surveyed use the bus and 69% use no public transport.     60% of respondents to the survey had experienced increases in the cost of running their car by over £20 per month.  One respondent had to spend over £250 a month more on essential car journeys.  On energy prices, 92% had been adversely affected with 25% of respondents seeing over £100 increase in their energy costs per month”.

Joanna added “The cumulative cost increases are hitting everyone hard.  Even when inflation falls from its present 10% level (inflation for food is running at almost double this figure), costs will still be rising and debts will still need to be repaid.”

Another key issue in Cornwall is access to affordable housing for locals.

When asked, 90% of respondents said second homes, particularly those taken out of the rental market to be an Air BnB business, represented a negative impact on housing availability with 42% having been directly affected.  85% want more social and affordable housing.   81% believe Cornwall Council should be taking more action.  70% have experienced difficulty in securing accommodation.  In some areas of the Constituency, the unanimous view was that there was no need for more open market housing.

Joanna said “Housing and Cost of Living were two of the top issues raised by residents at the recent Community event in Newquay.   As the PPC, I am starting a new series of consultations, it will be vital to see whether the community views have improved or deteriorated over the last few months.”

Just track what Liberal Democrat Lake District MP, Tim Farron says – voting Lib Dem in Cornwall will increase the pressure for reform in Westminster. 

Lib Dem survey results in St Austell & Newquay

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