Cornwall Council’s Local Plan reduces protection for AONBs and Heritage Assets

Cornwall Protect have just completed their latest response to Cornwall Council’s Local Plan

CP Response Local Plan 2014

What is a Local Plan I hear you say? Well its a document which identifies the priorities that will shape development in Cornwall and  sets out the policies which will guide planning decisions. What’s a Local Plan I hear you say again? Well its a document each local authority has to write saying “why and what” it will be building to meet the Government’s priorities of affordable homes, renewable energy , waste management and infrastructure while also safeguarding the environment. The last bit is the tricky bit!!

The Local Plan is “marked” by the Planning Inspectorate who will tell Cornwall Council if they have got the right answers. What’s local about that you ask?  Good question and Cornwall protect would tend to agree. But it is an important document. Local politicians will tell you it is a blueprint for a vibrant future for Cornwall, and we all want that. But it is also a two edged sword which developers will use for their own commercial gain, exploiting the presumption in favour of development that is central to government policy and destroying what is special about Cornwall.  Often against the wishes of local communities.

Cornwall Protect has produced a response to the latest Draft of the Local Plan because there is one area of the Local Plan that is local. The continuing plan to cover Cornwall in turbines and solar panels. No other Local Authority has allowed so many renewable energy developments. Specifically we are concerned that Policy 15, Renewable and Low Carbon Energy, waters down protection for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, other designated landscapes, Areas of Great Landscape Value and the Mining Landscape World Heritage Sites and Heritage Assets. The wording of this section of the Local Plan is at pains to place few restrictions on the spread of wind turbines and solar panels across the County, with only AONBs and the Heritage Coast getting special mention. Any protection for the “setting” of the AONBs, the surrounding areas where development would impact on what is valued about the AONB has been effectively removed. The Mining Landscape World Heritage Sites “of outstanding universal value” get little mention. Essentially in the land between the Heritage Coast and the AONBs turbines and solar panels are welcomed, irrespective of what local communities feel, and with little attention given to adverse environmental impacts.

When Cornwall Council has approved more than double its 2020 Target for renewable energy, why do they continue on this path? Why continue to change the character of Cornwall’s Landscape when the national agenda has been satisfied. Because what underpins the Local Plan is the Green Cornwall initiative, aimed at making Cornwall a ‘green peninsula’. Whatever that is? No clear evidence has been presented to quantify exactly what is being achieved in terms of fighting climate change by making Cornwall a Turbine and Solar theme park. The usual claims made, based on a one for one displacement of fossil fuel by renewables, ignores the reality of the National Grid and the fact that electricity in Cornwall is ‘green’ coming from nuclear sources. Also ignored are the fossil fuel power stations being built in Plymouth to balance renewables for the National Grid. All we see is commercial gain for the few from feed in tariffs paid for by the many in energy bills. Most worrying is that the premier status given to renewable energy priorities in the Local PLan effectively downgrades other key priorities which are key to Cornwall’s future sustainability because of the Tourist Industry, that is the Natural Environment and Historic Environment. The Local Plan is unbalanced and will not deliver the future Cornwall deserves.

Cornwall Protect feel this is wrong. The Local Plan may meet Government expectations and allow Cornwall Council to play God with Cornwall’s Heritage but it will not safeguard the special environment of Cornwall.

If you agree tell your Cornwall Councillor and MP.