getting things done for people

House numbers row eclipses real problems with Core Strategy

The discussion about how to plan future Cornwall, and what to plan for, is hotting up. The differences of view about how many houses should be planned for in the Cornwall Local Plan (formerly The Core Strategy) have eclipsed the profound contradictions and challenges which face Cornwall.

There are two key factors of change which planners seem unable to practically embrace (although happy to pay lip-service to!) – they are climate change and new technology. Each is linked inexorably to the other because the challenges of climate change are likely to stimulate technological innovation just as availability of technology is likely to provide many of the ways and means by which we, humans, apparently the cause of most of the problem, will be able to change our behaviours – consumption, pollution, balancing nature and the city.

Changes are already occurring. Why does the Core Strategy emphasise high-specification design values, including larger gardens for dwellings? Because we need to reduce our impact, be more efficient in consuming resources, be self-sufficient and produce more of what we need to live. But the Core Strategy does not relate the specifications to the challenges, and it fails to distinguish between behaviours which are ‘treatments of the symptoms’ with the causes of the problem, which need to be addressed.

The purpose of the examination by an Inspector of the Core Strategy is to conclude whether or not the Strategy is ‘sound’. Planners (and the lawyers which, like scavenging rooks, pursue the plough!) love subjective, imprecise objectives like ‘sound’ or ‘normally’. Planning has  become a pseudo-science, and relies ultimately on subjective judgements, but it seems most of the time as if arguments that place values or needs above profit lose the day. A ‘Core Strategy’ should take as its fundamental objective, I believe, to set right such cynicism and to set out that it provides a framework for decision-making that furthers the overall common good.

If you follow this link it will take you to a couple of clips on the Save Truro site which are extracts from the meeting of Cornwall Council’s Cabinet when it agreed to submit a finalised text for the Core Strategy to the Secretary of State.

One of the clips focuses on the words of Dick Cole, who is Chairman of the Council’s Strategic Planning Advisory Panel. It recently vote to reduce the number of houses from 48,000 to 38,000 – its recommendation has been ignored by the Cabinet with little regard to the background work which has been undertaken to reach that challenging view.