Cornwall Local Plan

23 May

I haven’t posted anything for over a year. This was partly due to pressure of work, partly due to Arthritic pain, but mainly due to the fact that I thought others were expressing similar points of view in a better fashion than I was.

However, I am now back in the saddle and determined to make amends. This past week, it has been my task to present the comments of Cornwall Waste Forum (St. Dennis Branch), to the Government Planning Inspector conducting the Examination of the Cornwall Local Plan. The hearings took place all week, but the one on waste didn’t start until Friday morning.

I do have vivid accounts about the other days given to me both by observers and participants. Regarding the session on the building of 47,500 houses over Cornwall, one person commented that they should have provided perches instead of chairs, because the lawyers representing all the developers and planning agents sat around like Vultures. The people trying to stop this wholesale destruction of Cornwall were just left with a feeling of helpless despair.

On Friday, I knew how they felt. We had been told before that neither the building of the Incinerator, or the collection of various waste streams was considered to be a topic that could be discussed at this examination. This was because it was a planning inquiry into land use. Therefore as the planning application for the Incinerator had already been agreed, even after ten years of battle and a victory in the High Court and a loss in the Court of Appeal, it was off the agenda. In other words, if you are Cornwall Council and you want to hide mucky washing, then get it done before you have to submit your Local Plan and then it can’t be aired in public.

Through the use of quotable statistics and pointing out effects of legislation, I was able to score one or two blows, but none of them were very debilitating. It was interesting to see how much time the Inspector gave to representatives of large multi-national companies such as SITA and Imerys. The key “heads up” that I want to give people reading this post is that Imerys want to gain some profit from offering SITA the possibility of opening a hazardous waste site on their land. This would suit both of them, because it would provide a “hidey hole” to bury the fly ash from the Incinerator, and provide Imerys with a nice profit.

Now I seem to remember that over the years there have been various uproars over plans to build Nuclear Plants, or store Nuclear warheads in Cornwall. Nuclear waste is unpleasant stuff, but at least you can track it using a Geiger counter.
Fly ash exists in dust particles so small that thousands of them would fit on the head of a pin. They contain heavy metals, and persistent organic pollutants and are extremely hazardous. They are know to cause premature birth, infant mortality, cardio vascular diseases in all age groups, but most of all they are highly carcinogenic, being implicated in many forms of cancer, but particularly Liver cancer.

The plan is at the moment to truck the fly ash from the Incinerator to Wingmoor Farm, Bishops Cleeve, in Gloucestershire, a round lorry trip of about 300 miles. While I do not want to dump any more waste on that area, I would say that pictures from there of dumper trucks tipping hazardous waste onto the area and then seeing the dust blow away over houses nearby fills me with horror. Such a dump near the Incinerator would literally be the final nail in the coffin for the people who live nearby. And it is all so pointless when there are much cleaner, sustainable methods of dealing with what we chose to call “waste”

Please join with me in resisting any attempt to create a hazardous waste dump in Cornwall and protest by whatever means possible if the plan is put forward.

Gobble! Gobble!

12 May

I spent quite a bit of my working life mining the rich seams of Social Psychology. When I retired I thought I had left all that academic thought behind me, as I dug my vegetable plot and looked after my bees. Unfortunately I caught a whiff of politics and got hooked.

Now going back to my old skills, I have found it necessary to look into the motivation of UKIP. I am worried by what I see. On the surface, they seem like a lot of Turkeys voting for Christmas, assuming that Turkeys have the intellect to know what they are voting for. If the main raison d’etre of the party is to get Britain out of Europe and they succeed, then they have no further reason to exist. But what if the Turkey turns out to be a Trojan Horse? Then I think we are in really deep trouble.

This supposition is that what the UKIP leadership is really after is to build a platform from which to mount a campaign to become the Government in Westminster with a whole load of other right wing policies so far undisclosed.
Some people I have spoken to recently have a very hazy idea of how government works. It is not their fault, the drive to tick box education that has been rampant over the last thirty years has prevented the need to gain information just for the fun of finding out about things. So just to put everybody onto an even playing field, political parties construct a number of policies that they put to the electorate. A political party may become the Government if it has the greatest number of MPs elected, or it may need to join with another party in coalition to have an overall majority. Either way, the policies of the Government are then debated by Parliament and if carried, they become law.
Now being a “law” is not enough, it must be implemented by an executive With regard to Criminal Law, we are only too aware that this depends upon there being enough Policemen to enforce it, (for instance dropping litter). Secondly, unless we have a Police Force almost as big as the population, there has to be a degree of consent. The British have so far been reluctant to turn to riot or revolution.

So therefore, with regard to UKIP, there has to be some cogent policies. If there is not going to be absolute disaster, these policies need to have some chance of working. They must be backed up by data and academic scrutiny. If anything, the methodology of UKIP is the reverse. Their mantra has been what the bloke down the pub says, for example “All of the UK’s Laws are passed in Europe” – “They are building a Mosque on every street corner” – “The reason that I can’t get a job is because of the Eastern Europeans”.
None of these statements can be challenged because they do not come with any statistics or back ground calculations. I see no evidence that anybody has thought about the few policies that UKIP claim to have, or that the kind of people who are putting forward these ideas are capable of formulating any.
The very frightening thing about this is that the few “Celebrities” that UKIP have up front, are the kind of people who are “for rent”, they could put on an equally good rant standing for any other party. They are only interested in power.

So what if the worst comes to the worst and they achieve a majority in the House of Commons? This is where I see the disaster. In order for a Government to put its policies into law, it needs a big majority. Even if it gets this, it needs an executive – Civil Servants, Police, Boarder Agencies, HMRC, etc, to make it work. But hang on! Aren’t these exactly the same kinds of people that UKIP have been deriding in Europe because they are paid “massive salaries” and “sit around doing nothing”. I don’t exactly see Civil Servants and their Unions putting up with a tongue lashing from Farage and his mates.

The other problem area is that in order to get elected to Government a political party only needs about 20% of the electorate to vote for it. This is because about 40% of the electorate do not bother to vote and the other 40% are split between the other parties. Therefore the non-voters are a very significant dormant force. If something went seriously wrong, and social cohesion broke down then UKIP could not rely upon most of the population who voted for other parties, and a considerable number of the non-voters might wake up to the mistake they had made. The result would be anarchy, or a state of disorder resulting from failure of Government, non-recognition of authority and a break down in law and order.

Here again, the sound of Turkeys is on the breeze. What is the point in voting for a party that will bring about the collapse in the status quo, if it is within the structure of the status quo that you seek power?

It is a good job that I am a vegetarian, and not just at Christmas.

Carrots unstunned

8 May

Something really bad is happening. People from outside Cornwall,(they may be English), have infiltrated our culture. They are forcing us to eat unnatural products in our Pasties. Some of them have actually managed to get jobs making Pasties, or else they own Bakery shops. They are replacing swede with carrot, and some of them have been heard saying prayers (in English) while they do it. Somebody who works in such a shop has told me off the record, that instead of the tops of the carrots being twisted off, they are cut off with a sharp knife. This kind of barbaric practice has got to stop. If they are going to use carrots at least stun them first.

Where are our political leaders when we need them, we are being overrun but outsiders who have no respect for the culinary culture of Cornwall. Nobody from any of the Supermarkets has been available for comment, because they are busy in meetings trying to find a method of depicting the methods of treating veg on the labels.

Pasties have been eaten in Cornwall for thousands of years without problem, but now our Cornish culture is being diluted. We are being forced to change to suit the incomers. When I go into England they have rules about there food that nobody is allowed to break. At the Motorway Services, the chef performs the ceremony of turning the plate upside down to show that the gravy is strong enough to stick the food to the plate. Also you are only allowed to drink alcohol if you first perform the ritual of sticking fruit and paper umbrellas in it and setting it alight. The young priestesses who officiate then fall on the floor and roll about.

If you happen to make a comment about the gravy or accidentally step on a priestess when trying to find a pint of real ale, a Cornish man is likely to have his passport taken away and he could end up in a filthy prison.

Enough is enough, pasties with swede were good enough for our parents, they have fed Cornish armies for a thousand years, they were smuggled into Twickenham on several occasions under the noses of the English Secret Police, so we must stand firm. No imported foreign muck for us.

Is this a dagger that I see before me????

24 Apr

Well it either is or it in’t, Pard.

So somebody up in London (a politician no less) has recognised Cornwall as being a Celtic Nation. Well whoopee! Could there be an election coming up?

I am glad that at last somebody has recognised who we are, but I agree 100% with Loveday Jenkin when she said on the posh BBC Radio 4 this morning
“We’ve always known who we are, it’s just that until today, you lot didn’t”

At least now there seems to be less in the way of a Cornish Assembly.

Giss on!

Time Lines

23 Apr

Michael Gove seems to think that History is about giving a child a sense of time passing, and therefore wishes the curriculum to be concerned with time lines. Consequently, I don’t think we are going to get very much local history taught in Cornish Schools, even though this obviously has its own time line running through it.

Looking back into the past gives everybody a chance to remember milestones. These are quite often related to family events and personal moments. Often these memories are fleshed out by recalling where we were at the time, and all the other ambient details, and such flashbacks seem to either bring the past much nearer, or make it fade a long way into the distance.

It has only just struck me that five years ago this week, I was standing at a lectern in the Council Chamber at what was then County Hall. I was having my three minutes worth of rant as to why the council should not allow the building of a rubbish incinerator at St. Dennis. I was one of several speakers, and felt very nervous, three minutes is no time at all to put over a complex argument, but I do remember that we had a sort of plan between the objectors that we would not cover the same ground. I can remember going to sit at the back of the Chamber and waiting for the Planning Committee to cast their votes. When the result came, it was 22 in favour of refusal and one abstention. We were stunned and some of the speakers burst into tears, but the harder ones reminded us that there would be an appeal.

The appeal came after Cornwall County Council had morphed into Cornwall Council. It was apparent from the start that the new Tory administration was firmly behind the Incinerator, even though the planning department had no alternative but to oppose it. The consequent Public Inquiry started just under a year later and lasted for six months. Day by day we watched the two parts of Cornwall Council battling it out between them, (at our expense), with the community groups popping up from time to time to deliver well aimed thrusts.

By the time The Inspector had passed his decision to Eric Pickles for ratification, Mr. Justice Collins had overturned it, and Lords Carnwarth, Moore-Bick and Lady Arden had reinstated it, yet another two years had passed. There was still a possibility to halt the process and ditch the contract, as the developer and contractor, SITA, claimed that the Incinerator would now be considerably more expensive, (growing from £117m to £145m), but instead of a proper review, Cornwall Council decided to give SITA a low interest £25m loan (which they claimed had nothing to do with the increase in price). Then, one year ago, just before the Councillors prepared themselves for elections, the final revised contract was signed.

During the whole of this sorry four year saga, the Tories had been in control with a baggage trailer of Independents bobbing along behind in coalition. Most of the time Alec Robertson was the Leader and in retrospect made one terrible mess of everything. Even at the time, it was obvious that he knew very little about waste technology, (and probably cared even less). Then almost one year ago exactly, the electorate showed that they had had enough of the Tories and dumped them into third place. The new Council was finally bashed into some kind of shape consisting of the Independents, (who I suspect are all really closet Tories with one or two exceptions), and a coalition of Lib-Dems who are chums of the Tories in Westminster and unable to bring about the kind of seismic shift that would shine any light into the murky depths the Cornish political scene.

So, one year after the election, what has changed at Lys Kernow? I think the answer must be “Not a lot”, and any change there has been is for the worse, (if that were possible). Why do the public put up with the same old nonsense year after year without finding some radical solution? It isn’t really much good looking into the past if you don’t learn by your mistakes.

Unitary Authority – the first five years of duplicity

15 Apr

Phew! I’m back in the saddle. It has taken me a few months to get back onto my soapbox. The hiatus was largely caused by storm damage to my house and the disruption of phone and Internet caused by various trees and wind damage in the small Cornish lane where I live. I was off line and phone for most of the first two months of the year. It is amazing how I came to rely on the routine based round modern communication; it has taken me almost another two months to get back on top of all the work that built up.

Well, now back, I am aroused by the anti-democratic goings on at Cornwall Council – yet again. The collective Council slogan is that they are a “transparent” Authority. It always seemed to me that the jewel in the crown of open and transparent democracy was the built in ability for members of the public to make their way to Truro and sit at the back of any Committee and if they wished, to submit a question for answer. The same was also true of the full Council meetings. Even this system was far from perfect, in as much as the questions had to be in three days in advance, consist of less than fifty words, and no member of the public was allowed more than two questions per year.

However flawed we thought the system was under the Conservatives lead by Rottweiler Robertson, it is now proving a great deal worse under the Lib-Dem Independent hotch potch . The Committees, now called PACs (Portfolio Advisory Committees), meet less frequently, usually every two months, and it has become the norm for the members of the PACs to conduct business through informal meetings. These informal meetings are held in private, with the public excluded, and the minutes are not circulated. While no formal motions or decisions can be discussed at these meetings, they form an ideal platform for the non-elected Council Officers to exert their control over the Members and disseminate the latest stitched up figures. This prevents the more astute members of the public from questioning data supplied in reports and pointing out the discrepancies.

A classic case in point is the recycling regime, subject to a report to an informal PAC meeting. I have no idea what was said, but I have heard a rumour that it concerned the withdrawal of a long awaited decision to start collecting mixed plastic for recycling. Those of you keen on saving the planet will know how important it is to remove all the other plastic, in addition to bottles, from black bag waste. We have been told that the new collection would take place for about the last two to three years. We were even told that, due to the brilliant way the collection contract had been engineered by the super officer staff at the Council, there would be no additional cost as this had been factored into the contract. Rumour has it that the collection has now been ditched – due to additional cost!

While on the subject of recycling and duplicity, I think we should celebrate the glorious fist five years of the Unitary Authority as blazoned across the pages of the West Briton. I am currently working my way through a consultation document for The House of Commons Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with regard to waste policy. One of the questions for comment was: “What chance is there that the UK will meet the target of 50% recycling by 2020?” I checked on the official DEFRA web-site and the trade league table drawn up by letsrecycle.com to see how Cornwall had been doing over the past five years. The figures published are broken down into sections, and the one for comparison to the “50% by 2020” figure is called Total Recycling. The figures for Cornwall are: 2009 – 36.23% 2010 – 36.87% 2011 – 36.00% 2012 – 33.80% 2013 – 33.88%.

The really shocking feature of these figures is that this represents total recycling, and includes garden waste and recycling taken to HWRCs. The actual figure for separated recycling left out by households in 2013 is only 11% ! However, back at Lys Kernow, the officers have been supplying their own figures to the members for recycling and are regularly giving figures in the low forties, in other words ten percent above the true figure. When challenged on this, (by me in a public question), the answer was given that the figure would be checked and I would be informed of the reason why there was a difference. The answer when given, (and not circulated to the members who were given the original figure), was that there were differences in the method by which DEFRA and the Council calculated their figures. ”Errr. One for you – two for me?” As DEFRA are responsible for the mandatory 50% target, I would suggest that the DEFRA figures are the correct ones.

In the meantime they are sinking more rapidly into the mire as they play with our Council Tax, and run out of excuses. They used to blame everything on junior members of staff, but now they have sacked them all. I understand that there is a recorded message on the switchboard “If you wish to speak to the caretaker’s dog, press one, if you wish to speak to anybody else, abandon hope”

Celebrate the difference

24 Jan

The New Year has got off to an inauspicious start as far as I am concerned. The weather has been awful and as a direct result I have had a fortnight of imposed silence due to phone and Broadband being cut by two large trees coming down. In addition, the storms have damaged my chimneystack and water is getting in though the crack and caused damage to interior walls and ceilings. Never mind, we must get on with it!

This Saturday I am going to be out on Lemon Quay in Truro helping to put the case for a Cornish Assembly, and it is one aspect of this that I wish to comment on further. Why can’t we be happy to be the same as everybody else? Why do we have to be different to the rest of England? The answers to this are legion, so I will pick a couple at random.

During my formative years, (I’m still in them I think!), I needed some kind of spiritual guidance, some light at the end of the tunnel. I tried lots of religions, faiths, and belief systems, many of which I found to be patronising and hypocritical. Then from a sporting and fitness perspective I took up Judo. This caused me to study all things Japanese and to speak to a lot of Japanese people. As I progressed I wanted to explore the thinking of the sages, so I asked dumb questions like, “I don’t like losing, how can I learn to be a winner”
One of my elderly Japanese instructors explained about Yin and Yang.
“If you didn’t lose, you wouldn’t know what winning is”
Secondly, I quite like art despite being a scientist by training. When you look at great paintings or listen to wonderful pieces of music, it is not the sameness that makes a thing beautiful; it is the differences in texture and tone that creates a masterpiece. Therefore – Viva la difference!

If we are going to maintain the “difference” of Cornwall, it is important that these “textures and tones” don’t become faded and have their corners chipped off. Because I spent part of my career as a teacher and tutor, I am very keen on education. Education is a very important part of cultural identity, and therefore I think it is an appalling fact that Cornish history is not taught to Cornish children. I sometimes do a test and ask young people in the street who invented the steam engine. A lot of them think you mean a steam train and say Stevenson and his Rocket, the more astute ones say Watt. The answer to both these variations on the question is Richard Trevithick. There may be some of you who are inclined to believe that Newcomen invented the steam engine, but his engine was an atmospheric engine using vacuum created by condensing steam to work the piston, Trevithick’s was the first engine to use steam pressure direct as the motive power.

Therefore you can guess I was most pleased when my thirteen year old Granddaughter told me that in the study of the Industrial Revolution during history lessons at school, she had been taught about Richard Trevithick’s various engines, and the fact that one of Watt’s agents Murdoch, was the first to use coal gas for lighting in Redruth. She had also been told in Chemistry lessons about the prodigy Davy, who used an electric current to isolate elemental Sodium, and that he too came from Cornwall. The revelation is that she goes to school near Philadelphia in Pennsylvania USA!

I think Michael Gove should go to the USA to complete his education.

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