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.


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