Let’s keep local democracy working through this crisis
Important planning decisions such as those on the Langarth development can’t just be waved through without public input or scrutiny, say Cornwall Greens.
Cornwall Green Party would like to commend Cornwall Council on its handling of the Covid-19 crisis. Weekly updates from the Council leader and Chief Executive via an online meeting for the media and regular emails to all parish and town councils from Council leader, Julian German are keeping the public informed about what they can do to protect our communities.
However, Cornwall Council retains responsibility to the public to be as open and accountable for all its actions during this difficult period, and should be limiting the use of any emergency powers. Planning decisions are now delegated to officers, with an ad-hoc arrangement for councillor input but without any public input or scrutiny. All planning meetings have been put on hold and the full Council meeting this month has been cancelled.
Cornwall Green Party thinks Cornwall Council could do better, and is urging it to begin holding virtual meetings via online facilities such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom as soon as possible. New laws designed to help councils continue making decisions democratically came into force at the weekend, and despite nearly 90% of council employees still working, nothing has yet been put into e
ffect. Is Cornwall Council deliberately dragging its feet to make the most of this crisis to get ‘things’ done that may be slightly controversial?
Last week, for instance, as most people were focused on news of the crisis, Cornwall Council completed the purchase of land at Langarth to kick-start the building of Truro New Town.
Karen La Borde, Cornwall Green Party’s Joint Coordinator, commented: “It’s probably not the wisest of decisions to finalise a land deal, costing Cornish residents £36 million, when the government is advising that all property and land conveyancing should suspended until the crisis is passed. Many experts are predicting land and property prices will tumble over the next year or two as the economy is set to falter. What was the rush? A better deal could well have been on the table after the crisis.”
Cornwall Green Party has already raised concerns about the decision-making and democratic process surrounding the development at Langarth, but Cornwall Council has effectively silenced both Councillors who represent the communities that it affects.
Councillors John Dyer and Dulcie Tudor are barred from speaking on Langarth at any council meetings as both are deemed to have a personal interest in the development – Councillor Tudor because she chairs the Langarth Stakeholder Panel and Councillor Dyer because he owns property in the area. Residents of Threemilestone, Gloweth, Shortlanesend and Langarth have had their voices silenced while Cornwall Council hastily carries on progressing the development behind closed doors.
“During the Covid-19 crisis, many councillors have refocused their efforts on volunteering to help their communities, since all Council meetings are cancelled,” said Karen La Borde. “But as elected representatives, they have a responsibility to be involved in the democratic decision-making process. We’re calling on Cornwall Council to act in the best interests of all residents and either continue with council meetings remotely or postpone all non-urgent decisions until the after the crisis.”