At the Annual Parish Meeting on 6 May, the Chairman of St Erth Parish Council, Councillor Ted Taylor, presented the Annual Report which reflected on the key challenges and successes over the previous twelve months and looked forward to the Council’s priorities for the year ahead.
Councillor Taylor reported:
“Although we’ve faced some big challenges during the year, I’m very pleased to report that we’ve made real progress in several areas.
Firstly, improving community facilities
As well as improving the overall standard of our play facilities, the Churchyard and the Cemeteries, there have been two notable successes:
The Youth Shelter and Community Picnic Area
Last year, I reported that we were waiting for confirmation of a £10,000 grant from the Big Lottery, which we received soon afterwards. When added to an earlier grant of £5,000 from the Hayle Area Partnership, they enabled us to undertake the Youth Shelter project.
We have now turned this piece of under-used and over-grown land into a really smart and much needed facility which we can all be proud of.
The Shelter was chosen by our young people, following a series of consultation events – so we know it’s what they want – which is the best possible start.
New fencing makes the area safe; a new path makes the area accessible; and one of the picnic benches is fully inclusive, so that everyone can get to and use this regenerated space.
We’ve also had a timber litter bin container made for us by a local business, which is not only in-keeping with its surroundings but helps to support the local economy.
Although this project has been delayed by the awful winter weather, we will soon be adding the finishing touches and then arranging a formal opening during the summer holidays.
This project was a collaborative effort, involving not only the Parish Council but Cornwall Council, St Erth Residents Association, the Police, the Environment Agency and Penwith Community Development Trust.
On behalf of the Council, I’d like to thank them and Cherry Trees Garden Services, who donated their labour costs for clearing the site to get us started.
I’d also like to thank Derek and Kathy Tilby and Claire Casey of the Residents Association, who applied numerous coats of timber treatment to the Shelter, which will help to protect and preserve it for years to come.
Secondly, the re-opening of the Toilets
As everyone knows, Cornwall Council closed these toilets last year but following public consultation, we decided to budget for the cost of having them re-opened this year.
Over the coming months, we will carefully consider the detailed arrangements for having the toilets refurbished to a modern standard – and then transferred to us so that we can manage them in future.
Our current priorities:
The production of a Neighbourhood Plan for St Erth remains the Parish Council’s priority over the next 18 months or so.
We got off to a flying start last year but unfortunately, the momentum was disrupted by the outcome of the local elections, which left the Council with several vacancies until the end of the summer and then having to divert our attention onto four major planning applications.
During this time, however, our application for additional grant funding was successful which enabled us to re-start Neighbourhood Planning. In March, we held a two-day workshop, during which we:
• looked at Neighbourhood Planning in the context of the Cornwall Local Plan;
• reviewed the work we had already undertaken;
• reviewed and updated the Project Plan, including community engagement proposals;
• identified and subsequently adopted draft Neighbourhood Plan objectives, which focus on land use and development issues;
• met with Cornwall Council to seek advice and to have some important questions answered:
• considered ways to test the Neighbourhood Plan draft objectives;
• judged how those draft objectives aligned with the Cornwall Local Plan;
• looked at ways to consult residents and local interests about the draft objectives; and
• considered the evidence base for the draft objectives and ways to conduct a residents’ survey.
We have also started work on expanding the capability of our website to publicise Neighbourhood Planning and to help us consult and engage with the community more effectively.
Dealing with significant planning matters
Since the summer of last year, we have been very actively involved with four major planning applications.
Two applications related to housing developments at Chenhalls Road and at Church Street, one application related to a footbridge at the Railway Station and the other application related to a Solar Farm at Mably.
On behalf of our community, we objected to all four applications and so far, Cornwall Council has:
• refused consent to remove the existing footbridge and replace it with a ramp structure – and we are now involved in the discussions with Cornwall Council and Network Rail about alternative options;
• refused permission for Mably Solar Farm – and we are now helping to fight the appeal;
• refused permission for new housing at Chenhalls Road – and we are waiting to hear whether there will be an appeal; and
• regrettably, I can also confirm that this afternoon, Cornwall Council’s West Area Planning Committee decided to approve permission for housing development at Church Street.
While I believe this is the wrong decision, I am absolutely certain that the Parish Council couldn’t have done any more to fight this application and we will now be pursuing our request for a community contribution from the developer.
I may have given the impression that St Erth Parish Council says ‘no’ to all planning applications – but this isn’t true. Put in context, the Parish Council considered 37 applications last year and either supported or negotiated improvements to 30 of them.
Still on the subject of planning, our Clerk, Peter, is now in contact with the land owners of the two sites in the Parish which, as far back as January, 2010, this Council stated it preferred for affordable housing – and they have both confirmed their willingness to have meaningful discussions with us.
I have also been contacted by Leedstown Football Club, who is looking for a new pitch – so, as part of our discussions with landowners about housing, we will also be exploring whether they have land available for a football pitch as well.
Who knows, we may even end up with a St Erth FC!
So, taking a positive and pro-active approach towards the challenge of development is the right thing to do because ‘no change’ is not a realistic option for the future – and there may be real community benefits which can come as a result.
Looking ahead to the coming year:
Apart from Neighbourhood Planning, we will be starting the process to renovate the Vestry Rooms
Due to prudent financial management over the past three years, the Parish Council now has £17,000 towards the costs of renovating the Vestry Rooms – the plan being to turn it into a modern, efficient and welcoming community resource.
In the coming weeks, a full structural survey will be undertaken and the outcome of this will be considered alongside a report about the potential uses of the building. The Council will also receive guidance on the planning process and on the opportunities to raise funds, including grants, to pay for the renovation works.
This will be a major project for us but one which is both necessary and overdue.
• it has been a very busy and challenging year for the Council;
• and while we already have a full work-load for the year ahead, we
• look forward to taking every opportunity to make St Erth an even better place for our residents.
That is the end of my report – thank you.”