Mevagissey Parish Council Chairman’s Report 2014

Mevagissey Parish Council Annual General Meeting – 8th May 2014 

Chairman’s Report

Review of the Year

This is the end of the first term of the new council that commenced with 6 vacant seats after the election and our clerk John Olford awaiting a replacement. Filling council vacancies is proving difficult with councillors coming and going with at present still one vacancy to be filled. Fortunately the position of clerk was filled more satisfactorily after Phil Howson was appointed, taking up the post in August and while still in the process of finding his feet he appears to be a worthy successor to John Olford. John finally stood down at the end of August after over 15 years service and a final informal goodbye was held to mark the occasion and wish him well for the future.

Our new county councillor Michael Bunney attended our first meeting in May and has subsequently been involved in many issues relating to the village, he is proving to be a good link between Parish and County and a good relationship has been built up over the year.

As far as Cornwall Council is concerned the jury is still out, following a good start at the beginning of the unitary authority things went better than expected, however, with the onset of austerity measures the original fears do seem to be coming home to roost with officers and services becoming more remote and localism still some way off. The so called “Local Plan” being anything but local needs adopting as quickly as possible after passing inspection, however it will still do little to protect rural communities such as ourselves. In order to provide some guidance and protection the Parish Neighbourhood Plan, under the chairmanship of Garth Shepard has now been registered with C.C. and currently a survey of the Parish is being conducted by an independent party to help the sub-committee plan the next move and go on to public participation. However it all takes time and careful consideration if it is to obtain the 50% support of the referendum that eventually has to be held.

The future of the public toilets in the village is still unresolved although through the efforts of Matt Facey and Alex Williams, who obtained donations from village businesses, together with a contribution from the P.C saw both toilets opened throughout the winter. At this time, however, the future is unclear as is the position of Cornwall County, time will tell.

We did, however, manage to have a meeting in November with Jeremy Rowe together with Bert Biscoe the cabinet member of CC on the question of devolved services. While there now appears to be a more flexible approach to what can and can’t be taken over by the parish we do have to have a business plan prepared in order to achieve any revenue producing services such as car parks. They, of course, would be perfectly happy for us to take on any service that is non profit making, again we must consider it all very carefully before committing ourselves.

We have finally been told that the 106 contribution from the Net Lofts development in Valley Road amounting to £34.459 is now available to the parish, initially we understood that it could be used for the benefit of the parish and following consultations and a walk around the village with a member of Cornwall Council we identified a number of projects where the money could be put to good use only to be told that on consulting the 106 agreement the money could only be used on play areas. Back to the drawing board!!!

Fortunately during the past year although the winter weather was pretty dreadful unlike some areas we escaped any serious flooding or damage. However the flood group is still pursuing a long-term solution and during August a walk up the Cheesewarne valley was taken together with representatives of all relevant authorities, as a result several initiatives are under investigation and maybe at some point a solution may be found. Our old friends SWW still seem to be unable to keep to any timetable for repairing and upgrading the drainage system we have been given several dates but very little happening. There has been a request to camera survey parts of the harbour side sewer system, supposedly over the next few weeks, and at some point church street is to be dug up and a new surface water pipe laid, although I suspect next year will be the earliest this will happen.

After repeated attempts to persuade Cornwall Council together with the Tremayne Estate to reinstate Polstreath steps it would appear that this is now probably a lost cause, at least for the time being. It may well be that at some point in the future, if and when funding can be found, then the subject could be re-opened with some prospect of success.

At least some good news on the question of affordable housing, the second phase of the Vicarage Hill scheme was approved and building is now well underway with a completion date later this year providing another 11 dwellings for local people.

This August will see the 100th anniversary of the start of the first world war, The Lost Gardens of Heligan together with a professional company, Wildworks, are arranging an event to mark the occasion involving Mevagissey, Gorran and St Ewe with the main emphasis on Mevagissey, The Parish Council and Harbour Board have both pledged their support, various meetings have been held and we now await further details. If all goes well it should prove to be quite a high profile event for the village.

Planning

As always planning matters form a very important part of the Parish Council’s agenda and this year has been a landmark one, albeit a somewhat traumatic one. Following the decision by Cornwall Council to approve the School Hill development the Parish Council, after seeking legal advice, took the rather drastic measure of embarking on a judicial review. There followed a very bumpy ride the first hurdle overcome when Cornwall Council accepted our barrister’s argument and conceded they were wrong. The developers challenged this and became the defendants, the matter then had to go to the full review which was held in November at Bristol Crown Court attended by Garth Shepard and myself, the judge’s decision was not expected until many weeks later so it was with great surprise and delight that only a week later we heard that the decision had gone our way on all counts and costs awarded to us.

That is the somewhat simplified version of events the reality is that a lot of hard work and effort went into the process over many months and thanks must be paid to many people and organisations. The ANOB partnership under Peter Mansfield who not only supported us but gave £3000 to our fighting fund, All the local people led by Martin Hopkinson who pledged over £6000 for our legal fees, their faith being rewarded when we were awarded costs and their money refunded. However, it is to Garth Shepard we must pay tribute to as only a matter of weeks before the hearing our solicitors Follett Stock went into administration. Finding another firm to replace them would prove almost impractical, probably expensive and possibly detrimental to our case. Garth undertook the position of representing the Parish and liasing with our barrister both before the hearing and afterwards sorting out costs, none of which proved an easy task as all Follett Stock’s records were lodged with the administrators. The final result will bear witness to the efforts Garth put in and my personal thanks should be added to that of the Councils.

For some time after the result of the hearing became known Mevagissey Parish Council enjoyed its 15 minutes of fame as emails and calls came from all over the country congratulated us on the result and asking for advice and copies of the judge’s decision.

Unfortunately the saga is not yet over as the developers have lodged another application due to be determined in the not too distant future, we must hope that all our efforts have not been in vain.

There are other applications still to be determined that are important decisions for the parish, Steep House, Spa Hotel and Treleon being the most prominent. The recent decision by Cornwall Council to approve the application for the garage site at the top of Portmellon Hill was a disappointment and proved just how an applicant can achieve an end result by doing one thing leading on to another. While we are told that you have to look at an application as it is presented and any change must be the subject of a further application, in this case it proved to be the Trojan horse. A lesson for us all I feel.

As to other matters I trust the Council will continue to represent the Parish in the interest of its community and use its influence to ensure that the village gets the best possible representation from all service providers particularly Cornwall Council.

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