Thursday, 19 March 2015

Mike Nicholls

Tonight I received the very sad news that former county councillor Mike Nicholls has passed away.

Mike served the people of Launceston for many years and, latterly, was elected as a member of the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust Council of Governors representing East Cornwall.



Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Launceston Town Council says no to neighbourhood plan

Launceston Town Council tonight voted against moving forward with a neighbourhood plan. I regret that decision which I believe was taken following incorrect assertions and which will leave our town prey to developers.

A neighbourhood plan is a locally devised and legally enforceable document which allows a community to decide what sort of development it wants to see and where that development should go. There isn't complete freedom of decision. The neighbourhood plan has to be 'in conformity' with the Cornwall-wide Local Plan which, in turn, has to be in conformity with the National Planning Policy Framework. Both of these higher documents state that there will be development in all communities, so a neighbourhood plan cannot say 'no building'.

But, for all the restrictions, a neighbourhood plan is the best chance of protecting our town against over-development or building in the wrong place. The people of Launceston have said that we want to see new building, but only where it is sustainable.

Part of the problem is that our town boundaries are very close to the current edge of the built up area. So, in an ideal scenario, the town council would work with neighbouring parishes - Lawhitton, South Petherwin, St Stephens and St Thomas - on a combined plan. But (rightly) the town council cannot force those parishes to work with us and none have indicated they want to. But I still think it is right that we should move forward to do whatever we can to protect our town and encourage building in the right places not the wrong ones.

Unfortunately, there were those at tonight's meeting who believe that Cornwall Council will produce a binding document as good as a locally produced plan. That's not the case and so I fear that tonight's vote will simply leave the town open to more applications like the one at Upper Chapel which was allowed at appeal - in the main - because there was no local or neighbourhood plan to stop it.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Western Greyhound ceases trading

Bus company Western Greyhound has ceased trading this morning. A number of their routes run in the Launceston area. Cornwall Council are co-ordinating efforts to provide services with efforts being concentrated on school routes and those which meet a social need.

The news will cause difficulty for many people who rely on local bus services for work, education and social needs. I know that people in Launceston rely on WG services for travel to Exeter, for example.

Routes operated by the company fall into three categories:

- school routes
These are all covered today and the council (which contracts the operator) will be working to make sure that they are covered in the future too.

- commercial routes
These are the services which operate on a profit-making basis. The council does not have a role in them and they are registered with the transport commissioner. Normally, to register a new operator or route takes some time but, in these circumstances, I hope that any alternative company willing to step in and take up a WG route will be able to do so without delay.

- subsidised routes
These are non-profit making routes which the council subsidises in order to meet a social need. The council is working urgently with other operators to see if replacements can be found. However it may take some days to do so.

As you can imagine, this is a fast-moving situation. The council will be posting updates on its website. If passengers find that the service they rely on is not operating, it may be that another operator will accept WG tickets and passes. Alternatively, try to use local Facebook forums to seek other passengers in a similar situation who may be able to share lifts.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Could you be Launceston's next town councillor? - UPDATED

Launceston town council is looking for a new member following the resignation of Maurice Davey. Maurice represented the Central ward.

The town council consists of 16 members (I'm one), in three wards. There are seven for Central, which I also represent on Cornwall Council, seven for South and two for the much smaller North. There were currently two members elected with a party label in 2013, but it is fair to say that the work of the council is wholly non-partisan.

The vacancy will be advertised and if ten electors call for an election then a full public vote will be held, probably at the end of June. If there is no call for an election then there will be a co-option with interested parties able to make their case to the current councillors who will vote on the new member.

If you think that you might be interested in becoming a councillor, the first point of contact should be the council clerk Rita Skinner - rita@launceston-tc.co.uk

UPDATE: Susan Roberts Alfar has also resigned from the council. Susan represented South ward.

Monday, 2 March 2015

New parking charges - what is the best option for you?

The new parking charges for Cornwall Council car parks in Launceston are a good deal for the town, but the different charges can be confusing. In order to work out what is the best option for you - whether you are an occasional visitor or a regular user - we have produced this factsheet.


For a one-off visit:

Up to 1 hour - 60p in the town council’s multi-storey car park
1-2 hours - £1 in the Walk House or Upper Cattle Market long stay car parks
All day Monday to Friday - £2 in the Upper Cattle Market long stay car park
All day Saturday - £1 in the Walk House or Upper Cattle Market long stay car parks


For regular users:

One working week (5 days) - £2 per day totalling £10 in the Upper Cattle Market long stay car park
Annual - £110 in the Race Hill car park on Fair Park Close or £215 in the other Cornwall Council car parks if you would like to park closer to the town centre.


If you are a regular car park user you may be better off with an annual permit, even if you do not use the car parks every day:

If you work five days per week with six weeks’ holiday, you’re parking for 230 days each year. The £110 permit is 48p per working day and the £215 permit is 93p per working day so you’re better off if you buy a permit. If you can’t afford the full amount in one go then you can set up a direct debit.

Four days per week is 184 days per year. With a £110 permit that’s 60p and with a £215 permit it’s £1.17 so you’re better off with a permit.

Three days per week is 138 days. That’s 80p or £1.56 so you’re better off with a permit.

Two days per week is 92 days. That’s £1.20 or £2.34 so you’re better off if you get a permit for anywhere except the Upper Cattle Market long stay car park which is £2 per day.

One day per week is 46 days. That’s £2.39 or £4.67. Your best option is to park in the Upper Cattle Market long stay car park which is £2 per day. But if you want to park in the Walk House car park it is still cheaper for you to buy an annual permit.


(These scales are all based on weekday day-time charges. Charges on Saturdays are cheaper and on Sundays and after 4pm car parks are free.)

To buy a permit call 0300 1234 222 or visit http://tiny.cc/buyapermit

New charges for Launceston car parks

After a massive battle Launceston has come out with a set of parking tariffs which will help support shoppers, workers and businesses – including the new shops which are now opening their doors.

Cornwall Council had proposed to scrap our £1 all day Saturday parking and £1 for 2-hour parking, and put up season ticket prices to more than £300. We’d all fought very hard to get cheap prices introduced in the first place so we know what a disaster this would have been for low-paid workers and for the shops and businesses which are fighting back and starting to enjoy growth again after a very tough economic period. The £1 all day Saturday parking in particular has helped boost footfall and meant that people can support the increasing number of markets, festivals, fairs and other events now being organised in our town.

Your Cornwall Councillors (Jade Farrington, Adam Paynter and I) put forward a counter set of proposals which gained the backing of Launceston Town Council and Launceston Chamber of Commerce who helped spread the word about Cornwall Council’s damaging plans. Sue Issleib in ...hazard clothing deserves extra special thanks. She helped distribute more consultation forms than anyone else, meaning that Launceston people sent back more responses than any other place.

The cabinet member in charge of the parking tariffs, Councillor Bert Biscoe, agreed to meet with Jade, Adam and me at the eleventh hour. We made it absolutely clear to him and an officer that their proposals would harm Launceston and would not generate any extra money because people would abandon the car parks and park in residential streets or shop out of town instead. We are very grateful that they listened in the end and, after negotiation, agreed to the tariffs below. Thank you to them and to everyone who supported this successful campaign. If it wasn’t for all the work everyone put in then I would be writing a very different post.

Please support your town centre and the car parks. If they aren't used enough then the council will increase the tariffs significantly next year to make up for lost income. It's down to all of us to make sure they don't!

Key points:
  • £1 for two hours will continue in the long stay car parks (Walk House and the Upper Cattle Market)
  • £1 all day Saturday parking retained in the long stay car parks
  • £2 all day Monday to Friday parking introduced in the Cattle Market long stay car park
  • Annual season tickets available for £110 or £215 depending on the car park – that’s 30p or 59p per day.

The full tariffs:
All below to apply Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm and come into effect on March 15th

Castle Street short stay car park
1 hour - 70p
2 hours - £1.30
3 hours - £3.60

Cattle Market long stay car park
2 hours - £1
All day - £2
3 months - £60
6 months - £113
Annual - £215

Cattle Market short stay car park
1 hour - 70p
2 hours - £1.30
3 hours - £3.60

Duke Street permit only car park
3 months - £60
6 months - £113
Annual - £215

Pannier Market short stay car park
1 hour - 70p
2 hours - £1.30
3 hours - £3.60

Race Hill permit only car park
Annual - £110
6 months - £58

Tower Street permit only car park
3 months - £60
6 months - £113
Annual - £215

Walk House long stay car park
2 hours - £1
3 hours - £3.60
24 hours - £6.30
3 months - £60
6 months - £113
Annual - £215

Long stay car parks £1 all day on Saturdays, otherwise same tariffs as Monday to Friday.

All Cornwall Council car parks are free on Sundays and free from 4pm to 9am.


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Why overseas aid matters

Three years ago I went on a trip to Pakistan organised by the British Council which involved supporting a group of education advocates aged 18-25 who were campaigning to implement a new law which guaranteed free state education at both primary and secondary level. It seemed that getting the law passed was only the first step in the long road to making sure all children in Pakistan had access to education.

I blogged briefly about that trip at the time, but the whole pasty tax issue came up at the same time (to the extent that I was trying to organise a campaign from a hotel room eight time zones away). But since that time I have closely followed the work of the 'IlmPossible' campaign and the campaigners we worked with.

Today came the news that one of the campaigners, Noman Akhtar, has taken the step of moving from being an advocate for change to being the change he wants to see. He is now teaching slum children - one of the groups least able to access a basic right such as education.

Noman writes (please bear in mind that English is not his working language):

"May be right now I'm unable to provide them with proper school environment and props like uniforms, books, shoes, and stationary, may be I'm restricted to a hut classroom up till now yet I'm dedicated to give my full attention and affection to these child because they deserve it the most. I'm pretty sure that educating a child is merely equal to educating a whole family. With the grace of Allah, today i have my 1st Basic Education class at Slum area Huts for those children who are actually beggars, Labors, and extremely poor with the believe that my efforts will surely bring a positive change in them !! Need your extra support and wishes for this noble cause"

I don't pretend that the trip we made three years ago had anything other than a fleeting impact on people who were already as committed as Noman, but the support that the UK government gives through DFID projects such as ours to work like Noman's is absolutely vital. Education helps to stamp out terrorism and money spent in Pakistan on projects like this makes our country safer.