My report covering my Council Work since being elected in May 2017, John Spargo Falmouth Town Council 16th March 2018
My first year as a Councillor has been a steep learning curve with a constant flow of new information to absorb. In addition to sitting on the full Council and the F&GP committees along with all the other Councillors, I was elected Vice Chair of Planning, which meets every three weeks. I was also appointed to sit on the Falmouth and Penryn Conservation Consultation Committee meeting monthly. Duties include attending Pre Planning application meetings, meeting with the chair of planning to identify applications which require discussion at committee and standing in for him when necessary. I have also represented the council at the four Planning Appeals heard in the last year and have attended and spoken at six County Council Planning meetings and briefings. I attend the majority of Save Our Falmouth monthly public meetings and work in close liaison with both them and The Smithick Ward Residents Assocation on local planning issues. I have been heavily involved in the recent Campaign to support the Penvose Student Village having identified its potential to undermine the viability of the recent PBSA developments passed at appeal. I am pleased to report that there are already signs of this having an impact on the Rosslyn and Fish Strand Hill sites both of which have had developers pull out. The projected supply of student housing shows that it is now grossly oversubscribed and this must result in some projects being dropped. There is also a potential knock on effect that HMO rentals may drop making them more accessible to local people. A drop in revenue for some Landlords may mean that they have to sell and this may even affect house prices in HMO areas, making them more affordable. I have also recently visited a Newquay based house builder with the Town Clerk to view a house prototype and discuss their desire to build social housing in Falmouth with the support of the Council.
In my role as Councillor for Tourism and Events I am involved in regular meetings regarding individual events such as Christmas and the Sea Shanty Festival along with attending Traders meetings and liaising with the Town Management and Bids teams. This has included meetings with Cornwall Council, Sarah Newton and Western Power regarding the town centre road works to discuss compensation and funding for the excellent mitigation package put together by the Town and Bids Team. This has been a very demanding year for them and they have performed brilliantly.
Following on from the road works I have suggested that we turn the temporary tarmaccing into a visitor attraction for the town by painting it, this could be in the form of a river or flowerbeds. We have several ideas that Henrietta Boex has agreed to investigate with the two Richards that she hopes will tie in with her other plans for this coming year.
As a Smithick Ward Councillor I sit on the Kimberley Park Monitoring Committee and the same group also looks after the Bowling Green which is currently having seating and play equipment refurbished/replaced. The Park is due to have its new Stage built soon and discussions are underway as to how the Lodge can be best used in future.
Along with Anna Gillet and Tony Parker I am representing the Town Council in the Plastic Free Falmouth Campaign which is being inspirationally led by Kirstie Edwards who has been very well supported by local Businesses.
My aim is for more of the same next year but with the hope that I will find time to address the Parking and Highways issues that I have Identified, most importantly making streets accessible to emergency vehicles. I also want to explore our wider options on dealing with late night anti social behavior by engaging with the University . I believe it is now time to build bridges with them and move forward, they have the potential to be a real positive influence on the Town and its future if we can work with them.
Penvose Student Village Update:
Falmouth was well represented at Thursdays Strategic Planning Committee Briefing on Penvose.
In addition to myself three of our four County Councillors, Mathew McCarthy, Dave Saunby and Alan Jewell attended. Presentations were made by the Council Planning Officers, The University and CAD Architects. Questions were asked after each presentation. At the end of the Briefing the University and CAD left and a discussion with further questions to the Council Officers took place. Since the meeting on the 21st of Dec CAD had to a large extent addressed the issues raised regarding Highways/Pedestrian access and the use of agricultural land. They also confirmed that they were committed to a weekly rental of £100 per week and to whatever mix of Student year groups was required by the Council.
These positive points were however tempered by a lack of support from the University, and by new issues being raised by the Council Officers, who were reluctant to accept the proposed fast track timescale as being deliverable, and that the weekly rental could be guaranteed. They were also concerned that this development was not part of the DPD and could undermine the viability of other PBSA schemes already approved or in the pipeline. The meeting was closed after just over three hours with the next step being to reconsider the application at the 15th Feb Strategic Planning Committee meeting.
Those who have emailed Councillors expressing their support for the Penvose site will be pleased to hear that the large number received had been noted. It was also obvious through the questions being asked that the emails had been influential.
Since the meeting I have had conversations with various people including Rob Nolan who chaired the meeting, and have been able to advise CAD on which issues are likely to be important in swaying councillors to vote in support of the application.
All we can do now is maintain pressure on the Committee members by emailing them if you haven’t already done so and by turning up on the 15th Feb at County Hall to show support.
Student Accommodation, What Next?
The recent upheld planning appeals for Purpose Built Student Accommodation in Falmouth have been extremely disappointing to say the least. There is however a light on the horizon or should I say Sunrise over Treluswell.
The proposed Penvose Student Village for 2000 students dodged the Planning Officers recommended refusal at the Cornwall Council Strategic Planning Committee on the 21st of Dec. All members of the committee expressed their support in principle for the proposal, but were keen for more detail. They decided to defer a decision until their next meeting on the 15th of Feb so that the proposal can be reviewed in consultation with all interested parties including Falmouth and Penryn Councils. This consultation would be aimed at solving issues such as access and applying restrictions on student year groups to be accommodated.
By far the most significant element of the proposal is the target weekly rental for each student of £100. This is 25% less than the current average weekly rent for existing purpose built accommodation. This makes it by far the best credible alternative for students currently renting HMO’s which have an average rental of £90 pw . It has real potential to draw students out of Falmouth and Penryn in significant numbers. More importantly it has the potential to make the recently successful appeal sites become unviable for their developers who may have to consider the alternative of building flats and houses for local people. It would also buy us more time for the Cornwall and Neighbourhood Plans to be fully adopted, and discourage further unwanted attention from speculative developers.
Penvose Village is the best solution to our student accommodation problems and has no need for the compulsory purchase of any land.
We still have an appeal hearing for the Falmouth Coachworks Site on the 25th of Jan and should not give up on it. The Coachworks was always going to be the most defendable site and I would urge people to attend the hearing and show their support. The more people who attend the more weight to our arguments.
John Spargo (Vice Chair Falmouth Town Council Planning Committee)
Most members of the Smithick Ward will have heard the very sad news that Candy died earlier this week whilst away on Council business. She will be a massive loss to Falmouth and Cornwall. Her contribution as a campaigner for both during her years as MP and Councillor has been enormous, more than any other politician in that time.
There is a book of condolence in the reception of the new council offices on the moor for all those who wish to sign.
In the meantime anyone who was dealing with Candy on any urgent issues is welcome to contact me and I will try to help them.
In my role as councillor and deputy chair of Planning for FTC along with Candy as Ward member for Smithwick we have been fighting against various applications for Student accommodation. Four of these have now escalated into public inquiries, I shall be speaking against the proposed development of land at Fish Strand hill at the Public Inquiry which will be held at Falmouth Rugby Club on Tues 21st Nov starting at 10am.
There are also hearings relating to; Ocean Bowl 10am wed 8th Nov at the Rugby Club, Rosslyn Hotel thurs 23rd Nov and Falmouth Coachworks thurs 14th Dec. Please attend these and help protect our town. Just being there will send a big message to the Inspector.
Smithwick Ward Councillor and Vice Chair of Planning