The consultation period relating to the Penzance Neighbourhood Plan is well under way. If you have missed the various public events to view the plan there is still time to find out what is being proposed and time to have your say. Once the consultation period concludes on December 30th this year the comments will be reviewed, and the plan amended before Cornwall Council runs a further consultation prior to a referendum that will be open to all voters registered in the Penzance Town Council area. To find out more and submit your views go to the Town Council’s Neighbourhood Plan website www.pznp.co.uk/
You can also leave comments at venues in each of the villages within the council area and at Penzance Town Council offices and St John’s Hall. The Penzance Neighbourhood Plan has been in the making for years and thousands of hours has gone into it, the vast majority free of charge by residents who care about Penzance and our surrounding villages and want to see the great challenges facing us addressed in a way that makes for a safe and thriving place to live and work. The topics covered in the plan are Development, Design and Heritage, the economy, housing, the natural environment and green infrastructure and coastal vulnerability. Once this plan is approved it will be the key datum to guide and inform decisions for years to come so now really is the time to have your day.
The Neighbourhood Plan was one of the parts on exhibition at St John’s Hall last weekend along with the projects to be funded by the Towns Fund and High St Funds. These two funds, worth over £30m, have been awarded to Penzance by Government to bring new life into our town and surrounding area and to help us adjust to different priorities than were at the forefront when much of the built environment evolved. Few constituencies enjoy multiple Towns Funds, High St Funds and Levelling Up funds. Years of effort where differences have been set aside to deliver much-needed investment in the area has got us this far.
This past week I was privileged to visit 5 schools in West Cornwall and pleased to see the drive and enthusiasm of both teaching staff and pupils, but it was not lost on me that these schools need extra funds to ensure every child can get the best possible education and support as they grow. The pressure on budgets has been increased due to factors outside of the schools' control and I will make the case for extra funding in Parliament. It struck me that funding for schools, where so much early investment in these young lives can lead to better outcomes in careers, social inclusion, well-being, and health, is just a fraction of public spending compared to welfare and the NHS for example. I suspect additional funding in early years and education would reduce the demand on welfare and the NHS in time. Either way, we need to increase funds for our early years and education system.
But the real debate taking place both in the Commons Chamber and across the Parliamentary Estate relates to the Government’s long-awaited Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. This single proposed act dwarfs each of the other topics we are wrestling with because it seeks to determine how every community across the UK can be enabled to reverse decades of inequality in respect of opportunity, prosperity, health, and community cohesion. Here in Cornwall and for Scilly the bill needs to deliver effective tools to inject fairness into housing provision so that people who live and work in our communities are able to stay in the area and have good healthy homes. But the needs in other parts of the UK are very different and significant pressure is being applied to seek to ensure the legislation does the job for each corner of the UK (the clue is in the title). Levelling Up is the great cause of this Government and it is right that it is. As the legislation has been drafted, I suspect it has dawned on the Government that this is a far greater challenge than was first anticipated. Next week promises to be interesting as we expect the Levelling Up Bill to get to the Commons although I have an inkling it be delayed once more! Getting housing right in West Cornwall and on Scilly is no easy feat but I’m hopeful this Bill will turn the weighting in favour of those seeking a primary residence.