Thursday, 9 February 2017

Cornwall Council's Clean Air Strategy - bulldozing homes in Holmbush?

I was very concerned to see recent reports in the media about Cornwall Council consulting on plans to compulsorily purchase houses in Holmbush as part of their Clean Air Strategy.

I have now investigated further and received further information from Cornwall Council on this issue.

The news that was reported recently stems from Cornwall’s Clean Air Strategy draft document that members of Cornwall Council’s Communities Portfolio Advisory Committee were asked to vote to approve and send back to Cornwall Council’s Cabinet for further discussion and a vote in due course.

The item regarding the compulsory purchase was only a very small part of a much wider document. It reads:

‘Compulsory Purchase/Relocation:

In areas where air quality is particularly poor, it can be very difficult to identify feasible and affordable measures that will provide any meaningful reduction in pollution levels. In the meantime, residents are exposed to unacceptably poor air quality, with little prospect of achieving the air quality objective before 2030 in some locations. This is a difficult situation to address and one that the Council would not want to continue. Therefore one possible option could be to move residents away from the pollution. This is likely to be very controversial and carry a reputational risk, however it is felt that the option should be further explored rather than simply discounted.

The project would involve development of land in a suitable nearby location to create a new neighbourhood where those exposed to the poorest air quality could be provided with a new property. This may be through compulsory purchase or an optional swap. Additional properties could be built to accommodate those in need of Council or affordable housing in the area and help to build a community, as well as contributing to paying for the scheme. The land that is obtained through the swap could be used for highway improvements or alternative less sensitive uses such as retail.

Initial discussions indicate that such a project would cost Cornwall Council several million pounds to implement, but would be considerably cheaper than a bypass which may be the only other option available to improve air quality. Neighbourhoods and Public Protection would work with colleagues in Housing, Planning, Public Health and seek the views of the local Member and Parish Council to further explore and cost this option.

Although such a scheme would provide a solution and could provide additional health and wellbeing benefits, it also presents a number of risks to the Council. It would be preferable to resolve the air quality problems and allow residents to stay in their homes whilst making it a more attractive and healthy environment.

Members views are therefore sought on this proposal however, it is recommended that further legal advice is sought and consultation undertaken before a decision is made.’

I hope from reading this that you will see that while this is a proposal put forward by the Council officers for discussion by councillors, it is not one of their preferred options, for the reasons given.

While I do share the concerns about the air quality of the A390 and will continue to seek sensible solutions to this issue, I would certainly not support anyone being forced to leave their homes and if this policy was adopted by Cornwall Council, would be firmly against it.