Confused, complacent or just kidding us? The environmental costs of Cornwall Council’s ‘environmental growth strategy’

From Cornwall – a developers’ paradise.

In Cornwall we don’t have any old growth strategy. No, we have an ‘environmental growth strategy’. Back in December 2016, the Council’s ‘vision’ was launched. And what a vision it is. Cunningly pitched far enough in the future so that the majority of us won’t be around to judge how successful it’s been, the Council, presumably in all seriousness, promises us that ‘In 2065, Cornwall’s environment will be naturally diverse, beautiful and healthy, supporting a thriving society, prosperous economy and abundance of wildlife.’

This is truly have our cake and eat it time (plus several more cakes and throw in a few pasties).

Does this amount to anything more than the by now predictable doublespeak? Growth is always ‘environmental growth’, more population and houses become ‘strategic job strategies’, externally driven demand is always ‘local need’, unaffordable housing is transformed into ‘affordable’, empty second houses are ‘homes’ etc., etc.

The definition of ‘environmental growth’ is somewhat vague, to say the least – ‘the net gain of our natural systems’. This will be achieved by, among other things, ‘increasing natural capital’ and designing ‘new developments to enhance and support our natural systems’. Unfortunately, the fact that the Council’s housing target is quietly hidden away on page 13, where it briefly states ‘integrating the development of 52,500 houses by 2030’, in print difficult to distinguish from the background colour, doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

And then there’s the curious sentence in the Foreword. This states (correctly) that ‘we continue to witness the decline of nature in Cornwall as climate change, population pressure and modern day life impact on our surroundings.’ So logically we should expect the Council’s ‘environmental growth strategy’ to do all it can to challenge climate change and population pressure and reduce their impact. Except that logic is the last thing we should expect. As the Council also wants to ‘accelerate housing delivery’ and is very keen to build the 52,500 (soon to be 57,000) houses of its ‘target’.

The one growth we can be certain we’ll get is not that of nature but of houses and people. And therefore greenhouse gas emissions. While paying lip service and rightly identifying the problems as climate change and population growth on the one hand, on the other the Council’s own policies make those problems worse. Is such a startling contradiction merely the result of dysfunctional policy-making and crass stupidity, or is it mind-boggling complacency? Or two-faced mendacity?

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