A new Trelawny’s Army is being recruited to help protect the Cornish landscapes and its buildings, with the re-launch of the county branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).
The call to action was made by the new chairman, Harold Tinworth, who told a meeting in Truro at the weekend: “We have to endeavour to ensure Trelawny’s Army mobilises to protect our heritage. We need to be a voice for Cornwall – to lead and co-ordinate a defence when we see a situation that needs our attention.”
Mr Tinworth, a former chief executive of a large London borough who now lives in west Cornwall, said there was a very real threat to Cornwall from developers and a loss of protection through the National Policy Framework. He stressed: “As things stand you can almost get planning permission for anything. We literally face having concrete poured more and more on the green of Cornwall – unless we take action.”
He had just been elected chairman at a meeting which reconstituted the county CPRE branch, and he spoke about sending a “positive message” to the people of Cornwall, not a “pull-up-the-drawbridge” approach to all planning applications. But the fact remained that 32,000 housing approvals had been granted for Cornwall, and it was impossible to under-estimate the huge national pressure to build new houses.
“But this is a very special place. After all, five million people come here every year on holiday to recharge themselves. So we must protect our uniqueness,” he insisted. There was a magic and specialness about the place.
Alluding to the current planning system and the efforts of developers, he explained: “We cannot just fight the crocodiles, because once you’ve beaten one another will jump up. We have to drain the swamp. And to do that we need to have a strategic response in place.”
The CPRE would have to prioritise the most important areas of concern in Cornwall, he advised. Now there was a real opportunity. The voice for Cornwall would be about supporting local people and producing local plans that would suit them – but proper organisation and focus was critical; and a recruiting drive, aimed to increase county branch membership from 330 to 1,000.
The meeting elected officers and appointed trustees, and voted to adopt the model constitution used by other county branches. Taking the chair was Tony Hilton, the South West regional chairman of the CPRE, which has seven county branches. He told the reformed branch: “A lot of effort has gone into this, and the rest of the CPRE nationally is watching developments in this vital county very closely. You have an excellent group of people to lead you, which is just as well because there is a really big job to be done in Cornwall.
“Our opponents would love to portray us simply as nimbies... but we are doing this for everyone in Cornwall. We have to be an evidence-based organisation – good on facts and not just on emotions.”
He spoke of the need to spread the message about the work of the CPRE, and to collaborate with other organisations, such as the National Trust and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.