St Mellion NIMBYs (Ltd)

Sat here today licking my wounds after being defeated in yesterday’s Parish Council Elections.  As a rule, voter apathy surrounds these elections and even a 30% turnout is considered respectable.  That’s assuming voters are even required to turn out.  More often than not there are an insufficient number of candidates to mandate an election!  St Mellion Parish is no exception to this rule; there hasn’t been an election for 14 years.  So how did it come to be that this election for six seats was contested by ten candidates?  The answer, strange as it may seem, is solar energy.

In October 2012 a planning application (PA12/03001/PREAPP) was submitted that related to a proposed Solar Farm in the Parish.  I say “related” because it wasn’t a request to construct such a farm, rather to find out if an actual planning request would require EIA Screening (Environmental Impact Assessment).  As a fine example of parish apathy, nobody commented on it until two months after the submission.  When they finally did comment it was to expostulate that they didn’t even know about the application, despite it being on the publicly accessible planning website all that time.

Normally planning applications are treated with similar degrees of apathy as other parish matters but this one was different.  It happened to be planned for a group of fields close to the largest housing estate in the parish.  Most inhabitants of housing estates probably wouldn’t be greatly energised by an application for solar panels but this is no average housing estate.  To understand why, you need to know a little of St Mellion history.

In 1976 two brothers, Herman and Martin Bond opened a golf course in St Mellion constructed on their potato farm.  The course grew to be a major success, attracting international competitions and major names in golf, like Seve Ballesteros and Bernhart Langer.  This led to the construction of a second course, the Jack Nicklaus Signature Course in 1988.  This beautiful course quickly became known as one of the most challenging in Europe and consequently attracted more major events.  Having a home next to such a golf course is highly desirable and such houses demand high prices.  Building a large estate next to their golf course was a source of considerable revenue to the Bond brothers and aided them in expanding their club into a international standard resort.  Eventually they sold the resort to American Golf in 1998 and it subsequently became part of Crown Golf in 2004 following a take-over.  To put the size of this estate into perspective, in a parish of 351 electors (at the time of this election) 152 of them live on this one estate.

In parish elections, each elector may vote for up to the number of seats the parish commands.  In the case of St Mellion, this is six seats.  In the end, 190 people in the parish actually voted and, on average, they each voted for 4.44 candidates; an amazingly high average compared with a normal parish election.  This high figure is easily explained: Five of the ten candidates stood as representatives of that one housing estate and had a common, unified goal;  to object to the proposed solar farm.

The election result is shown below:-

Name Votes Affiliation
Brocklesby 92 Golf Estate
Butler 51 Independent
Crook 81 Independent (Me)
Dransfield 92 Golf Estate
Henley 108 See Below
Malsom 85 Incumbent (Parish Chair)
Postles 107 Golf Estate
Teale 47 Independent
Todd 91 Golf Estate
Waite 87 Independent
Total Votes 841

Without going into heavy maths, suffice to say it was almost impossible for them not to be elected.  Commanding 43% of the electorate and being able to instruct those people to vote for the same five candidates rendered all the other voters in the parish powerless to affect the outcome without collaboration on a similar scale.  As the other candidates had independent views and the other voters independent thoughts, that couldn’t happen.  It’s an incredible achievement by Ian Waite to obtain 87 votes from the approx 100 voters who did not collaborate.  Well done Ian!

When I talk about colloboration on this housing estate, perhaps I should offer some explanation.  St Mellion Park Residents Association is a Limited Company, complete with a board of Directors.  The four candidates standing from St Mellion Park are all members of that association (as are most of the other residents).  Whether these four make the future decisions on parish matters or simply pass on the instructions of their Directors is a moot point.

So there we have it. St Mellion faces four years under a council whose driving priority is the representation of the housing estate they live on.  The odd exception to this is Ken Henley, a member of the previous parish council.  Ken lives in St Mellion village and has no obvious affiliation with the Golf estate.  Despite that, he represented them and even shared a common election flier with them.  Perhaps there was concern in “Golf Estate Ltd” that their four may be forced to declare personal interests in matters relating directly to the estate they live on.  Having a stooge who has to declare no such interest ensures unanimity in any vote they care about.  I think Ken also had a point to prove in getting re-elected and was sufficiently driven not to care about the ethics of how he got there.  I understand that prior to the election Vivienne Malsom, the incumbent parish chair, was approached to join the collaborating five but she declined on moral grounds.  Respect to you Vivienne!

I say four years under the control of these collaborating candidates but the reality is, they will retain control until they no longer want it or until the population of St Mellion Parish swells to the point they cannot sufficiently bias the voting.  Next election they could register six collaborating candidates and instruct their residents to place six votes each.  This pretty much ensures the parish will remain in the hands of, what is in a effect, a dictatorship.

Since word of the collaboration came out, there has been an impending sense of doom amongst the independent candidates that the five would prevail, leaving one poor independent in the impossible position of trying to represent the views of the parish.  That one turned out to be Ian Waite, a man of sufficient principles that he will almost certainly resign his post rather then face four unethical years of futility, casting his one vote against five.

So much for democracy!

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11 Responses to St Mellion NIMBYs (Ltd)

  1. Jamie Stuart says:

    Ever thought of being a journalist Steve?

    Your candid exposé has lead you to scribe a really well compiled, passionate and brave article deserving of wider publication. I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t get the result you deserved.

    See if you can get it in the Tavistock Times…

  2. Tim Clayton says:

    Well said Steve..

  3. Chris Evans says:

    Yes Steve, a very well presented, and informative piece which well describes an objectionable situation which in my mind could be considered as corruption!

    You really should try to get it published (as suggested by Jamie Stuart) to a wider audience.

    As well as the paper mentioned; I think you should also contact the editors of the ‘Saltash Observer’ or even the ‘Saltash Journal’ ~ particularly as St Mellion is in the postal District of Saltash.

  4. Steve Crook says:

    I should probably add that I don’t for a moment think these people have in any way broken election rules. They have exploited the demographics of their own housing estate , it’s residents association and the unifying NIMBY effect of the solar planning application. Nothing prevents them from doing so but their actions effectively rendered the other voters in the parish with no choice of representation.

  5. Alan Twist says:

    Although I like his writing style Steve has totally misread the situation. I attend Parish Council meetings and, in the middle of 2012, long before a solar PV array was proposed, it became clear that St Mellion Park was paying the lion’s share of the “precept” levied in our County Council taxes because the houses are rated as Band H and the owners are all Council Tax payers. The residents were not represented on the Parish Council and yet were paying for projects that were devised mainly to benefit the village. To make matters worse the precept is not “capped” as is the County Council Tax and there is no limit to what St Mellion Park might have to pay in the future. Residents of St Mellion Park were therefore encouraged to stand for the Parish Council and, surprisingly, four put their names forward. They should be able to ensure that the precept is controlled but they will have very little say in the Solar PV Array decision as the Parish Council is often overruled by the County Council in Planning matters.

  6. maureen moorhouse says:

    In reply to Alan Twists comment – i also attend Parish Council mettings and was always lead to believe the serving people were there to serve the WHOLE of the Parish not one particlar area. Also it seems he has a devided view of the Residents of St. Mellion Park and the village i thought we all lived in the same Parish. Also you all choose to live on St. Mellion Park so not only do you pay a higher Precept you also pay higher Concil Tax are you going to fight against that too?. My husband and i are retired people but would be HAPPY to pay a little bit more on the Precept to help this Parish to flourish instead of dying on its feet.

  7. Joan Allen says:

    Am I surprised ,no it was obvious from the beginning of the election and these people who had shown no previous interest in the village suddenly stood to be on the parish council that looking at the figures you have shown that they would be elected not for the good or interest of the village but for their own interests for too long the golf club has run St Mellion with little regard for the people who actually care about the village aided and abetted by planners at County Hall its time for change

  8. Pingback: St Mellion Parish Election 2013 – Response to Alan Twist | The prattlings of Steve Crook

  9. Ian Waite says:

    I am sitting here with mixed feelings about the comment from Alan Twist, none of them positive. I stood for election because I wanted to improve the place we live in and was disappointed with the previous council doing the minimum required of them. There has been no investment in the parish for years. I have visited other villages and look on in envy at the way they have achieved their goals and provided fabulous facilities for all to enjoy. There are fine examples every where of what can be done if there is the desire to do so.
    I think that Alan, in his desire to save money, has lost his sense of community.
    I understand the appeal of living on the park but exclusivity does come at a cost and I think it is churlish to complain that as you live in the more expensive houses you pay more in council tax. I agree you should be represented on the council but there is a difference between representation and domination. It borders on bullying.
    What about growth and investment? It would be better if the residents of St Mellion Park were separated from the parish and left to self govern. The parish is going to suffer as a result of their decision to take control of the council. We are doomed to another four years of apathetic parish rule because St Mellion Park residents want to save a pound a week?
    It is rare to find anyone from the golf estate taking part in the wider parish and village, there is a school, church and pub which all need supporting but little is received from them. The only evidence there is an estate and club is the traffic we suffer in Church Park.
    So to summarise we are being governed by a parish council who take little or no part in the wider community and whose sole aim is to keep the precept low. What an absolute disaster for the parish!

    Yours depressed

    Ian Waite

  10. Paul Teale says:

    So by your own admission Alan Twist, the new Parish Council will not be representing all of the people in this Parish of St. Mellion, but just a select few.
    Parish Councillors must represent all in the Parish, not just those who elected them. Know your community.

    I suggest the new Parish Council look, read and learn the role of being a Parish councillor. That is to represent the electorate and have the desire to enhance and improve the whole Parish. I also suggest they personally communicate monthly with every single parishioner in the Parish and listen to what is required. The whole ethos of a Parish Council is to work to ensure the Parish is a successful and thriving place to live, work and play for all members of the community.

    The people of St. Mellion Park have shown nothing but contempt and disdain for the rest of the Parish and have never wanted to engage or be any part of the village, however they are happy to increase the traffic volumes through the middle of the village and Church Park. Everyone in St. Mellion Park who voted for their “clan” on Thursday proved that by their contempt directed towards what they would call the lower status individuals in the rest of the Parish.
    Strangely, St. Mellion Park Residents sitting on this new Parish Council think they are above the people who live in the village and Parish. It has been noted by many villagers’ throughout the Parish, over hearing the new Parish councillors’ state “they are going to take over the Parish”.
    I will say here and now, parishioners will not allow this, they will fight every step of the way. Should it mean involving the new Parish Council with the local or national press, TV, MP, Government, then villagers will not be afraid to do so.

    The whole Parish pays a paltry sum of precept compared to the county average. St. Mellion Band H = £29.00p – County average = £139.44p.
    I would like you to personally list all the projects that the Parish Council have paid for to benefit the village of St. Mellion – A Parish village that you actually live in by postal address and electoral area.

    St. Mellion village is the Parish village. I would advise you to search the length and breadth of the country to see for yourself that most activities and projects “centre” on the Parish village. What activities and projects that occur in a Parish village are there for ALL in the Parish to partake in. The choice is theirs if they do not wish to partake.

    I can only assume that you are speaking on your behalf, when you mention the Band H properties in St. Mellion Park area, because there are currently only 7 listed as a Band H.
    I can also only assume that a couple of rounds of Golf at St. Mellion International Resort will cost approximately the same as the yearly Parish precept on a Band H property in this Parish.
    A round of Golf played one day, yet is forgotten a couple of days later. Activities and projects in this Parish will last a long time after you or I are dust.

    Band H property precept in St. Mellion is mere £29.00p yearly. The yearly Parish precept for the Parish Council is £3,000.00p, of which the Clerks Salary, Admin and Recruitment took £1,460.50p from the 2012/2013 precept figure. Leaving £1,539.50p to pay for remaining bills, Hiring of Hall, Insurance, Audit, Remembrance Sunday Wreath, Cornwall Air Ambulance and St. Mellion Church, to name but a few, costs another £600.00p approximately. Thus, £939.50p remains for the Parish resources of St. Mellion, of which gets eaten up with many other expenses leaving a Parish precept of virtually nothing left until the next lot of money comes along for the next precept year.

    The previous Parish Councillor, Ken Henley, who has been re-elected, said NO to a Diamond Jubilee Street Party because he stated that “he did not want a Diamond Jubilee Street Party and was sure that the rest of the Parish would not want one either”. Yet he never thought or cared to use his brain to ask the Parish community if they would actually like one! It is strange how thousands of “other” Parish Councils around the whole of the country arranged and paid for their very own Diamond Jubilee Street Parties during the Diamond Jubilee!
    This is where St. Mellion Village Tenant’s & Residents’ Association stepped in and asked the majority of the Parish if they would like a Diamond Jubilee Street Party with Cornwall Council Employees present at our General Meeting. When the question was asked, the Parish community voted yes on a majority verdict with just one no vote, strangely this was an ex Parish councillor who chose not to vote!
    So as not to make a great loss on the day, my partner and I invested £200.00p from our own pockets to make the day a great success for the Parish. Ken Henley did not want a Street Party when thousands of other Parish Councils did, however, I showed that the Parish did want a Street Party and a great day was had by all. Strangely, on the day, why did Henley come to the Street Party?

    It costs me more than £8,200.00p to run my cottage household yearly; hence, £3,000.00p for the whole Parish is a diabolical pittance to be financed on.
    The Parish of St. Mellion has absolutely nothing, no community open space for multi-use purpose, such as Allotments, Children’s Play Area, Community Run Village Shop or an acceptable Village Hall, to which we are going to apply for funding from Village SOS to have one funded and built when land is compulsory purchased. St. Mellion has no Public Open Space – a Village Green to do everything on, such as Walking, Jogging, Autumn & Summer Fêtes, Bonfire & Firework Display, Children’s Play Area, BMX Bike Ramp, Cricket, Football, Dog Walking, Summer Picnics, Berry Picking. There is no safe Environment for Elderly & Disabled to Exercise Their Dogs or any other Leisure & Social Activities that they so wish to do.
    Allotments are a requirement by law that a Parish Council have to provide on land which have been requested. Land has been found and it is the Parish Councils duty to use their powers to compulsory purchase it. A Community Run Village Shop funded and provided for on this land will also have everything needed from Staples, Newspapers, Vegetables & fruit, to name but a few. In time a Post Office will be also asked for & provided on this land. A Playing Field will also be provided and general Family Recreational Activities will be catered for.
    St. Mellion Village Tenants’ & Residents’ Association are fighting hard to achieve all of this for this Parish and every single person who lives within it. We will win the fight for everyone who has asked us personally for all of these amenities. If it means going to the press, MP or even Government, we will because I am passionate to give the people of St. Mellion a better village and Parish to live.
    Other Parishes have these facilities, so can St. Mellion!

    A point of note to think on Mr Twist!
    Town and Parish Councils exist to serve their communities.
    Councils need Communities.
    Communities do not necessarily need Councils.
    Councillors represent ALL, not just those who elected them

  11. maureen moorhouse says:

    Hi Ian please please dont feel so depressed we the village need your voice and input on the parish council- i agree with all you have written but you can make sure that your input is heard and im sure the meetings will be well attended -you get in there and make yourself heard WE NEED PEOPLE LIKE YOU

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