Taking Back Control - Deal aims to return town assets to local ownership
Mayor Louis Gardner signs the memorandum
By Warren Wilkins
A long-standing campaign to return swathes of Newquay to the town’s ownership and control has taken a major step forward. Newquay Town Council and Cornwall Council have signed a formal agreement to work together to hand Cornwall-owned property and assets to the town council.
There have been calls for the town council to take over the freehold of public open spaces and buildings in Newquay which were owned by the town through the old Newquay Urban District Council.
There have been concerns they are being neglected by Cornwall Council because of Government funding cuts. Town councillors believe assets could be maintained better at a more local level. And they believe tens of thousands of pounds of income from car parks could be re-invested in the town.
Newquay Town Council has already been given devolved power over various assets such as the closed-circuit TV network, public toilets and library but these cost the local tax-payer money rather than generating income.
The new legal agreement between the councils sets out a framework, timeline and list of priorities for transfers. The memorandum sets out various principles including providing information, communicating openly about major concerns, issues or opportunities, and adopting a positive outlook.
Mayor Louis Gardner signed the Memorandum of Understanding on behalf of Newquay Town Council. He said: “The town council has already shown how well we can manage services within the town. “We now have more public toilets, open for longer hours and maintained to a higher standard than any other town in Cornwall and we have invested more than £250,000 in material upgrades and refurbishments since we took ownership.
“The library was a three-and-a-half-day-a-week service two years ago under Cornwall Council and we’ve expanded that to six days a week. “The CCTV network has been continually upgraded and expanded since we took it on and is now one of the most extensive and best monitored networks in Cornwall.
“Going forward, we plan on grouping up assets and liabilities to make an equal balance of income and expenditure as, most importantly of all, it has to be cost neutral to the taxpayer. “We are prepared to pledge that any asset of which we take ownership will be maintained to at least the standard it is by Cornwall Council, if not better.
“All these assets once belonged to either the former Newquay District Council or Restormel Borough Council and came under Cornwall Council ownership by default. It is only right that they are once again owned by the people of Newquay and looked after right here in Newquay.”
Newquay Town Council has agreed a list of land it would like to seek to devolve from Cornwall Council, which includes the majority of public spaces and green areas. The areas include Trenance Valley, East Pentire headland, Beachfield Avenue Gardens, The Beacon, Newquay public footpaths, Porth Beach, Pentire Headland, Godolphin Way Football Ground, the Mount Wise football pitch and stand, West End Bowling Green, Esplanade Road open space, Newquay Zoo, Heron Tennis Centre, Blue Reef Aquarium, Priory Woods and St Columb Minor Recreation Ground as well as the various play areas.
The town council would like to see all Cornwall Council car parks in Newquay devolved including Mount Wise, Fore Street and Tregunnel Hill. The authority would want financial support from Cornwall Council to take over the freehold of certain assets as it would not want to increase its element of the council tax.