Inside Cornish village which is finally getting its own parish council

Driving into Delabole there is an instant indicator of its most famous export – a fine piece of slate with Delabole engraved into it.

A few yards further up the road there is another sign welcoming you into the village – again made using the famous Delabole slate.

This one proudly proclaims that it has been home to the famous quarry for more than 600 years.

And while it is this which will forever be synonymous with Delabole in 2021 the village will enter a new chapter in its history when it forms its first parish council.

Before we get to that, a quick history lesson. Delabole itself is a reasonably modern construct having formed in the early part of the last century out of three hamlets.

Those hamlets – Pengelly, Meadrose and Rockhead – along with the hamlet of Delabole eventually merged together due to the expansion and success of the famous slate quarry.

The village of Delabole is getting its own parish council.
(Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

This led to homes for the workers at the quarry eventually blurring the boundaries of the individual hamlets leading to the formation of the village of Delabole.

At the height of its success the quarry employed between 500 and 600 people and supported the village.

Delabole has come under the umbrella of St Teath Parish Council which covers the two villages which sit next to each other.

However while St Teath currently has an electorate of around 700 people, Delabole has an electorate of approximately 1,400. Due to this the parish council is currently made up of eight councillors from the Delabole area and four from St Teath.

And it was this which prompted local Cornwall councillor Dominic Fairman, who covers the wider area of St Teath and St Breward, to start the process of creating a standalone parish council for Delabole.

Dominic Fairman, Liberal Democrat Cornwall councillor for St Teath and St Breward.
(Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

“I was first elected in 2016,” he told me on a bright autumnal day in the village, “and I went along to parish council meetings in the area.

“When I went to St Teath I could see they were struggling due to the way that the parish council is made up.

“When it works well it is all fine, but I could see that sometimes there was an issue with meeting the needs of each village.”

Unlike some parishes the two main villages of St Teath and Delabole do not rely on sharing facilities. Each has its own church, pubs, shops, post offices, schools, sport and play areas.

But when there has been a disparity between the two the parish council has felt compelled to be equal.

One example mentioned by Cllr Fairman was a request from Delabole for funds towards the village Christmas lights – this was granted but then the same amount of money was also given to St Teath.

Cllr Fairman said: “It is hard for then to juggle the needs of each village. But there is no animosity between the villages – there are no massive rows. But it would be easier if they were able to concentrate on the villages independently.”

There are also some subtle differences between the populations of the villages with Cllr Fairman saying that Delabole has more “younger, working age families” while St Teath has more “retired residents and second homes”.

The new parish council for Delabole will mean that from May 2021 there will be two parish councils for the area. St Teath Parish Council will continue to represent its residents while Delabole Parish Council will start afresh.

Cllr Fairman said that while there were clear benefits for Delabole the change would also help St Teath by giving the village’s residents more say over what happens in the village and how their council tax payments to the parish council are spent.

The councillor said: “It is not all about Delabole – it will be better for St Teath as well. Whether it is right or wrong the parish council was overloaded with people from Delabole.

“There was a perception there that the parish council was not fair due to the proportionality.”

Ahead of the move to create a new parish council for Delabole Cllr Fairman carried out some consultation in both villages to get the views of local residents. He found that people were overwhelmingly in favour of change.

He said: “There were some who were skeptical about it, they didn’t want change just for the sake of it. But when they started to think about it and how the villages would have more say over what happens there they could see the real benefits and opportunities.”

One of those residents is Adrian Pooley, landlord of the Poldark Inn in the village who also grew up in Delabole.

Adrian Pooley, landlord of the Poldark Inn and Delabole resident.
(Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

He admits that he was one of those who was unsure whether the change was necessary but he has since seen the positives of the move.

“The village has always been a great community – there are a lot of events and clubs here and people always help each other out. This village has been amazing during the pandemic, it has been fantastic to see that support and long may it continue.”

One of the other things that Delabole is well known for is its annual carnival which attracts people from all over Cornwall.

And it has well supported sports clubs – of which Adrian plays a part – and he admits that in the past there has been a friendly rivalry between Delabole and St Teath.

Adrian says that he is considering standing for the new parish council when it is formed next year.

“It’s an opportunity for the village to go forward and be able to look after parishioners and set out what we want to do and see in Delabole in the future.

“I was skeptical about it at first but I can see that there could be real benefits for the village. If the right people come in to the council and do the right things by the village it could lead to real improvements.

“I hope to play a part in that, but we will wait and see.”

Delabole Slate Quarry.
(Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

For now the council has to set up a shadow parish council which will set the level of precept for the new parish council in time for new council tax bills to be sent out.

Parish and town councils take a share of council tax bills – known as the precept – which is then used to fund the work of the council and is on top of the charges for Cornwall Council and Devon and Cornwall Police.

The precept for Delabole will be based along the same levels used for St Teath Parish Council so there should not be any significant change in bills.

Then in May 2021 elections for Delabole Parish Council will be held for the first time, alongside elections for the slimmed down St Teath Parish Council.

St. John the Evangelist Church and community rooms in Delabole.
(Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

Delabole will have nine elected councillors and St Teath will have seven under the proposals.

For Cllr Fairman the elections will be the culmination of four years’ of work following his initial request to Cornwall Council for a new parish council to be formed.

He said: “It’s all about localism – that doesn’t mean much to most people but it is important, letting local people have control about what happens in their community.

“Cornwall Council is very big on localism and has been very supportive about devolution and giving towns and parishes more say and responsibility for services.

“This area is in the Camelford community network area and St Teath Parish Council is currently the second largest in that area.

“Even with this change Delabole will still be the second largest in the area – it is one of the largest villages in North Cornwall and should be able to have more say about its future.”

Who to contact about your local council story in Cornwall

Local Democracy Reporter Richard Whitehouse

Richard Whitehouse is the Local Democracy Reporter covering Cornwall Council and other public organisations across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) is a public service news agency: funded by the BBC, provided by the local news sector, in this instance Reach PLC brand Cornwall Live, and used by qualifying partners.

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While slate has been the thing which has put Delabole on the map historically it is also famous for being home to the first commercial wind farm in the UK.

Opened in 1991 it heralded a change to the use of renewable energy in the UK – this, Cllr Fairman says, shows that the village is forward looking.

He said that there was little opposition from locals at the time and says that now residents can get a discount on energy bills thanks to the wind farm.

As he looks across Delabole slate quarry and to the wind turbines in the distance Cllr Fairman considers that the village will have a bright future and with its parish council will have more say over that then ever before.

Cornwall Live