2017 update 1 Bad news for Pendower
Here are two questions:
Which comes first - a protected landscape or the tourist economy? Who should decide?
On 15th March Cornwall Council Planning Department gave permission under delegated powers for the Nare development application to go ahead, arguing that the economy should have priority over landscape, even in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
This is in spite of a whole raft of policies deigned to protect the landscape, especially within the Cornwall AONB. These policies, supposedly supported by the Council, include the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the AONB Management Plan and the Roseland Neighbourhood Development Plan, as well as Cornwall Council's own Local Plan. They don't make thrilling reading, but they are what protects the beauty of your favourite walk or your family's enjoyment of a day on an unspoilt beach.
To many it might seem self-evident that harm to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty will also do long-term damage to tourism. You don't need to read the extensive research done for Visit Cornwall and others to realise that a major plank of Cornwall's economy is its landscape, especially the unique and precious landscapes of the AONB. Pendower Beach, in all its unspoilt beauty, is one of the jewels in its crown.
Also, crucially, precedence counts for a lot when it comes to planning decisions and appeals, a domino effect that is obvious if you wander round St Mawes or down the Rosevine road. The Council's decision to allow such a large scale expansion of the Nare Hotel has major implications for the Pink Hotel site and many other potential developments across the Roseland and Cornwall as a whole.
So firstly we'd argue with the rationale for the decision, but above all we argue with the way it was taken, under delegated powers. It wasn't sent to the Council's Planning Committee to be debated openly, giving interested parties a chance to put their view before a decision was reached.
This delegation is highly unusual for major development proposals of this kind. It's worth remembering that the Secretary of State had to intervene to insist that Cornwall Council should require the developers to produce an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). This very fact is a recognition of the need to ensure the widest possible scrutiny of a development on this large scale. We are not alone in thinking it should not be a decision to be made behind closed doors.
Why, given the level of concern about many aspects of the application, did our Roseland Councillor decide not to send this major development proposal to the Planning Committee?
Once an application is approved there's not much that can be done... or is there? The majority of you who live in Cornwall will know that we have elections on Thursday. This is the one chance we have to influence in some small way Cornwall Council's future direction of travel. We need, in my view, to elect Members who will prioritise landscape in the AONB, who will recognise the crucial importance of the policies designed to protect it and who will challenge the Executive if it fails to carry out these policies in its decision making.
As for the Pink Hotel, I wish I had news to report. For those who care about protecting the beach, it's now clearer than ever how vital it is to continue to hold the Planning Department and whoever is our local Member after 4th May to account. Your support in this has never been more important.
Finally, I hope you have an enjoyable bank holiday, in spite of the clouds hanging over Pendower.