Saturday, 12 October 2013

'Gulval to be consumed by Penzance Housing'

Today I was forwarded an e-mail from a colleague concerning yet another development being planned in Penzance & Gulval, as you can read below officers at Cornwall Council already think that enough consultation has taken place and that their plans are already in the public domain.

Not that public I fancy as no one I have spoken to has even heard of them.

So what are we talking about?

The land at Ponsandane is being seriously considered as being suitable for a housing estate and that Cornwall Planners have already conducted talks with developers to deliver a first phase of 100+ houses over the next few years. With further phases, to be developed at a later date.

This plot of land was protected in the original local plan as being the important green wedge of a high landscape value and preventing the coalescence of the village of Gulval into Penzance. At the consultation stage Penzance town council opposed development on this land, and a few years ago the planning inspectorate refused an appeal for just six houses on the land at Ponsandane because of the adverse visual impact and the fact that the B3312 formed a natural village boundary.

So why the Council  planners should now think it is appropriate to build on this site is beyond me, whilst I can appreciate that planning policy can become out of date, there is no way that a policy protecting an area for its important visual importance and role in separating the two communities of Gulval and Penzance can become irrelevant (Policy TV-2 of the local plan). 

Certainly this is not something they should decide for themselves; this is something the community should decide.   

The planning officer at Cornwall Council leading this plan has been approached regarding this development, Dave Slatter (Planning Officer, Cornwall Council, Camborne – whom I have been told has been going about the council offices rubbing his hands in glee at a development that as far as he is concerned is ‘in the bag’). Dave Slatter’s reply is as follows:

You are correct we have been in contact with the **********’ as landowners as we have been with other landowners whose sites have been identified as potential housing opportunities within the draft town framework.
The town frame is one of a number of frameworks that are being developed and used to ultimately inform an Allocations Plan for the emerging new Local Plan.
The potential for the site’s allocation has been in the public domain for some time now when it was identified within the Penzance options paper was published for public consultation in January 2012 as part of the West Penwith Community Network Area Discussion Paper.

This can still be downloaded by clicking on the West Penwith link on this page

The sites that were included in the plan were arrived at by using a robust Urban Assessment Methodology that examined the land around the existing urban area in order to discount the least sustainable land from further consideration. This approach was used consistently across all the towns considered and because of the sustainable development approach taken often resulted in challenging existing policies or even past decisions.

The assessment documents for Penzance were made available at the same time as the public consultation and can still downloaded from
Since the publication of the Community Network Area paper the target housing numbers within the Local plan have changed and are likely to change again. We have been examining the original options in more detail, including speaking to landowners (some did not want their land considered further), in order ascertain which options are not only the most sustainable but also viable and capable of delivery, this work is ongoing.

We are hoping to consult on the Allocations document next year however that does not stop developers from pursuing their own initiative including submitting planning applications if they chose to do so. In these circumstances we make them aware they are progressing at risk from a local policy perspective and strongly recommend they engage with the local community.

I have huge reservations about the methodology used to undertake the sustainability appraisal anyway, which I wont go into now, and I do not believe the SA done for the Penzance sites could be considered to be sound as it is subjective, inconsistent and not backed up by a strong evidence base (particularly in regards to environment and landscape issues). 

Regardless of this I believe it is extremely arrogant of the planners to think they can get housing development in this site through the backdoor so to speak without fully consulting the community on whether or not this land is still considered to be the important green wedge which deserves special protection. 

I think it is vitally important for the local community in Gulval  (and also the wider neighbourhood) to be made aware of these plans, and also the plans for all development in and around the Gulval area, 

I have been told that the old pig fields by the School have already been cleared for development, and I would like to know how many houses are planned for that site and also what percentage are affordable. 

It surely is for the people in Gulval to decide what is important to them, not the planners.

Below is a map showing the planned development area.

From this you can see that the darker green areas are the phases in which the planners are expecting to develop, this site i.e. the whole of the site facing the approach to Penzance will be covered with housing except for the two fields which surround the telecom mast.   

It is highly important that local people are involved in any decision making at the earliest stages,  whilst the land at Ponsandane can at this moment still only be considered as an exception site, planning policy at the national scale still means that development in such types of sites should only be taken forward if they are deemed acceptable by the local community (and the only way for that to be known and understood is if the general public are made aware and consulted on, and that the Town & Parish Councils agree it will be needed).

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