Conservationists fears plans to allow an extra 47,500 homes to be built in Cornwall over the next 20 years will damage the county’s unique appeal.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said “no evidence” had been presented to support the figure, which was decided by Cornwall councillors last week, or how it would benefit communities and the local economy. It said: “Every development, no matter how small, has an effect on the surrounding environment and Cornwall is particularly sensitive to this, as nearly a quarter of the county’s income comes from tourism.
“Thirty percent of Cornwall’s landscape is designated as nationally important and five million visitors escape here every year to enjoy the peacefulness and scenic beauty of both the coast and inland. Protection against overbuilding is in the top ten of their concerns.”
The housing allocation was hotly debated at County Hall with a rival proposal to lower the total to 33,000 being defeated. Councillors clashed over the best way forward with one saying the target of 47,500 would make the county a “developers’ paradise”.
Others argued setting a lower figure would be rejected by the Planning Inspectorate, leading to delays in adopting the Local Plan and leaving Cornwall at the mercy of developers.
After a debate lasting more than three hours, the full council voted by 62 votes to 31, with 10 abstentions, to increase the target from 42,250 to 47,500. The plan now goes out to public consultation.
CPRE Cornwall spokesman Orlando Kimber said: “Previous consultation with the public has often relied on email and web pages, rather than down-to-earth informed discussion. Both are needed, so that we can all take part.
“The consultation process needs to be a genuine democratic opportunity for all local people. This will require the council to provide clear and specific plans for each community, presented to the public in meetings where people can debate openly in forums and receive direct and honest responses. Without this, the consultation is little more than lip service.”
Lib-Dem Mario Fonk said the new target would turn the Cornwall into “a developers’ paradise”. Despite a doubling of housing stock over the last four decades, he said, “housing problems of local people over that time have got significantly worse”.
Edwina Hannaford, Lib-Dem cabinet member for environment, heritage and planning, warned without a local plan, she said there was a “risk” from planning appeals and associated costs as well as developments being approved in line with national guidance rather than local policies.
She said the true figure was 27,000 over the next 17 years given 20,500 homes had already been granted in the last three years.