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New Looe development could threaten a colony of protected birds

By cg_ailsam  |  Posted: January 24, 2014

Plaidy Lane on Google Earth

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A NEW cliff-top development in Looe could threaten a colony of protected birds and de-stabilise the rock base if approved, a group looking at future development in the town has warned.

Plans were submitted in December to build a house at Chough Rock, on Plaidy Lane, by the Guild Of St James.

The plans include the demolition of the existing two-storey house, which has already been completed, and the build of a new four-storey house lower down on the cliff.

In order to accommodate the two additional floors, it is proposed to drill down five or six metres and excavate away the top section of cliff, reducing the cliff height by around 20 per cent, according to the Looe Strategy Group (LSG).

However, the upper ledges of the cliff are home to a long established colony of nesting Fulmar birds.

Patricia Edward, a member of the LSG - a group which looks at future developments to see if they are the best option for the coastal town and the community - lives less than a mile away from the proposed development.

She said: “My concern is that all the vibration and engineering involved in moving 4,000 tons of stone might de-stabilise the rock base, which is already subject to coastal erosion.

“In turn this could affect adjoining properties, weaken the highway and hasten the permanent closure of Plaidy Lane and the South West Coast Path.

“The applicant is suggesting using a 10 tonne dumper but this might struggle on the steep incline, so assume eight tonnes per load makes 500 return trips - the disruption could go on for months or years.”

In the UK, fulmars receive protection under the law and it is an offence to disturb their nests or kill the birds.

The plans include a two metre high screen around the cliff-top edge to prevent visual contact with the birds whilst works progress.

Ms Edward said: “Regrettably this measure would be a pointless exercise as someone somewhere has failed to appreciate the Fulmars can be seen nesting on ledges only one or two metres down from the existing cliff-top.

“These ledges would be completely eliminated by the six metre reduction in cliff height proposed.”

A site inspection took place on November 26 by surveyor, Steven Madge a birds expert and ornithologist, who reported that noisy work could be completed when the birds were absent from September until November.

Cornwall Councillor for East Looe, Armand Toms said: “It’s going to have a massive impact on the road, the birds and the landscape.

“It will kill off the Fulmars, who have been there before my life time.

“My opinion is this is a very tough decision and I feel that the effects on the wildlife are very strong aspects we have got to look at.”

The Landmark Information Group Ltd undertook a survey of the land and found that the potential for natural ground instability within 50 metres of the property was at a low risk.

Agents for the scheme, Design and Drafting Ltd, said plans for a build on the site had been approved twice before.

Director Tony Howes said: “It’s the third time the planning application has been submitted and nothing has changed since.

“The engineering report says the build won’t de-stabilise the rock base and there will be a strategy to load and off load items from the site.”

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