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Apology but no council U-turn on St Erth plan

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: September 06, 2012

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CAMPAIGNERS against a £10 million transport hub at St Erth have been offered a "formal apology" by Cornwall Council after an internal investigation.

The council accepted it made mistakes when granting planning permission for its own 750-space park-and-ride scheme.

But after the authority insisted it would not review the decision to turn three areas of land in the village into car parks, the St Erth Residents' Association (Sera) threatened to go to the Government's ombudsman.

The hub was opposed by the association and St Erth and Ludgvan Parish Councils.

And after it was approved Sera lodged a list of complaints including claims parish councillors and residents were wrongly excluded from a site visit, and a traffic and safety study at the village that already hosts a sewage plant and recycling centre was flawed.

Cornwall Council's internal investigation found no evidence to back these claims.

But it upheld a complaint that councillors debating the plan at a meeting were told the agricultural land in question had been reclassified and could be built on. Council officers had only been told the land could be classified differently in the view of one consultant.

Complaint investigator Janet Ferguson's report said that view was "simply … an opinion … that had not been reviewed, verified, or subject to scrutiny from Natural England".

"I can well understand the complainant's argument that there could have been a greater debate on the agricultural land issue with a potentially different outcome/decision."

Sera chairman Derek Tilby said: "If the councillors had been aware on the day that it was grade two land [and therefore classified not for development under the Penwith Local Plan] we might have had a closer vote or even a vote to say 'no'.

"We didn't get chance to have that argument because the chairman said the land was classified in a way it wasn't."

Following the investigation, in a letter to Mr Tilby dated August 28, Cornwall Council head of planning and regeneration Phil Mason said: "I would now like to offer you my formal apology. The service is using complaints as a mechanism to review and improve. The points raised in Ms Ferguson's report have been communicated to the relevant officers and actioned where necessary."

But Mr Tilby said: "You can apologise all you like but where is the remedy?

"It does not actually resolve the situation. Our thoughts now are to go to the ombudsman but we will first write to Phil Mason to give him a chance to respond."

Cornwall Council said it "will not be revisiting this planning permission. This has already been granted and there is no mechanism for the decision to be revisited."

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