Blood Boiling Over Glasney Valley Development

– By David Garwood 

I’m coming in to the story of Glasney Valley development a bit late. Last year they unveiled the proposal for 500 homes, but other schemes have shown more. The noises from Cornwall Council about what a boost this development is for Penryn have set my blood boiling.

Penryn College Farm

I’ve written a few paragraphs, but I don’t know the full story as yet! I can tell you the bits that matter to me though. Last year Penryn Town Council refused a proposal to begin develpment to build a housing estate in Glasney Valley.

The land contains much ancient woodland and beautiful fields and is used by the community as well as providing habitat. Sadly, these things are irrelevant under the new planning laws, but the council rejected the proposal citing traffic problems and other technical points.

A year on and apparently Cornwall Council have approved the first phase of the plan; building 41 new homes on the woods at the Hill Head end of Penryn.

The noises from Cornwall Council give the impression that this is actually a great opportunity for Penryn. The upgraded roads will be an improvement, there’ll be a couple of ‘affordable’ units thrown in and a little playground.

The Falmouth Packet (newspaper) report states: Peter Bainbridge, said: “The scheme is a very well designed, sustainable development. “The loss of some mature trees is regrettable but given the condition of the trees and the scope for replacement planting, it is considered the impact on trees is acceptable.”

All without a whiff of irony! The habitat loss will be huge, the resource for the community will be lost forever and Penryn as a historic Cornish Borough will a thing of the past. I am not concerned about improved road layouts I have no interest in so-called “affordable housing”.

This is putting a wrecking ball through Penryn and it’s green belt, all for the quick profit of Walker Developments. As for Cornwall Council, they seem to hold the Cornwall we know and love in total disregard and happy to sign off anything in order to meet some flawed quotas.

If such ancient, protected woodland is fair game what next? One supporter of the campaign asked if there are plans to build luxury flats on Chysauster? If there was Cornwall Council would pass it, just so long as they put in a see-saw for the benefit of the community!

Okay people, the situation is this; The 41 homes which Cornwall Council have approved was approved by Penryn with a few conditions regarding traffic and such like. The homes at the Asda end of the valley are already under construction. Legally, there’s nothing can be done about any of that (I have little respect for the law when it comes to planning officers and our land!). The 41 houses will be built on College Farm and is considered by my fellow Councilors as in-fill. This is due to there being the railway line hemming it on the upper side.

The trees which are going to be lost are in the boundary hedgrows, though many of the other trees are going to be managed as a coppice (basically, cut down and allowed to re-grow. Then cut down again maybe 5 years down the line). I’ve read the bat reports and there is significant use of this site for foraging and roosting.

The mitigation is for hooded street lamps and some gaps in the eaves of the houses, standard stuff, but not much use for the bats that forage along hedgerows, especially as all that’s left of these will have been coppiced. There will be 4 ‘affordable’ units on the site. To be fair this isn’t as contentious as it seemed to me from the newspaper reports; standard loss of green-belt for the instant benefit of someone’s bank balance!

But then there’s the bigger picture. Penryn has no specific number of houses it needs. There has been little research into what it’s population and likely in migration will mean in terms of housing stock. The shambolic CC ‘local plan’, which has no basis in fact, has lumped Penryn in with Falmouth and said we need 3500 new houses built by 2030. Some of these have been built, but we still need to find space for about 2900!!!. The Local Plan has still not been finalised (as I understand it), but it is what everyone is now working to.

Cornwall Council have also helpfully said where these houses can go – goodbye Bickland fields, the absorption of the historic parish of Budock into Falmouth is all but complete. For Penryn a big chunk of what we have to find has been earmaked for the fields and woods beyond the 41 homes at College Farm. By pure coincidence Walker Developments has acquired this land too. In fact last year they did a presentation to the council showing lovely plans for a 500 house development on these very woods and fields.

Now I’m not saying Cornwall Council Planning officers came up with their plan in co-operation with Walker Developments; but you can!!!!!!

This is where it gets really tricky. There is no application for these 500 houses at present. When it arrives Penryn Council will shuffle about uncomfortably and make some half arsed conditions to try and get something back from it for the town, but they know that this is a done deal. Cornwall Council have already said it’s a suitable site for development and will pass it whether Penryn like it or not.

So what do we do – College Farm is crap, but seems to be already happening – the destruction of the rest of the green belt all the way up to Asda (and therefore completing the link up to Mabe) isn’t actually tabled yet so seems pointless campaigning against (the key word here is YET!!!).

I know we get bombarded with petitions, but please sign this one. We need to show that the public care about where developers build. The future of not just Penryn, but everywhere in the country is at stake. It’s not about stopping homes being built, it’s about the people having their say in the communities they live in.\

David Garwood is a Mebyon Kernow Councillor

10 July, 2013