Option Shortlist Exhibition & Public Consultation, 9th February

2012-02-07

The Penzance Harbour Scheme Options Review process reaches a critical stage this week with the holding of an exhibition and public consultation on the shortlisted options.

The event will take place on Thursday 9th February from 11:00am to 9:00pm at the PZ Gallery on Coinagehall Street (opposite the Jubilee Pool and St Anthony’s Gardens).

It’s important that as many people as possible make it along to the exhibition, but if you are unable to attend then the display boards and access to the on-line consultation questionnaire can be found on the project web site (see below). The deadline for providing feedback is noon on Monday 13th February.

Since the Department for Transport refused funding for the Route Partnership’s Isles of Scilly Link scheme in March of last year, the Friends of Penzance Harbour has been working with the Penzance Seafront Forum to try and ensure that the process leading to the selection of an alternative harbour scheme is open and transparent and aimed at improving the situation for Penzance as well as for the Isles of Scilly Link. This has not been an easy task with, amongst other things, severe time constraints working against a thorough and well organised review of issues and options. There have also been problems with the management of the project and with the criteria used to sift and select options, and these together make it difficult for me to provide an endorsement of either the process or the shortlisted options. The parts of the “Consultant’s Brief” (see posting of 8/11/11 below) that should have ensured that the project avoided the mistakes of the past appear to have been filed and forgotten once work commenced.

That said, we have had some influence on the process, and the outcome to-date would certainly have been different if the Seafront Forum had not been involved. In the first place, the community consultation plan put forward by the Forum has pushed the consultants to adopt elements of a Community-Led Planning approach (a first for them) for the project, though the Forum has had to keep a close watch on this as there has been a tendency to then not process the community input properly. An adequate consideration of approaches based around the Albert Pier (including a full and hopefully credible explanation of why an Albert Pier scheme cannot be taken forward) and an open mind on how improvements to facilities at the North Arm/South Pier might be undertaken are two other things that the Seafront Forum have fought hard for, and that you will hopefully see at the exhibition & consultation this Thursday.

So the process is close to settling on a preferred approach but there are still many things to be resolved, and a number of issues that need strong input from the community. A North Arm/South Pier scheme done properly could be a gain for the town, but if proper attention is not given to key issues it could also be a disaster. The following in particular are worth looking out for and commenting on in your consultation feedback:

1. The threat of rock armour on the South Pier. One of the ideas you will see on Thursday is a covered walkway running the length of the South Pier. Its purpose would be to keep passengers dry on rainy days and from the very occasional summer overtopping (there is no plan for a passenger service in the winter), but heavier winter overtopping means that any new fixed structure like this on the South Pier would provide Cornwall Council with a new argument for placing ugly rock armour on the outside of the Grade II* listed South Pier (without some form of additional sea defence the covered walkway would inevitably get damaged by winter overtopping and end up being very costly to maintain). It would be better to avoid any new development on the South Pier itself and work instead towards the Pier’s long-term protection as part of a comprehensive future offshore sea defence strategy for the town’s waterfront.

2. South Pier maintenance. None of the options contain a provision for the proper maintenance & refurbishment of the structure of the South Pier, despite it being the principle current sea defence for the harbour and having had its maintenance neglected for many years.

3. Quality design and materials for all new structures. At present the costings assume cheap, industrial estate-style buildings, and without public pressure any North Arm widening is likely to be purely functional and not really appropriate in such an historic setting.

4. Harbour regeneration. The final scheme could include a number of developments that would help trigger renewed interest in and regeneration of the harbour area. Examples of this would be the removal of the Green Sheds and/or Rank Building, improved traffic management, and the confining of the Isles of Scilly Link freight handling activities to just one part of the harbour (the North Arm).

5. Respecting our valuable heritage assets. The previous 4 points to a lesser or greater extent touch on heritage issues, but the importance of this needs stressing and in particular in relation to the proposed covered walkway mentioned earlier, which we were told was left off the previous Option A scheme because of concerns about its effect on the Grade II* listed South Pier.

6. Dealing with traffic problems. By keeping freight handling operations on the North Arm we will still have the associated freight traffic visiting this area. New freight handling arrangements must ensure that vehicles no-longer queue on the road. Sufficient space for coach and car drop off and pick-up of passengers is also very important.

In a similar vein the Seafront Forum has written to Cllr Jon Pender, the Chair of the Penzance Harbour Scheme Management Board, describing the benchmarks against which the Forum believes any final option must be measured. However, the Forum’s suggestions to the Town Council’s Project Management Team are rarely acknowledged let alone replied to, so it is hard to know whether the messages get through. This is why it is so important that the community of Penzance attends the exhibition and looks afresh at the problems and potential solutions with a level-headed pragmatism and a keen eye to the future.

Event Leaflet : download pdf | view pdf

PzHS Options Review Website

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