Statement delivered to special Town Council meeting this evening

2012-10-10

Here's the statement delivered this evening to the special meeting of the Town Council convened to discuss rock armour and other issues related to Norman Baker's recent refusal to fund the Town Council's harbour scheme.

"The Town Council and indeed the whole town should be congratulated for the hard work that went into preparing its Harbour Scheme proposal for Norman Baker. We showed that there was an alternative approach and we developed that approach in a way that respected both the historic harbour and the views of the public. That the Cabinet at Cornwall Council were unable to put the past behind them and support Penzance is bitterly disappointing. Forget about HROs - the Town’s scheme has been stopped because of a lack of political will at Cornwall Council.

It is a sad day, but one that takes us to a new place. The future regeneration of Penzance Harbour has finally been separated from that of developments on the Isles of Scilly. Along with dredging for Penzance Norman Baker has agreed to fund a full harbour redevelopment for St Marys, and asked Cornwall Council to prepare a proposal. No decision taken by the Town Council can now affect this. The residents of the Isles of Scilly now have their harbour improvement scheme and Penzance no-longer has to fret about how its decisions will affect developments on the Islands. In short we can now put Penzance first and do what is right for Penzance’s long-term future.

In particular we can reject Cornwall Council’s planned assault on our town’s most important historic structure. Rock armour is ugly, destructive and not good enough for Penzance. It is a response to sea defence that only someone who doesn’t appreciate or care about our beautiful town could propose. And once used on the South Pier it will inevitably creep slowly around the Jubilee Pool and towards Newlyn, resulting in a seafront that looks more like a rubbish dump than the Victorian Promenade we are so lucky to possess now. Sea level rise is undoubtedly a challenge that we will have to rise to but there are ways of responding to future sea defence that would present opportunities, that would protect our town and seafront, and that would allow us to make something of the harsh necessities of climate change. These options must be fully investigated before any sea defence work is undertaken.

Second we can immediately set our sights clearly on what we want as a community for the long-term development and regeneration of the harbour. Penzance is more than just a harbour servicing the Isles of Scilly and the Penzance Harbour Users Association know this. Their plans, which include a multipurpose breakwater to properly protect the harbour and space to develop other marine related activities, looks to the future in an intelligent and visionary way. Some will claim their scheme is overly ambitious, but ambition and vision is needed and appropriate in this case. The scheme is also phaseable so one step at a time we must do what is best for Penzance. The first step should be a breakwater to protect the whole harbour and facilitate further development within it. If you think this is impossible “pie in the sky” then you are part of the problem not the solution. Developments of this kind are commonplace in other parts of Europe and often in places just like Penzance.

Finally, if the opportunity for modest short-term improvements to the shore-side facilities in Penzance still exists, as Norman Baker suggests, then we should do all we can to achieve them, but we should not be bullied or bribed by Cornwall Council to accept rock armour on the South Pier and the slow erosion of all that is special about our seafront and our town."

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