Route Partnership attempt to undermine local democracy - historic seafront still in danger!

2009-07-27

Officers of Cornwall Council - in the guise of the Route Partnership - have launched a new offensive against the wishes of local people and are pressuring newly elected Cornwall councillors to support their discredited scheme to build on Battery Rocks beach. The planning application for this development was withdrawn on June 12th but the Route Partnership is determined to see it reinstated.

The push by the Route Partnership (RP) comes just weeks after local elections that failed to see a single candidate come out in support of the scheme (most publicly opposed it). There can be few issues where the public’s clearly stated wishes and the Council officers’ desires are so utterly opposed. Two RP “pre-planning” exhibitions produced massive majorities against the scheme (65-85% against), the Town Council voted against the plans (with just one dissenting voice) and 672 local people wrote letters of objection to the planning application (whereas just 8 people felt strongly enough to write letters in support of it).

In this situation the responsibility of Council officers should be clear – to go away and start work on developing an alternative scheme that genuinely addresses the concerns of local people. Instead they have chosen to continue their unpopular campaign, and are now, in the words of one local councillor, aiming to “pick off councillors one by one” in an attempt to get their old scheme reinstated. In a string of meetings with councillors and others over the last two weeks the RP have suppressed evidence in support of alternatives and continued to peddle half truths and dodgy reports in support of a scheme already roundly rejected by Penzance residents.

Assurances from Tom Flanagan that time would be made available to properly review alternatives now ring hollow. The promised report on alternatives to the RP scheme has yet to be published but indications are that the report is biased and designed principally to support a return to the old scheme. The report is being prepared by the same consultants that advised the Route Partnership on their original scheme (so are hardly unbiased) and by a shipping logistics consultant with no experience of operations like the Scilly Link. The Friends of Penzance Harbour have seen a draft of the report and provided detailed comments, but rather than wait for a final version from the consultants, the RP have chosen to use the flawed draft to push their scheme onto councillors. As always, they have no plans to share this with local people, listen to us or engage us in a meaningful debate.

At the time the alternative options appraisal was suggested by the RP, the Friends of Penzance Harbour were concerned about its narrow scope (vessel options were excluded) but agreed that “if the proposed appraisal was undertaken in good faith and with a will to finding an alternative to building on Battery Rocks beach then it could come up with useful proposals”. Sadly the RP’s behaviour in the last two weeks indicates that this was never their intention. The Route Partnership clearly don’t understand that “no” really does mean “NO”, and are now engaged in a propaganda campaign designed to undermine the democratic process and circumvent the wishes of local people.

The Friends of Penzance Harbour are calling on Tom Flanagan, the Cornwall Council Corporate Director responsible for the scheme to:

1. Rein in his officers and stop any further efforts by them to promote the old RP scheme to build on Battery Rocks beach.
2. Ensure that the final version of the Alternative Options Appraisal is an unbiased and objective assessment of the relative merits of the alternative concepts being appraised.
3. Initiate a proper independent review of all other aspects of the Scilly Link project including the choice of vessel and funding arrangements.
4. Start negotiations with the Council of the Isles of Scilly (a separate unitary authority) to share the cost of any new vessel (at the moment this will be borne entirely by Cornwall Council although the benefits accrue almost entirely to the inhabitants of the Isles of Scilly).
5. Withdraw the application for a Harbour Revision Order (if granted this would allow the old RP scheme to progress).

We are also urging local people to re-engage with the issue. Many people will have assumed that the withdrawal of the planning application signalled the end of the threat. This is not the case – concerned locals must make sure that their MP, councillors and the officers responsible for the issue know their feelings. For help with this please see our new “How to Help” document below.


NEW "How to Help" document : download pdf | view pdf

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