Different Planning Reports Give ‘Very Mixed Messages’ Says Councillor

The former Longstone Heritage Centre

The former Longstone Heritage Centre

Councillors have approved temporary accommodation at the former Longstone Heritage Centre despite conflicting advice being given by two different planning reports.

Permission was granted in 2012 to convert the centre into a bunkhouse, hostel and café. But in the end, the applicant didn’t purchase the property and the plan was never implemented.

Now island resident Penny Penn-Howard has submitted a new application to put up a temporary one-bedroom, wooden building in the grounds, allowing her to stay on-site during a proposed redevelopment of the centre.

But a report by the Council’s Strategic Development Manager, Diana Mompoloki, said the applicant was considering some amendments to the original permission, and these would need to come back for approval first.

She also said Ms Penn-Howard wouldn’t have anywhere to live once her current tenancy ends this month.

Diana recommended approving the temporary accommodation, subject to it only being used during the redevelopment and being removed at the end.

But a report by a Cornwall Council Planning Consultant, tabled late on the day of the meeting, raised concerns about granting permission before the wider scheme had been approved.

It said the applicant wanted to live on site “because it is convenient not because it is essential.”

They recommended deferring or withdrawing the application and submitting the two schemes together when they’re finalised.

Senior Manager for Infrastructure, Craig Dryden, added a fourth option, telling councillors at the meeting that it could be refused, on the grounds of “prematurity.”

But Cllr Christine Savill said the two reports gave out “very mixed messages” and she wanted it deferred. She cautioned that refusing the scheme could leave the Council “wide open” to an appeal.

One paper recommends granting it, she said, while one says defer or withdraw it with no mention of refusal.

Cllr Gordon Bilsborough said the Council would be writing an “open-ended cheque” if they approved it, before seeing the plans for development of the rest of the site.

But a wider view of the scheme was taken by Cllr James Francis. He described Longstone as “a sad story over the last few years” and he didn’t want to prevent it being brought back into use.

Both he and Cllr Avril Mumford felt the accommodation should be approved, with strict limits on when it could be used and for how long.

Craig admitted there was confusion with the application. He told councillors that a refusal would send out a positive statement, that they weren’t against the application in principle, they just needed more information.

Councillors eventually voted to approve the application.