Safety Rail Scheme At Buzza Tower Rejected

buzza camera obscura 2Councillors have approved changes to the original planning consent for the Buzza Tower camera obscura.

But a plan to improve safety for maintenance at the top of the Grade II listed structure will need to go back to the drawing board.

The camera obscura was opened last year by husband and wife team, Andrew and Be Coombes, and it’s proved to be a popular addition to Scilly’s tourist attractions.

They took on the lease for the crumbling structure from the Council and spent two years restoring it.

But the original planning permission was controversial. Councillors deferred the application and then failed to make a decision within the legally-required time.

That meant it was taken out of their hands by the Planning Inspectorate, who gave their consent in 2012.

The Coombes’ latest application asked for modifications to the housing of the camera obscura mechanism.

Planning Officer Lisa Walton said rather than being telescopic, it now folded, which meant the box on the roof of the tower needed to be wider but lower than the original designs.

They also asked to reinstate a small ground floor window, which didn’t over look neighbouring properties. That’s to provide more natural light to the base of the tower.

Councillors gave their consent to these changes.

But a proposed, detachable, stainless steel and wire safety rail around the rooftop parapet was refused.

The applicants said this area isn’t open to the public, but the operators need to go out on the roof twice a day to raise and lower the camera mechanism.

But neighbouring properties wrote to the Planning Officer to complain that the rail wasn’t needed.

The Jones’ from Amaryllis said the rails would be “glistening in the sun and looking like candles lit up on the top of a cake!”

They were also worried it could be used to attach an advertising banner and suggested the operators should use a safety harness instead. That idea was also put forward by the Larns at Harbour Gaze.

And councillors seemed to agree.

Council Chairman Amanda Martin said she was “bemused” by the request for a safety rail, especially after so much work on the tower had already been done without this.

She didn’t want to see a listed building “tampered with for the sake of it.”

And Cllr Adrian Davis said putting stainless steel on “an iconic building” is “rather regrettable.”

Cllr James Francis said they wouldn’t even need planning permission to use a safety harness.

Councillors at first suggested deferring a decision until April, so discussions could be had with the applicants.

But Lisa pointed out this would take them over the limit again for making a decision.

“That’s what happened last time,” stated Cllr Richard McCarthy.

So councillors instead rejected that element of the scheme.