Council will not support Falmouth Rugby Club plans for Menehay housing

Council has said it will not support plans by Falmouth Rugby Club to build 226 homes at Menehay Fields even if it will help the club financially. Representatives of the club, along with developers and affordable housing company DCH, were at a meeting of the town’s planning committee to request support for a planning application on the fields which sit in the green strip between Budock and Falmouth.

James Instance, Falmouth Rugby Club chairman, told councillors that the club needed to develop the land, which it had bought for a new pitch before a public outcry forced it to abandon those plans, in order to help balance its finances. He said: “We own 20 acres of land we can’t afford to develop, we don’t wish to develop, and we are looking to dispose of in order to pay back our members.” He also told the council that building homes on the site would allow the club to purchase the Recreation Ground where it currently plays, which it currently leases from Cornwall Council. And he added that it would then be able to improve the ground, as well as the playing fields used by King Charles School at Tregenver Road. This, he said, would create sporting and community facilities “for this generation and generations to come.”

The council also heard from Melanie Brooks of Westcountry Land, who told them that they should pay limited attention to an allocations document currently being developed by Cornwall Council, which has not earmarked the land for housing. She added that a failed application for a nearby site at Pool Field had been overturned on appeal, meaning the Menehay development would be infill and threatening the council that a successful appeal by Westcountry Land & Homes could incur large legal costs. And she said a planning precedent had been set when the club was granted permission for a new ground there, while all covenants on the land had been successfully removed.

Councillor Alan Jewell questioned the club’s plans to buy the Recreation Ground, saying he had discussed it with Cornwall Council and they “won’t ever sell that site.” He added that the financial situation of the rugby club was “their mismanagement” and the decision had to be made on planning considerations, not on supporting the club.

And Councillor Steve Eva added; “I really don’t like people who come to this council and threaten us with costs if we don’t vote their way.” He also said that while the town needed housing, this development would increase the risk of flooding downhill, and added that while the site was in Budock, there were no facilities in the parish and it would place added strain on Falmouth.

Councillors all agreed that the rugby club was an asset to the town, and Councillor Vicky Eva said she was “torn” between helping the club and supporting another development with “no facilities for the community”. Mrs Eva said there was no provision for doctors, dentists, or schooling, but Councillor Rowenna Brock said 226 homes did not mean 226 new families in the area and could help alleviate pressure on families who were in unsuitable accommodation. She added: “This is not ideal but compared to some developments that have come up it’s better.”

The committee was split equally over whether to support the application, and chairman Grenville Chappel cast the deciding vote against, saying: “I agree with the refusal on the grounds that the facilities are just not enough.” The club had sent supporters a prepared letter to sign, with the council having received around 50.