Falmouth Rugby Club plans at Menehay Fields refused on appeal

Falmouth Rugby Club is facing the latest setback in a saga over land usage that has lasted more than a decade.

Their plans to build 226 homes in Menehay Fields just off Bickland Water Road have been rejected on appeal by the Secretary of State.

Falmouth Rugby Club chairman James Instance says that the club is now in a “precarious situation” with a £200,000 debt from the land purchase.

He said: “We will have to look at what options to repay our debt. At the moment I don’t know what they are.

“We feel that we have been hamstrung at every stage as we attempted to improve and develop ourselves. What we have to do now is have quite a serious discussion with the board at the club to try and identify a way forward.”

Councillor for Budock Water John Bastin welcomed the decision, saying: “We worked for a long time to keep that barrier between Falmouth and Budock, here we are with a final outcome which is really reassuring that there is some justice in the world.

“We would have lost the interface between Budock and Falmouth. It’s absolutely vital that Budock keeps its integrity.”

The club originally bought the land intending to move the grounds there and build a housing development on their current land in town.

They received planning permission to build the new grounds in 2007, but opposition from local politicians meant that they were unable to build the development on their current ground to finance the move and the improved facilities.

After their original plan did not work out, they attempted to build a development on the recently purchased land in Menehay Fields instead, and use the money from the development to improve the existing club, which has been at its current location since 1904.

Now that planning permission to build this development has been refused, Mr Instance says the club will have to consider selling off the land to repay the £200,000 debt to club members.

Even though he felt “extreme disappointment” at the result, Mr Instance is determined to keep the future of the club secure.

He said: “All options for us are back on the table. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be 15 players running out as the Falmouth Eagles.

“We are a successful club, however, when a rugby club finds itself with over £200,000 worth of debt, we have to pay it back. It does put a real stress and strain onto the club.”

Somewhat unusually for a development of its size, the Menehay Fields plan had overwhelming public support on the Cornwall Council planning portal, with 144 comments in support and 16 objecting.

Although the planning application for the Menehay Fields development had overwhelming public support online, residents of Budock Water voiced their opposition in a petition organised by parish councillor Jim Cave which garnered 535 signatures.

Falmouth Town Council and Cornwall councillor Alan Jewell, who owns land near the site of the proposed development, opposed the plans from the beginning.

He said: “I was not in support of that development because it would break the gap between the town and the village. It’s good news for Falmouth, we have got enough houses in the pipeline.”

When the plans were refused the first time round in March 2017, developers Westcountry Land claimed that councillor Jewell had refused to declare an interest in the application as it would have lifted a covenant on a competing business (Menehay Farm Touring Park), allowing them to extend their campsite.

At the time, councillor Jewell responded by saying: “It was 15 votes to two; it wasn’t a split decision. I was lobbied by members of my ward to stop the building and that’s what I’m there for – to represent the members of my ward. And they did not want houses there.”