High Court halts 31-homes plan

CAMPAIGNERS have won a David and Goliath battle to stop a developer building on a Mevagissey beauty spot – for now.

Ardent protesters have hailed the judicial review, which quashed planning permission to build 31 homes (21 affordable) on an Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB) off School Hill, as a landmark decision not only for Cornwall but for the country. Mevagissey Parish Council took Mevagissey Bay View LLP and Cornwall Council to the High Court in a last-ditch attempt to stop the developer. A previous attempt to halt the build through Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, failed but, Mr Justice Hickinbottom ruled, the permission should be quashed. 

Following the hearing on November 21, he ruled that Cornwall Council’s planning committee had not given enough weight to alternative sites in Mevagissey, which would have had significantly less impact on the AONB. The campaigners’ fight was funded by residents and the Cornwall AONB Partnerships, which includes organisations such as the National Trust.  Speaking on behalf of the parish council, its chairman Michael Roberts said: “Cornwall has one third of the National Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). So the victory of Mevagissey Parish Council in protecting its spectacular coastal scenery from development on School Hill marks a watershed in challenging planning decisions.

“Although the community was divided about the benefit of affordable houses planned for the site against the loss of spectacular scenery, the judge decided that in granting planning permission, Cornwall Council gave insufficient weight to the AONB.” Mr Roberts added: “The judgement handed down in this case should stand as a landmark decision for all councils and communities who are battling to save some of our outstanding landscapes from being exploited by developers who are using affordable housing as a means of obtaining planning permission that would not normally be granted.”

Developer Mevagissey Bay View LPP said it was extremely disappointed with the decision.

In a statement, John Schuttkacker, director of Westcountry Land & Homes and Mevagissey Bay View LLP, blamed the judge’s decision on the “basis of a failure to accurately record the debate that was actually held by the planning committee and this decision is not a criticism of the approved scheme”.

“The quashed planning application will now be put back to the committee to be redetermined, addressing the previous procedural issue.” The firm could see no reason for the decision to differ from that of the previous approval, he said. “We remain committed to the delivery of truly affordable homes in Mevagissey where there is a proven exceptional need,” he said.

David Hughes, who is on the AONB panel for Cornwall Council, said: “The judge made it quite clear the officer was not at fault.”