Helston's town councillors have been told they cannot legally comment on plans to build a new retail park in Helston in an official capacity.

This is because all town councillors are automatically also trustees of the Helston Downsland Trust, the charity that owns the piece of land at Hospital Cross that the park is proposed for.

Parsonage Developments Ltd wants to put four buildings there, for a McDonald's with drive-thru, Aldi, The Range and Costa with drive-thru, on the 2.7 hectare greenfield site between the Sainsbury’s supermarket and Flambards Theme Park, and RNAS Culdrose.

Read the full details of the planning application, including proposed changes to the road layout, here: Planning application for Helston retail park revealed at last: details in full

Normally the town or parish council in any area where a planning application is made will be able to give its comments, either in support or objection, as consultees.

However, with this particular application in Helston the situation is more confusing, due to the councillors also being 'ex-officio' trustees of the Downsland Trust – in other words, a member of a body, in this case the Trust, who is part of it by virtue of holding another office, ie on the town council.

Although the town council as a body has had no involvement in negotiations of the land or the planning application, due to this 'ex-officio' link, it would would effectively mean councillors would be commenting on an application that they have a vested interest in through their other role as trustees of the charity selling the land in question.

The proposed layout for the site

The proposed layout for the site

The council said it had been given legal advice stating that as a result it would be breaching their agreement as trustees to comment on the plans in an official capacity.

The Packet is waiting to hear confirmation on whether town councillors are able to submit comments in a personal capacity to the public consultation now launched at Cornwall Council, as long as it is clear that this is not their official view as an elected member – although this could be seen as a grey area.

The public consultation will end on October 22, and anyone can make a comment via its planning website.

In a statement issued today, the town council said: "Whilst Helston Town Council as an organisation has had no involvement with the proposed development at Hospital Cross, councillors by virtue of their role are ex-officio trustees of the Helston Downsland Trust which owns the land in question.

"The charity is run as a separate entity to the town council and the Helston Downsland Trust agreed to sell this piece of land, and in doing so the developer obtained an option agreement regarding the sale which prevents the Trustees from objecting to the proposals.

"Legal advice has been sought on behalf of Helston Town Council and it has been confirmed that it is not possible for councillors to comment in their capacity as a councillor without breaching the agreement as a trustee.

"For this reason it would be inappropriate for both Helston Town Council’s planning committee and individual town councillors to make any comment regarding this planning application and the town council will not be participating in the planning process on this occasion."

Concerns have been raised in the past over the direct link between the Trust and the council, with Helston Climate Action group calling on the town councillors to "honour the commitments they made" when declaring a climate emergency in March 2019 and declaring Helston an Earth Protector Town in December 2019.


Members of the group claimed the development would cause "irreparable environmental damage".

Cornwall Council will make the ultimate decision on whether planning permission will be granted.

The local Cornwall Councillor for the area is Councillor Guy Foreman, whose contact details on the council's website are 07394 197579 and cllr.guy.foreman@cornwall.gov.uk

He will be able to make a representation to the council on behalf of constituents.