Falmouth Packet:

Emotions were running high this morning as the future of Ships and Castles was considered at a packed meeting of Cornwall Council's cabinet.

Protestors gathered outside New County Hall in Truro at 8am to greet members of the cabinet as they arrived for their meeting.

Some stopped to talk to the protestors before the meeting although Cllr Richard Pears, Portfolio holder for Customers, refused to engage with them before entering the building.

The item was brought up to the front of the agenda, to allow around 30 protestors to enter the public gallery to hear what the cabinet had to say.


Protestors gathered outside New County Hall. Picture Jory Mundy

Protestors gathered outside New County Hall. Picture Jory Mundy

Yesterday, Falmouth Town Council announced it is to ask for the devolution of the Pendennis Headland, but it will not reopen the leisure centre.

Instead it will explore the option to lease the Ships and Castles site to community interest company Pendennis Leisure and give the community interest company the opportunity to find funding to re-open the pool and provide other leisure facilities.


We won't reopen Ships and Castles but we will protect the headland, says council

At this morning's cabinet meeting it voted to pursue the devolution of the whole of Pendennis Headland to Falmouth Town Council before selling the site on the open market.

The meeting was interrupted on a number of occasions by protestors whomade their displeasure at what was happening on more than one occasion.

However, with no financial support to help the transition, maintenance and/or reopening of the pool,the council and Pendennis Leisure now have have six months to make that a reality.


Protestors gathered outside New County Hall

Protestors gathered outside New County Hall


During the meeting Cllr Richard Pears stressed that it was strictly about the Ships and Castles site but the council was open to discussions taking place concerning the devolution of all of the area of the headland that Cornwall Council owned.

He said discussions were ongoing with the town council over devolution of the headland but there was no intention to dispose of any other part of the headland other than devolution and the headland was not under threat. He said they were now discussing devolution of the entire site.

The cabinet decided to sell off the leisure centre along with a large area of land on the headland where it is located. There are fears that if the site is sold then it could be redeveloped for housing or a hotel.

The cabinet will allow six months for devolution discussions to continue with Falmouth Town Council and the community interest company which are interested in taking on the leisure centre and headland site.

It also agreed that £2million from any sale would be ringfenced to be used to fund a replacement leisure facility for Falmouth and Penryn. Critics have said that this would not be enough to fund any kind of replacement.

Councillor Martyn Alvey, portfolio holder for Environment and Climate Change told the meeting he had been concerned about the headland being sold off to developers but was reassured by recent planning decisions.

"People are rightly concerned that a wealthy developer will simply ride roughshod over the council planner and the planning inspector will allow whatever they wish however inappropriate at this sensitive location," he said.

"However I ,am reassured by more recent appeals to the planning inspector having failed on the significance of their harm to a significant area on the headland."

He proposed a fifth recommendation to the cabinet to give all trees in the curtilage of the Ships and Castles site tree preservation orders to protect them from unscrupulous developers, which was agreed.


Protestors gathered outside New County Hall

Protestors gathered outside New County Hall


Campaigner Ben Leach said cabinet should not be considering selling off the headland at all.

"Falmouth, Penryn and the surrounding villages almost to a person stand against the headland being sold off, " he said "and the vast majority would like to see the pool reopened, although that is a bit more controversial.

"What we hope to achieve today is just to remind Cornwall Council that they have said in the past that if Falmouth asked for the headland to be devolved, they would accept that.

"Falmouth Town council have gone away, looked at all the due diligence to make sure it wouldn’t cost the taxpayer any more money. That they could take the headland without any risk and they have come to that conclusion. And we are here just to remind them [the cabinet] of that."