A controversial plan to install an ANPR camera system on Maenporth Beach near Falmouth is being recommended for approval by a Cornwall Council planning committee," writes Local Democracy Reporter Lee Trewhela.

Citipark has applied for a car park management system at Maenporth beach in Falmouth, which includes a payment machine and wall-mounted camera on the beach cafe and a camera bollard facing the exit.

An earlier application was refused due to the visual impact it would have on the Cornwall National Landscape, the new name for an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The applicant hopes the ANPR system will deter anti-social behaviour on the beach, such as people leaving broken bottlesThe applicant hopes the ANPR system will deter anti-social behaviour on the beach, such as people leaving broken bottles (Image: LDR)

The revised scheme has been reduced with the loss of a four-metre pole with camera. However, Falmouth Town Council, the National Trust and the Cornwall National Landscape (CNL) still oppose the application. A number of locals have logged their concerns on Cornwall Council’s planning portal, while other residents support the plan.

The ANPR application has been made on behalf of the beach’s leaseholder James Wright, who runs Maenporth Beach Café. He previously wrote to the council saying the camera system would deter anti-social behaviour, such as beach bonfires, and stop people camping in the car park overnight.

Planning officer Helen Trebilcock has recommended that the central area planning committee should approve the scheme at its meeting on Monday, July 1. She said: “The car park, which can accommodate approximately 50 vehicles, has a visual impact on the CNL by way of hard surface and parked cars; that impact is not a positive one but allows people access to the area who travel by car. It is not unreasonable to have some form of payment system in a car park.

An aerial view of the parking at Maenporth beachAn aerial view of the parking at Maenporth beach (Image: Google Earth)

“On assessment of the impact on the National Landscape, the pay machine and building-mounted camera are now modest and typical of any car park, including many others in rural locations. All the signs have now been removed from the application. The proposals are therefore considered to cause no demonstrable harm to the local distinctiveness and character of the CNL.”

However, Falmouth Town Council has recommended refusal, stating: “The site is modest and largely undeveloped and the character of the car park would be negatively changed.” While welcoming the changes to the proposal, Cornwall National Landscape is still not in favour: “The proposed ANPR system and its (necessarily) conspicuous cameras and signage will harmfully change the character of the car park introducing inappropriate suburban elements interfering with the existing modest and largely undeveloped character of this much-visited location and we object to it on this basis.”

Samuel Harding is one of those who has written to the council objecting to the plans. He said: “The application is being posed as a method to stop anti-social behaviour, both on the beach and parking overnight.

There is no benefit for reducing anti-social behaviour on the beach, an ANPR camera doesn’t catch people in the act, the CCTV already in place does this, and records number plates accordingly. Saying it will reduce people’s having bonfires and BBQs is simply rubbish.

“As for overnight parking, if people want to stay there, they will, it’s a well known activity of vans covering number plates. Is the value of stopping the odd few worth destroying a treasured place and AONB? This will without doubt cause parking on the roads and cause chaos where busy.”

James Dart added: “Although I can understand some of the concerns of the lease holders, I feel the introduction of parking cameras, and pay and display machines, will have a negative effect on Maenporth beach, its rugged beauty and its relationship with locals and tourists alike.”

“I am a huge fan of the café, staff and food,” wrote Charlotte Bradley. “We live locally and are also a local business and many of our holiday guests use and love the café. We actively encourage them to go there. So my objection comes not because I don’t want to support the café but because I have serious concerns about the knock-on effect of approval of this planning application on the local roads.

“My worries are that local people who are using the car park for walking their dog and/or swimming won’t pay the money for the parking and instead will park along the already congested road. We already have problems with muppets sometimes parking in the passing places.”

Others believe the installation of the ANPR system will be a good thing.

Paul Watson said: “After speaking with the café owners regarding this application, they mentioned that over the past 28 days they have logged a number of vehicles disobey there rules and park overnight on their car park. At the end of the day this car park is not a campsite.

“I believe that with the introduction of ANPR cameras and parking enforcement in this area, the number will reduce significantly as there will be a fine for those that ignore the simple rules of this car park. I can imagine the regularity of overnight parking will increase as we get into the summer months without any ANPR enforcement, which is bad for the café owners and other beach car park users.”

Jemma Osman added: “After this weekend [when she wrote to the council in April], the café owners have had to report a couple of incidents of anti-social behaviour (fly tipping and bonfires on the beach) to the council and one to the police. I would imagine during the summer months incidents of anti-social behaviour are going to increase dramatically and won’t just be on weekends. ANPR needed!”

The central area planning committee will make a decision at their meeting at County Hall / Lys Kernow in Truro from 10am on Monday, July 1.