As the cottages of ye olde surf-city of Newquay hove into view, I note good grade agricultural land on either side of the road. Thank the lord most of this land is owned by Charles, Duke of Cornwall, steward of our countryside. Otherwise it might be vulnerable to developers.
In contrast the Duchy is led by a man who understands that it would be ‘folly to lose agricultural land’. For Prince Charles is passionate about the ‘rich, natural tapestry that is the countryside’. We must ‘value it or lose it’.
It’s clearly an ongoing battle however, as back in 2010 the Cornwall Wildlife Trust was accusing one of those developers at Tregunnel Hill of destroying ‘ancient hedge banks which were important wildlife corridors that encouraged birds, bats and small mammals’. The developers airily dismissed these concerns: the lost hedgerows were ‘species poor’ and of ‘low ecological value’ it asserted. Not that this could be tested as the builders had already grubbed them up.
And who were those developers? Must be some mistake. People calling themselves the Duchy of Cornwall?? Imposters surely as their Duke waxes long and hard about ‘protecting beautiful landscapes with hedgerows’.
Not content with trashing hedges at Tregunnel these tricksters turn out to be the key movers behind the Newquay Masterplan. The great plan is to improve 218 hectares (540 acres in old money) of rolling countryside between Quintrell Downs and Newquay by the addition of 4,000+ houses.
Various phases of what must surely rank as Cornwall’s prize building site of the 21st century have already been given permission. In December 2013 the Duchy got the green light for another 800 houses. It duly congratulated Cllrs Fitter (Con, St Mawgan) and Lambshead (Con, Newquay) for their sterling work in helping to obtain a unanimous vote in favour of the scheme from Cornwall Council’s hapless Strategic Planning Committee. (Maybe councillors were worried that voting against would be seen as a treasonable offence.)
Meanwhile, the Duchy also gave a pat on the back to Cornwall Council’s officer class, who had ‘worked so diligently in preparing their recommendations for the planning committee’. The schizophrenic Duchy went on to claim that ‘development can deliver great things’. Not the least of which are several cartloads of cash for the Duke, presumably.
It’s no dream. Or should that be nightmare? Here are the same people who brought us the retro-Poundbury project in Dorset, working to achieve ‘a model for sustainable development that meets the needs of local communities’.
‘The needs of local communities’? Well, that’s ‘local’ in the sense of ‘will be local once they arrive’. In 2004, the Duchy and other landlords at Newquay came up with the classic dissembling wool over the eyes statement to mollify any possible squeak of criticism. They saw ‘the growth area housing permanent Newquay residents who have children and who live and work within the community.’
It’s something of an enigma why local permanent residents require as many as 3,550 more houses by 2030, a 35% growth in the housing stock of Newquay in just two decades. Especially as in the ten years from 2001 to 2011 the number of houses in the town with no permanent resident grew by a massive 1,000.
One in seven properties in the town is now a second home or holiday home. So why should the Duchy’s urban extension be different and stocked full of ‘permanent residents’? Especially as Newquay airport is so close at hand for those flights down from London. This is something the Council will continue to subsidise to the tune of £3.5 million a year even after the latest round of cuts (for some).
And is the new housing not going to be advertised to upcountry buyers? That doesn’t look to be the case if we examine the websites of the consortium of builders the Duchy has organised. Their job is to make the Duchy’s ‘vision’ of ‘sustainable living’ into reality. And who are they? Our old friends Wainhomes again, along with C.G.Fry of Weymouth and Morrish builders, the ‘heritage [whose?] builders’ of Poole. Always good to see local builders involved.