The dust has settled from Monday night’s public meeting where over 130 people gathered to hear about the amended plan for the recently refused building in the Shipyard.
The plan for the event was for the planning officer to outline the amended plans and then the applicant to give their reasons as to why the application – when it is submitted – should be supportive.
The planning officer was quite quick with his part and then it was over to Mr. Osborne to give us his vision of Porthleven, including his achievements for over 40 years. There is no denying Mr. Osborne has helped create a vibrant place, but he hasn’t done this single-handedly and as it was pointed out by at least one resident, it is not buildings that make a place, it is people.
Everyone will have a viewpoint on the building and those views are subjective depending on how you see things. My view (and I’ve been involved in planning for near 12 years) is I find the design disjointed and with no clear rationale of what it is trying to be. It is a tower loosely attached to a box. In merits of design, rather than complement the area which a bold building can do, it lacks the sympathy and understanding of this historic area of Porthleven.
The footprint of the proposed building is smaller as is the height – slightly. However, the access entering the site and through the site hasn’t really been addressed and the previous concerns still stand. A positive in the reduction of the footprint is there looks like more room for boats to be secured/de-rigged prior to launch/retrieval. Which is good news for boat-owners and was a major concern.
Whilst it can be good to have a different style of building, its use and the longevity of the building is as important as the design.
This building has no clear or firm use. The buildings journey has been a coffee manufacturer, cafe, bar/food place, Art studios (were people were offered space for support), gallery to now an innovation hub. What happens next week or if planning consent is given, will this use change again? There are no guarantees what we have been told so far will actually be delivered.
This is why I raised the issue that some sort of economic impact assessment should be carried out to prove the use of the building which could also highlight rents (as a young artist pointed out at the site meeting would be too expensive to rent) and whether there the need for a certain business type. Do we really need another restaurant or art studio if the latest use of an innovation hub does not materialise?
For those who are not aware what an innovation hub is, these are generally used to allow start-ups to thrive for a couple of years before they move into bigger premises. They are not long term rentals and they generally have to be subsidised by grants. Yes, used right, they are great, but they come with lots of risk and many of these hubs no longer carry out their original function.
The objection from the Porthleven Fishermen’s and Boat-owners Association was – loosely – covered by Mr. Osborne when he announcing the Association was now in support of the amended plans. It did have to be pointed out to Mr.Osborne whereas in fact, the truth is the Association has not given support, but has said it would not object to the plan if certain conditions on access and boat launching/retrieval were in place and conditioned in legally binding planning terms. That is anyone’s book is a vastly different to supporting.
However, this sudden acknowledgement of the ‘support’ of the Association goes totally against the recent letter I have seen where Mr Osborne no longer officially recognises the Porthleven Fishermen’s Association. In fact he wanted to set up his own association, but I hear no-one wanted to join. You cannot really claim support from an organisation when you have refused to acknowledge its existence a few weeks beforehand.
Mr. Osborne highlighted the new toilet faculties and bus stop and was critical of the Shute Lane toilets and how his new facility would be so much better. A new toilet is better, I would support more toilets in Porthleven. But who would pay for them?
The simple answer is Mr. Osborne wants the town council to pay for them. I know this, as he asked me (I told him he needed to officially request it as this is a town council matter) if the money spent on Shute Lane could be transferred to his company to run these toilets. If this happened, then there would be no need to run Shute Lane and they could close as they would be surplus because we have new shiny ones. As part of the deal the old block could be transferred to Mr. Osborne. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes know why, but if you cannot guess, it might have something to do with his planned development of this area HERE. It will be a little hard to do when you have a large toilet block in the way which is not in your ownership.
Lastly, there is still the issue of the previous application. The applicant has six-months from the refusal decision to appeal. As yet nothing has been submitted. But if this latest plan is granted, what is to stop Mr. Osborne from submitting the original as the principle of planning has been established and its a lot harder to refuse something when a similar building has been passed.
I am pleased this public meeting took place as it gave the platform to hear the views of everyone who wanted to say something in a respectful manner. Thanks to Cornwall Council’s Planning Dept. for running this meeting. This blog post is my view and how you need to look at this more strategically and be wary of promises.