Cornwall planning: Decision on future of one of Cornwall's oldest and most cherished businesses

The Waterside Meadery at Penzance harbour
-Credit: (Image: Greg Martin)


One of the oldest restaurants in Cornwall will have to find new premises after a Cornwall Council planning committee ruled its present building will be demolished - despite over 11,000 people signing a petition to save it. The Waterside Meadery, which has operated on Penzance harbour since 1970, will have to move out by June next year.

Its owner argued at a meeting of the council's west planning committee today (Tuesday, May 28) that possible relocation to the Wharfside Shopping Centre in the town would be "unachievable" due to costs. However, the meeting heard that a bid for a Town Deal grant which would allow the meadery to find new premises elsewhere in Penzance was looking "favourable".

The proposal to demolish the meadery building, which is owned by Cornwall Council Harbours, would help meet an objective in the Penzance Harbour Management Plan to reduce congestion on the site and enable a more efficient working harbour. Councillors were told there is no suitable off-road location for HGVs to park and wait to deliver their cargo, which results in traffic problems on the busy seafront road through Penzance.

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A planning officer, who recommended the councillors give conditional approval to demolish, said that while the meadery is a non-designated heritage asset, it had been heavily altered over the years and its present use was not inherent on the building.

Emily Stephens, who runs the business which was started by her father Robin Smith, asked councillors: "What will demolishing the meadery actually achieve? Improving the functionality of public highways and opening up the harbour for the public realm, only by reducing the likelihood of HGVs parking on the carriageway but not removing them. HGVs unloading, forklift truck movements, freight containers on the quayside - not a safe area for public realm.

"Demolishing The Waterside Meadery will achieve the loss of a 54-year-old, thriving family business which saw in excess of 44,000 visits in 2023. I expect a few of them were from Yorkshire, although 80 per cent were indeed from the Penzance area.

"It is an iconic and unique business which plays its part in attracting people to the area. Demolition will achieve the loss of nearly 30 full- and part-time jobs, and the loss of business to other local companies, one of which alone is set to lose £50,000 a year. Whilst it is true there are thousands of square feet in the Wharfside centre they are at a cost that is unachievable for us." She added the demolition would lead to the loss of "our community spirit".

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Former Penzance mayor Dick Cliffe was next to address the meeting. He is a member of the Penzance Town Deal Board, which has allocated £2.8m towards improving Penzance harbour.

He said the harbour is the reason that Penzance exists. "There is nothing random or obtuse about the plans to improve Penzance harbour. In past decades the harbour was poorly managed, even neglected, leading to today's severely compromised harbour, with limited quayside space, dilapidated buildings, chronic HGV vehicle congestion and non-marine commercial businesses."

Mr Cliffe quoted the harbour management plan, which states: "There have been many missed opportunities for the harbour which would have had a huge impact on the harbour and local economy."

"Please don't let this become another Penzance harbour missed opportunity," he added.

Local Cornwall Council member Cllr Jim McKenna said he referred it to committee for decision due to the level of public interest, which was "exceptional", because of the potential adverse impact on the local economy, highways concerns of routing traffic along the promenade and Alexandra Road, and because the restaurant is a non-designated heritage asset with the last clay storage pits in Penzance sitting underneath the meadery.

"It benefits our local economy by around £200,000 a year. There were eight years left on the lease. The meadery was given 18 months' notice by the council just before Christmas, so there's about a year left. The meadery's application for a Town Deal grant to assist with relocation is at an advanced stage, which should be clear one way or another by the end of June," he said.

Cllr McKenna added it was an unusual case due to the amount of public interest with over 11,000 people signing an online petition for the meadery to remain at the location. He asked for a deferral until the end of June when a decision over the relocation grant will have been made, which he said was looking favourable.

During a discussion about the plan, Cllr Loveday Jenkin said: "I'm sure we've all got very fond memories of the meadery, I know I have, and I can remember when it first opened. That building has been changed a lot from what was there previously so I don't think there's any particular heritage value in keeping it.

"There's obviously a commercial reason but if the tenant's been given notice to quit and that's going to happen anyway, I'm not sure how much weight we can put on that commercial reason. I'd like to think that the grant application will enable relocation because it's cherished by a lot of people in the area and further afield. I'm not sure we've got a planning reason to refuse."

The application to demolish the restaurant and resurface West Quay to create an off-road HGV waiting area was approved with eight councillors in favour, one against and one abstention.