Cornwall planning: Human poo, broken glass and burning chairs on popular beach

A Cornwall Council meeting heard today (Monday, July 1) that a popular beach saw over 20 incidents of antisocial behaviour in May. Issues included people defecating on the sand, broken glass being left on the beach and night-time fires, including the burning of pallets and chairs.

The leaseholder of Maenporth Beach Café and car park in Falmouth told councillors about the issues while speaking in defence of an application to install an ANPR pay and display system in the beach car park, which she believes will help curb any issues. The planning application has received a number of objections from locals as well as the Cornwall National Landscape team (formerly the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty / AONB) and local councillor Alan Jewell.

Planning officer Helen Trebilcock recommended approval, saying the payment machine and camera are modest and typical of any rural car park and "cause no demonstrable harm to the local character and distinctiveness of the Cornwall National Landscape". A meeting of the council's central area planning committee at County Hall / Lys Kernow in Truro heard that the 1.4m high camera bollard would not interfere with any views and there was no lighting proposed.

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A previous application had been refused but the new proposal dropped signage as it met 'demand consent criteria'. However, that means signs could be added at a later date. Cllr Debra Clegg, Falmouth Town Council, said her council objected to the plan, with or without signage, as "it's a modest site, largely undeveloped and the character will be changed".

Applicant Leann Wright was next to speak. She and son James have been leaseholders of Maenporth Beach Café and the beach car park since April 2019.

An aerial image shows where the ANPR system would be installed in relation to Maenporth beach
An aerial image shows where the ANPR system would be installed in relation to Maenporth beach -Credit:Google Earth / Cornwall Council

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Ms Wright told the meeting: "We've faced considerable challenges running this business, the biggest being rebuilding and continuing after a devastating fire in May 2019. Maenporth beach is a special place and we take our responsibility of maintaining the area as leaseholders for all our visitors very seriously.

"The application before you has been significantly amended from the previous refusal. The equipment is now modest and typical of many other car parks in sensitive locations. It is in our interest to ensure the beach is not spoilt as this is what attracts locals and visitors. There are so many pressures of running a business, especially the ongoing cost of living crisis, rising energy bills and the additional burden of tackling overnight parking, fly tipping, fires and antisocial behaviour.

"During May alone we experienced over 20 issues of overnight parking, fires including the burning of pallets and chairs, general antisocial behaviour, human faeces and broken glass."

She added that winter parking would remain free and that the option of customers being able to pay for short-stay parking rather than the current flat day rate would benefit beach and café users. It would also help protect the beach environment, argued Ms Wright.

Cornwall councillor Alan Jewell, who has lived in the Maenporth area all of his life, said that bringing an ANPR system to the beach would bring a "form of suburbanisation into the area".

He added: "The National Landscape still object because if you grant this permission now then the signs will come under permitted development and you would need a number of signs along the beach. They're moving the goalposts to get this in and there will be signs, which will alter the character of the beach. I think it's a shame these systems are coming in [on beaches]."

He pointed out that similar systems had been approved for eight other beaches recently but six of them had been retrospective. "There might be a little bit of antisocial behaviour but we've all got that on our beaches in Cornwall. Being the local member, I've never been contacted all the years I've been on the council about a huge problem on that beach. I think this will be detrimental to the area."

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However, committee member Cllr Peter Perry said he failed to see why there was any concern about what was proposed when images shown at the meeting made it clear how many cars park along the beach. "If there was any natural landscape, it's long since gone."

Cllr John Fitter agreed: "I'm amazed that the Cornwall National Landscape team can spend an inordinate amount of time writing an objection to something that is so harmless within the context of this beach. I am absolutely gobsmacked."

The application was approved with four in favour, three against and one abstention.