Back in October I blogged about Ampersand, the development company with a vision of building 511 luxury holiday units at Carlyon Bay. In possession of planning permission granted way back in 1990, Ampersand originally comprised a rather seedy bunch of spivs determined to privatise a stretch of Cornish beach and sell it to Londoners as a holiday bolthole. In the process inconvenient locals were to be excluded as an eyesore,
The image was this.
The reality turned out to be this.
For more details of how this horrific catastrophe was allowed to happen see here.
Ampersand left the people of St Austell Bay with a rusting eyesore and then doggedly refused to bow to the decisions of the planning system and clear up their mess. Until now that is, just six months before their deadline finally runs out. Carlyon Bay Watch report that some work is now going on. But re-siting not removing.
What Ampersand has succeeded in cleaning up since 2004-06 is its public image. The original cowboy directors have gone and the company now ‘works closely’ with the Commercial Estates Group (the bulk of whose portfolio is office space). This is ‘works closely’ as in ‘owned by’, as the two companies seem pretty interchangeable. Indeed, Andrew Woods, Director of Ampersand in 2007, is now a Director of CEG.
As the deadline for clearing up the appalling mess they created looms Ampersand/CEG has pulled another scheme scheme for 511 units out of their hat. This time with added greenwash. But this only masking what is a deeply ungreen proposal to make the tourist homes into permanent homes, thus creating at a stroke yet another new village on the coast. As if we need more people in an already dangerously over-crowded Cornwall.
To add insult to injury, the newcomers will be housed in a settlement ‘typical of a Cornish village with narrow pedestrianised streets, glimpsed views of the sea and cliffs and public, open space’. And I guess, like other 'traditional' Cornish fishing villages, the requisite second homes, absence of actual Cornish folk, presence of nearby marina to park the yacht, tacky tourist shops and restaurants, plus those sought after ingredients of high unemployment and low wages in servile jobs.
No matter, the Western Morning News tells us this is a ‘much-vaunted scheme’. Much-vaunted by the Western Morning News that is. Moreover, this time around CEG has been meeting monthly with members of the ‘local community, councillors, council officers and business leaders’. Now, we knew they’ve been cosy with planners for years as Restormel (now Cornwall Council) planners were always gung-ho enthusiasts for the original scheme. But it would be very interesting to learn who these community leaders, councillors and business leaders were. Do they include Carlyon Bay Watch for example?
Ampersand./CEG are now more media-savvy and careful to present a ‘listening image’. According to Jon Kerry, CEG Director,
we can make a considerable contribution to the continuing transformation of the St Austell area and we hope local people will recognise this is a fantastic opportunity for them and Cornwall
Which oddly omits mention of the ‘fantastic opportunity’ Carlyon Bay provides for CEG, whose chairman Gerard Versteegh has seen his personal wealth dwindle from £200m in 2008 to a mere £120m now. He clearly needs to make a bit more to make ends meet by selling off another chunk of Cornwall. And what if ‘local people’ don’t recognise this as a ‘fantastic opportunity’?
Then tough I suppose.