The Public Right of Way (PROW) which runs down Beach Road and crosses between the sites of the Cornwall Coliseum and the café building has reopened after being closed until 1st June 2015 to allow the demolition of the wrecked buildings.
The section which crossed in front of the Coliseum was shut for the duration of demolition work. The route is now marked by fencing which takes you between the demolition sites to the beach.
Access to the foreshore is also possible down the steps and via the western end of the beach by the Information Centre. CEG also say they will be operating the minibus to help people who are less mobile up and down the hill.
NO THREAT TO RIGHT OF WAY SAYS DEVELOPER
CEG has promised that it would guarantee public access to the beaches at Carlyon Bay in perpetuity.
The promise came during a meeting of Cornwall Council's Strategic Planning Committee on 12th February 2015 in which a detailed Planning Application for the buildings on the beaches was approved.
Jon Kenny for CEG assured councillors that the existing Public Right of Way (PROW) would be incorporated within its plans for the site and would take people to the promenade from where people could walk to the beaches.
He was answering concerns raised by councillors that the PROW was threatened by the plans and they said they wanted guarantees that members of the public would not be prevented from using beaches they've used for years.
After further comments from councillors, he also made a verbal commitment that there would be a clearly marked sign denoting the PROW.
PLANS REFER TO PROW
In December 2014 CEG submitted its Planning Application detailing the buildings, layout and architecture it wants to build on Crinnis and Shorthorn beaches.
Contained in the Planning Statement which is part of the application, is their intention to "stop up" the (PROW) which was approved by Cornwall County Council in 2008 after long years of campaigning by local residents.
The route runs down Beach Road, down the access road to Crinnis and across the old Coliseum site towards the foreshore.
In its Planning Statement, CEG says that buildings and various works "will interfere with the public right of way in varying degrees. It will therefore be necessary to stop up various sections of the public right of way in order to enable the proposed development to be carried out...".
In the rules governing Pubic Rights of Way, 'stopping up' means removing. Carlyon Parish Council asked for clarification of how the development would affect the PROW and was provided with a document which seemed to incorporate it within the plans.
It would have to be moved, they said, but it would still exist down a footpath alongside Beach Road and across the podium to the promenade.
The Planning Statement goes on to say that "Public access to and through the proposed development has been addressed in the terms of the section 106 agreement dated 1 December 2011 and these principles have been reflected in the design of the scheme."
As we have said repeatedly, Section 106 agreements (which set out certain conditions which developers should meet - such as payments towards local schools, roads, affordable housing etc.) can and have been altered at a later date at the request of developers.
In any case there is no guarantee that any future owner of the site would allow the public in. A beach used by locals and visitors for generations would be lost.
PUBLIC INQUIRY - FOOTPATH EXTENSION TURNED DOWN
An extension to the foreshore of the existing Public Right of Way (PROW) down Beach Road and past the Coliseum has been overturned following a Public Inquiry. This doesn't affect the PROW already in existence which ends at a point on the map known as Point 14. (more about Point 14 below)
The Inquiry was held in June 2014 at the Cornwall Council One Stop Shop, St Austell, and heard evidence from a number of local people who had used the route since childhood.
Cornwall Council had "found" this right of way (i.e. decided it exists after hearing evidence) to the Mean High Water Mark, but the landowner CEG appealed.
It took local residents over 12 years to get the PROW to the MHWM and now that final section has been taken away again.
There are two Public Rights of Way which are connected to the beaches at Carlyon Bay - one at the eastern end from the South West Coast Path to Fishing Point above Polgaver; it does not officially give access to Polgaver itself but people have used it for generations. The other is from Beach Road, down the access road to Crinnis and across the old Coliseum site towards the foreshore.
This was opened on 1st February 2010, six years after the route was blocked by Ampersand (now called CEG) with fences and barriers.
It had been used as the main route to the beach by locals and visitors during decades of public use - going across the car park in front of the Coliseum building and under an arch on to the beach.
It was finally granted official recognition as a Public Right of Way by Cornwall County Council in April 2008 following years of hard work and determination by local footpath campaigners, Gloria Price and Frances Taylor. (More on this long battle).
A third footpath across the Carlyon Bay golf course linking Sea Road to the South West Coast Path was also officially recognised.
But a question mark remains over future access to the beach because if a wall and promenade are built (and so far there are no plans to be viewed) the Right of Way will end at the wall (marked on offiical footpath maps as Point 14) and once again access to the foreshore will be at the whim of the developer. For locals remember that in 2004 a line of rock armour and shuttering was built without a shred of planning permission which blocked access to the beach except by a permissive path from steps down the cliff face from the top car park.
That shuttering was finally removed in 2011 after CEG obeyed an Enforcement Order - but only after years of delay.
Mrs Price and Mrs Taylor then tried to get the existing Public Right of Way extended so that access to the beach is guaranteed.
Finally after a comprehensive examination of the issues the Council's Countryside Access team recommended approving the extension - and on 28th January 2013 councillors on the footpaths panel voted for it unanimously.
CEG, as the landowner, appealed against that decision and the matter went to a Public Inquiry in June 2014.
To the great disappointment of local people who had given their evidence about the use of this route, the inspector overturned Cornwall Council's decision. In his report he was at pains to say that local witness evidence and Cornwall Council had made a good case for confirming the right of way. But he seems to have based his decision on his interpretation of case law relating to a path crossing an area used for public recreation.
This decision now means that the landowners have the right to close off access to the beach whenever they want. They say they want the public to use the beach and its facilities (when they are eventually built), but the fact remains that if that policy changes (or if new owners come along with their own agenda) there is nothing local people can do about it.
BEACHES USED BY GENERATIONS OF FAMILIES
The beaches at Carlyon Bay have been enjoyed by the public for generations This letter was sent to Carlyon Bay Watch by Ron Hicks from Fowey, who was born in 1923.
"I can truly say I did on many occasions when I was about 9 years old and after, ride on old Raleigh roadster bicycle from Fowey to the beach at Crinnis - now known to some as Carlyon Bay beach and other individual names. Crinnis beach used to be considered to be the whole beach. Access to the beach was down a track, now the road, which stretched the whole length of the beach fairly close below the cliffs. The further along you went the more overgrown the track became. The wild plants, bushes and small trees contained a remarkable quantity of wildlife, small birds, rabbits, butterflies and numerous insects. The cliffs still contain a number of rare birds and other wildlife. This track was used by farmers to collect sand and seaweed from the beaches and in the mining period for the miners to reach their workings."
Sadly that and other tracks, along with the bushes and trees, have been destroyed by the developer.
CEG claims the paths were not public footpaths and now, because they have been bulldozed, it is impossible to demonstrate exactly the lines they took across the beaches - although they can be seen in old photographs.
The green areas at the back of the beaches were popular places for walkers and could be used when the foreshore was too inhospitable because of high winds and tides. They were also popular picnic spots where you didn't get sand in the sandwiches and were a haven for wildlife.
CEG claims that, as part of its massive development plans for hundreds of apartments and houses on the site, access will continue. But the paths used by generations of people have already disappeared under rubble and are fenced off and will eventually be buried under buildings. Any alternative paths across the beaches which may be incorporated in the design will only be accessible to the public by permission of the owners.
We believe that relying on this or any future owner to stick to those assurances would mean public access being by permission only and over time could be lost. This is the reason it's been so important to get access routes to the beach recognised as Public Rights of Way and enshrined in law.
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