Row over right-of-way puts Carlyon Bay development plan on hold
A line could literally be drawn in the sand as plans for a massive new beach resort depend on the redrawing of the ramblers' map in Cornwall.
Developers and campaigners are nervously awaiting the result of an attempt to establish a footpath through the proposed new £250 million beachfront development, near St Austell.
The Carlyon Bay development – a plan to build a hotel, leisure, retail and sports facilities alongside more than 500 houses, apartments and villas – is on hold pending the decision on an application to Cornwall Council's public rights of way committee (PROC).
The committee will next week answer calls to extend as far as the tideline a footpath which currently ends abruptly close to the Coliseum, a legendary but now dilapidated former live music venue.
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But regardless of the decision, lengthy delays, legal challenges, a public enquiry and even appeals to the Secretary of State are expected.
Developers claim a right of way would be "enshrined" in the planning permission and feel campaigners are simply using the footpath as a blocking tactic.
Locals who want the route mapped out officially say the company has repeatedly denied access to the beach, often locking people out "at a whim".
Architects working on the scheme, which was given outline planning permission by the council last June, have been stood down until they know "what they are dealing with".
Jon Kenny, development director of Commercial Estates Group, said a combination of uncertainty over the footpath and the economic crisis had cast doubt at the plans.
"This temporary position of uncertainty, set against the wider picture of the current economic climate, was simply not conducive to major investors," he added.
"As a result we are slowing down on the delivery of the development until these issues have been sorted out.
"However, I'd like to make it clear that it's not a case of if the resort's going to be built but when."
An announcement on the application to extend the public right of way is expected by the PROC on December 18.
Kate Ashbrook, of the Open Spaces Society, said a decision to sanction the route could face objections and ultimately a public enquiry.
Turning down the application could see an appeal to the Secretary of State.
Opposition group Carlyon Bay Watch has questioned the timing of the developers' announcement.
"If this was an attempt to influence the decision makers, we can only hope that they are made of sterner stuff," a spokesman said.
"The application to extend the public right of way has been known about for nearly three years so it appears disingenuous, to say the least, for the developer to now seek to lay responsibility for the proposed 'slow down' upon the footpath."