The full planning application by English Heritage for the controversial footbridge at Tintagel Castle will be heard in at next Thursday’s Cornwall Council Strategic Planning Committee. It’s the only substantive item on the agenda.
Cornwall council planning officials will recommend approval for the scheme but only just, after suggesting some strict conditions. The application has been called to the Strategic Committee due to the sensitivity and cultural importance of the site.
Opponents of the plan say it disrespects Cornish history and heritage and will cause severe damage to a AONB and continue the ‘disneyfication’ of the site.
Council officers prepare a report for the planning committee ahead of the meeting in which they consider the harm v benefits of the application.
The officers have concluded that the “increased intelligibility and extension of access to a greater section of society” outweighs any harm to the landscape: “The proposal is considered to cause substantial landscape harm to an area which is designated as an AONB. However, this harm is limited and localised”
The Planning Officer’s score card :
Substantial weight to the harm to the protected AONB landscape
Considerable weight to the harm to the settings of the 2 adjacent listed
Moderate weight to the harm with regard to geology (SSSI) and land
Neutral/moderate weight to the harm from the highways impacts
Neutral weight to the ecological impact (SAC, SSSI) [subject the
satisfactory resolution of the Habitat Regulations Assessment – see below]
Moderate weight to the high quality design of the bridge
Moderate weight to the likely economic benefits
Moderate weight to the impact on archaeology
Significant weight to the protection that would be afforded to the Scheduled
Great weight to the increased intelligibility and extension of access to a
greater section of society in line with the duty of the site operator under the
2010 Equality Act
The report reminds councillors that “Tintagel Castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument of high significance in Cornwall, the nation and also internationally. Under the National Planning Policy Framework, when considering the impact of a proposed development on the significance of a designated heritage asset, great weight should always be given to a heritage asset’s conservation. The more important the asset, the greater the weight should be.”
But then says “it is argued that the protection of Tintagel Castle from coastal erosion and securing its accessibility by a bridge is a justified exceptional situation”
The report summary concludes:
“It is considered that the construction of this bridge and associated footpath
improvements should be considered in the public interest, as below:
- The site currently can become very congested, with the risk in the future
that safety levels might become compromised.
- Public demand to visit the site is unlikely to diminish given the interest levels in the dark ages (sic), Cornish identity and the legend of Arthur and the proposal would improve safety levels.
- It is arguable that there is a national need for the importance of the site as the ancient home of the Cornish Kings to be properly realised, which this development would help to achieve.
- Lastly Cornwall remains one of, or perhaps even the poorest county of England. In this context, any likely positive material impact on the local economy and the knock-on implications for the economic sustainability of the settlement of Tintagel should not be dismissed lightly.
- This proposal is context specific: it is intended to serve Tintagel Castle, which happens to lie within a section of the rugged north Cornish coastline that is designated AONB. There is no raison d’etre or scope for the proposal to be anywhere else but here, or for the need to be met in some other way.
- Through its elegant, minimal design, the detrimental effect on the AONB environment has been absolutely minimised when compared to all other bridge options, or indeed the re-construction of the isthmus to its historic level.
“In conclusion, officers consider that the exceptional circumstances of achieving accessibility for members of society and the preservation of the significance of the Scheduled Monmument for future generations outweigh the harm caused which is arguably related to subjective matter of the bridge’s appearance and its impact on the landscape”
“On this basis it is recommended that the Committee support this proposal subject to mitigations controlled by the conditions set out in this report”
The Cornwall Councillor for the area, the Conservative’s Barry Jordan supports the application enthusiastically. Tintagel Parish Council has also unanimously voted in favour of the bridge. Cllr Jordan tells the committee report:
“My views of this application are very positive, I firmly believe that this application, if approved would enable many more people to access the island especially those who are semi-disabled, the elderly and younger people who would find it difficult with the large steps. I also believe that this application, if approved, would help tourism in Tintagel and further afield to the extent that most of Cornwall’s tourism would benefit. The structure would be a one of a kind and would not be obtrusive or visible from the two nearest buildings, namely the church and the hotel, although it would be visible from the ocean. I sincerely hope that the committee will look favourably on this application and give it approval”
Support has also been received amongst others by Visit Cornwall, Cornish Buildings Group and Cornwall Archaeological Society,
Objectors include Natural England, Cornwall AONB Unit and Gorsedh Kernow who say “We are very concerned about the future of such a sensitive site, with its important geology, an archaeology of national and international importance, rare flora and fauna that is cherished as a landscape by being designated as both an Area of Outstanding Beauty and Heritage Coast. Albeit an impressive design, we object to the proposal to install a bridge because it contravenes Articles 5 and 6 of the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities”
Construction for the footbridge would include needing to install a cable crane by helicopter. This is anticipated to require up to 15 helicopter movements per day over the course of two weeks. They will also need to install rock anchors and footbridge foundations.
To erect the footbridge steel structure, sections would be delivered in 4 ton segments to
a holding area and then transported via the cable crane. When done, the cable crane will be dismantled by helicopter. This is anticipated to require up to another 15 helicopter movements per day over the course of two weeks.
The design of the bridge was arrived at after an international architectural competition. The design has been wind-tunnel tested and, by way of its twin cantilever structure, it would be internally stable throughout the construction process and therefore, at least in theory, ‘weather proof’.
Construction would need to begin within three years if permission is granted.