PLANS have been approved for a new Cornwall Council building on a town centre car park despite concerns raised by councillors and members of the public.
The building will provide accommodation for Department for Work and Pensions, adult day services, a family hub, adult education and other departments on land owned by the local authority in Liskeard, and is part of a wider regeneration project at the former Cattle Market.
Cornwall Council intends to save money and lessen its carbon footprint by getting rid of inefficient buildings in its estate, to be replaced by integrated hubs in town centres. As part of the plans, the council hopes to close one of its main offices in Camborne.
A planning report stated: “The current proposal mainly seeks to locate customer facing departments within the building, together with a small amount of back‐office space. The building (is) a modern addition to the area and follows a similar design approach to The Workshed [a purpose-built digital and creative hub], which would help to tie the two developments together and begin to create a sense of place at the Cattle Market.”
A meeting of the east area planning committee heard that benefits included it being a “significant investment” in Liskeard, bringing public services into the town centre and helping to maintain and improve footfall to local shops, business and services.
However, councillors heard that the loss of parking provision during construction, the “overbearing impact” on neighbouring homes and a failure to include any “meaningful” pedestrian improvements weighed against the application. There were also concerns raised that plans for a misting system to tackle fires had been removed from the application.
The meeting heard that of 160 standard bays, 52 would be lost while construction takes place. Cllr Andrew Long of Callington continually asked officers if an impact assessment had been carried out to see if the loss of spaces would have a detrimental effect on shoppers’ parking needs in the town. No such survey had taken place.
Liskeard’s Cornwall Councillor Jane Pascoe said: “The employment opportunities and economic benefits the proposal will provide, by relocating council jobs into the heart of the town centre, may outweigh my concerns that the overbearing building will not sit in harmony with other historic buildings within the setting. Whilst it is noted that there is no net‐loss of car parking in the Cattle Market site, it is clear additional demand will be placed on those spaces. A mechanism to secure sufficient spaces in the town centre will be of paramount importance to the viability and vitality of the town. Details of the re‐purposing of the former Cornwall Council Luxstowe offices, and all other vacated council office buildings, should be established before construction commences.”
Liskeard Town Council supported the application although it noted and shared some of the concerns about the loss of car parking. “However,” stated the local council, “the development offers a significant positive commercial impact with jobs in the town centre, increasing footfall and supporting the viability and vitality of the town centre. The new development would secure jobs and services in Liskeard, streamlining services and making some more accessible.”
Cllr John Fitter said he would vote against the proposals because “in a way we are being made to make a decision without hearing of any alternatives.” He asked why a plant room had been removed from the plans and asked if it included a fire suppressant system. The project’s architect Emma Hosking verified that “in layman’s terms” the misting system which had been removed from the plans was a fire suppressant system.
Cllr Fitter responded that he was amazed to hear that a system to tackle fires had been removed but “I can only assume it’s being driven by money”. He added: “As a council back in 2014 or 2016 we made a commitment for all our own builds to move to a fire suppressant system. I believe the application is premature and being dictated as cost-driven.”
Cllr Jennifer Cruse noted that concerns had been raised by officers about the scale, height and location of the building. “I am struggling with this, as are other members and the public as well,” she added. Kevin Reader, head of property at Cornwall Council, verified that it wasn’t the preferred location on the cattle market for the hub, but he believed it wouldn’t unfairly impact on neighbouring properties.
The committee agreed to approve the application subject to a ‘travel plan’ looking at a sustainable travel option and parking strategy for staff who would use the new building.
Comments lodged by Liskeard residents include:
“I have fundamental objections relating to its design and appearance within the deep-seated character of Liskeard.”
“I strongly object to the application to build over a town centre car park. The council have perfectly good offices to use on the edge of town being Luxstowe House. Any new business wanting premises should be built on wasteland OR on the edge of town eg. by Premier Inn. I try and use Liskeard town to shop locally living in Pensilva, however, the town is diminishing rapidly with the loss of shops and facilities. This will add to the demise of the area further.”
“I object to the proposed development on the grounds that it will be an utter eyesore. The building is completely out of keeping with this historic town. Admittedly it may fit in with the two towering black sheds already thrown up in a monumental crime against design.”