Plans for affordable homes in the closest village to the Eden Project have been refused after Cornwall councillors heard objections from local residents. 

Villagers, parish councillors and the local member all believed that although there is a need for local housing, an application for houses in Trethurgy would be completely wrong for the “idyllic” clay country village.

The affordable housing-led scheme for seven houses at Trethurgy, near St Austell, would see a mix of four, three and two bedroom houses; four of which would be “affordable”. 

Those houses, which would be prioritised to people within the parish, would be discounted by 40-50 per cent of their market value.

A planning meeting at New County Hall, Truro, heard on Tuesday the Trethurgy market value reduction scheme would mean a semi-detached two-bedroom house selling for £141,000 as opposed to the average semi-detached house in Cornwall now selling for £310,000.

Councillors heard that the proposal would respond positively to the housing crisis in Cornwall with planning officer Tracy Young stating: “There is an evidenced need for affordable housing in the parish and the proposal would contribute towards addressing that need.” The planning committee was also told that the proposal could result in harm to the character of the area, though that was tempered as the proposed homes would compare to those built on an adjoining site. As a result, the application by Jonathan Allen was recommended for approval.

Representing residents of the village who oppose the plans, Malcolm Roberts told councillors: “This has been a long-running, controversial application – no consultation or dialogue has taken place with local residents. I speak on their behalf to strongly oppose this over-development which is seven times bigger in number than any previous built project in the village in the past 50 years. It would set a very worrying precedent for the future.”

Mr Roberts believed a wrong decision was taken in 2017 to have the agricultural land reclassified as a “rural exception site”, which is a small site used for affordable housing in perpetuity on sites not normally used for housing

“Outline approval was given then for affordable housing there for five bungalows,” he said. “When full planning was eventually submitted those five bungalows had changed into six bigger houses later to be withdrawn and to be replaced by what is in front of you today, an even bigger development with 14 car parking spaces in front.”

Referring to the nearby West Carclaze garden village development, Mr Roberts added: “While accepting of no affordable housing in the village, within half a mile away as the crow flies, a major development of some 1,500 houses is well under construction with 500 of those designated as affordable housing. Apart from its village hall and playing field, Trethurgy has no day-to-day service amenities, not even a single shop in walking distance.”

Cllr Gary Hooper, from Treverbyn Parish Council, added: “This is on the outskirts of a tiny, idyllic village and would become the only development of this size and number to be built in the past 50 years. The dominant design has to be challenged as the other properties in the area are primarily bungalows. We’ve never approved anything on this site apart from two bungalows, which were refused by the planning committee before it was made a rural exception site. We weren’t happy with five bungalows but they would sit within this area a lot better than this development.

“We do have a desperate housing need. It’s not just young people, we’ve got a lot of older people who need accessible housing. We need bungalows and no other provider is providing those within the area.”

Cornwall councillor for the village Matt Luke, who is also a parish councillor, said: “This is a very controversial site – as far as we’re concerned it never, ever should have got to this stage. Why it was ever made an exception site we can’t understand. That was a poor decision by the planning department. The plans escalate every time we revisit this site.

“We keep hearing we need housing – in our parish we’ve got 1,500 houses being built, and we’ve got 50 further houses passed in our parish. We’re told there’s a housing need and we need more; that’s okay but it’s got to be the right thing in the right place. As far as we’re concerned, this is the wrong thing in the wrong place.” Cllr Luke argued the elevation of the houses was too high and would impose on the local landscape, and there were also local fears about possible flooding.

“The parish council is never consulted by Cornwall Council or the housing team about whether these schemes are viable or not, which I think is disgraceful,” he added.

The meeting heard that a third of the housing at nearby West Carclaze would be affordable as would a percentage of two other schemes in the parish which are pending, but the Trethurgy development would be the only one offering the discount market sale element. There are currently 403 households in urgent need of affordable homes on the Homechoice housing register in Cornwall.

Cllr Kate Ewert, a member of the Central Sub-Area Planning Committee, said: “I’m really torn over this. We’ve got a desperate need for affordable housing. I’m a firm believer in every parish taking a certain amount, but I don’t feel these houses are right for this setting. We’ve got to address the housing crisis but we’ve got to listen to the local communities and build the right houses in the right places.”

Cllr Steve Arthur agreed: “I don’t think the local parish or the local member’s against affordable housing in the village, but just not that shape or that many. There is a crisis and we’ve been told these would be built faster than Carclaze, but who knows? There are thousands and thousands of affordables in the country that aren’t being built. It’s the wrong development, not necessarily in the wrong place.”

“I’ve got grave concerns on this one. It’s intrusive on the landscape and the wrong design,” added Cllr Mike Thomas.

The committee refused the application on the grounds of harm to the character of the area and fail to fit in with the scale and design of adjoining homes.