A councillor has accused a “greedy developer” of using a legal loophole to sell aparthotel flats as second homes and holiday lets.

Andrew Mitchell, who represents St Ives West, added that he believed Cornwall Council’s planning department was complicit and warned officers he would refer the authority to a local government ombudsman if the matter continued.

Cllr Mitchell’s angry comments were heard during a meeting of the council’s west sub-area planning committee yesterday (Monday, March 4) as members discussed a planning application by St Ives Assets Ltd to build an extension on the side of the historic Treloyhan Manor opposite the Tregenna Castle hotel on the approach to St Ives.

A planning officer’s report, which recommended approval, stated: “Planning permission is sought to build a modest extension on the side of the hotel which is currently being renovated and refurbished to an aparthotel.

The extension would provide a basement plant room and extension to an apartment.

“The application follows a recent refusal for a similar scheme.

“This was refused due to the design and materials.” The meeting heard that extensions to hotels, which include aparthotels, are supported by St Ives’ neighbourhood development plan. However, local councillors, including the Mayor of St Ives, aired their disgust at the proposal.

The mayor, Johnnie Wells, speaking on behalf of the town council, said planning rules have been “eroded by the grey areas” surrounding aparthotels, which are being “exploited to allow developments which contradict our adopted local neighbourhood plan”.

He described the Treloyhan Manor as a landmark heritage building, which as a hotel has supported the St Ives community for over 100 years.

“This sorry saga began in 2014 when permission was granted for 16 very high-value contemporary houses within the hotel grounds.

“It was presented as an enabling development to allow the hotel to continue trading and the five self-catering apartments that were applied for at that time were conditioned to be ancillary, both physically and economically, to the main hotel.

“This application clearly demonstrates that Treloyhan is now a block of high-value individual apartments. Bit by bit this development is being consented as fully self-contained and privately owned apartments.”

Mr Wells added: “The town council feels it must challenge this proposal because they are so clearly residential dwellings and if there were any doubts, here are quotes from the developer’s own published marketing material: ‘Now undergoing a stunning restoration, Treloyhan will provide a range of one, two and three bedroom luxury apartments within a stone’s throw of St Ives Bay. You can enjoy your full serviced apartment year-round or you can choose to let out your property’.”

He said there are currently 18 apartments being offered at Treloyhan on 999-year leases for values of up to £1.5m. “This shows a clear breach of the very basis of the original planning conditions. Why?

“Because these are essentially being sold freehold with no economic or functional link to the hotel.

“The sales value and description are clear evidence that occupation is not restricted and they are available to be occupied all year round as permanent residences, second homes and the seller even invited purchasers to sub-let them as holiday flats.

“This is not a hotel or even an aparthotel,” said the mayor, who asked the committee to refuse and requested a change of use application. Under St Ives’ H2 policy, new residences have to be principal dwellings and not used as second homes.

A planning agent for the developer said the extension would be a plant room to service the hotel and would lead to minor alterations which would reflect the design of the hotel. In response to the town council’s concerns, he said an aparthotel is in the same use class as a hotel and as such there is no need for a change of use application.

Cllr Loveday Jenkin asked him to confirm if the business was selling off apartments with 999-year leases. He said: “As far as I’m aware that’s marketing separate to the planning process, but I think that is correct.”

Cornwall Council’s leader Cllr Linda Taylor – who represents St Ives East – told the planning committee: “There is every possibility that self-contained C3 properties [single household residential homes] are being created by stealth which is contrary to our H2 primary residence policy.

“This is a concern raised by the planning application on the previous application.”

Cllr Taylor said she would raise the “implications on local communities” of aparthotels with the council’s planning department following the meeting.

Local  member Cllr Andrew Mitchell pulled no punches when he spoke about the application. “A developer is hoping to steal from the community of St Ives at least ten-plus affordable homes which are due to this hotel being changed to apartments. It is not an aparthotel – it will never be an aparthotel.”

He said the money from the 16 houses on site was meant to go on updating the hotel, “not converting to around 30 apartments, which is where I get the figure of at least ten affordable homes being stolen”.

Cllr Mitchell added: “Some greedy developer, and I choose that word advisedly, going around a loophole is a disgrace and I cannot believe Cornwall Planning is being complicit in this. If it carries on, I’ll have no further option accept to refer Cornwall Planning to whatever ombudsman I can.”

A planning officer said that on the information provided, the application site was an aparthotel which falls into the same use class as a hotel.

Councillors were told that action could be taken if there had been a change of use at Treloyhan, but that would be a matter separate from this application.

Members were also told their concerns about aparthotels should be taken up with the planning department separately.

Cllr Loveday Jenkin said: “I’m struggling with this. I see the rationale for the service area, but I don’t see the rationale for extending the apartment because it makes it more of a self-catering flat rather than an apartment in an aparthotel.”

She proposed refusal due to its size, design and materials having an adverse impact on the existing building.

The committee voted by nine votes to refuse with one abstention.