There’s growing anger in Penzance about a huge development which could see the “destruction” of 90-year-old public gardens, which were gifted to the people of the town and are regarded as a vital part of its heritage.

Cornwall Council’s own development company Treveth has submitted a planning application to build 37 new homes and eight commercial spaces including a pavilion building, along with what it says will be improvements to St Anthony Gardens and other public realm works on Penzance’s seafront.

Treveth acquired the site at Coinagehall Street from Cornwall Council under a Subject to Planning Contract in late 2022 and has previously insisted the work will retain key historical features while “providing a better public realm and usable open space which will be enjoyed by local people and visitors alike”.

However, an increasing number of residents have said the mooted development would not improve St Anthony Gardens but decimate the public space, which opened in 1933 and was a gift from the Bolitho Estate to the people of Penzance.

As reported last week, people in the area are questioning the scale of the entire development, which has been labelled “horrendous” and a “lifeless monstrosity”. Although many residents agree there is a need for more housing in the town, there is a sense among a growing band of locals that this isn’t the right part of Penzance for such a scheme.

The plans include ripping up part of the gardens to create a path connecting Coinagehall Street to Battery Road as part of a “revitalised” St Anthony Gardens, though many residents argue it will ruin an important part of Penzance’s heritage.

There are currently more than 200 comments on Cornwall Council’s online planning register, with the vast majority against the plans. Penzance Town Council’s planning committee will discuss the application on Wednesday at St John’s Hall where a protest against the proposal is expected.

Patricia McCartney’s comment said: “I object to the planning application. The artist impression of the gardens seems to show them being destroyed and replaced by what appears to be a few beds scattered around the site.”

Linda Camidge said: “This is a potentially lovely garden which could be made beautiful again with comparatively little work. I do not understand why it is necessary to remodel it in order to build the flats about which I am neutral – I can see that they will fill a need. But the gardens were well thought out in the 1930s and beautifully designed… an important part of the town’s history. I have yet to see any reason why the gardens can’t be kept as they are.”

Jim Cartwright added: “St Antony Gardens were gifted to the people of Penzance, not Cornwall Council, and the loss of open green space in the town which is special to the community and holds a particular local significance for its historic significance, recreational value, richness of wildlife and local character, would be detrimental to the area.”

Dion Star commented: “While I am not opposed to regeneration, the trend of converting significant public buildings and green spaces into private flats for profit is concerning – we will eventually run out of flexible spaces for our community to use. There is no ‘regenerative’ quality in this proposal. Instead, the substantial lower floor space and St Anthony Gardens should be invested in and restored for community use.”

Adam Bowden said: “Knocking down an Art Deco building and paving over gardens donated to ‘the people of Penzance’ is scandalous!”

And Dr Theo Blackmore added: “The proposal is not in keeping with the local area. St Anthony Gardens is a local treasure which adds enormous benefits to the area. For goodness sake, take responsibility for our beautiful town and county. Leave a beautiful legacy and not this monstrous, ugly eyesore which will only increase the number of second unaffordable properties in the town.”

Penzance Old Cornwall Society is also concerned about the installation of replacement paths and the redesign of the gardens, and has suggested plans to Treveth for improving the area without radically changing it, as has Penzance Civic Society.

John Moreland, from the society, said: “We are suggesting that particular part of the application is withdrawn so we can sit down with architects Mei Loci to discuss a way forward to keep the original structure.”

However, not everyone is against the plans. Vicky Murphy’s comment is representative of those in favour of the project: “I love it! The renovation and enhancement of the historic St Anthony Gardens would make that area much more accessible and would encourage the public to make use of it. I have never seen anyone sitting in those gardens as they are at present. It would be a fantastic enhancement to the harbour and promenade.”

Cllr Tim Dwelly, Cornwall councillor for Penzance East, said earlier this year: “I welcome Treveth’s commitment to include affordable housing on the site and to ensure there are no second homes. I hope that we will also see the garden area massively improved as an events space with better seating, planting and views of the pool.