One of the most controversial planning applications in Cornwall in recent times – a proposal to demolish a historic hotel in Newquay and replace it with almost 200 apartments and a hotel – has been approved by Cornwall Council’s planning department behind closed doors under delegated powers. The town council is considering taking legal action over the decision.

The scheme, aiming to demolish the Hotel Bristol and regenerate Newquay’s clifftop road Narrowcliff, was compared to a Hilton hotel and described as “hideous” and a “monstrosity” by locals when submitted in 2022. In 2023 the developer – Manchester-based Salboy – came back with an amended scheme for 176 apartments and a 40-bedroom hotel which it believed would be more in-keeping and sympathetic to the area, but was still met with huge backlash.

The Hotel Bristol Narrowcliff development was formally approved by Cornwall Council on Friday, March 8.

Newquay town councillor Joanna Kenny said: “While I expected this extraordinarily unpopular approval, it is still desperately disappointing that Cornwall Council did not follow the normal process of calling the application into the central planning sub-committee.

“It was, after all, strongly opposed by the town council and received over 700 objections from local people.

“It was back in July that the town council objected to Cornwall Council’s declared intention to support this application, more than enough time for the proper process to be followed.”

She added: “A further departure from the normal process is the failure to publish the delegated report that would purport to explain their permission.

“With the town council known to be considering a judicial review based on abuse of process and other issues – and with the known time constraints in such an action – the delay in loading a vital piece of evidence raises a few eyebrows.

“I assume this report, when we are permitted to see it, will make a better job of explaining why the policies of the Newquay Neighbourhood Plan for Narrowcliff are being ignored than the comment that five storeys plus a roof extension is similar to the limit of four established by policy in the NNP.

“No, it is similar to six and will set a whole new standards for tall buildings right across our town.

“Along with the blank refusal to discuss the Whipsiderry Cliffs situation with the town council, I would say that we have left the period where the two councils worked well together to an all-time low.”

A leading architect in Cornwall, who wished to remain anonymous, said last year of the move to allow the planning authority to make the final decision: “There are around 750 objections – we’ve had things called to committee with seven objections.

“You’ve got the Cornwall Council members for Newquay not doing anything about it.

“They could say, ‘we may support it and see economic development, but we also respect that there’s over 750 objections and that the town council has grave concerns’.

“The planning officer, with that number of objections, should be saying, ‘I can’t support this in its current form’.”

When asked last November if a decision behind closed doors could be deemed undemocratic, a spokesperson for Cornwall Council said: “The application has followed all the normal and correct publicity and consultation processes. All representations received will be fully considered during the determination of the planning application.”

A number of conditions have been attached to the approval, including the need for fast EV charging at ten per cent of the development’s car park (14 spaces), seven spaces should be disabled bays and spaces for around 140 cycles be provided.

No demolition work is allowed to start until a programme of archaeological work is carried out as well as submission of a suitable CCTV system plan.

The council also needs to receive an environmental management plan and land contamination reports.

The council also needs to verify the incorporation of a bat box, bird box or bee brick per unit.

Prior to the start of the second phase of the development, evidence needs to be approved of a new medical surgery elsewhere in Newquay.

See next week’s Newquay Voice for more.