THE owner of the Carbis Bay Hotel defended the unlawful and hugely unpopular creation of buildings for the G7 Summit four years ago at a planning meeting today, while a member of the public stood behind him holding a sign saying ‘Carnage Bay – stop the devastation’.

Stephen Baker addressed a meeting of Cornwall Council’s west sub-area planning committee, which was deciding whether elements of the original meeting rooms development – which was built without planning permission and has been the subject of enforcement notices – should be allowed to stay.

Despite the meeting rooms being demolished following council action, Mr Baker had applied to keep the concrete foundations, a wall and an access track which were also unlawfully built.

Although the council had previously taken enforcement action against these elements, planning officer Adam Carlyon recommended approval, stating: “The retention and breaking up of concrete slabs would support the re-establishment of vegetation and thus removal is not essential.

“Further landscaping details would be secured by condition to support this. The access road and walling are considered to be appropriate to the character of the area.”

Gill Scott Anderson, of St Ives Climate Coalition, held her sign up behind hotel owner Stephen Baker as he addressed the planning committee (Pic: LDRS) ( )

Councillors aired concerns that the illegal work had added to cliff instability and could lead to a “catastrophic” fall.

Mr Baker told the meeting at County Hall / Lys Kernow in Truro: “I acknowledge the importance of complying in full with the enforcement but it’s significant to note that this site was part of a unique set of circumstances being planned, built and used entirely for the G7 Summit.

“Nine ventilated rooms were designed under government guidance as a Covid safeguard for meetings between world leaders. The estate was under immense pressure as a business to deliver this extraordinary event and worked tirelessly with government departments and security forces to ensure each country’s delegation had full confidence in measures to keep them safe from Covid 19.

“Without these, cancellation of the Summit was a strong possibility.

“It is not in our nature to build without planning permission but we were naturally under tight deadlines raised by central government to achieve a once in a lifetime event.

“It was a great success globally and our county of Cornwall, and we were honoured to be chosen as the venue and to work with the council and all those involved in its delivery.”

He added: “It’s been mentioned that these rooms were perhaps not used.

“This is completely untrue. Following the last application, we took the advice of the planning officer through a pre-application to provide justification on the three remaining elements.

“One of the key issues is the concrete foundations – the ground is already starting to rewild and professional engineering advice strongly recommends that they are left in situ as they are now performing a structural role in the stability of the cliff. I therefore do not believe it would be safe or responsible to remove them.

“The town council objection focuses on the intention to develop the site at a future date.

The answer is no – it is clear an application would not be supported.

This situation has already caused significant reputational damage to our business and to the G7 brand over the past three years and I’m hoping the committee will now be able to help us to move forward.”

Cllr Loveday Jenkin argued that the cliff around the concrete foundations is expected to fall in time and the Coast Protection Authority’s shoreline management plan considers there should be “no active intervention”.

She asked Mr Baker: “So in terms of the environment and wildlife how do you justify trying to stabilise something that shouldn’t be stabilised?”

He responded: “This was done as an engineering solution.

“When the meeting rooms were proposed it was found that the ground wasn’t stable enough and to provide those rooms we had an engineer who provided a solution that allowed us to build.

“Maybe that should have been looked into a little bit more, but there was no advice or guidance in that respect at all.”

Cllr Jenkin said that wasn’t a satisfactory answer.

Cllr Andrew Mitchell, who represents the neighbouring council division, read a letter from the chairman of St Ives Town Council’s planning committee: “The town council feels strongly that the proposals show little respect for our planning laws and process. If we do not take action in such cases the level of unlawful development in Cornwall will only increase.

“Works which are unlawful remain and show a lack of thought and concern for the St Ives local community.

The arguments about the slope’s stability have been put forward by the applicant’s own technical consultant. We remain deeply suspect of the advice given to the authority.

“The other condition the applicant does not wish to comply with is the removal of the tarmac service track, arguing it is needed for emergency vehicles.

“Yet the track did not exist previously and it is not essential to the hotel’s operation.

“The foundations and track together have the potential to benefit future development, which flies in the face of the inspector’s requirements.

“We believe it is not a coincidence that these are the two elements which the applicant wishes to retain.

The Coast Protection Authority agrees approving this application will set a precedent that unconsented development can contravene the shoreline management plan.

“Failure to comply in full with the enforcement notice even after two years does not reflect well on the planning authority and pays lip service to the very deep-seated feelings in the community about this unlawful development.”

Referring to Mr Baker’s comments, Cllr Mitchell added that Westminster “left him out to dry” about needing the seven rooms. “The Cabinet Office clearly stated after this comment was made publicly that they did not require any additional rooms. They picked the Carbis Bay Hotel because it was good enough as it was.”

He added that there had been a previous application for seven further hotel bedrooms where the meeting rooms were built. “Unfortunately, when they were cutting and pasting the application for the G7 rooms they forgot to change it to meeting rooms from hotel rooms, so there is a genuine concern.

“To be perfectly blunt, other authorities and the local community cannot believe that this enforcement action has not been taken already by Cornwall Council and we find it completely bizarre that we’re now suggesting it be approved.”

The local member and council leader Cllr Linda Taylor was unable to be present at the meeting, but a statement outlining her concerns was also read out.

Mr Carlyon said the removal of the structures could cause more harm by potentially causing the cliff to move than by allowing them to stay.

Cllr Jenkin argued that the harm was by not allowing the cliff to move naturally.

“The planning officer called the application “the best of a bad situation”.

Cllr Jenkin replied: “All of the works that have been done to that site illegally have reduced cliff stability and increased the potential for that cliff to catastrophically fail rather than gradually fail.

“We’re being asked to ignore something that has caused a problem but that problem won’t go away.”

The application was unanimously refused on the grounds that the site has a policy of ‘no active intervention’ in the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Shoreline Management Plan and the “proposal is therefore considered to be inconsistent with the coastal management strategy”.