Reader view – town council needs to consult more on downs land

From Chris Jewell:

You would have thought that BSTC would have learnt a lesson from the farce last year over the Ivor Potter Hall’s attempted name change. However it seems not. They are ploughing on, giving consent to a project that will use the pitch and putt premises on Summerleaze Downs land.

They intend to allow a temporary lease to the ‘Pearl Exchange’. The Pearl Exchange is a project designed to aid 18 – 30 year olds to develop new skills and interests and instill confidence for their future lives. A worthwhile concept.

Before continuing, I must stress that in principle I could support the interest of the Pearl Exchange. There is a need for such a service for young people who have been let down over many years in being able to improve their abilities and life skills.

Now, my concern is that these arrangements to use the site is being pushed forward by BSTC without any input or consultation from the townspeople of Bude and Stratton in the usual way by having a public meeting access because of Covid 19.

An unintended consequence of Covid 19 is that BSTC hold council meetings via the internet ‘Zoom’ facility. If you are not an internet user you may not have heard there is to be a meeting and you are unable to make comment at a meeting. In other words, the people of Bude-Stratton do not know about this proposed project on the protected land of Summerleaze Downs.
The land concerned is protected by the Neighbourhood Plan of Bude Stratton Council which took about three years to achieve and cost in the region of £20,000 of tax payer’s money. The Plan determined that the Summerleaze Downs is an area that is to remain as open space for the relaxation and benefit of the populace.
The Pearl Exchange want to use the premises and the land to promote their project by having a week of introductory sessions in October this year followed by greater use of the site from mid February to mid April 2021 by the introduction of a number of adopted shipping containers to use for creative programmes as part of this pilot scheme. If the project were judged to be a
success as it may well be, are they going to seek another permanent site? Surely, with such an endorsement they would want to continue and fulfil the identified needs. What will BSTC do in this situation? The temptation will surely be to give a lease for a year or more on the same site! The thin edge of a very contentious wedge!

It puzzles me that The Pearl Exchange has apparently not been able to find another temporary site in Bude – somewhere less provocative. There are a number of other sites in Bude. Cornwall Council has a development just off Stratton Road near Morrisons. There is land for community use on the Binhamy site and of course there is the well known site, the former ‘Tripos’ premises on
the Kings Hill Industrial site just off the Atlantic Highway on the A39. That site would make a good permanent basis for this project.

Are BSTC going to ignore their own Neighbourhood Plan? which clearly precludes development and makes that document a nonsense, a ‘slap in the face’ for all the many local people and town councillors who worked very hard on its development to get it adopted by Cornwall Council and which is now used as part of the Planning Guidance for the Town Council?

It also concerns me that there is the issue of change of use for at least the premises and possibly the land. The Downs should be used solely for leisure purposes, but this project is to do with education and training skills, etc., a definite change in purpose and use.

So – come on Bude Stratton Town Council, you can do better than this surely! Use your good offices and help the Pearl Exchange find a better site and avoid egg on the face over a breach of your own Neighbourhood Plan. Stating that it will be used in the ‘quiet season’ won’t wash. The Bude Populace will not accept 4 or 5 shipping container on that land, however laudable. It’s just ‘Not on!’ In life there is a time and a place for all things. These proposals are surely at the right ‘time’, BUT Summerleaze Downs is not the right ‘place’, even on a temporary basis.


This is how The Pearl Exchange describes itself:

Following the death of Pearl Bamford in 2019 aged just 19, her parents Rose & Johnny felt compelled to assist the younger generation of North Cornwall to help them build more positive futures. Having helped Pearl through her struggles, Johnny and Rose, have experienced first-hand the lack of support, direction and hope for her generation. Her death has highlighted to them a pressing need for positive, creative activities and community intervention where young adults and the wider community can come together and support each other. More info here.
On FB, The Pearl Exchange say: Thank you for bringing this letter to our attention. We will be posting full details about the project shortly which will hopefully address some of the issues and ease concerns raised – we will post a link from this page. In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about our organisation and what we hope to achieve in Bude & the North Cornwall area please check our Facebook page here The Pearl Exchange

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