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The Careless Cut is the Killer!

Posted by on January 5, 2012 in Reports and Opinion - No comments

Under every great painting lies a canvas, and it is the quality of, and care for, that canvas, that allows the painting to endure. It is similarly true that behind the beauty and heritage of Truro lies a foundation of agreements, a common purpose, and rules and procedures which enable us to maintain and sometimes improve the integrity and quality of our built heritage.

We rely on Truro Parks Department and Totally Truro (BID) Co to keep the flowerbeds, reservations, hanging baskets, trees and verges fresh, tidy, repaired after vandals have occasionally run amok, and especially splendid for special occasions.

We also rely on a small band of specialists, both voluntary and professional, to regulate our Conservation Area, to shape planning applications, to advise owners, to enforce planning and listed building regulations and to care in an informed way – the guiding principle is ‘Conservation in depth’. This approach has underpinned Truro’s commercial success for many years – the Truro Conservation Area Advisory Committee.

Recently, in a spurious effort to save money by doing less, Cornwall Council’s planning department has tried to force the Committee – a joint group drawn from the Council, Cornwall RIBA, Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (Cornwall), Truro City Council, Truro Civic Society and Cornish Buildings Group to ‘digitise’ – use computer plans instead of traditional paper. Unfortunately, the Council’s system is not good enough to supply information in ways which enable the committee to do its job.

The committee advises the Council on policy – such as the recently adopted Truro Conservation Area Management Plan – and on planning applications – everything from lopping trees to hanging signs to major developments. The committee advises and influences, and it has been immensely successful over the years. That is why the Environment Department of the Council wants it to be a model for other Cornish conservation areas.

However, Cornwall Council has also cut back the complement of Conservation Officers and moved them out of the Planning Department. Communications are now difficult, influence is impossible, all officers are stretched and, it seems, planners are not taking conservation seriously. This is harmful to Truro. Added to which, recent statements by a leading member of Cornwall Central Planning Committee suggest that attitudes towards Truro and its intelligent and careful approach to conservation are prejudiced.

Why? Because things disappear, deteriorate, get misunderstood, and mistakes are made. Where are the replacement cottages at 15/16 St Clement Street? Why was the Millpool Bridge not protected? Where is the replacement for the illegally demolished ‘Glass House’ in Kenwyn Street? Why is the surface of St Mary’s Street breaking up to damage the wooden setts underneath? Why is the Truro Conservation Area Committee struggling for its life?

Surely, in austere times, with the emphasis on rebuilding the economy, we need to ensure that those aspects of our environment which contribute to our economic good fortune are well cared for, properly understood and regularly maintained. As Cat Stevens might have written as a sequel to his ‘The first Cut is the Deepest’, The Careless Cut is the Killer!

 

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