Campaigners protest against boardwalk plan for Plymouth's Sutton Harbour
A MULTI-MILLION pound project to redevelop Plymouth's historic harbour has been branded a "profiteering exercise" that would destroy the heritage of the area.
Sutton Harbour Holdings' (SHH) plan to build a boardwalk linking Guys Quay and Vauxhall Quay, featuring new restaurants and shops, has been rejected by dozens of local residents and business owners.
The Action Group for Sutton Harbour (AGSH), which was formed to fight a previous application in 2006, has raised a number of "serious concerns" about the proposals.
SHH claims the project would boost visitor numbers and create jobs, but the campaigners have four main areas of concern - heritage and conservation; sustainability; environmental impact; and noise and antisocial behaviour.
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Chairman Ben Sanders said: "We think this is a profiteering exercise and would be very detrimental should it be approved."
Mr Sanders has written to Plymouth City Council's planning department, urging councillors to take the group's points on board.
He said: "The proposal neither enhances, complements or respects the surrounding areas and buildings.
"It is commonly acknowledged that an increasing number of business premises have become vacant in the past year.
"With that in mind, it is strongly felt that a planning application to build further restaurants and takeaway establishments cannot be sustainable, particularly given the current financial climate."
Mr Sanders claims the land beneath the harbour is contaminated, and says the application would lead to a rise in "late-night revellers".
He said: "Vauxhall Quay and North Quay is a predominantly residential area and the proposed development could indeed exacerbate the levels of crime and antisocial behaviour in the area."
Local resident Ray Bralsford said: "It's a question of what is in keeping with the historical nature of the area. That was the thing that got the original plan thrown out in the first place, there was such an outcry from people who thought the idea of filling in a bit of the harbour for commercial development was appalling, and I think they would be equally appalled by this.
"Nobody who lives here has been consulted. The people who live right here, within 20ft of where it's going to be developed, were not consulted at all.
"Sutton Harbour are property developers. This has got much more to do with property development than enhancing the harbour."
Dave Cuthbert, chairman of the Plymouth Fisherman's Association, said the fishing community is concerned about loss of space to tie up and dry boats.
"They don't speak to us, there's no consultation, it's a fait accompli as far as we are concerned," he said.
"The fishing community has contributed a huge amount to Sutton Harbour, we feel we are being ignored. We never get consulted about anything.
"I don't think anybody is against them improving the harbour, but they are destroying its heritage."
CHIEF Executive of Sutton Harbour Holdings Jason Schofield said: "We are aware that our proposals have prompted some concerns, but we strongly believe that the boardwalk would make a hugely positive contribution to Plymouth's waterfront.
"It would act as a catalyst for the £75 million plan to transform Sutton Harbour into a national destination, which we launched to wide support last year and would also continue the harbour's evolution which has taken place over many centuries.
"We are trying to diversify and boost the city's visitor economy while creating much better pedestrian links to enable people to explore and appreciate the whole harbour as a major destination in the South West region.
"This part of Plymouth is rightly renowned for its maritime heritage and we have been careful to design a scheme which we believe respects and celebrates that heritage.
"The boardwalk would be a free-standing timber structure with light weight timber-clad buildings on top and set apart from the historic quay wall, and is designed to reconnect people with the waterfront, instead of being forced away from it which is currently the case.
"We are confident in our job projection figures, which are based on industry norms, and know that this site would be attractive to family-friendly operators, which is our target market. We are already close to reaching an outline agreement with a couple of quality national restaurant operators that would be new to Plymouth, subject to planning permission.
"We have no plans to in-fill this part of the harbour and the piles that would support the boardwalk would be subject to a licence from the Marine Management Organisation. Other concerns that have been expressed, such as the handling of trade waste and opening hours, would be dealt with as planning conditions attached to any consent.
"We believe that the many economic and social benefits of the boardwalk fit well with Plymouth's aspiration as 'Britain's Ocean City' and as custodians of Sutton Harbour we want to celebrate our world class waterfront."