Drake's Island regeneration plan may be scrapped after council refusal
A £10million scheme to build a hotel on Drake's Island was in jeopardy today after city councillors turned down a planning application by developer Dan McCauley.
Members of Plymouth City Council planning committee reluctantly refused to give permission for the plan saying there was not enough information on the risks to wildlife.
The island in Plymouth Sound is home to protected bats and little egrets and is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Sean Swales, finance director of Mr McCauley's company Rotolok, said later: “This decision seriously jeopardises the regeneration.”
He said they would have to take some time to consider the options.
The planning committee was advised by officers to refuse because environmental surveys of the island and surrounding sea were missing or incomplete. The councillors were told that environmental surveys needed to be carried out in the summer.
Cllr Lynda Bowyer (Con, Eggbuckland) wanted to know whether they could approve the plans subject to a later environmental survey. And Cllr Patricia Nicholson (Con, Plympton) said that the presence of bats was a very weak reason to turn down an application of this importance.
But Cllr Brian Vincent (Lab, Efford and Lipson) said: “We can’t afford to lose more sensitive sites and we have to work in harmony with the environment.”
Cllr Ian Darcy (Con, Plympton Erle) said this development would put Plymouth on the map and he believed lack of information was not a reason to refuse.
Legal chief David Shepperd told the committee that approving the application without the necessary environmental surveys would open the council to legal action by anyone from residents and the developer to wildlife groups.
The area around the island is also important for wildlife, including eel grass beds which are home to the spiny seahorse, a species protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). Cllr Bill Stevens, chairman of the planning committee, said afterwards: “It is more in sorrow than in anger that we have taken this decision. We very much look forward to a successful and complete application some time in the next 12 months. I have lived in Plymouth all my life but never been on Drake’s Island. It would be exciting to see it opened up to public use again.”
In a statement Rotolok said: “We have invested significant time and money into preparing a scheme that strikes the right balance between being deliverable and being sensitive to the rich wildlife and heritage assets of the Island. We felt that key issues and challenges had been successfully addressed.”
The company said it could not understand why the council planners had considered the original application from January last year when they had submitted amended plans to address concerns, including wildlife surveys.
“We need to reflect on the decision. If the investment in time and cost would be too great then we may have to rethink our strategy for the future of the island.”