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Over-development 'destroys' fragile and precious heritage

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 24, 2013

Campaigners say plans to move the 5th century Tristan Stone at Fowey to make way for a housing estate amounts to 'cultural desecration'   Picture: EMILY WHITFIELD-WICKS

Campaigners say plans to move the 5th century Tristan Stone at Fowey to make way for a housing estate amounts to 'cultural desecration' Picture: EMILY WHITFIELD-WICKS

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The drive to build new roads, housing estates, industrial units and retail parks is having a devastating effect on some of Cornwall's most important historic sites, say campaigners.

Plans to move the 5th century Tristan Stone at Fowey to make way for 82 homes is one of several threats to important archaeological features, they say. Other sites that face being obliterated under tons of concrete include a Neolithic causeway at Truro earmarked for shops and one of Britain's earliest farms, in Newquay, also designated for housing.

Members of Our Cornwall – an alliance of around 100 organisations – argue that insensitive and short-sighted planning consents could result in future generations being robbed of their heritage. And they claim such destruction is far from unprecedented, citing the unique Penhale Round playing place at Fraddon which disappeared under a supermarket, hotel, petrol station and fast-food cafe.

The group – which is trying to persuade Cornwall Council to reduce house-building targets – argues that more sites will be lost unless there is a planning U-turn.

Leading Cornish historian and academic Dr Bernard Deacon said: "It is not just our landscape but Cornwall's history which is a casualty of Cornwall Council's current hyper-growth strategy. We are urging elected representatives to support proposals for 29,000 houses rather than 49,000 as a more sustainable way of supporting residents and maintaining Cornwall's distinctive characteristics."

Three sites form the focus of One Cornwall's campaign: Truro Eastern District Centre, Tregunnel Hill at Newquay and the Tristan Stone.

A recent excavation on Duchy of Cornwall land near Truro – which is soon to be developed for a Waitrose supermarket, houses and car park – revealed a rare causewayed enclosure of a type previously unknown in the region. Built around 5,500 years ago, a number of artefacts have been unearthed, including what archaeologists describe as a "stunning" example of Neolithic carving and a greenstone sphere. If the development goes ahead, the causeway and enclosure will be swallowed up in the foundations of a recycling centre.

Another major find on Duchy of Cornwall land in Newquay appears to show that some of Britain's first farmers settled in the area 6000 years ago. Archaeologists working on Tregunnel Hill, which is earmarked for 174 houses, have found a polished stone axe-head, Neolithic flint tools, broken pots and a large pit containing charcoal.

In Fowey, community campaigners opposed to plans to move the Tristan Stone to make way for a Wainhomes estate of 82 properties have argued that disturbing the 1,500-year-old granite obelisk amounted to "desecration".

When the decision was announced, Bert Biscoe, Cornwall Council's portfolio holder for transportation, highways and environment, condemned it as an "infringement of the cultural integrity of Cornwall", adding: "Such desecration is the equivalent of the Taliban bombing Buddhist statues in Afghanistan."

In an attempt to spark wider debate of the issue, One Cornwall is now urging councillors to reconsider its Local Plan. A spokesman said: "Since the 1960s the built-up areas of Cornwall have more than doubled and our population has grown three times faster than England and four times faster than Wales. Despite this, we have not solved our housing or economic problems. Sacrificing countryside and destroying the things that make Cornwall special for such a meagre return is far too high a price to pay."

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