Anger at developer decision to demolish historic landmark

Truro residents are battling to save an historic Cornish landmark at the entrance to the city, with a councillor likening plans to demolish the property to “cultural imperialism”. Persimmon Homes has submitted plans to demolish Tolgarrick Farmhouse which sits directly next to its new Copperfield housing estate alongside busy Arch Hill roundabout. The housebuilding company’s original application for the Tolgarrick estate retained the ‘distinctive landmark’ but a further plan last year to knock down the farmhouse and replace it with nine flats met with an outcry.

A new plan has recently been submitted for the “demolition of existing farmhouse and garage and the construction of six open market apartments with stand-alone bat roost and associated infrastructure”. Former Mayor of Truro Bert Biscoe is one of those who is angry at Persimmon’s perceived U-turn, stating that the farmhouse is an important part of the Cornish culture and needs to stay. In a letter to Cornwall Council’s planning department, he said: “The basis of my objection is that I, and many others, including many residents of the new Tolgarrick estate, perceive that the Tolgarrick farmhouse is a characterful, well positioned and aesthetically authentic, coherent structure which fits the landscape well, and references the function, appearance and history of the land around it, which is now occupied by the Tolgarrick estate.

: Miles of traditional Cornish hedges created as part of new A30 route “Such authentic references are important aspects of cultural continuity and enhance a sense of place, of belonging and of identity. I’m bound to say, additionally, that there is nothing about the structures on the new Tolgarrick estate which can be said to be typical or discrete to Cornwall – the farmhouse has a major role to play for the future.

There is no good reason to remove the existing farmhouse, except the will of its current owner, and the neglect to which that owner has subjected this structure, and which is contributing to its perceived deterioration. “Indeed, having argued for, and undertaken its retention, the developer is now seeking to remove this typically Cornish house, with its links into the landscape and cultural references to its surroundings, and to replace it with a structure that is neither typical of Cornwall or of this sort of location. In addition, with the existing structure in basically good condition, despite recent depredations, it could be construed not simply as unnecessary, but as an act of cultural imperialism which is unacceptable, especially when one considers the UK Government’s undertakings in regard of the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCPNM).”

Mr Biscoe added: “There are many intensely developed sites all over Cornwall where original buildings and features have been retained, partly because, like Tolgarrick farmhouse, they reference the legacy picture of the landscape. There is no good reason to replace Tolgarrick Farmhouse. The current proposal does not compare aesthetically, architecturally, historically or in environmental terms.

If anything, my objection is strengthened by this anaemic attempt at mimicry and the imposition of an untypical, posturing gesture. My position is clear – Tolgarrick Farm House must be retained, refurbished as a family dwelling set in its former yard and must continue to contribute to the narrative of the surrounding landscape – Nansavallon Valley and Blanchelands.”

The ‘distinctive landmark’ is fenced off from nearby houses on a new housing estate

Karl Ramshaw is among several other people who have opposed the proposals. He wrote: “The proposed demolition of this building represents a very sad, prominent and significant loss for the former Tolgarrick farmstead.

The history of the site and of land uses in general is portrayed by what is left of the former agricultural holding, a quite unremarkable building whilst surrounded by green pastures, has since had its identity and significance enhanced by the major development of housing adjacent. It is the cover of the book telling the story of repurposed land meeting local housing needs. It is now more a part of local history than ever before.

“That said, the applicant accurately highlights in former proposals that this building is a distinctive landmark. What has changed? The abandonment does not address this issue, it merely gives a subjective commercial argument for demolition.

It does not address the fact that the building remains a significant vernacular landmark in a very prominent location. The lack of existing plans of the farmhouse is notable and inexcusable. Applicants are required to represent the existing layout accurately and in this instance the explanation of the abandoned building, quoting that it is too dangerous to enter, is implausible.”

Lance Dyer added: “This Tolgarrick Farm development was strongly opposed due to the loss of arable farmland and an eyesore into one of the ‘gateways’ into Truro city. The destruction of the farmhouse will destroy the last bit of any character to the site in a highly visible position from the road and surrounding district. This development has already added to traffic congestion and the sewer infrastructure is already overloaded and more units will add further to this.

The farmhouse and the little surrounding green space around it is important to retain – any further development and associated parking will increase water run-off and could further contribute to flooding in the lower valley. The developer is breaching original planning permissions if the farmhouse is destroyed – the character of this corner should be retained!” Truro City Council recommended refusal for the demolition of the existing farmhouse and construction of six open market apartments, primarily due to the impact on the residents who had “bought the properties opposite in good faith as the proposal would be very close to them, the inappropriate design of the proposal, and due to the developer having stated clearly in their original application that the farmhouse was an important historical building that would be retained, and of which the design of the entire development would be sensitive to.”

CornwallLive has contacted Persimmon Homes to ask why it has changed its mind about the demolition of the farmhouse and to respond to the residents’ concerns.