PLANS to demolish a seaside hotel, which closed last year due to a decline in trade, and replace it with a 23-home development have led to concerns the new houses will be sold as second homes.

Developer Acorn Blue applied to Cornwall Council to knock down the Cliff Hotel in Bude, which overlooks Crooklets Beach, and replace it with a mix of single, two and three-storey homes on land currently occupied by the hotel, tennis courts and a bowling green. The proposal came before the council’s east sub-area planning committee on Monday, February 19.

The development would see the construction of 16 open market properties and seven affordable homes. The western half of the site proposes two detached single storey dwellings accessed off a private drive, while the remaining homes would be delivered within the eastern half of the site and comprise a mixture of maisonettes and other dwellings.

The two homes on the western side of the site would be situated near Maer Down, one of the community’s most valued open spaces. It had been called in to be discussed by the planning committee by Cllr Shorne Tilbey, on the grounds of concerns raised by Bude-Stratton Town Council regarding landscape and visual impact, surface water management, loss of natural habitat, harm to the setting of designated heritage assets, construction movements within a congested residential area and not providing housing according to local need.

The planning officer for the case, Matthew Doble, had recommended approval subject to conditions. 

These were the completion of a Section 106 agreement to secure the delivery of affordable housing, in addition to off-site financial contributions towards the provision of Bude town transport strategy, education infrastructure to go towards Bude Academy Junior and/or Budehaven Community School, Crooklets sport, skate or play facilities and/or the creation or improvement of open space within Bude Parish and primary care facilities at Neetside Surgery and Stratton Medical Centre. 

One objector, Ivan Kite, addressed the meeting saying he felt that objections from the National Trust, which owns Maer Down, had been understated in the planning report.

Mr Kite said the western part of the site was in an area of great landscape value and should be protected from all development. He added that if one or two houses were excluded from that area his objection – and he believes those of others – would “fall away”.

Cllr Viki Herbert-Coulson, of Bude-Stratton Town Council, said the authority had a “very strong” objection to the application, particularly to the two plots on the western side, which are in a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) impact zone and a coastal vulnerability zone. The town council believed the land should be preserved in perpetuity as an environmental buffer zone.

Planning consultant Guy Wakefield, for Acorn Blue, said that after consultation the applicant had removed two further homes on the western part of the site and one on the eastern side, as well as a reduction in height of a two-storey property to a single-storey. He said the principle of development was acceptable as the neighbourhood plan allows for up to 30 homes on greenfield sites adjacent to built-up areas.

He said the scheme would further redevelop the area and was a “well-considered residential scheme”, adding that the provision of up to 30 affordable homes should be regarded as a significant benefit given that at least 365 households are seeking affordable accommodation in Bude and Stratton.

Mr Wakefield said if the two plots on the western side were taken out it would affect the viability of the scheme and the affordable housing element – which would be a combination of affordable rent and shared ownership – would be lost.

Cllr Jenny Cruse said: “Eighty per cent of local rental is probably not affordable for locals. The concern here is that most of these properties will go as second homes, which is a terrible shame. I’d like to have seen more social rent or shared ownership.”

Local member Cllr Shorne Tilbey said the Cliff Hotel had ceased trading due to increasing running costs and the rival pressure of Airbnbs and other holiday businesses. The hotel would require considerable work to make it attractive to another operator.

However, he was very mindful of local concerns about the ecological harm of the proposals, particularly on neighbouring Maer Down. He said such sites as the one suggested should be used for social housing as there was a dire need for it in north Cornwall.

Cllr Barry Jordan said he believed the development would improve the area: “We can’t look back, we have to look forward.” Cllr Dominic Fairman, who proposed a vote to approve, and Cllr Cruse agreed. The proposals were unanimously approved by the committee.