Five year Falmouth land battle reaches climax

First published in Cornwall

A five year battle to secure full public access to Greenbank Gardens in Falmouth looks set to be reaching a climax with the two opposing sides agreeing to a “land swap.”

A 54-square-metre triangle of land has been at the centre of wrangling between the Greenbank Hotel and Cornwall Council since 2009 when council’s 99 year lease on the site expired and the hotel refused to renew it.

The area of land is important to the council as it provides the only access to the gardens for maintenance vehicles and wheelchairs and pushchairs. The two sides had been preparing to meet in court in January, but town councillors were told on Monday that a settlement now appears to have agreed.

Council solicitor Sancho Brett said: “We have negotiated with the hotel a potential settlement which would resolve the court proceedings and avoid risks on both sides and would provide an ample and permanent solution.

“It’s the council’s main concern to ensure there is access from the road that can be used by vehicles and by wheelchairs and pushchairs. The potential settlement is one of a land swap whereby the council gives up a little bit of its land and the hotel gives the council a piece of land of exactly the same size.

“This would provide a permanent solution and the council is not giving away any more land than it is gaining from the hotel.”

The hotel is keen to retain the triangle of land at the centre of the dispute as it currently has limited green, outdoor space. Roger French, of the hotel, said: “Every single parcel of outside space is a blessing for us. The fact that the space under dispute is a grassed area, is also essential. Most of the area around our hotel that we have access to is tarmac.

“This garden area gets the sun all day and really there are many different options we could use to make this grassed area an integral part or our hotel business for the benefit of both our residential and non-residential guests.”

Councillors were told compulsory purchase had been considered, but would only be used as a last resort if current negotiations fail. The proposed land-swap is now subject of public consultation and the council is inviting the views of the council and the public. The proposal received the unanimous support of town councillors, but they want to look into the possibility of designating the gardens as a village green which will provide future protection of the site.

Councillor Grenville Chappel said the settlement was the “most sensible and best option” available, while deputy mayor, John Body added: “This is the best we could have hoped for. We would like to keep the whole gardens, but this seems to be the best solution.”

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