An historic landmark off the Pembrokeshire coast has attracted 2,500 visitors since it was opened to the public three months ago.
But should further development be allowed on Tenby’s St Catherine’s Island?
That was the question being posed today (Wednesday) in an appeal by Peter Prosser of the Tenby Island Project, against the refusal of plans for the island and its fort which were turned down last July by the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority.
They sought the change of use of the Grade II Listed fort to a visitor attraction with gift, food and drink retail, and including the installation of boat landings, dwelling for security staff, and nature walks with illuminated pathways.
Mr Prosser, in his appeal document to the Planning Inspectorate, claimed he had ‘experienced a peculiar handling of the application’ by National Park planning officers, who, he said, ‘performed a complete u-turn of thinking’ on the proposals.
But the authority’s head of development, Vicki Hirst, told the appeal that although they were ‘very supportive’ of finding a new use for the island, she took the view that insufficient information was provided and was concerned about future uses which could impact on the building and its environment.
Mr Prosser - who has worked for a year to make the island safe and accessible - said his aim was to ‘create a visitor attraction that makes a difference to Tenby’. The fort would house rolling displays of nature and world interest, with an underwater camera to view the marine life around the island. Groups would be welcomed to take a tour of the night sky via telescope and there would be a small café and gift shop with food being served on the fort roof.
He had also had requests for the island to be the venue for wedding ceremonies.
Ms Hirst felt there was a need for a more focused proposal on the developments. “It is aimed at the casual beach user wanting to have a quick look around the island, or people coming for functions?" she asked. "The problem is, we are not sure, and we would need to work out what the impact would be."
She told Mr Prosser: “It’s not that we don’t support it, it is that we don’t really understand what you are trying to do."
Douglas Fraser of the Lexden Terrace Conservation Group queried what would happen if the proposal failed.
“We have got too much dereliction in Tenby - the last thing we want to see is dereliction and rotting and destruction on St Catherine’s Island.
“There is an awful lot in the proposal which is attractive, but we think there are huge risks,” he commented.
Replied Mr Prosser: “If I fail, what Tenby will gain is a restored national monument - it is a win win situation."
Planning inspector Robert Gardner is due to make a site inspection of the island tomorrow (Thursday) on the second day of the appeal. He will subsequently make his recommendation to Welsh Government ministers who will issue the final decision.