The prospect of Penzance harbour being protected and expanded for future generations by a £100 million breakwater has moved a step closer after the concept received an initial thumbs-up from key stakeholders.
Representatives from organisations such as Network Rail, the Environment Agency, South West Water, Historic England, Natural England, Cornwall Council and the MMO (Marine Management Organisation) recently attended a meeting called by West Cornwall MP Derek Thomas.
Mr Thomas is a member of the Penzance Breakwater Working Group, which has been looking at the possibility of protecting the town’s harbour and its immediate surrounds for the past three years.
The Working Group, chaired by former Truro-Penwith College Principal Jonathan Burnett, has reached the stage of identifying four potential layouts for a breakwater through an Options Development and Costings report - each of which would cost in the region of £80-150 million although the group is looking at ways of bringing these estimates down.
The layouts include building breakwater arms to the south of the South Pier and east of Albert Pier where reclamation could be used to create residential and commercial development as well as providing space for a large marina.
An Economic Impact Assessment report, which has also been completed, has concluded that such a scheme could generate £440 million of extra income for the Penzance economy over the next 50 years and provide jobs for around 500 people.
The meeting updated the various organisations on the progress the Working Group had made to date and asked representatives what they thought about the project.
Mr Thomas said: “I asked these people along at a relatively early stage so that we could gauge their initial reaction and see if there were any likely deal-breakers – major challenges which we hadn’t considered and which could potentially jeopardise the project.
“I’m happy to say that everyone at the meeting was very positive and that there did not seem to be any insurmountable issues.
“Several representatives said the project would have their goodwill and that they could envisage considerable environmental as well as economic benefits.”
Local residents can see for themselves what is being proposed on Saturday at the Penzance Expo event in St John’s Hall (10am to 4pm) where a stand outlining the progress of the project to date will be manned by members of the Working Group.
Mr Burnett, who is urging people to attend the Expo to find out more, said: “Nothing is set in stone at this stage in terms of design and costings for a breakwater but we are very pleased that the initial response, both from key stakeholders and from the groups we have consulted with in Penzance so far, is very supportive.
“The over-riding concern is that if we don’t do anything, Penzance harbour and its immediate surrounds will become increasingly vulnerable to the predicted rising sea levels and ever more violent storms that we are likely to face. This major initiative can take Penzance forward in the 21st century.”