About the eco-communities project

Project Overview

The St Austell and China Clay Eco-communities is a unique opportunity to bring high quality new development and infrastructure to the China Clay area. The Council is working in partnership with the private sector, European funders and the Homes and Communities Agency to enable this opportunity. The scale of this proposal means it will be developed over many years.

The St Austell and the China Clay area has a long heritage of china clay extraction. Employment in the industry has dropped from approximately 6,000 people in the early 1980's to approximately 1,000 people currently. A key event occurred in 2006 when the major operator Imerys announced that it was restructuring its Cornish china clay operations this resulted in over 700 hectares of land becoming surplus to operational requirements.

In response Imerys developed a vision to regenerate a number of key sites of despoiled land known as West Carclaze and Baal, Par Docks, Goonbarrow, Blackpool and Nanpean and Drinnick for sustainable mixed use eco-communities.   

In 2008 Imerys submitted their regeneration vision to the governments Eco-town programme and was successful in being included in the Eco-Town supplement to Planning Policy Statement 1 (the government has subsequently replaced all the Planning Policy Statements with the National Planning Policy Framework).  To progress the development Imerys sought a development partner and formed a joint venture company with Orascom Development Holdings AG, a Swiss based town development company with a proven track record in delivering successful sustainable developments, known as Eco-Bos.

In December 2010, Cornwall Council, Eco-Bos, the Homes and Community Agency (HCA) and the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA), as existing at that time, entered into a memorandum of understanding with regards to the development of the Eco-communities. In summary, this agreement committed the partners to work together, to ensure that an integrated and coordinated approach was taken to the development, that the proposals be developed sustainably and comprehensively to produce a locally distinctive and exemplar form of development and to deliver key Cornwall Council infrastructure for the local communities in and around St Austell.  Cornwall Council’s role is to facilitate the projects coming forward and enable early delivery.

The original overarching Eco-communities plan is to build five new communities on the surplus former China Clay land at West Carclaze and Baal, Par, Goonbarrow, Blackpool and Nanpean and Drinnick.  Currently the sites being pursued are West Carclaze/Baal and Par.

The main activity has focused on West Carclaze and Baal. In February 2011 Eco-Bos submitted a planning application for up to 2,000 homes at the West Carclaze and Baal. The determination of this planning application stalled due to the economic circumstances and uncertainties in planning policy but also as a result of a greater understanding of site constraints and viability making the application outdated. To this end this planning application was withdrawn.

Whilst Eco-Bos’ application stalled Cornwall Council continued to support the development by aligning funding opportunities from DCLG and Europe to secure road and employment infrastructure for the West Carclaze/Baal sites. As a result the Carluddon A391 road improvement which includes a new section of road, roundabouts, bridges and walking and cycling links has been constructed. Planning permission has also been secured for a technology park at the site and it is hoped that European funding can be secured to commence construction.

This proactive approach led to an opportunity for the Council to bid for further funding in early 2013, £1.4m was secured from DCLG’s large sites programme to assist the delivery of the new mixed use community. The Council was granted this funding in July 2013 for the partnership to prepare a new planning application for the mixed use community at West Carclaze, capitalising on infrastructure investment to enable the site to come forward within the emerging Local Plan period.

The majority of the funding has been used to prepare a planning application for a mixed community up to 1,500 homes.  An outline planning application (reference PA14/12186) was submitted to the Local Planning Authority in December 2014.  The application was made live on the 9 January 2015 and is currently being assessed.  Following initial assessment and consultation  further information was submitted in January 2016.  A decision is currently anticpated in Summer 2016.  The full application details can be viewed via the Councils online planning system