Since the Planning Committee refused planning permission on 10 March 2016 Rotolok and the Council have been working hard to find a solution to bring forward an acceptable development on the island.
Councillor Patrick Nicholson, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Strategic Housing, Transport, and Planning has brokered a series of meetings with owner Rotolok in an attempt to progress the development.
He said: “Plymouth Sound and the Tamar Estuaries are protected, being internationally designated as a Special Protection Area and a Special Area of Conservation because of their ecological interest.”
“I think it fair to say that the Planning Committee reluctantly refused planning permission because of what specialists were telling the committee about the impact on the little egrets.
“We have said all along that we want this incredible proposal to happen, but we also take our environmental responsibilities seriously. Plymouth needs high quality hotels as part of its improving tourist offer and in the run up to Mayflower 400.
“We always saw the development as part of our wider tourism objectives and as a means of opening up the island to the people of Plymouth, many of whom have never set foot there. We will leave no stone unturned in our drive to deliver this exciting project for Plymouth.”
Special Protection Areas are classified for their rare and vulnerable birds, and for regularly occurring migratory species. Since March a number of studies and technical assessments have been undertaken to find a solution to the issue of the little egrets which is a protected species which inhabits the island. It is hoped that a suitable new site can be found within the estuary that would suit the birds roosting and breeding requirements.
Sean Swales, Managing Director at Rotolok said: “Contrary to recent speculation that nothing has been happening, we have been working positively with the City Council to try and get a breakthrough for Drake’s Island.
“We hope that a solution that is acceptable to Natural England, who objected to the scheme on the grounds that it would impact on the site’s integrity because of the presence of the little egrets, can be found.”
“We have had many discussions with Natural England over a very long period of time. They said that if suitable off-site mitigation could be identified they would be prepared to consider removing their objection. We see this as an opportunity to find a solution for a viable new use for Drake’s Island which is why we have been working so closely with Councillor Nicholson and his officers in the last six months. I hope that our joint endeavours can overcome this last one remaining obstacle.’’
Drake’s Island was recently included in the Plymouth and South West Devon Joint Local Plan as an opportunity site for heritage-led regeneration.