LANDLORDS and developers looking to make a fast buck in St Ives are "financially cleansing the town of its local inhabitants" and destroying its charm with "an explosion of expensive flats".
That's the damning claim of residents who have finally hit back at a wave of redevelopment that has turned one of Cornwall's most beautiful towns into what some say is "one big building site".
Cranes and scaffolding are coming to dominate a skyline that for generations has been a mecca for artists wanting to revel in its unspoilt beauty.
The latest application to draw a chorus of disapproval from residents feeling increasingly beleaguered by developments is a plan to turn the town's Old Sunday School into 13 flats.
Many say the plan for the building on Bedford Road is reflective of a wider malaise.
Each time a new planning application for development of flats has been lodged – like previous ones for 16 flats at the Porthminster Hotel, 12 flats at Belyars Croft Hotel or 14 holiday apartments at The Woodside – isolated voices have called foul.
Public meetings were called over the demolition of the former day care centre at Westcott's Quay, but only now has the whole town objected almost as one to the scale of development across St Ives.
Opposing the Old Sunday School application, Stella Benjamin of Bellair Terrace said: "St Ives has been ruined by out of scale buildings, overdevelopment for the developers to get rich, no matter that the infrastructure, sewage, parking … can't cope," she said. "Will it ever end?"
And former harbour master Captain Eric Kemp added: "St Ives is, under the present plans for building in the town, suffering from an explosion of expensive flats and being financially cleansed of its local inhabitants by absent landlords and developers looking to make a quick buck at the expense of its charm and beauty."
St Ives Town Council lodged "the strongest possible objection" to the Old Sunday School plan, calling it "gross overdevelopment".
Now councillors have responded to the wider outcry by demanding Cornwall Council put together a conservation plan and, if necessary, hire a consultant to carry it out.
Councillor Tim Andrewes told a meeting last week: "There is concern about the damage being inflicted on the historic fabric of the town by a number of planning applications that have come before us in recent months and years.
"It came to a head with the application for the Old Sunday School where, because it was just outside the conservation area, an old historic wall was able to be taken down before planning permission was granted.
"St Ives doesn't have a conservation area statement even though it is arguably one of the most important conservation areas in the county.
"I think we need to write to Cornwall Council and say that they have a statutory responsibility to keep conservation areas under review and to have some sort of plan for the active management of them.
"We need to put down a marker to say that this is something that we think as a town is really important."
Councillor Norman Laity said he had had person after person asking him what was going on in the town.
He said: "They have never seen so much development.
"Development is a good thing. The town needs to move forward, it can't stand still; but we need the right sort of development and I think over the past 24 months we have suffered from the wrong sort of development."
St Ives Town Council will also call on Cornwall Council to look at how few of the town's historic buildings are actually listed.
A decision on the Old Sunday School is not due from Cornwall Council until July 26.