CORNWALL and west Devon's status as a World Heritage Site could be at risk if work goes ahead on Hayle's South Quay after a decision by a United Nations body to recommend that the development is halted, a town councillor has claimed.
Plans to build homes, a waterside restaurant and a supermarket on Hayle Harbour's South Quay, which has been derelict for more than 30 years, were discussed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) World Heritage Committee at its annual meeting in St Petersburg earlier this month.
A report to the delegates said the development would harm rather than enhance the area's Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) – or cultural significance – believed to be so significant it is of international importance for present and future generations.
It said: "The committee requests the state party to halt the development of Hayle Harbour in the light of its potential impact on the OUV of the property, to allow for smaller- scale heritage-led regeneration."
But former Hayle mayor John Bennett said it was unlikely the Government would halt the development.
He said: "It doesn't jeopardise the development on South Quay because they have already granted planning permission for that and it would be impossible or very expensive for that permission to be withdrawn. What it jeopardises is the World Heritage status and the significant thing is that all of the sites are lumped together, so if we lose it for Hayle, the Cornwall and west Devon World Heritage Site would go as a lump.
"We would lose the whole thing, which would upset other members greatly."
But Mr Bennett did not think Hayle was close to losing the status yet, as it has not been given the same "at risk" status which was recently given to Liverpool's historic waterfront by Unesco in the wake of plans to build a £5.5 billion skyscraper.
The Government and local councils, as planning authorities, are required to protect World Heritage Sites from inappropriate development.
Mark Kaczmarek, portfolio holder for planning on Cornwall Council, said the unitary authority welcomed the committee's interest in these important developments.
He said: "We look forward to working with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to prepare a State of Conservation Report which will set out our firm belief that these developments respect the mining landscape, while ensuring that it can evolve to meet the needs of the communities living within it today.
"At Hayle, the development will enable the repair and continued use of the quays, and provides an economically viable future for an asset that has lain derelict for decades."
Hayle, Redruth and Camborne MP George Eustice said, "The plans to restore Hayle harbour to its former glory will bring the town's industrial heritage to life and should be welcomed and supported by Unesco. I am sure that once they have had the chance to study the proposals in more detail they will understand this."